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Arizona Diamondbacks – Watson let go; first of several?

By Mark Brown
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House-cleaning could begin for the Arizona Diamondbacks

The timing here for the Arizona Diamondbacks is as telling as it is significant.

After Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Chase Field, Tony La Russa, the club’s Chief Baseball Officer, informed De Jon Watson that his 2017 contract as the club’s senior vice president of baseball operations, would not be renewed.

The move was made before the end of the season, which completes on Oct. 2. This gives Watson, as La Russa points out, an opportunity to make contacts elsewhere in the game as soon as possible.

“In talking with De Jon when his option was not picked up at the end of August, (Watson) asked about how long it would take,” La Russa told the Arizona Republic. “If it wasn’t going to work out, he’s got contacts to make so he can land on his feet. That kind of sped the process up in his case.”

Watson was one of three key figures in the Diamondbacks’ hierarchy whose future with the team was uncertain. Contracts for both La Russa and Dave Stewart, the team’s general manager, expire at the end of the season. Though August 31 was a defining deadline on the retention of La Russa and Stewart, the final decisions on their status was extended.

That’s because Ken Kendrick, the team’s managing general partner, indicated that the future of La Russa and Stewart was in the evaluation stage.

With several questionable personnel decisions and player transactions, the judgment and acumen of Stewart and La Russa have been brought into question. La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager, some contend, was over his head, and that was because he was in a different environment. Previously, La Russa made judgments from the dugout and not from the standpoint of influencing or comprising the team’s future. His long-term vision on player potential was called into question, as was his over-simplification of the team’s position in the standings.

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With a clarion calls that “we will get better,” La Russa was not in a position to oversee the transition from potential to success. Plus, he seems to be in concert with manager Chip Hale in recognizing a broad-base of talent. With several players of seemingly equal ability, La Russa and Hale tried to spread quality at-bats among many players instead of cutting the bait and going with a select number of players.

For his part, Stewart was brought into the organization, at one point, to restructure the farm system. In shambles when appointed as GM on Sept. 25, 2014, Stewart took pride in building a competition union of minor league franchises. He also cited numerous trades in helping build the team, including the acquisitions of Jean Segura and Phil Gosselin.

With equal temperament, he should be given notice on trades which did not benefit the Diamondbacks. The deal acquiring right-hander Shelby Miller from Atlanta last off-season stands a constant reminder how blinded, and even dogmatic, Stewart and La Russa turned out in their stead-fast desire to acquire Miller. With two weeks remaining in the season, Miller has not won a game at home, and sports a 2-12 (7.10 ERA) for the season.

The dismissal of Watson, many believe, could be the push on this domino rack. Stewart, La Russa and Hale, and others, could be next to fall. In the long run, however, that would not seem to be a practical solution.

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  • Should these decision-makers fall, that would give the La Russa regime only two years and then another turnover. In realistic terms, a regime, on the level of a major league franchise, should be given a period around three to five years. That would be bring La Russa and Stewart to a reasonable time window, and if the malaise of current times follows, then a period could be at hand for evaluation or reevaluation.

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