Results tagged ‘ Derrick Hall ’

Some quick thoughts on Tony La Russa hiring

A few quick thoughts on the D-backs hiring of Tony La Russa as Chief Baseball Officer. Obviously we will have plenty more at following this afternoon’s press conference.

La Russa missed the wins and losses

La Russa had a great job with the commissioner’s office, but my guess is we’ll hear him say today that he missed the wins and losses that come with being involved with a particular team. He was a candidate for the Seattle Mariners team president position not too long ago and that was a good indication that he was itching to get back.

He’s not going to manage this team

From every indication La Russa is done managing and I would also believe that he is not interested in being a general manager either. Overseeing the entire baseball operations seems to fit what he has been looking for — a chance to put his stamp on an organization.

He will be fair in his evaluations of GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson

Keep in mind while La Russa has never held a position like this one he is extremely bright and you can expect that he will attack this new challenge very meticulously. He is a big believer in “doing things the right way” so you can bet he will be very even handed when it comes to deciding what to do with the baseball ops department going forward.

D-backs Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson address job status

CHICAGO — Kevin Towers looks at the team that he put together and the D-backs general manager is as perplexed as anyone at the dismal start.
“I’ve been a part of some bad clubs, but most of the time I knew they were bad clubs, knew going into the season that we were going to struggle,” Towers said.
The D-backs had far higher hopes for this season with a club-record payroll of $110 million, but they entered Wednesday afternoon’s game with the Cubs with a Majors-worst 5-18 record.
With that payroll came expectations and Towers knows that managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall might be running short on patience.
“I’ve talked to Derrick, Ken and they’re [frustrated] — rightfully so,” Towers said. “They should be. This organization has committed a lot of money. That’s what’s even more disturbing. You’ve got a payroll that exceeds $100 million and we’re off to one of the worst starts in franchise history. That’s tough to swallow when you’re an owner and you care and you’ve invested in a product and the product isn’t performing. I’m sure they’ve grown impatient and I don’t blame them.”
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson knows that there has been speculation about his job status, but he is trying to remain focused on getting his team turned around.
“I don’t worry about that part,” Gibson said of his job status. “I just come in here and am positive every day. We try to analyze what we can do [better] and we just prepare and try to get the guys to prepare and have a positive day and a good game.”
Regardless of how positive they are, or what Towers or Gibson do, the reality is that it is up to the players on the field and Towers issued a bit of a challenge Wednesday.
“It’s a team that should be performing a lot better than they are and it’s not like help is on its way,” Towers said. “These guys are the guys who are going to have to get it done. If not, your legacy is that you were part of one of the worst teams in Diamondbacks franchise history. To me, I’ve got incredible pride — and hopefully they do and they’re going to have to find a way to turn it around or that will be their legacy.”
When asked if he thought that he would be given a chance to continue as GM and be given a chance to fix what’s wrong with the team, Towers deferred the query to Kendrick and Hall.
“That’s a question you need to ask them,” Towers said. “I don’t think they dislike Gibby or myself. They’re good people. They’ve been great to us. But Gibby and I are smart enough to know that this is what you get paid to do. You get paid to hopefully go out and win ballgames. But I think we’re all accountable. Everybody. It’s players, it’s us, it’s coaches. We all should be wearing this right now and finding a way to turn this around.”
When he took over as GM in Sept. 2010, Towers inherited Gibson, who had been named interim manager in July.
The two quickly formed a bond and Towers elected after that season to rehire Gibson. The pair won a division championship together in 2011, which was followed up by back-to-back .500 seasons.
After last season the organization declined to pick up the contract options on the pair for 2015, but then announced extensions of unspecified lengths for both just before the start of Spring Training.
As of Wednesday, Towers was still standing behind Gibson.
“I think the world of Gibby,” Towers said. “He’s a fierce competitor. He cares. But ultimately, it’s how do they respond? Players may ultimately get GMs and managers fired, but they don’t do it, it comes from up above. But how they respond to different things, our livelihood kind of lies in their hands. That’s just the truth and it does. They perform good, we have job security. They don’t perform well, we don’t have job security. That’s probably what makes it tough on Gibby and myself. You can’t go out and swing the bat or throw a ball. You’re sitting and evaluating, watching. You try to find different ways to get it done but you can’t go out and play the game for them.”
Gibson, for his part, continues to stand behind his players in terms of the effort they’re putting forth.
“Yeah, they’re busting their [butts],” he said. “When you don’t score runs it looks bad. When you don’t pitch, it looks bad. It always will. It always has. Things are magnified when we make an error and somebody hits a home run. It looks bad. Anybody going to question anybody on our team’s attitude and dedication and how they prepare when they make an error? They better not.”

