Tony La Russa has one of the most respected brains in baseball. He was three times a World Series winner, four times Manager of the Year. But now, at 71, he’s on the brink of being fired as Chief Baseball Officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Owner Ken Kendrick and team president Derrick Hall find the cellar of the National League West to be unbearable. “We will evaluate everything,” Hall said. “We are obviously disappointed.”
ESPN’s Keith Law accused La Russa and his general manager, Dave Stewart, of incompetence. He wrote that there “are good, competent people in the Diamondbacks’ baseball ops department, but they appear to have no sway over the decisions La Russa and Stewart are making.”
In a cleverly written article, Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports piled on: “Tony La Russa is so thoroughly cocooned that butterflies are trying to stage an intervention.”
La Russa fired back. To the Arizona Republic, he said: “Sometimes the results are not as immediate as you want. It’s not fantasy island.”
In his first year as D-backs boss, La Russa saw the team improve by 15 games to 79-83. When they were a major-league best 24-8 in spring training, they gave false hope of being pennant contenders this year.
But star center fielder A.J. Pollock suffered a fractured elbow as the season was about to begin, and La Russa’s two major pitching acquisitions flopped.
Zack Grienke, 32, signed the largest per-year contract in baseball history, $200 million for six seasons. He’s having a way-off season: 4.30 ERA. Shelby Miller. 26, was considered a rising star when Stewart traded for him. But after a 7.14 ERA in 14 games, he was farmed out to Fresno.
While pressing La Russa and Stewart to win now, Kendrick and Hall are telling them to reduce costs. Of Stewart’s 39 trades, 28 have resulted in lowering the payroll.
“We had one good year and . . . one bad year,” Stewart said. “I think we deserve a tie-breaker.”
But Attention Deficit Disorder is everywhere in our society. It’s even taking over front offices in baseball, owners losing patience after two-thirds of a bad season.
This same condition seems to have afflicted New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who’s pondering dismissing his field manager, Terry Collins, ten months after he guided them to the World Series.
The Mets’ problem is that Alderson did not build the team on offense and fielding but on pitching, and two of their key pitchers, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz, are injured.
Click here for Bob Raisman of the New York Daily News: “Media building its case against Mets manager Terry Collins.”
Click here for Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports on “Tony La Russa’s Last Stand”