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Arizona Diamondbacks – Hazen wants to bring franchise ‘to next level’

By Mark Brown
Ken Kendrick (l) and Derrick Hall happy with choice of Mike Hazen as new GM (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Ken Kendrick (l) and Derrick Hall happy with choice of Mike Hazen as new GM (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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The Arizona Diamondbacks introduced Mike Hazen as their new GM

There was the usual refrain from club owners, and words which traditionally have been tired and exhausted. “It’s a great day for the Arizona Diamondbacks and a great day to be D-back,” said Ken Kendrick, the team’s general managing partner Monday morning.

Kendrick was celebrating another dawn of a new era in franchise history, and took the moment to introduce Mike Hazen as the team’s newest general manager. Given the Diamondbacks unsettling track record in recent years about hiring and dismissing management personnel, most notably general manager Dave Stewart, field manager Chip Hale and De Jon Watson, the team’s VP of baseball operations, Kendrick again illuminated the air with bright phrases and cheery expressions.

In turn, Hazen said all the right things during his introduction as the Diamondbacks’ GM during a news conference Monday morning in Chase Field. Despite all the accolades and praise heaped on Hazen by Kendrick and Derrick Hall, the club’s CEO and president, a persistent question remains. Can all of the correct things Hazen said during his one-half hour session with the media in mid-October be translated into victories beginning next April.

“There are some great players here, and my job is to help bring this franchise to the next level,” Hazen said. “It’s an enormous responsibility and we’re here to make a commitment to the fans. First and foremost, we’re here to win a championship.”

While Hall and Kendrick outlined the process in which they settled upon Hazen, the task ahead is daunting. Given a full range of authority and autonomy, Hazen’s responsibilities now push Tony La Russa, the club’s chief baseball officer, into an advisory capacity. Previously, La Russa was considered the principal decision-maker in all things baseball.

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After Hazen was formally introduced, La Russa talked about his changing role, and how the Diamondbacks’ disastrous 69-93 season (22 games behind the NL West division-winning Dodgers) impacted his desire to remain with the franchise.

After Stewart and Hale were dismissed earlier this month, rumors surfaced that La Russa would be next. Despite a distinguished career in the dugout, La Russa, said Monday, “I’m in the Hall of Fame because of the uniform and not by working up-stairs.”

Still, La Russa was not asked to pack his bags, but humbly accepted a lesser role of advising Hazen.

“I have 50 years of teaching and developed credibility and trust,” La Russa said. “If I left after the season we had, I couldn’t live with that the rest of my life.”

While La Russa’s profile with the Arizona will be greatly diminished, Hazen is expected to have his fingerprints all over the franchise. He talked about establishing long-term and short term goals, as well as reaching out to all members of the franchise.

Coming from the Boston Sox, where was assistant GM and spent the last 11 seasons in Fenway Park, Hazen said his priority, and that’s no secret, is to name a field manager. Noting, “a leader” is the principal trait he seeks, the manager must also be able to connect with the players, Hazen pointed out.

Beyond that, Hazen stuck to strictly “political” answers. About the only element of the game he touched was adjusting from his time with the Indians and Red Sox in the American League and transition to the National League game.

“Coming over here will be a little different, and no (David Ortiz) as a DH,” he smiled. “Because of the game over here, I suspect there will be consideration given to personnel. There could be roster construction in that direction.”

In the end, Hazen emphasized, “we’re all accountable every night. We’re expected to be successful.”

Without much acknowledgement, Hazen said all aspects of the organization will be examined, but emphasized, “we need to have a much better pitching staff.”

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That said, Hazen was off to identify those candidates on his manager radar screen. Promising the selection to be thorough and complete, Hazen added the process will not be dictated by time or other restraints.

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