Happy Monday morning

After rain the last couple of days it looks like it is shaping up to be a beautiful day here at Salt River Fields.

Morning photo 2-21.JPG

Some leftover items from the soggy weekend:

— It was pretty funny to hear GM Kevin Towers greet newly-signed first baseman Russell Branyan not by his name, but as “Russell the Muscle.”

And while Branyan is big, he looks almost small compared to outfielder Wily Mo Pena.

Pena is listed at 270 pounds, but that might be a little light. A number of the guys were telling me I had to go shake his hand just for the experience of it and wow. Your hand completely disappears in his and his grip is like a vice.

“Unbelievable,” is how one player described him.

— Following Saturday’s first full-squad meeting, D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall said several of the new veterans pulled he and Ken Kendrick aside to share a couple of thoughts with them.

“These guys are telling Ken and I, ‘We’re going to make a difference, this is going to different, this is where we wanted to be and there’s a reason for that,'” Hall said.

One of the veterans brought over during the winter was infielder Geoff Blum.

“There’s a lot of us in here that are new so we don’t know what was going on the last two years and that might be a good thing,” Blum said. “From the outside looking in the last couple of years we’ve always noticed they had a ton of talent, but obviously from the comments that are being made, the clubhouse atmosphere had to be changed so we’ll what we can do.”

— The main word around camp this year is competition, but there’s another that’s close behind: Swagger.

“We talked about swagger quite a bit,” Hall said of that first meeting. “We want this [the team’s logo] to mean something. The last couple years this hasn’t meant much and we want it to mean something so we have to reestablish that.”

And then there was manager Kirk Gibson during his press briefing Sunday.

“It was a good day, I like the vibe, I like the swagger,” he said.

Sounds like the goal is to swagger through some competition while changing the culture…

— I asked bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock for some time this morning and he said he couldn’t because he had an Air Force meeting.

Turns out it was actually a pop up drill he does with the team’s catchers. That’s the nickname he has given to it.

What about when he does tag play drills? Those are listed on the schedule as a Marine meeting.

Towers talks Dipoto and 2011

Had a chance to catch up with new D-backs GM Kevin Towers before tonight’s game and here’s is some of what he had to say:

— Towers is optimistic that he will be able to keep former interim GM Jerry Dipoto in the organization. As I reported Monday, Dipoto will join the team in Los Angeles this weekend to have more discussions with Towers to make sure their philosophies are in sync going forward.

“I had two meetings with him,” Towers said. “I think it looks good. He can only answer that. I’ve let it be known to him that I would love to have him here. I think he would be a huge asset to the organization. I think we still need to work through some philosophical things because I would envision him as kind of being my No. 2 baseball guy. We just have to share similar thoughts and beliefs on scouting and player development because I certainly don’t expect him to implement something into our system that he doesn’t believe in or have total buy in.”

Towers says the two of them have similar backgrounds, love to talk baseball, both have a scouting backgrounds and both have small or little egos.

Dipoto sounds positive on the relationship as well so it looks like a match unless something comes up this weekend.

We should know something by early next week, because Towers wants to hit the ground running as soon as the season ends.

— Towers would like to add a veteran starter, but will look at veteran players for the bench and of course the bullpen first.

“The people we’ll target early will be bench players and bullpen,” he said. “We’ll probably have to wait on the starter unless it comes via a trade. The starting pitching market is probably I think fairly weak this year. After that it’s fairly thin in my eyes. To me it’s Minor League free agents, trades. You’re more apt to find that guy via trade versus getting Major League free agents.”

Getting veterans for the bench is something Towers feels is important rather than going with younger players in that role.

