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Arizona Diamondbacks – experience needed in baseball operation

By Joseph Jacquez
Derrick Hall (l), Ken Kendrick (m), Dave Stewart (r) (Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports)
Derrick Hall (l), Ken Kendrick (m), Dave Stewart (r) (Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports) /
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The Arizona Diamondbacks should find different roles for Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart

Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart of the Arizona Diamondbacks are two of the brightest minds in the game of baseball. They possess the kinds of experience that few have in the sport today.

As a for 33 seasons, La Russa, a Hallof Fame member, guided his teams to six league championships, three World Series titles, and 12 division titles.

Right-hander Stewart, a starter for 17 big league seasons, won 20 games in four consecutive seasons and compiled a career 168-129 win-loss record.

Stewart seem to save his best for the best time of year. That would be in October, and post-season play. He won the 1989 World Series MVP with the Oakland Athletics and two League Championship Series MVP awards in 1990 with the A’s and in 1993 with the Blue Jays.

Both men know how to compete and win at the highest level and are considered valuable assets to any major-league organization. 

However, these skills do not necessarily correlate with the requirements needed to run a baseball operations department. Since taking over in 2014, the combination of La Russa and Stewart provided evidence for this theory more than once.

Dec 11, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; (From left) general manager Dave Stewart , team president Derrick Hall , managing general partner Ken Kendrick , Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke , manager Chip Hale , chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson pose for a group photo during a press conference at Chase Field . Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; (From left) general manager Dave Stewart , team president Derrick Hall , managing general partner Ken Kendrick , Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke , manager Chip Hale , chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson pose for a group photo during a press conference at Chase Field . Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Top Two in the Rotation? 

At the moment, the criticism surrounding the Shelby Miller trade appears justifiable. Miller has regressed from a projected, quality number two or number three starter to a pitcher that can barely hold a spot in a major league rotation.

Right now it is right to conclude that the Diamondbacks overpaid. To acquire Miller, the Diamondbacks parted with Dansby Swanson, who they drafted number one overall in the 2015 draft, starting outfielder Ender Inciarte and pitching prospect Aaron Blair.

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The same can be said for Zack Greinke, the $206.5 million dollar man. Greinke sported the lowest ERA (1.66) in the majors last season. This season, Greinke sports a 4.42 ERA for his 25 starts.

The decisions to bring in Greinke and MIller, and if their current production levels continue, could cause concern the long-term stability of the organization. That could be reason enough to worry.

At the same time, these moves can also be justified. Like all teams, the Diamondbacks wanted to contend and believed they upgraded the rotation to reach that goal.

Fundamental Lack of Knowledge

Earlier this week, De Jon Watson was dismissed, and there was for a reason.

The hirings of Watson and former Washington Nationals G.M. Bryan Minnitti two years ago was supposed to provide experience and advice for Stewart and La Russa.

Instead, a fundamental misunderstanding of procedures led to, among other moves, the Yoan Lopez debacle. The Diamondbacks signed the Cuban right-hander to an $8 million contract ($16 million overall). Other clubs pegged his value at one-tenth of that amount, but Arizona felt differently.

Since coming over to America, Lopez has struggled with command and injuries. He has been stuck in the minor leagues, and does not appear to have  future at the major league level.

Overpaying for Lopez prevented the Diamondbacks from signing additional international free agent above $300 thousand. That was for the last two signing periods.

The contract given Yasmany Tomas, six-years at $68.5 million, is another example of failed talent evaluation. Despite Tomas’ second half power surge at the plate, he defensive liability is glaring. At this point in the season,  Tomas’WAR remains negative.

The Touki Toussaint trade to Atlanta, a former number one pick by the Diamondbacks,  appears as another example of talent misuse.

To be fair, many of the transactions made by Stewart and La Russa worked out. Two in particular, acquiring Jean Segura from the Brewers and Phil Gosselin from Atlanta, were positive.

Still, a fundamental misunderstanding of international singing bonus procedures teds to overshadow any positives achieved by this front office regime. The Diamondbacks have gone against the conventional wisdom and that strategy has failed.

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington watches batting practice prior to a game against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington watches batting practice prior to a game against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports) /

Nothing is a Better Substitute for Experience 

It is clear that the Diamondbacks need more on-the-job experience for their GM and head of Baseball Operations. Names like Alex Anthopolus, Ben Cherrington, Bobby Evans, Michael Girsch and Scott Harris are rumored.

This organization tried an unconventional approach. It has led to the fourth-worst record in baseball.

It is nice that La Russa recognizes the need to consolidate roles in the front office, but that is not enough. If anything, La Russa and Stewart’s roles need to be consolidated.

La Russa would make a great special advisor to whomever the manager going forward happens to be. That is where his comfort zone lies in baseball, not as an executive.

Stewart served as an executive in 2001, but that was over a decade ago. Stewart would fit best as a special assistant to the President and CEO. In this role, he would be to help develop the young pitchers both at the major-league and minor-league level.

Some contend that ownership needs to give La Russa and Stewart more time, but their lack of experience is risky for a organization that wants to compete right now.

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  • If Ken Kendrick and Derrick Hall were smart, they would put both men in the roles described above and find personnel with baseball operations experience.

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