The Arizona Diamondbacks cleaned house on Monday, and dismissed general manager Dave Stewart and field manager Chip Hale
If a subtle reading could be made, the decision to part ways with Dave Stewart, as general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Chip Hale, the field manager, was made long before Phil Gosselin’s walk-off, game-winning single this past Sunday afternoon that ended the season. That includes the formal announcement made by the club Monday afternoon.
Plus, the status of Tony La Russa, the club’s Chief Baseball Officer, remains in jeopardy. After Ken Kendrick, the general managing partner at Monday’s news conference called the Hall of Fame manager “iconic,” the likely process would have La Russa exit gracefully. At this point, Kendrick has taken enough heat for questionable trades and signings, and he would like to avoid further embarrassment by simply firing La Russa.
The downhill avalanche of the Arizona Diamondbacks essentially started opening night. That’s when Zack Grienke, signed for $206 million last off-season and an equal amount of optimism, was rocked for nine hits, seven runs, three home runs in just four innings of work, and took a humiliating loss to the Rockies. Add a slow start by Paul Goldschmidt, who was hitting .222 the first six weeks of the season, an unsettling pitching staff, a corps of relievers who, it seemed, could get no hitters out, and a batting order which appeared to change with unguarded frequency, such elements began to stir and resulted in gross combustibility.
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By the All-Star game, the Diamondbacks were in last place in the National League West Division, 19 games out of first place and 14 games under the .500 mark. By season’s end, the team managed a 69-93 record, and recorded 90 losses or more for the sixth time in its 19-year history. All of which put Stewart and Hale in a most vulnerable position.
“Obviously, this was a tough decision,” said president Derrick Hall during Monday’s news conference. “These are guys whom we care about. They worked really hard, their hearts were in the right place. These are always very difficult time. But, it is the results business, and we believe it’s time for improvement. It’s time to turn the page, hit reset button, and see if we can’t get going in the right direction. We owe that to our fans and our organization.”
Just before spring training, Stewart said he was essentially brought in to rebuild the farm system. In the process, Steward claimed to make around 20 trades, and for the most part, several were successful. The acquisition of Gosselin as a premier utility player, picking up Mitch Hangier from the Brewers, who could be in the mix for a roster spot in 2017, and Jean Segura, who had his best season of six in the major leagues, were three positives. Conversely, Stewart has been vilified for acquiring pitcher Shelby Miller from the Braves in exchange for outfielder Ender Inciarte, former number one-pick overall Dansby Swanson and pitching prospect Aaron Blair.
At the same time, Stewart was criticized for giving Yasmany Tomas a $68 million contract and spending $16 million on pitching prospect Yoan Lopez, who is no longer considered a major league pitching prospect.
“It starts with me,” Kendrick said. “We’ve made some bad choices. And, I’ll make more mistakes. First and foremost, this is an extremely competitive business. We have high expectations. Our community has high expectations for us, and we’re okay with that. It’s a results business, it’s a tough business, and we don’t have much margin for error.”
Regarding Hale, two points may have influenced the decision to change field managers.
First, Hale’s handling of the starters came under the microscope. Just before the All-Star game, Patrick Corbin questioned Hale’s decision to pull the lefty in a start. When the issue arose during one of Hale’s pre-game media sessions, the former Arizona manager simply said, “we’ve talked, and it’s confined to in-house.”
In late August, Archie Bradley also questioned Hale’s timing. Telling reporters after beating Cincinnati 11-2 on Aug. 28, he wanted to go further than six innings and 89 pitches. At the time, Bradley said he respected Hale’s decision, but was not happy with the judgment to leave what Bradley thought was too early.
Then, there is the issue of spreading quality at-bats throughout the roster. Hale seemed more obsessed with trying to give players an equal amount of times at the plate. That resulted in juggled, haphazard line-ups and loss of continuity, Granted, the Diamondbacks were hit with several key injuries all season and lost outfielders Dave Peralta and A. J. Pollock each for essentially the entire campaign. To compensate Hale, moved infielders to the outfielder and, save Segura leading off and Goldschmidt hitting out of the three-hole, had no set batting order for most of the season.
The end result was lack of a fluid line-up and players not settling comfortably into certain slots, and roles, in the batting order.
The essential implosion of the pitching staff did not help. Their combined ERA of 5.09 was the highest in the majors. Miller, whom Stewart actively sought from Atlanta in that off-season deal, failed to win a game in Chase Field, and languished for several weeks in the minors.
All of which caused what Hall said on Monday, “to push the reset button.”
At the gate
For the season, the Arizona Diamondbacks drew 2,036,216. That’s the lowest single year total in franchise history.
Around the Foghorn
During the 82-game home schedule, the Diamondbacks drew less than 20,000 on 24 different dates. The smallest crowd of the season was 14,110 on July 5 against San Diego, and that set a franchise record. Previously, the smallest crowd in team history was 15,509 against the Cincinnati Reds on August 18, 2010.