Did Josh Byrnes Deserve to Be Fired?

Buster Olney sent out the following messages on twitter last night:

From a rival high-ranking executive, about the D-Backs’ changes: “That is a brutal decision. They just tore apart one of the best front offices in baseball.”

Another GM on the D-Backs’ change at GM: “Absolutely crazy.”

That, essentially, was my reaction, as well, to the news that the Diamondbacks have fired Josh Byrnes. Yes, Arizona is in last place in the NL West, struggling through another tough year of disappointment. Since the start of last year, the D’backs have won just 42 percent of their games. It’s been a rough couple of years in the desert.

But, still, barring some kind of interpersonal communication problem or issue with ownership that we’re not aware of, this decision seems unjustified at best. As you can see from Olney’s quotes, Byrnes is one of the most respected men in the game, and this just seems like a massive overreaction.

Arizona’s problems this year are not hard to pinpoint. Their bullpen, as a group, has been a disaster, one reaching nearly epic proportions. Their relievers’ WPA total? -7.45. The Brewers have the next worst total, but come in at just -2.91. The D’Backs bullpen has been almost as harmful to their team’s chances of winning as the next three worst bullpens combined.

A bad bullpen is painful to watch, and few things are more frustrating than watching a lead evaporate at the end of a game. However, relievers are also the most fickle of all major league performers, and no amount of preparation and good management can insulate a team from a bullpen meltdown. As a group, the Arizona bullpen has thrown 205 innings. Over a sample that small, weird things can happen, such as usually relieable Chad Qualls posting a .452 BABIP.

What, exactly, should Byrnes have done to prevent this from happening? It’s not like they were abysmal a year ago and he should have seen this coming. No one could have seen this coming. And it’s not like hiring a new GM is going to make these guys pitch better. Sure, you could argue that perhaps he should have done a better job of building his bullpen, but is that really something you want to overhaul your front office over?

The team, as a whole, isn’t in bad shape, in large part due to some of the moves Byrnes has made. Their mostly young, cost-controlled position players have produced +11.7 WAR this year, fourth best in the National League. They’ve got a good young offensive core with Justin Upton, Chris Young, Mark Reynolds, Miguel Montero, Stephen Drew, and even Kelly Johnson, who was probably the bargain of the winter.

Pitching wise, they have some holes at the back end of the rotation, and obviously the bullpen needs an overhaul, but these are not hard fixes that require a change in organizational philosophy. This is not wholesale failure to develop talent and put good players on the field, like we see with other organizations who, it should be noted, have been far more patient with their GMs.

Someone asked me in a chat last week if I thought Arizona needed to make big changes, and I said no, that this had the look of a team that has a few tweaks and some better luck away from being able to challenge for the NL West title again. After firing their GM and putting their front office in limbo, I’m not so sure anymore. This has all the markings of a panic decision by a frustrated ownership group that may not be committed enough to building an organization the right way without overreacting to things that simply can’t be controlled.

Perhaps there’s more to this story, and Byrnes was fired for insubordination or something of the sort. We can’t know all the workings behind the decision, so I’ll withhold some judgment, but if this was truly a decision made because of the D’Backs’ record the last few years, then I think their ownership just royally screwed up.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

94 Responses to “Did Josh Byrnes Deserve to Be Fired?”

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  1. HarbingerOfMonotony says:

    It’s worth noting the following tweet from @ed_price:

    Major-league source: #Diamondbacks upper management wanted GM Josh Byrnes to fire manager AJ Hinch. Byrnes refused, so both were fired.

    Upper management placing the smoking gun of insubordination in JB’s hand, essentially. Realistically, however, you’re spot on; in fact, I would even take the decisions a step further to say that this is not only ownership overreacting, but trying to take charge of baseball operations. Not only did they fail to appropriate JB a large enough budget to field a truly competitive team this year, but then they give him that ultimatum? What a disgrace.

    On the topic of the bullpen: I wouldn’t say it wasn’t apparent the bullpen needed some re-tooling in the off-season; it wasn’t terrible, but it needed some patch work. The issue is that ownership gave JB a little over $10mil to work with on free agency this off-season, which he turned into Rodrigo Lopez, Adam LaRoche, Kelly Johnson, Aaron Heilman, and Bob Howry. Some GMs wouldn’t have even been able to turn $10mil into more than two players.

