Diamondbacks Announce Management Shake-up

In perhaps the most unsurprising move in Major League Baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks dismiss manager AJ Hinch and General Manager Josh Byrnes. These moves seemed inevitable given the struggles the Diamondbacks have had dating back to May 2008.

When Josh Byrnes was named General Manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks on October 28, 2005, he was touted as one of the brightest minds in baseball. He had been part of the Cleveland Indians front office and later with the Boston Red Sox. In each case he assisted in orchestrating success.

Byrnes would inherit a situation where there were high hopes and a deep farm system. Many in baseball pointed to Arizona as a team stocked with talent at every level. While the major league roster was still quite young, they were set up to have sustained success for years to come.

Upon taking control of the Diamondbacks, Byrnes soon began molding the team. Some of his decisions were not well received. His first big decision was to inform fan favorite and Diamondbacks legend Luis Gonzalez that he would not finish his career in an Arizona uniform. The team was going a different direction and Gonzo did not fit into the plan.

The 2007 season saw the Diamondbacks overachieve and reach the National League Championship Series for the second time in team history. While they were swept by the Colorado Rockies, they were poised to compete for the National League pennant on an annual basis.

In the off-season following the 2007 run, Byrnes pulled off a blockbuster trade to bring Dan Haren to Arizona to pitch alongside Cy Young winning Brandon Webb. The price paid for such a trade was tremendous with Byrnes sending five players to the A’s including Carlos Gonzalez who was one of Arizona’s best prospects.

Byrnes signed outfielder Eric Byrnes to a three-year contract and traded first-round draft pick Carlos Quintin to the Chicago White Sox for basically nothing. The signing of Eric Byrnes also meant the Diamondbacks would not resign gold glove second baseman Orlando Hudson allowing him to become a free agent after the 2008 season.

Perhaps some of the most alarming moves surrounded the bullpen. After a successful run made possible by a strong performance by the relief pitchers, Byrnes traded closer Jose Valverde to Houston for Chad Qualls, Juan Gutierrez, and Chris Burke. The following year Byrnes let Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz leave destabilizing the bullpen.

During a Season Ticket Holder Town Hall meeting, fans asked Byrnes about the failure of the bullpen the past two seasons. His answer was, “the only thing worse than a bad bullpen was an expensive bad bullpen.” It should therefore come as no surprise that Byrnes put very few resources into the bullpen especially in the critical eighth and ninth inning.

When Byrnes fired manager Bob Melvin on May 8, 2009 he felt the team was not responding to Melvin’s management style. Byrnes handed over the team to AJ Hinch, the former Director of Player Development who had no managing experience at any level. At the press conference Byrnes explained the need for “organizational advocacy”.

The Hinch hiring would play a key part in Byrnes dismissal. The Diamondbacks would again struggle this season and at the time of this firing the team would be worse than they were a year earlier. Byrnes decision making was flawed.

The farm system that looked so promising and stocked with players who could contribute each year was now a shell of its former self. The lower levels have begun to recover based on the strong 2009 draft where the Diamondbacks had numerous picks in the early rounds.

Even that draft saw Byrnes make questionable decisions. In 2008 when the Diamondbacks traded for Adam Dunn to make a late season run, they did so knowing that Dunn would leave after the season. Dunn assured the Diamondbacks he would not accept arbitration allowing the Diamondbacks to receive a compensatory draft pick. Instead Byrnes did not offer Dunn arbitration and the Diamondbacks received nothing in return.

Many, myself included felt Byrnes had overstayed his welcome in Arizona and should have been relieved of duties before the 2010 season. The Diamondbacks showed patience and gave Byrnes every opportunity to turn this around. Instead it seemed as though Byrnes became more egotistical and arrogant. There are accounts where data was provided to the General Manager which he ignored and made personnel decisions despite the numbers.

With the dismissal of Byrnes, the Diamondbacks announced Jerry Dipoto would accept the position of interim General Manager for the remainder of the season. Bench coach Kirk Gibson will fill in for the fired AJ Hinch for the remainder of the season. At the conclusion of the 2010 season the Diamondbacks will begin their search for permanent replacements for both of these positions.

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