Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart will do just fine in Arizona without Rickey Henderson. Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
When the rumors were swirling, before being confirmed, that Dave Stewart was going to become the next General Manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, I thought back to Wrestlemania XXX. Brock Lesnar defeated the Undertaker, stopping the latter’s undefeated streak at ‘Mania and shocking the pro wrestling world in the process. Many fans were upset that the Streak was over and even more were annoyed that it was a “part-time” performer (Lesnar) who was the one to end it. Since the Streak had a life of its own, of course the Undertaker had a say in who would be the one to finally put his shoulders to the mat. So when people grumbled that it was Lesnar who was the One, I simply said, “if it’s good enough for ‘Taker, it’s good enough for me”.
If Dave Stewart is good enough for Tony LaRussa, he’s good enough for me.
Even though he has never worked in a front office, we (or at least I) trust LaRussa’s judgement given his longevity of success as a manager. You can’t tell me that he had no part of assembling the roster of his teams in Oakland and St. Louis. He will just be doing so in a different capacity while also relying on his guy, Stewart. It’s like Bill Parcells and “his guys”. Players who performed well for Parcells in more than one of his stops included Curtis Martin, Keyshawn Johnson, Keith Byars and Jumbo Elliot. When LaRussa was hired back in May and the job security of Kevin Towers was immediately called into question, you had to have known that he was going to be more comfortable with one of his guys running the front office. Stewart, who was a 20-game winner four consecutive seasons under him, is one of “Tony’s guys”.
As far as this being Stewart’s first GM job, it’s not as though it is his first time working in a front office. He had been an assistant with the A’s, the Padres and the Blue Jays, albeit not for more than three years in any one place. In Toronto, he helped broker the deal that sent Roger Clemens to the Yankees for David Wells, Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd. It was a decent trade for the Jays, considering Clemens demanded to be traded and considering that most of the time dealing the superstar player results in a poor return. While maybe he did not have the final say in those locations, those experiences should be able to help him as he enters the offseason for the first time in such a high-profile spot. Joining his decision-making will be LaRussa and De Jon Watson who has worked in various front offices for over 20 years. This three-headed approach should be able to co-exist (at least early on) or else it would never been set up in the first place.
Perhaps Stewart’s most valuable asset is something Jeff Wiser at insidethezona touched on. It involves his experience as a player agent, starting his own firm after he left the Blue Jays. I will cite one quote in an excellent piece, which you can read here:
"Stewart’s agent work should give him a tremendous sense of player value, something Arizona had to improve upon."
We know that the D’backs under Towers had a history of trading players (Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer for example) who were either coming off down years or had fallen out of favor with management. As a result, the value these players brought back was significantly lower than what they could have returned if they had been dealt earlier. As we saw this Summer, the D’backs have not been the most popular team due to a couple of high-profile plunking incidents with Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Braun. With Towers and Kirk Gibson now gone, perhaps a reset with other players around the league, with the background of Stewart as an agent, can re-establish some creditability.
Will we agree with every single move the organization makes from now on? Not a chance. But at least with the first one, the hiring of Stewart, we have to trust the judgement of LaRussa and the comfort level he has with his former ace. That alone should have D’back fans giddy about the future.