The problems too big, the disappointment too deep, the season perhaps already lost, the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday hired 69-year-old Tony La Russa to run their baseball operations.
The announcement from Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall arrived amid speculation over the job security of general manager Kevin Towers and field manager Kirk Gibson, and dovetailed with the expectation La Russa, who retired from the field after the 2011 season, hoped to return to the game in a front office capacity.
His title is chief baseball officer, which he assumes after serving most recently as a special assistant to commissioner Bud Selig. Towers will report to La Russa, who will report to Hall, presenting a dramatic shift in the Diamondbacks' hierarchy. It is unclear what the La Russa hire might mean in particular for Towers, whose contract was extended in February.
"The entire organization is obviously frustrated with the results on the field and we are looking to improve," Hall said in a statement.
La Russa, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer, is third among managers in all-time wins. He won three World Series championships, one in Oakland and two in St. Louis.
In the Diamondbacks, he'll find an organization with one winning season since 2008 and that seemingly has lost ground to the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in the NL West. After consecutive .500 seasons, the Diamondbacks expected improvement in 2014, yet lost ace Patrick Corbin to the Tommy John epidemic near the end of spring training, lost 18 of their first 23 games, and, as of the La Russa hiring, were in last place at 16-28. Worse, the Diamondbacks are 4-18 at Chase Field, where attendance is again running at or near the bottom third in baseball.
One of the brightest minds in the game for going on four decades, La Russa in Arizona will reunite with longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan, who serves as special assistant to the general manager, and coach Dave McKay, the team's first-base coach.
In April, team owner Ken Kendrick appeared to question Towers' methods, most specifically regarding his general manager's distant relationship with the game's newer advanced metrics. Less than a month later, he hired La Russa.
Are the problems too big?
That's La Russa's call now.
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