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Hazen: Challenge of turning D-backs around was part of the allure

Boston Red Sox general manager Mike Haven talks with reporters following a baseball news conference at Fenway Park in Boston, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
LISTEN: Mike Hazen, new D-backs GM

Mike Hazen knows the struggles the Arizona Diamondbacks have had of late.

In fact, they are part of the reason he decided to take the job as the team’s new executive vice president and general manager, leaving behind the wildly successful Boston Red Sox organization.

“The excitement of trying to — you know, in Boston, we have a fairly mature setup there, we’ve all been together for a long time; I’ve been there for 11 years, very fortunately, with the ownership that we had there and the support,” he told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday. “But to come here and really help lead a baseball operation to take on this challenge of a club that certainly didn’t meet the expectations it wanted to on the field last year, that drives us in baseball operations.

“That’s what gets us up every day, it’s what causes us to work the hours that we work, because we love the game of baseball and we want to win. We’re committed to doing those things here, so that really is what excites me.”

Hazen leaves the Red Sox with an impressive track record, and in various roles over 11 seasons he helped the organization reach the postseason five times and win a pair of World Series titles. Prior to that, he spent five seasons with the Cleveland Indians, where he worked in scouting and player development. He comes to the Valley with a reputation for being strong in those areas, as well as analytics.

That last area has been a bit of a sore spot for some with regards to the D-backs, as many think their past front offices have not spent enough time and resources on the analytical aspect of scouting.

While Hazen said he wants there to be a strong focus on that part of the game, with it being a priority to build and grown an elite analytics team, the organization will not turn its back on traditional scouting methods.

“Analytics doesn’t answer the question of what makes Dustin Pedroia so great,” he mused. “Until you’re in that clubhouse and you see him on a daily basis and you watch the impact he has on young players that come through an organization, analytics doesn’t answer that question for you.

“But it does bring a discipline to your decision-making process, a cross-checking of your decision-making process; and it’s something that I’m pretty passionate about, too. We want to get these answers right, we want to make the right decisions.”

The 40-year-old Hazen admitted the right decisions will not always be made, but the goal is to make calls with as much information as possible.

“But to the best of your ability and the consistency that you can make those decisions is critical to long-term success,” he added.

Asked how big the analytics department was in Boston, Hazen said it wasn’t so much big as it was filled with the right people. The size of the department, he noted, is not nearly as important as recruiting and retaining the best people.

Now, the challenge is finding the best players.

The D-backs entered 2016 with high expectations, but floundered and won just 69 games. As Hazen said, he took the job in part because of the challenge it presents, and he knows there is work to do. Presented with the idea of possibly trading pitcher Zack Greinke to help jumpstart the rebuilding process, he said the team is fortunate to have the veteran right-hander, whom he called “an elite pitcher.”

“I like the makeup of this club right now,” he said. “There’s certainly work to do — we won 69 games — that’s not going to magically turn itself around. We’re going to ask, hopefully, a lot of hard questions, and start the process to understanding what happened.

“But when I look out on that field, I see a lot of talent. We’re going to have to make a lot of decisions as we go, but we’re fortunate to have Zack Greinke right now.”

Any decisions that are made going forward will be made by Hazen, with input from others within the organization. One of the first orders of business will be finding a manager, and the new GM said he is not going to rush into a hire, but would like to find someone who is a dynamic leader.

“We are going to put together a candidate list — we already have some in mind that we would like to talk to — and when we have the ability to do that we are going to move quickly through that process, but make it a strong process because we want this to be one bite of the apple, we want this guy to be the next great manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks,” he said. “In order to do that, we still need to have a thorough process.

“There are a lot of really good candidates out there, guys ready to lead a clubhouse and a team. So we’re fortunate with that regard, and it’s going to make it a tough choice and it’s going to make it a complicated decision but it’s something we look forward to, and we’re going to get working on that right away.”

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