DAN BICKLEY

Hazen’s emotional ties to Red Sox should be concerning for D-backs

Sep 11, 2019, 7:32 PM | Updated: 7:33 pm
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Stop the presses, the ones that still function. Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen has already been introduced as GM of the Boston Red Sox.

It happened in Sept. 2015, when he was given a lofty title and no real power to work under shot-caller Dave Dombrowski. And if you fret over where Hazen’s heart might lie in 2019, if Boston is more than a feeling, consider what he said four years ago:

“It’s a privilege and an honor to work with the Boston Red Sox,” Hazen said. “It always has been since I joined 10 years ago. This organization is prestigious, successful, has history. History that I’m proud of personally, one that I grew up in, from the days I used to wake up and argue with my dad over who was better between (Jim) Rice and (Dwight) Evans. The debate rages on today …”

Hazen’s emotional ties to the Red Sox are suddenly of utmost concern. The Red Sox have fired Dombrowski. Hazen is among the best GMs in baseball, a wizard who can’t rebuild the Diamondbacks because he keeps making them better, no matter how hard he tries to tear them down, who he trades or who he fails to re-sign.

Currently, he has the Diamondbacks in contention for a playoff spot after losing Paul Goldschmidt, Zack Greinke, A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin. He consistently makes great trades at great value. He beat the market and sleepy peers to J.D. Martinez. He identified and signed Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar, the only switch-hitting teammates to hit over 30 home runs in the same season.

He buys low and sells high. He sheds failed dogma, like the tunneling theory on hitting and the three-headed catcher system no longer necessary with Carson Kelly.

Hazen is the best GM we’ve ever seen in Arizona. But Boston is home. His relationship with his father is chained to the generational link of Red Sox baseball, one of the most powerful forces in sports, stronger than the ocean currents. How do we compete with that?

At times, Hazen was more hostile witness than radio guest on Wednesday morning. During a visit with 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf, Hazen refused to say much on the subject or his availability, and even seemed a bit rattled at times. Like a guy who can’t lie and has no reason to tell the truth just yet.

The Red Sox have to ask for permission to speak with Hazen. But they are offering a better job. They are offering a highly-personal homecoming. After all, Hazen lasted one season under Dombrowski before taking the big job in Arizona. And if the Red Sox asked him to return in exchange for full autonomy, wouldn’t he consider it his civic duty? Would he feel like he was betraying his father if he didn’t?

Or has Arizona grown on Hazen the way it has Bobby Hurley, the ASU basketball coach who was once like Hazen, East Coast to the core.

The Red Sox offer so much: a great job for great pay in a great baseball city with great expectations. The risks are frightening but Hazen has no shortage of fortitude, as witnessed by his handling of Goldschmidt. Timidity is not his weakness, and in Boston, he would operate on the same economic playing field as the Yankees, his chief rival. The same will never be true when comparing the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.

The Red Sox will have no shortage of candidates for their current vacancy. If they call Arizona, it will likely be for Hazen, not one of his lieutenants. And if Hazen is interested, the Diamondbacks will have to swallow their pride and let him go.

After all, these are not the Giants, a division rival that asked to interview to Hazen just to get under our skin. This is Boston, a city that remains one of the last true bastions of baseball in America.
Let’s hope that call never comes. Two years ago, I predicted Hazen would be the most important Diamondbacks acquisition since Randy Johnson. Losing him now would be grotesque, just when he has financial flexibility and a chance to build a World Series winner in the desert.

If etiquette is any guide, the Red Sox will wait until the regular season is over before scheduling their interviews. They won’t disrupt or distract potential playoff times. That gives Arizona some time. And if I’m majority owner Ken Kendrick, I’m taking Hazen out to dinner, picking up the check and handing him blank one on the way out the door. In the form of a lucrative contract extension that keeps Boston in the rearview mirror, thousands of miles away.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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