Is There a Leak in the Diamondbacks Think Tank?

A day after the Arizona Diamondbacks parted ways with two of their coaches, General Manager Josh Byrnes and manager AJ Hinch met with the media at Chase Field. While the press conference did not unveil anything earth shattering, it was interesting to hear what areas the team will focus on during this off-season.

The underlying theme of the press conference was clearly that the front office was not accepting any excuses for the poor play that doomed the Diamondbacks to the National League Western Division cellar.

The brass did not seem content with using excuses as a crutch for why the team underperformed. They quickly dismissed the suggestion that the team neither was too young nor would they acknowledge that injuries to key personnel were to blame for the team’s poor on-field performance.

Instead they focused on the underlying faults that they perceived this team to have. Among those is the lack of mental discipline, which led to the Diamondbacks having the second most errors in Major League Baseball and being among the league leaders in unearned runs. They talked at length about the mental aspects of the game and challenged returning players to come to Spring Training next year ready to work and remain committed for every out during a game.

57389094That was encouraging to hear from a fan’s perspective and it was something that many people in the stands have been clamoring for the past two years. Unfortunately I did not hear anything that sounded like an actionable plan for how they will execute to that. It’s one thing to recognize your faults it is quite another to overcome them. I question whether the personnel they have on the roster are capable of maintaining that high level of discipline over a 162-game season.

To this end perhaps that is what led to the dismissal of Chip Hale and Lorenzo Bundy. Maybe they did not have the personality types to reach the players and get them to understand what is required to win at this level. I find that theory questionable and have concluded that these two coaches were the scapegoats to a season gone bad.

Rumors are already swirling around suggesting that perhaps Matt Williams will be considered for one of the coaching vacancies. My theory though is that Williams’ personality it very similar to Chip Hale so I am not sure what if anything would be gained. Hinch suggested that he was looking for a different perspective from his coaching staff and Williams does not seem to fit that bill. I do think between Matt Williams and Kirk Gibson that the team would get an earful if they were not playing the game the right way.

Byrnes talked some about breaking the habit of losing and how he felt that the team had become too accepting of failure. I’m not exactly sure what he will propose to do about this behavior, maybe this was just a reminder to Hinch what areas he needs to focus his team on next season.

There were a battery of questions surrounding the roster and potential changes that Byrnes is considering. He acknowledged that Doug Davis will probably not be resigned. It sounded as though the two sides were too far apart in compensation for the pitcher’s services.

Byrnes did say that it was an almost certainty that the Diamondbacks would exercise Brandon Webb’s option for 2010 and that he planned to talk to his ace about restructuring a contract and adding an extension. Given the comments by Webb before the season ended, this doesn’t seem likely from the pitcher’s perspective.

Webb seems more than a little bitter about the team pulling the extension last year over questions about his shoulder and feelings have been hurt making it more likely that Webb will play out next season and test the free agent market. If that happens, the Diamondbacks will surely lose out.

Byrnes also stated that the team was not planning to pick up Chad Tracy’s option basically letting the infielder walk away to free agency. Tracy had a combination of injuries and bad luck that led to decreased playing time and a role he was not comfortable in playing.

A slightly more surprising revelation was that Josh Byrnes is looking at several scenarios to move outfielder Eric Byrnes. Eric does not appear to fit into the Diamondbacks plans regardless of whether he can rekindle the swing and swagger of 2007 when he was the team MVP.

The Diamondbacks do not appear to have a second baseman at the top of their off-season shopping list. They feel that an adequate candidate can be found among, Ryan Roberts, Augie Ojeda, Rusty Ryal, and the player to be named in the Jon Garland trade (expected to be infielder Tony Abreu). That has to be good news for Augie Ojeda since he questioned whether he would be back.

Arizona seemed to be more focused on finding a first baseman. While they hope that Brandon Allen would fit their needs, both Hinch and Byrnes questioned whether he was indeed the answer. They would only commit that he is in the mix for consideration.

Josh Byrnes did state publicly that the Diamondbacks payroll next season will likely be larger than this year’s $73 million. This gives the team some flexibility in the free agent market although that increase could just be an extension for Brandon Webb.

After this press conference I came away with just as many questions or perhaps more questions than I had before. I am starting to have serious reservations of whether Josh Byrnes is capable of creating a roster that can sustain a winning formula not just for a single season but over the long haul.

General Partner Ken Kendrick has shown patience so far with Byrnes but I have to think that if the Diamondbacks start slowly next season after Byrnes has overhauled the roster yet again that Kendrick will begin looking for a replacement for his would-be wunderkind.

Perhaps the Diamondbacks think tank has sprung a leak. Maybe Byrnes and his Moneyball cronies are not the recipe of success first thought. With proven talent such as Kevin Towers on the market, there may be more scrutiny on the existing baseball operations staff. Hopefully a little caulking will take care of the leak otherwise Diamondbacks fans may need to find their life vests if they are going to stay afloat for the 2010 season.


2 Comments

  1. Good summary. What troubled me about JB’s comments was his notion the 2009 roster is basically the same as the 2007 roster that won. First, it’s not the same, especially not the pitching. Second, the 2007 team wasnt that great and he knows it.

  2. Very true Matt. By most accounts you would have to describe the 2007 team as having overachieved which is evident in their negative run differential that season. Clearly the pitching staff is not the same as that season especially the bullpen. I think they underestimated the ramifications of disrupting the 7-8-9 inning flow and have yet to recover from that mistake. I’m not suggesting Jose Valverde was the bullpen savior just that the roles Pena, Lyon, and Valverde played that season were suited to the talent they had. Hopefully this off season the Diamondbacks will put more value on the bullpen especially the late inning roles.

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