The first of what could be a few dominoes to fall within the Arizona Diamondbacks’ front office hit the table over the weekend, when it was announced that VP of baseball operations De Jon Watson would not have his contract renewed for next season.
With chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart’s futures also in doubt, there is some thought that more moves could be on the way.
Highly-respected within the game, Watson’s dismissal, according to D-backs president Derrick Hall, was in no way meant to signify that he is responsible for the team’s disappointing season.
“It was an evaluation that we asked for on all of the key personnel from Tony and then we sat down and talked about some of those evaluations,” Hall told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday. “And that was one of them. De Jon was in a place where he wanted to know (about his future) earlier, and ultimately Stew and Tony — and he did report to Tony — they decided that they were going to let him know that he was not going to be renewed.”
Hall said the entire organization made the call, and added that the other pending decisions will need to be taken care of sooner rather than later.
“It’s an uncomfortable area right now,” he said. “We’ve got about two weeks where we know we’re going to have to make a decision, then we’re going to have to act quickly, and it’s not a fun place to be in.”
Very little about this season has been fun for anyone related to the Diamondbacks.
They followed a busy offseason in which the headline moves were the additions of pitchers Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller with a season that will go down as one of the most disappointing in franchise history. As of Thursday the team is 64-88 and tied with the Padres for last in the NL West. Hopes of competing for a playoff spot, which were high on Opening Day, were quickly dashed, and in their place entered frustration and despair.
It’s why as the season nears its merciful end, the focus has turned to the future, and whether or not La Russa and Stewart will be a part of it.
Hall noted part of the difficulty of making these decisions for him is how much he cares about people, but admitted they cannot worry about feelings and instead must do whatever is right for the organization.
“We have to do what we think will best improve our situation for next year, be it with these guys or be it a reset, and that’s what we’re trying to determine now,” he said. “And ownership has a big hand in that, which they should, because it’s a very, very important decision.”
At some point one will have to be made, and while Hall said he does not expect it to come in the last day of the season or after the last game, he does not think it will drag on too long after the season concludes.
“It’s something that will happen relatively quickly after the season; I mean, we decided — along with ownership — that they wanted to wait until after the season, I understand why, and there is a thorough process going on, which is great,” he said. “But I think whether it’s still going to be Tony here, whether it’s going to be Stew here, the decision has to be made quickly for them because they’ve got a lot of plans.”
Hall said people might wonder why they would be having discussions with La Russa and/or Stewart regarding the future if they might not be back, but said that process must continue no matter what.
“But if you’re also going to make changes, you have to do it quickly,” he said. “There’s going to come a period where you’re running into (the) playoffs and you can’t talk to certain people for certain positions, but again, I don’t knock anybody in their current roles right now. Great guys, trying hard — I’ve always said that. They’re putting in the sweat, and the work ethic is amazing and they’re terrific guys.”
Hall added that’s what makes all this even more awkward but though he feels bad for La Russa and Stewart having to go through this, it’s the price you pay for a season like the one they are wrapping up.
That said, Hall pointed out that responsibility for 2016 should be spread all around, including to himself.
“Everybody, we’ll all say, ‘Hey, we’re raising our hand, we didn’t do the right thing, we didn’t put the right structure in place,'” he said. “It’s part of what happened with the decision we made over the weekend. It was a tough situation. You’ve mentioned it before, it’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen, well shame on us for creating that organization.”
The Diamondbacks may be done making front office moves. Or, more could be on the way. However, one possible scenario that has some curious would be if the organization asked La Russa to remove Stewart, because there would seem to be a likelihood that the CBO would not be in favor of that call.
What if La Russa was asked to fire Stewart and instead of doing that, said the D-backs would have to get rid of both?
Hall said it’s a hypothetical that they’ll worry about if and when they need to cross that bridge, but did say he is a big fan of Stewart, who has the respect of everyone within the organization.
“I get it when Tony is defending him and always will — this is his guy, and he always has been his guy, and they have a wonderful relationship,” he said. “So if that scenario did come to fruition and that’s the decision Tony made, I get it. And I wouldn’t fault him for that. That’s just loyalty and that’s friendship and that’s trust, and someone that he believes in…I would get it if that was the a decision that was made if that was a direction that we were going, but we haven’t made that decision yet.”
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