It’s been a week since the Arizona Diamondbacks named Dave Stewart as their new general manager.
While it was somewhat of a surprise considering Stewart hasn’t worked in a Major-League front office since 2001, it was also expected by some due to the former pitcher’s relationship with D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa.
Stewart pitched for seven seasons with the Oakland Athletics under La Russa’s managerial watch. The team won three American League pennants and the 1989 World Series during their stint together.
Despite that history, not everyone is a fan of the hire, including Yahoo! Sports baseball writer Jeff Passan.
“I don’t get it,” Passan told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “I think that ultimately Dave Stewart is going to serve as an adviser to Tony La Russa, who is really the guy running the show.
“I think it’s going to be a fascinating partnership and a fascinating view into whether La Russa’s stuff works in the front office like it worked on the diamond.”
La Russa, who has managed six league champions, three World Series champs and has four Manager of the Year Awards on his mantle, was hired in mid-May to overhaul the D-backs’ baseball operations department.
That process started with general manager Kevin Towers being reassigned and the firing of field manager Kirk Gibson last week, an announcement which coincided with Stewart’s hiring.
Passan points out those who second-guess La Russa are quickly reminded of his impressive managerial credentials. But the writer also believes on-field success in one position doesn’t necessarily translate to front office success in another.
“The ‘cult of La Russa’ is a very strong thing,” he said. “But the game is continuously evolving and you wonder if he’s going to evolve with it or is this going to be one of those scenarios where he has so much faith in what has worked, that he has trouble looking into the future and seeing what’s going for him.
“Because that’s really what the best general managers do. They don’t care about today, they care about two or three years from now and how they can position themselves around that. Tony La Russa, really, has been a day-to-day guy his entire career.”
The Diamondbacks have confirmed eight candidates in their current search for Gibson’s replacement. Among them are former big-league manager Jim Tracy, former Diamondback infielder Jay Bell and Joe McEwing, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1998 to 1999 while La Russa served as manager. He’s currently the third-base coach for the Chicago White Sox.
So does familiarity and/or history with La Russa give any managerial candidate a leg up in the search? Passan believes that is the case.
“I think there is absolutely no question whatsoever (the new manager) will be a Tony La Russa disciple,” he said.