After a horrible month of April, Diamondbacks General Partner Ken Kendrick, and Team President Derrick Hall knew something needed to change. Both of them knew along with everybody else that major injuries had hurt the team, and that the roster is alot more talented than what the team showed during the first month.
So on May 18th, the Diamondbacks hired Hall of Famer and former manager Tony La Russa as the organizations first ever Chief Baseball Officer. He was hired to be in charge of the Baseball Operations Department, and he became the new boss of General Manager and Executive Vice-President Kevin Towers. Towers basically became a defacto G.M, and many wondered how many decisions he would actually be able to influence.
La Russa has spent the first three months on the job evaluating and watching. He has visited the Dbacks minor league affiliates many times, and he has been looking at what the Dbacks have on the major-league roster. He also sat in during the First Year Player Draft in June getting to know how Dbacks Player Development Director Ray Montgomery and his staff work. He then made some impact on the deals that the team made at the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, and I’m sure that that he will have any influence on potential deals the team makes in August.
Recently, La Russa has praised Towers, and Manager Kirk Gibson suggesting that both of them might be back for 2015. This team is banking on health, and a revamped roster specifically in starting pitching thanks to a lower payroll. Many want to know what La Russa will do with Towers and Gibson, and rightfully so.
However, the first big impact that La Russa will make is when the minor league season ends, and the instructional leagues begin in September. Minor league players and staff begin reporting to instructional camp on September 12th, and La Russa has said that is where he will begin to have a bigger impact. He will have the chance to meet with the players, the managers, and the coaching staff, and share his managerial wisdom.
This is what La Russa told Steve Gilbert of MLB.com about the instructional league:
“For my purposes, it’s important to get a head start on the instruction part,” La Russa said. “Laying the framework. When you get to 2015, you’re working from a base of ideas. It’s not going to be all that dramatic.”
Regarding Gibson, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reported this on twitter earlier this week:
The #Dbacks currently plan to bring back manager Kirk Gibson for the 2015 season, but Tony La Russa delaying any official announcement.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) August 19, 2014
What Nightengale reported made sense at the time. Gibson has done a nice job keeping this team together despite a horrible first month, and a rash of impact injuries. The Dbacks have basically played close to .500 baseball from May-August, despite losing six in a row after a 1-0 walkoff loss to the Nationals today.
Then La Russa made things interesting saying the report was false, and that Gibson’s future is still in question. He didn’t speak to the media directly, but this is what he said through a spokesperson:
“I don’t think the timing for each of those has to coincide,” La Russa said. “I just think that at this point, we’re at Aug. 18, I’ve been around three months, I’ve observed a lot, talked to and met with a lot of people in the organization. I have a much better idea. I just think the official comment is, we’re at Aug. 18, the season is a month and 10 days from being over. So it won’t be long until you have to trot out your plan officially.”
Gibson would love to stay with the Dbacks next year. He had this to say speaking with the Burns and Gambo show on arizonasports 98.7 FM:
“There’s a lot of good things going on around here, and though the season is disappointing, we remain energized and pushing forward, and I hope I’m a part of that,” he said.
Meanwhile Towers, who is in his fourth season as General Manager of the Snakes had this to say about his uncertain future with the Snakes speaking with the Doug and Wolf show on arizonasports.com:
“That’s what you’re paid to do — what’s best for the organization, not worry about yourself and do things selfishly that may make you look better temporarily,” he said. “If that was my mode of doing things, I would have had somebody else make the Prado move rather than myself.”
Towers will continue to to his job until they take the keys away, and that is something that I respect about him. However, many believe that he will be gone by this offseason. He has made many questionable trades over the years, most notably the Upton for nothing trade, and they might need a change. It is rare for a team to keep both the manager and general manager, but to me Gibson has a better chance at returning than Towers.
What influence do you think La Russa will have, and what do you think the future of Gibson and Towers looks like? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.