“It’s hard for young guys to be effective pinch-hitters coming off the bench,” he said. “If you don’t have that experience or those guys that are threats it makes it pretty easy on the opposing manager because he has no fear of anyone that is coming off the bench.”

— Towers declined to reveal his specific payroll figure for next year when I asked, but he said he was pleasantly surprised by what he heard from managing general partner Ken Kendrick and praised Kendrick for his intense desire to win and willingness to spend.

“I never want to let my competitors what I’ve got to work with,” he said. “Certainly more than I had in San Diego, let’s put it that way. We’ve got a few holes and we have to allocate the dollars in the right areas. I don’t think we’re like one guy away from being the team to beat in the West.”

— Towers would like to add some offense, likely in left field where the D-backs have gotten little production.
But again, it’s bullpen, bullpen, bullpen.

“To me [getting a left fielder] is not as big a priority as having four or five different weapons in the bullpen where your manager has confidence on any given night he’s got five or six guys that can get middle of the order [hitters], pitch in the seventh or eighth inning with the lead or tied and be effective on a consistent basis,” Towers said.

One thing that is very encouraging is that Towers seems to be more realistic than the previous regime about Juan Gutierrez. Yes, he’s having a good second half and a really good September, but let’s remember that he also had a good September last year and the club counted on him to be a key member of the bullpen.

We know how that turned out early this season.

“Gutierrez has pitched very well, but he’s young,” Towers said. “It would be nice to have another experienced guy late in the game to go along with him. Him and [Sam] Demel are kind of guys that I could envision being effective guys. I don’t know as much about [Esmerling] Vasquez or [Carlos] Rosa.”

— Towers seems impressed with the culture in the D-backs front office and credited team president and CEO Derrick Hall for that.

“I think Derrick has done a great job of creating a great atmosphere in the front office,” Towers said. “Just communication, high energy, openness. Doors aren’t shut. Doors are open, people are moving about, which to me is a great, great sign.”

More on Kevin Towers

Even when it comes to online stories, there is only so much room to fit things in. So below is a look at some of what the key players had to say today at the press conference to announce the hiring of Kevin Towers. Big tip of the cap to Andrew Pentis for his help today.

On his philosophy on building a team: “I’m a big believer in pitching. I think pitching is what wins, not to say that I take offense lightly, but pitching to me is paramount, especially the bullpen, especially in the National League, especially in the NL West. This is probably one of the better hitter’s ballparks in the NL West, probably one of the top five offensive parks in baseball. To me, pitching is the name of the game. You look at clubs that go deep into postseason — especially these days — I think the ones that are pitching dominant are usually the ones that end the year on top.”

On the attributes he looks for in a pitcher: “Size, strength, aggressiveness, strikeout ability, pound the zone, not afraid to pitch inside, good secondary pitch.”

Towers went to the postseason four times in his 14 years with the Padres and he did it with payroll limitations. That’s one of the things that impressed D-backs team president and CEO Derrick Hall.

 “When you’re a small-market or middle-market club, you’re going to have to be a little more creative,” Towers said. “You have to start digging down deep in A-ball and Double-A and finding those players that have the potential to be those type of players maybe before they get on the other teams’ radar screen. That’s what happens in [Luke] Gregerson’s case, in [Heath] Bell’s case, [Edward] Mujica’s case, [Mike] Adam’s case. To me, it really comes down to having good scouts. GMs are always going to look good or bad based on the product that’s out there, but to me it’s really the scouts out there that are finding those players.”

On his reputation for putting together good bullpens: “Putting a together a strong bullpen — to me, it’s several weapons, not just the closer. To me, you should have five to six guys that can pitch in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings against a middle-of-the-order hitter and be able to get a strikeout.”

With the D-backs approaching the Major League record for strikeouts in a season, Towers was asked for his thoughts on the team’s tendency to whiff: “With power, usually comes strikeouts. They usually go hand in hand. Personally, I like contact hitters. I like guys that have good pitch recognition. Strikeouts are a part of the game, but if you have four or five of six guys in your lineup [who are prone to whiff], it’s hard to sustain any sort of rally. I’m a big believer in pitch recognition, grinding out an at-bat, seeing a lot of pitches. I need a little bit more time to evaluate. That’s why I’m looking forward to this road trip and talking to the coaching staff, but there are some nice hitters on this ballclub right now. The strikeouts are somewhat alarming. You certainly need to cut that back and would like to see certainly breaking a record for more walks than strikeouts.”