    Now, I still don’t understand the thinking behind Heilman and Howry for over $4.5mil — I would have rather gambled that money on JJ Putz — but Howry’s implosion is the lone black mark on an otherwise fantastic off-season.

    With the essentially $60mil budget he had to work with for this roster, JB really did a tremendous job. If ownership wanted a sure-fire competitor this season, they should have ponied up the extra $5 – 10mil to solidify the bullpen with Jose Valverdes instead of Bob Howrys. But ownership (which is really just Ken Kendrick) would rather use that money eating $7mil of sunk cost in Hinch and Byrnes’ contracts…

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  2. walt526 says:

    If it’s true that Byrnes was fired because he stood up for Hinch, then my respect for him is even greater.

    Whoever the next GM of the Dbacks is will look like a genius because the 2011 Dbacks and beyond will be so well positioned not only for regression back toward respectability, but post-season success. They have an excellent core nucleus of young talent.

    And whichever owner is smart enough to hire Byrnes will be making a decision that will likely improve the competitive prospects of the new team.

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  3. Kevin S. says:

    I blame the Arizona state legislature.

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  4. Jesse Draper says:

    Byrnes probably shouldn’t have been fired given his overall track record with the club, but defending a clueless boob like Hinch is ridiculous. When the manager publicly states that he’s not sure he can reach his players, dude’s toast.

    A wiser GM would have seen the writing on the clubhouse wall and taken care of that before the blame climbed up the organizational ladder to him.

    On a positive note… it’s Gibby time. :) At least he has experience as an outstanding player and a hitting/bench coach. The players already respect him and expect the team to perform much better under his leadership. He may not (probably won’t) keep the job past this season, but in my opinion the dude was due for a shot. Glad to see him get it.

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    • lester bangs says:

      I totally agree with your first sentence. And hiring a manager with absolutely no bench experience was a terrible decision; while the impact of field managers often can be overrated, Hinch was obviously overmatched for his entire tenure.

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  5. giantsrainman says:

    Hinch needed to be fired. He clearly lost the players respect if he ever had it. We know he started with little respect based on the quotes from the players when he replaced Melvin. If Barnes did not understand this people side of the business and thus was not willing to fire Hinch then Barnes needed to be fired too.

    What is missing here at fangraphs and in the sabermetic community as a whole to a great degree is an understanding of human interaction and the people management skills required in these jobs.

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    • PeteJohn says:

      Odd that you call out the whole sabermetric community when you seem to think that the man’s name is Barnes.

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      • giantsrainman says:

        And that is relevant just how? This is called changing the subject because you have nothing to offer on the subject.

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      • DW0304 says:

        “Did Josh Byrnes Deserve To Be Fired?”

        No way. The Diamondbacks results were not matching how well the team has been built, but with a little patience they’ll come.

        The Barnes guy that giantsrainman is talking about doesn’t sound too good though. I wonder if the Diamondbacks fired him too.

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      • PeteJohn says:

        Why, giantsrainman, should anyone take what you say seriously when you can’t even properly identify the subject of the entry?

        At any rate, Dave was addressing the on-field personnel moves that Byrnes made as GM and arguing that they were fine. It’s possible, Dave argues, that Byrnes was fired for reasons that deal with “insubordination or something of the sort.” This seems to be a valid-enough line of thought.

        And yet, you fire off some diatribe about the sabermetric community not understanding human interaction. You expected that point to be taken seriously, that stat-minded baseball fans ignore the people who play the games and run the teams. However you don’t seem to realize that Josh Byrnes is not “Barnes.” So again, why should your point be taken seriously?

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      • giantsrainman says:

        PeteJohn,

        Your argument is a total strawman. Incorrectly remembering his name is not relevant to the discuss. Making an issue of this just proves you have nothing worthwhile to say on the actual subject at hand.

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    • Andy says:

      Yeah, if only the author has a little forethought and added something like, “Perhaps there’s more to this story, and Byrnes was fired for insubordination or something of the sort. We can’t know all the workings behind the decision, so I’ll withhold some judgment.” Man, those sabr guys are buffoons.

