Chatting with the Diamondbacks General Manager

The Arizona Diamondbacks current management team has made a conscious effort to be available not only to the media but to the everyday fan. Since taking over as president of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Derrick Hall has offered an open communications channel to anyone.

Besides offering his email address up to those wanting to speak with the team, Hall has also implemented a monthly forum where members of the Diamondbacks front office are available through the team website to answer questions from the fans.

The forum is a live chat session where questions are posted and representatives from the Diamondbacks will answer in real time. The online chats last approximately 30 minutes and have been well received.

Usually it is the president who fields the questions but on some occasions he turns the chat over to others such as manager AJ Hinch or assistant to the president Luis Gonzalez. Today’s guest happened to be General Manager Josh Byrnes.

I approached this chat with more curiosity than I had the previous. When a team finishes in the cellar of the division after being at or near the top for the two prior years, the General Manager will find himself answering a lot of questions from the media and in this case from the fans.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are gaining a loyal following of baseball fans. To date that following has been relatively small by with each passing baseball season the number of true Diamondbacks fans increases.

I am encouraged by the knowledge these fans have and for their passion towards the team. The Phoenix market has long been labeled as fair weather fans whether that be for the Diamondbacks, the Phoenix Suns, the Arizona Cardinals, or the Phoenix Coyotes.

To begin to see fans express frustration and offer their own suggestions on how to make the team better is a good sign as it shows the fans are not content just to go to the game but expect to see the team succeed.

Of course with this passion also comes a lot of frustration especially when the team does as poorly as the Diamondbacks have done this past season. Given this frustration I was more than a little curious whether Josh Byrnes would field any of the hard questions that have come up during conversations I have heard.

The on-line chat allows questions to be submitted then the team official determines with of the questions he will field. This works in most cases but can lead to a skewed session if team officials only select the soft or easy questions.

To his credit, Derrick Hall does not shy away from a lot of subjects giving the fans insight to some of the frustration that the team officials feel. Other members of the front office are not quite as open as Hall and that was the case today.

Byrnes tended to field more of the easier questions and his answers seemed somewhat guarded. Some of that can be expected. I doubt anyone believed he would open the chat and rehash contract decisions that have not worked out or offered any hidden tidbits of deals the team is currently working on.

Many attending the chat commented afterwards that their questions were ignored. It was probably not so much ignoring them; rather it was more a matter of there not being a simple answer that could be given quickly.

I’m sure Byrnes could have filled his 30 minute slot discussing the Eric Byrnes contract or why the Chris Snyder deal fell through but then he would have answered only one question and there would have been complaints that he took so few questions.

I felt that Byrnes provided complete yet somewhat guarded answers to the questions he was asked. He did give the fans some details. He stated that while Aaron Heilman could be a starter the Diamondbacks are looking at him strictly as a reliever.

He also assured the fans that Brandon Webb, Chad Qualls, and Conor Jackson are all progressing nicely from injuries and should be ready for Spring Training in Tucson next March.

Based on Byrnes comments I think fans can expect the fourth starter to come from a trade rather than free agency if at all possible. You can also expect to see the Diamondbacks use internal options for second base rather than see them sign a second baseman.

The one constant from all of Byrnes answers is the Diamondbacks are expecting a lot of competition for playing time in 2010 and that there are very few spots on the roster that are absolute locks with perhaps the exception being Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds, and Justin Upton.

The impression I came away with from this chat session is that the Diamondbacks plan to be very busy at next week’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis and beyond. The final roster may not be completely set until almost Opening Day next April.

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