By: Richard Duflo
If the disastrous 2016 season for the Arizona Diamondbacks has taught us anything, it’s that the organization is completely tone-deaf and refuses to address glaring problems both on the field and with the management.
As the 2015 season ended, the Diamondbacks had missed the playoffs, but that was okay. The team was in rebuild mode, playoffs weren’t the goal. Developing and evaluating the minor league talent at the major league level was the primary focus of the 2015 campaign. With all things considered, they actually had a promising season. They were fundamentally sound on defense and possessed one of the more potent offenses in the league. The one area that was in need was pitching.
The organization addressed that need by adding Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller to the rotation.
After the 2015 season provided a very positive outlook, the offseason that followed filled fans with even more optimism. Everything was looking up for the Diamondbacks, fans were excited and baseball was the talk of the Valley.
Then the season started.
The optimism quickly turned into denial and then pessimism. There were some problems, but it was still early in the season. As the season started off slow, there was still plenty of time to turn everything around. Thoughts of, “it’s only the first week” became “it’s only the first month” then to “it’s only the first half.”
Here we are. It’s August. The team is hovering around 20 games below .500 and dead last in the National League West.
Yes, it was still early, and there was still time to turn things around, but when problems are left unaddressed, they get worse. The position of where the team sits is a result of allowing problems to remain.
In his second year at the helm, manager Chip Hale has been a disappointment. When he was hired, he said all the right things and appeared to be a good fit for the ball club. He had a few managerial issues in his first year. Mainly the misuse of pitchers, but given that it was his first year as a big league manager and an evaluation year of sorts for everyone, it was fine.
Here in 2016, the misuse of pitchers is more prevalent than ever. The always changing batting order is always good for a daily laugh (Phil Gosselin hitting clean up?) and the team better hope there are no extra innings because the bench is usually empty around the seventh inning. The team looks uninspired and uninterested behind his leadership. A usual sign that the manager has lost the clubhouse, as if players going on record in interviews criticizing Hale’s management of pitchers wasn’t already enough proof of that.
Of course injuries have played a role in this bad season, but that is not the only thing to point at and blame. If AJ Pollock was in center field, the pitching staff’s ERA wouldn’t be any different. The mismanaged situations would still occur. All of the healthy players on the team cannot prevent mismanagement.
It’s starting to look as if Tony La Russa may be out of his element in a front office capacity as well. He was brought in to turn the team around. Since he’s been here, he’s allowed General Manager Dave Stewart to trade away highly rated prospects, including the first overall pick from the 2015 draft for minimal returns.
Yeah, the package it took to get Shelby Miller from the Braves was huge, maybe that’s the cost of winning now? Perhaps, but Miller has been just terrible this season. In fact, the entirety of the pitching staff has been bad. From the starting rotation to the bullpen, it’s been bad. It’s hard to imagine that a rotation with a top three of Greinke, Miller and Patrick Corbin has been bad, but here we are. Those three all share a common thread, their new pitching coach, Mike Butcher. Butcher has three very good pitchers to work with and yet, they are all regressing.
The Diamondbacks’ front office showed they wanted to win this last offseason. Their acquisitions spoke very loudly. They paid a big price with both personnel and money to do so. They paid too big of a price to just sit back and allow this abysmal play to go on for this long.