Publicly, Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick said a few weeks ago that he was going to give general manager Kevin Towers every chance to succeed. Those comments were made after another April loss, dropping the Diamondbacks to a league-worst 5-17 record.
As it turns out, shortly after those comments, Kendrick and team president Derrick Hall started the process that eventually brought Tony La Russa to the desert as chief baseball officer. This may be a record for World’s Shortest Vote of Confidence.
In his introductory press conference, La Russa said it won’t be until later in the year or even after the season before he decides the future of anyone in the organization, and he at least made it sound like he’d give Towers & Co. a chance:
“[Towers] knows more about general managing than I know, so I’ll be properly respectful. I just think in this situation, you hold yourself to the standard of Major League excellence, because for the first time I’ve got a responsibility to an organization that said, ‘Use your experience to help us get better.’”
It might take a few months for La Russa to figure out how to respectfully say, “So, that Justin Upton deal…what was that about?”
Towers was as PC as possible when asked to comment on his bosses creating a new position to look over his shoulder and take his Final Say privileges. But he also sounds like a guy who knows he’s probably going to be looking for a new job in October:
“To me, to be able to bring on a good baseball mind, you can’t have enough good baseball people in your front office. … It certainly will be good for Gibby and I and the organization. We’re a better organization today than we were yesterday by having his presence here and being a Diamondback. I approach my job like I do each and every day until they tell me that I’m no longer here.”
La Russa has always been about respect, at least when it comes to people he sees as Good Baseball Guys who do things The Right Way. Towers would seem to fit that description, but everyone seems to realize that La Russa will eventually want his own guys in the organization. If La Russa does let Towers go, he’ll go out of his way not to embarrass him in the process, and it’ll be about letting Towers pursue other opportunities as much as it’ll be about La Russa finding His Own Guy.
That extends down to the field level, where Kirk Gibson may be on even thinner ice than Towers. Dave Duncan and Dave McKay are already with the Diamondbacks, and it didn’t take very long for Mike Aldrete’s and Jose Oquendo’s names to come up, either. If Gibson isn’t let go, he’ll at the very least have to allow some major changes to his coaching staff.
La Russa praised the Diamondbacks as a perfect fit for him, based on organizational philosophy, but was blunt and realistic when talking about the failings at the major league level. If he’s being brought in to change that and the Diamondbacks are talking about competing as early as next season, it’s hard to imagine anything other than a complete overhaul in the offseason, and that doesn’t bode well for Towers and Gibson.