Diamondbacks return to square one

After a major hierarchical shakeup, the Diamondbacks are on the prowl for a new bench boss


New Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart chats with a coach during batting practice. Courtesy of Arizona Diamondbacks

Jeremy Beren, Sports Editor

The Arizona Diamondbacks finished with the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2014, and the team has so far wasted no time in cleaning house.

The Diamondbacks dismissed general manager Kevin Towers on Sept. 5, and three weeks later, chief baseball officer Tony La Russa announced that manager Kirk Gibson would follow Towers out the exit door.

La Russa’s decisions did not come as a total shock; the Diamondbacks lost 98 games, the second-highest total in team history, in 2014. And Towers had made some questionable trades the previous winter, as he acquired relief pitcher Addison Reed from the Chicago White Sox and powerful outfielder Mark Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Reed pitched poorly this past season, while Trumbo was injured for large stretches and was ineffective when healthy.

Gibson’s management had also come into question. The team had failed to progress much since a shock National League West division title in 2011, and they failed to win more games than they lost in each of the past three seasons. Furthermore, people around baseball were shocked when Gibson instructed pitcher Randall Delgado to hit Pittsburgh Pirates star Andrew McCutchen with a pitch on Aug. 2. This prompted many to call for Gibson’s immediate dismissal—which, of course, happened eight weeks later.

La Russa, who was hired to oversee baseball operations in May, was given full authority to bring in whoever he saw fit to begin the Diamondbacks’ rebuild. To that end, he appointed former Major League pitcher Dave Stewart to be the team’s new general manager at the end of September. Stewart, who pitched for La Russa’s old Oakland A’s teams in the 1980’s and 1990’s, sold his player agent firm to take the Diamondbacks gig. This is Stewart’s first time in a front office management position, so the move is not without risk, but La Russa said that knowing Stewart for three decades gave him confidence.

Stewart’s first task is not an easy one. The Diamondbacks obviously need a new manager, and his first hire will be very important. In the last week, the team unveiled their list of preferred candidates. The candidates range from experienced managers, like Jim Tracy, to longtime professional coaches, such as former players Sandy Alomar, Jr., Phil Nevin, and Turner Ward, to former players in search of their first management role. Among that last group is former Diamondback second baseman Jay Bell, who was a member of the 2001 World Series team.

Granted, no decision has been made yet, and we may be in a holding pattern until the conclusion of the World Series. But whoever takes over in the dugout at Chase Field will have the unenviable chore of reviving interest in a baseball team that hasn’t really engendered it. Fans will need some evidence of improvement before they rush to refill all the empty seats in downtown Phoenix.