Observations from the Web Chat with Derrick Hall

One of the things I always give the Arizona Diamondbacks credit for is their policy of open communications with their fans. Since becoming the president of the team Derrick Hall has made himself available to the fans holding a monthly web chat through the Diamondbacks web site.

No matter how well or how poorly the team is doing Hall continues to take the forefront and answers questions from what has become a frustrated fan base this season. The timing of this chat could not be worse for Hall as the team had just fired general manager Josh Byrnes and manager AJ Hinch. To make matters worse the Diamondbacks were struggling during the current home stand and their record was worse in 2010 than it was in 2009.

As a loyal fan I was both curious and apprehensive about attending this month’s chat. On the one hand I wondered how aggressive the questioning would be. Obviously there would be questions about the recent management changes and about the direction the team was going but how passionate would these fans be towards a team official.

On the other hand I wasn’t sure I wanted to attend. Reading through the comments attached to news stories on the team web site there were some very frustrated people. And given the relative anonymous nature of the Internet a lot of these fans seemed almost toxic. Their frustration could really get out of hand if not handled correctly.

The chat started as always with Hall welcoming the fans and setting the time limit of 30 minutes as per parameters that were defined before it began. Hall then invited fans to send in questions he would try to answer.

As anticipated most of the questions sent in revolved around how team officials reached the conclusions they did for making a change to the General Manager and Manager. They also questioned whether the organizational evaluation that had been talked about was now complete.

Hall described the process he and General Partner Ken Kendrick took to come to this decision. He also expressed gratitude for the work that Byrnes and Hinch gave to the organization during their tenure. He further described how the evaluation process would continue as they assessed what additional changes should be made going forward.

Reading between the lines it sounds as though the team has several scenarios they are considering including trading away several core players and almost starting over with new personnel that may have better success.

The message was somewhat contradictory. On one hand it sounded as though several trades and personnel decisions were looming while on the other hand Hall stated he did not believe the team warranted being “blown up” but rather tweaked.

What I took away from that is the fact that the Diamondbacks are just not sure which of these players and coaches can work together to be successful and which pieces need to be extracted and replaced to return to winning baseball.

Part of that is the fact that for the most part this is the same team that went to the National League Championship Series in 2007. Since that time they have added Dan Haren to the front of the rotation and lost most of the bullpen.

It is not just the bullpen who is at fault though. The number of strikeouts this team achieves makes the offense very inconsistent being unable to do the little things that keep a team in a game or win close ballgames.

My impression from the chat was that the Diamondbacks will continue to evaluate the pieces and make necessary changes for the 2011 season. They may be involved in trade deadline deals but unless they are presented with a deal that blows them away don’t look to see too many of their core ball players moved in the next month.

That of course could all change with the right phone call offering the team parts that they see as opportunities for regaining their dominance next year and beyond.


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