There has been some criticism in the past about the Drafts that Towers had in San Diego. I talked to Hall about it and he said there were underlying factors in a lot of those cases not the least of which were financial restrictions.

“We learned a lot more about his decisions and why they were made,” Hall said. “We’re not concerned at all about scouting and player development. In fact I’m excited about what he brings because it’s an area we need to improve on.”

Towers then shared some of his philosophies on Draft picks: “The most important thing about the draft is just the process to make sure that you get several looks at players. I know this year we have two very, very high picks, which is a good thing. From everything I hear from scouts and amateur scouts, there’s a lot of depth in this year’s draft. I’ve always been a big believer in [selecting] position players early. Hitters usually don’t slide. Power comes late, but guys that have that knack of putting the sweet spot on the ball — you don’t get those guys deep in the draft. If you want the good hitter, the proven hitter, you’re going to have to take him early.  You get a little bit luckier with pitchers deep in the draft. Sometimes their velocity doesn’t come for a couple a years. Less chance of injury with a position player. I’m not opposed to high school versus college. I like hitters early. To me, I’ve always relied on my scouting director.”

On the biggest difference between Arizona and San Diego: “The way the ballpark plays. This is much more of a hitter-friendly ballpark. The only way it would change is we weren’t afraid to take chances on flyball pitchers [like Chris Young]. That probably wouldn’t play very well here whereas in PETCO [Park] that wouldn’t bother us that much. The type of pitcher that you’re going to go after is probably groundball pitcher, sinkerball pitcher, strikeout ability, command. In a lot of ways similar, but more groundball oriented vs. flyball oriented.”

Towers knows that a key for next year’s club is going to be finding a closer: “The guy at the end of the game is vital. There might be guys out there that are setup type guys or maybe even starters in the Minor Leagues. Heath Bell was a starter who became a closer. The tough thing is it’s tough to take one of those guys and pop them into that role right away. It’s nice to be able to kind of graduate them from the seventh inning to the eighth inning to the ninth inning. That’s not to say that couldn’t be done.”

During Spring Training in 2009, the San Diego bullpen was so bad that Towers said he told his scouts to look for nothing but pitchers the last couple of weeks and he wound up with key pieces like Luke Gregerson and Edward Mujica: “I was telling people that our bullpen in San Diego was basically put together in three weeks. In Spring Training we saw that it was so bad we started making changes. We said we’re not looking at hitters. I don’t care if Lou Gehrig is available for nothing. If we’ve got to get on the back fields, if we got to watch Minor League games, pitchers who are out of options, pitchers who have out clauses, that’s all we talked about. It can be done. It’s not easy, we’re going to have to take some chances on guys that aren’t proven and hope they can handle the closer type role. A lot of it’s the right instruction, the right game plan.”

— Padres closer Trevor Hoffman certainly enhanced Towers reputation:
“No. 51 made K.T. look like he was a pretty good bullpen builder, I’m not going to lie. I’ve been blessed. We had time with Hoffy there to be able to graduate [Scott] Linebrink, [Mike] Adams, but it’s hard to graduate guys if you don’t have a constant at the end.”

On the state of the NL West: “I would say it’s probably not as big of a climb as it was maybe several years ago when you had  two or three organizations that had over a $100 million payroll. The West to me is the Wild Wild West. It’s been a pretty volatile division, which is good. It almost gives you hope like the NFL where you can be last and, because of the salary cap, you can be first the next year. With the AL East that’s not going to happen.”

Towers was asked if there will be any added incentive in facing the Padres, the team that dismissed him last year: “Playing the Padres, I don’t know how it’s going to feel. I’m sure there will be some awkwardness to it. I’ll be just as motivated to beat everybody else in the division as I am San Diego.”

Towers has made many deals in his career, but the one he says was his most memorable might surprise you. No, it wasn’t Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka.

“The best one I ever made, the most important one probably was Sean Mulligan for two treadmills and $75,000 for weights,”
he said.