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      • giantsrainman says:

        It was clear that he dismissed this possibility almost as quickly as he mentioned it and that his only purpose in mentioning it was to give himself an out just in case he was wrong. Well he was wrong and I am not buying his attempt to give himself an out.

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      • oompaloopma says:

        The whole point to the article was IF they fired Byrnes for the results of the team and his competency, then AZ was very stupid. He speculates other issues are behind the decision. Lack of research for a Sabr guy? That sounds like a oxymoron to me.

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    • cloakedarbiter says:

      Rain Man, perhaps if you read the last paragraph of this article…

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      • giantsrainman says:

        I read it but did not buy the lame attempt to give himself an out just in case. A little research would have flat out let him know this was the case. But he was too lazy to do the research and instead preferred to rant based on his assumptions.

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    • Joe R says:

      The human side of things results in teams full of veterans, grinders, and men w/ closer mentalities.

      See: early 00′s Mets

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    • Dan says:

      Here’s my issue. Brandon Webb comes out two days after Hinch gets fired and says he wants to make 6-8 starts this year. Chris Snyder is quoted about how they needed a change in the clubhouse. Why can’t these supposed professionals motivate themselves to play an incredible, amazing game for a living? If you’re not a self-starter, and need a manager to motivate you, you’re doing the wrong thing for a living.

      The *manager’s* job *should* be to *manage* (see what I did there?) the pitching staff and bullpen, and to utilize the players in the lineup and on the bench in the best way possible to allow the team to win. The rest is up to the roster.

      And I think Josh Byrnes felt, like I did, that A.J. Hinch did those two things well. Yes, he probably did overwork his starters some this year, but when random variation has made your bullpen more destructive than the Chernobyl reactor, what other options do you have? And he had a pretty sound lineup night after night. It’s not like he batted Chris Snyder cleanup or something.

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  6. Joe R says:

    Josh Byrnes is going to land a #2 role somewhere immediately, and be in line to be a GM again soon.

    At the rate we’re going, the Phillies will have an opening in the near future.

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    • Drakos says:

      It wouldn’t shock me if he found a position with the Padres for the short term as Moorad had a lot to do with with Byrnes’s contract extension. Then the dbacks can hire Kevin Towers. All that would be left in swapping parts between the teams would be to exchange Matt Bush for Stephen Drew. That might be hard to pull off.

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    • Dan says:

      Hopefully Amaro doesn’t manage to completely implode the roster. A couple more Ryan Howard contracts and I don’t think JB would even bother taking the gig…

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  7. Nick says:

    Byrnes always struck me as a guy who never got the results that everyone always said he should have been getting, for whatever reason. He’s like the Javier Vazquez/Jeremy Bonderman of GMs.

    Unfortunately, a couple bad moves or bad seasons can really kill a guy if he hasn’t been getting enough results in the past, fairly or not.

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    • bflaff says:

      Agreed. A process trumps results kind of situation, where someone finally took a hard look at the results and realized they were brutal.

      Byrnes, I assume, will be back somewhere else, older and hopefully wiser.

      Handwriting was on the wall for this weeks ago, when Zona’s ownership was having talks about blowing up the team and having a sell-off.

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    • quincy0191 says:

      This is really where I’m at. I’ve always liked Josh Byrnes and the job he’s done in AZ; as a Giants fan, that team continually scares me, but apparently our division rivals in Denver and San Diego have stolen their mojo. The D’Backs were picked to place first or second in ’09 and strongly contend this year, but they’ve finished terribly both times; that alone should tell you that Byrnes is not responsible for this team’s failure. The pieces are there, but for whatever reason they’re not getting put together.

      I didn’t like the Hinch promotion, and I think that he and the coaching staff have a lot to do with it; there’s no reason or logic behind it, but I don’t think that hiring a guy who’s never played in the big leagues is a good idea. I don’t think the players can really respect a guy without a major league background (which is really an issue they need to resolve, because playing in the bigs doesn’t make or break a manager IMO). Between that and the ridiculously bad luck in the bullpen this year and the Webb injury (seriously, if you had Webb-Haren-Kennedy-Jackson as your front four that is not a weak rotation by any means) Arizona fell farther than they should have, but none of that has anything to do with Josh Byrnes, unless ownership wanted him to replace Webb with another ace, which wouldn’t have been a good idea.

