The Arizona Diamondbacks caught the attention of the baseball world when they hired Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa to oversee their baseball operation last month.
The D-backs had limped to a woeful start, digging themselves a formidable hole to climb out of. And although La Russa is still settling into his position in the Diamondbacks’ front office, his influence has already been felt, according to team president and CEO Derrick Hall.
“I think where the effect is already being seen is in the minor leagues,” Hall told Doug and Wolf Thursday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “He’s motivated these young kids and he’s spent a lot of time with our minor league managers and coaches to let them know what the philosophy should be, the way we should teach. It’s a matter of taking them out to dinner and spending four hours talking about baseball and the way he approached the game and it’s nice.
“I think next year, we’ll see it even more so, but we’ll see it from top-to-bottom what Tony La Russa baseball is all about.”
There’s no denying that the Diamondbacks have played better baseball since the calendar flipped to May 1. Since then, they’re 16-14, but have been unable to make up any ground on the first-place San Francisco Giants. In fact, the D-backs have lost 4.5 games in the standings in the last month-plus. But that doesn’t mean La Russa’s presence hasn’t been felt among the big league personnel.
“His arrival, I think, really perked up the team,” Hall said. “It was a chance for them, as we talked about before in April, for them to look in the mirror and wake up. And I think they did. I think the hiring of Tony was like ‘whoa, hey, this is serious and if I want to be here and play here, I better shape up too.’
“But the team is playing up to their capabilities finally, and that’s everybody. It started with starting pitching and now the offense is clicking as well. The defense is not making the mistakes it made before. Just his arrival and his presence makes the players focus more, because that’s who he was as a manager.”
While La Russa’s arrival has perked up the players, it has also created uncertainty in terms of the job security of general manager Kevin Towers and field manager Kirk Gibson. It stands to reason that La Russa, like most executives in a new job, would want to surround himself with his own people. But Hall says Gibson and La Russa’s working relationship is blossoming.
“I think it’s a good one and I think it was good before,” Hall shared. “Any time La Russa came in to talk to Gibby in his new role with MLB, Gibby sort of perked up and talked about it all day.
“They’re not talking as much as most would think they are, because Tony’s very busy and so is Gibby, but when they do talk, it’s very productive. So, I think it’s a strong (relationship). If Gibby wants to be as great a manager as he wants to be, he’s going to need to lean on Tony.”