Apparently, Towers did not have money in the budget for the exercise equipment so he dealt Mulligan to the Indians in January 1997 for the treadmills and the money that he used to purchase free weights.

When he was GM in San Diego, Towers passed on selecting Florida State’s Stephen Drew with the No. 1 pick in the 2004 Draft and instead took shortstop Matt Bush, who proved to be a bust. Towers said the decision was dictated by financial limitations placed by ownership not on scouting.

“I should have taken Drew in 2004,” he said. “We targeted him as the right guy, just financial reasons. Hard to find middle of the infield guys that are solid, dependable, out there every day, accurate arm out there every day.”

Drew chuckled when remembering being passed over.

“I remember meeting with him at Florida State,” he said. “We just had a conversation and what he said he liked me and would like to have me. I respect him, there was no hard feelings when he didn’t pick me. It’s kind of ironic now that he’s going to be our GM.”

More moves likely for D-backs

The D-backs are likely not done dealing yet. The team would still like to move catcher Chris Snyder and reliever Chad Qualls and are open to dealing first baseman Adam LaRoche.
In addition, they will listen to offers on right-hander Edwin Jackson, who will be a free agent after the 2011 season.

“If we could get a player back that could help at the Major League level immediately as well as help restock the farm system we would listen,” Hall said of a possible Jackson deal.

As of Monday afternoon, though, there had been no discussions of a three-team deal for Jackson involving the White Sox and the Nationals.

Randy Johnson, season tickets and competition

Busy day in D-backsland today with the club’s first full-squad workout. That meant a long meeting before practice could get underway with various team executives addressing the team.

We got a chance to talk to managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president and CEO Derrick Hall following the meeting. Below are what they had to say on a variety of topics:

— On former D-backs great Randy Johnson, who announced his retirement last month:

Johnson is scheduled to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day in Seattle this year and Hall was asked if the D-backs had similar plans.

“We plan on doing something [to honor] him,” Hall said. “Definitely a first pitch. We look at having a special night in tribute for him just as we still owe [Luis Gonzalez] one. We’re starting to do just that, to make plans to do something like that for both of them.”

Johnson has a personal services part of his contract to work for the D-backs and Hall said he has had a couple of discussions with Johnson about that.

“The relationship is good,” Hall said. “We’ve had a few conversations. He’s definitely interested and wants to come back and work for us and we both agreed let’s take that first year off and clear your head. It’s been a long, successful career for him and he wants to spend some time with his family and when he’s ready to come back we’re going to find the perfect fit for him.”

— On Season Tickets:

“We’re doing OK,” Hall said. “We’ve added about 2,000 new season ticket holders and that’s really a response to some of the moves that we made. Our renewal was mid-to-upper 70s, which we expected after the tough season and the economy. The feedback that we heard from those fans that couldn’t return was it wasn’t so much about the results of last season it was more so the economy and they want to come back when they can.”

The D-backs were around 15,000 season ticket holders two years ago and with the economic crisis later that year they fell off to 13,000 last year, but rebounded back to around 15,000 this year.

“We want to get to the point where we’re consistently drawing three million [a year], which is an average of 37,000 fans and last year we were still below 30,000 on average,” Hall said. Over two million is where we’re hoping to be next year and I’m confident that we will. “We need to build that [season ticket] base and have it grow so we can have that foundation and get to three million.

— Hinch’s talk with the team before the workout:

Optimism is the watchword of camp this year, but closely behind that is competition. That was one of the points Hinch hit on during his talk to the team.

“Competitiveness is good on a roster,” he said. “There’s plenty of competition for the starting rotation. I think there some guys that have legs up, but over my time in baseball there are guys that have come into camp penciled into the rotation or on the roster that have played their way off. Guys that we are not even talking about could inch their way towards the roster.”

Quote of the day:

Hinch was asked how happy Conor Jackson must be to be healthy after missing most of last season with Valley Fever.

“He’s probably the happiest guy in camp to be back on the field,” Hinch said. “Second to me. I’ll put myself ahead of him.”

Derrick Hall on CNBC

D-backs’ team president and CEO Derrick Hall appeared on CNBC this morning.