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D-backs’ CBO La Russa: Focus should not be on reaching .500 mark

LISTEN: Tony La Russa, Diamondbacks chief baseball officer

One of these days the Arizona Diamondbacks have to reach the .500 mark, right?

The last time the D-backs had an even win-loss record was April 24, when a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates dropped them to 8-8. The D-backs lost the next three after that one, and have been fighting to get back to that mark ever since.

They’ve had chances — oh, they’ve had chances — coming within one victory of .500 a whopping 10 times since then. Ten times, though, they’ve failed, with the latest effort coming Tuesday night in Colorado.

So, how do they finally get to that point?

“Easy, quit talking about it,” D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday morning.

La Russa, who once upon a time managed more than a few teams that were above .500, said the concern is that this all becomes a distraction.

“It’s a negative distraction in the sense that let’s say we win two in a row here in Denver and you get to .500, and you start celebrating, ‘hey, we’re finally at .500,'” he said. “What’s the big deal? We want to be over .500.”

The three-time World Series champion and four-time Manager of the Year said the team needs to change its focus from simply getting to .500 to becoming a winning team.

Win the series against the Rockies and have a winning road trip and then reaching .500 won’t be an issue.

“There’s so much talk about that, I really wish the conversation would be, ‘hey, when are you guys going to be a winning team,’ not a .500 team,” he said.

Of course, the team getting to .500 would put a stop to those questions. But in a way, this may be becoming a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The longer the team struggles to get over the hump, the more it may start believing it will be unable to do so.

La Russa said focusing on specific numbers or statistics in baseball can be problematic.

“All of a sudden you get distracted by that number and it becomes more difficult just because for once, instead of just playing the game as best you can and letting the numbers take care of themself, you’re actually trying to force something,” he said.

What happens, La Russa noted, is that the pursuit of numbers or accomplishments takes away from players concentrating on the processes, what they have to do as a team to win games.

“One of the things it becomes, and this is what I’ve felt, felt this about the fourth or fifth time we started getting attention (for being unable to reach .500),” La Russa said, adding it’s not smart for the team to focus on it but is understanding that they can’t control what media and fans do. “But for us as a team, we’ve got to think about being a winning club, not a .500 club.

“So let’s quit being distracted by that, and let’s just think about what should be our goal. What do we do to win a series? You win a series, all these numbers take care of themselves.”