Most believe the entrance of Tony La Russa into the Diamondbacks’ organization represents a clear first step in cleaning house.
With full authority over all baseball operations, La Russa enters the scene with his white smock and stethoscope. Everything now is under his microscope and like any respectable scientist, he is ready to find new discoveries.
As well, he’s at the quick to dispel old theories.
Given the Diamondbacks challenging start to the season, an 8-22 beginning did not sit well with managing general partner Ken Kendrick and club president Derrick Hall. In an attempt to ask critical questions and arrive at significant answers, the pair reached out into the baseball community and chose La Russa, who had managed 33 years at the major league level, to provide responses and direction.
Because there was little positive associated with the team through the opening two months of the season, speculation immediately surfaced that the heads of Kirk Gibson, the field manager and Kevin Towers, the general manager were headed to the guillotine. When La Russa was hired on May 17, there seemed a countdown commenced.
While the Diamondbacks have won six of their last eight series, the noose has not been loosen and Gibson and Towers continue to walk gingerly on egg shells.
While La Russa has total control over all things baseball in the organization, Gibson said in his usual pre-game meeting with the media Saturday that he does not feel threatened by La Russa’s presence or power. As well, Gibson said he does not look at the reminder of the season as an extended job interview.
“I’m in touch with Tony as often as possible,” Gibson said. “We’ll text, use the phone and he was in (after Thursday night’s game with Cincinnati) with a suggestion. This is something I would not have done but now I might consider something like that. I can’t reveal what this was but is part of the dialogue we have established.”
Since La Russa’s appointment, Gibson has towed “the party line,” and said he welcomes La Russa’s experience and baseball acumen.
“I look at this as an opportunity to learn and grow,” Gibson said. “Tony is so well-respected and brings so much to the organization.”
After touring several minor league teams within the organization, La Russa is back in the area and will participate in the team’s preparation for next week’s draft. Scheduled for June 5-7, the Diamondbacks select at number 16, number 54 on the second round, two picks at 69 and 70 in the Competitive Balance Round B, at number 89 in round three and the 15th pick in each subsequent rounds from 4 through 40.
At the time of his appointment, La Russa admitted he knew little of the players in the organization. At his first draft with Arizona, LaRussa will depend on Ray Montgomery, director of scouting, and Mike Bell, director of player development, for guidance.
After June 7, he will likely pull in the reigns and make decisions which, in the end, may or may not be popular with personnel or fans.
Then again, it’s really up the players, their commitment and execution, which will determine the fate of Gibson and Towers and lead direction into the future.