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    • lester bangs says:

      Outstanding analogy Nick, well played.

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  8. cantregister says:

    After 4.5 years as the GM can you name the good players he acquired through trades, draft or free agency? Not many.

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    • eldingo says:

      Dan haren

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      • cantregister says:

        And he gave up Carlos Gonzalez to get him. That trade is not a feather in his cap.

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      • PL says:

        He gave up Carlos Gonzalez, Aaron Cunningham, BRETT ANDERSON, Chris Carter, Dana Eveland & Greg Smith to get Haren. Maybe the worst trade in recent memory. Anderson is as good as Haren and cheap.

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      • BX says:

        TINSTAPP.

        Because its smart to bet on an A-ball pitcher turning into the equivalent of Dan Haren.

        And, of course, not having a Rich Harden-esque injury history.

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      • Omar says:

        Also Brett Anderson hasn’t even pitched 40 innings this year…there’s a good chance that he ends up like a Rich Harden…

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      • lester bangs says:

        I’m so utterly nauseated by the constant blurting out of “TINSTAPP.” Yes, pitching prospects are far more risky than hitting ones. But it’s not like guys don’t pan out, too. If pitching prospects really didn’t exist, Stephen Strasburg’s pre-Washington hype wouldn’t exist – and don’t put that on the mainstream media, because everyone was (justly) excited about him.

        BP is not gospel or the only smart guys in the room. And, predictably, there’s a Byrnes Sympathizer piece over at BP this week, too.

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    • Omar says:

      Kelly Johnson? Ian Kennedy? Adam Dunn? Max Scherzer?

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    • Dan says:

      Chris Young (Javy Trade). Justin Upton (Draft). Max Scherzer (Draft). Edwin Jackson (MegaTrade). Ian Kennedy (MegaTrade). Aaron Heilman (for two non-prospects). Kelly Johnson (Free Agency). Jon Rauch (subsequently dealt for little more than was dealt for him, sadly). Chad Qualls (Valverde Trade prior to knee implosion and BABIP nightmare). Juan Gutierrez (Valverde Trade prior to HR/FB implosion, looking good again lately). Adam Dunn (Trade – sure, we didn’t offer him arb and thus got no picks, but we traded Micah Owings, Wilkin Castillo, and Dallas Buck for him… not missing any of those guys). Orlando Hudson (Trade for Troy Glaus – O-Dog was acquired and let go at the perfect times). Eric Byrnes (Free Agency – until, y’know, Jeff Moorad extended him for $30MM). Dan Haren (Looking more and more like we may possibly end up only really losing Carlos Gonzalez in this one – Anderson has a long way back and is going through arm problems at a scarily young age).

      There’s quite a lot if you ask me.

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  9. Souldrummer says:

    Good analysis on things. I don’t know what the ticket sales and extra baseball decisions involved here are, but you get the sense that Hinch was an awful, awful manager and had to go. Likewise, Byrnes probably feels he needs to be loyal to Hinch for putting him in a bad situation and feels that he’s qualified enough to get another job should it boomerang back on him.

    The D’Backs should be able to recover because they have young talent. It’s not a fun time not to be the Suns in Phoenix, though, so you wonder whether the haggles over payroll that probably led to the losses that led to the firing are signs of a deeper malaise in the desert.

    Be interesting to see where Byrnes lands.

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    • oompaloopma says:

      Cubs!, with the new owner I think its time to make a change.

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    • bflaff says:

      Hinch was a failed decision, so why get so noble over it? What in the world was Hinch doing that was worth letting him hold on to his job for any longer? What corner was he turning that made Byrnes want to put his own ass on the line for him?

      If Byrnes was fired because he wouldn’t fire Hinch, it makes more sense to think that he wouldn’t fire him because he was too stubborn to admit his huge mistake.

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      • BIP says:

        It may not be so much that Byrnes was standing up for Hinch as much as saying to ownership, “You hired me to do this job and now you’re trying to do it for me? Screw you.”

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      • Dan says:

        Maybe it’s just my opinion, but there is no such thing as there being a “huge mistake” on a managerial choice. Players need to be able to play the game without needing someone to give them pep talks.

        One year was far too short of a leash to give to A.J. Hinch.

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  10. Sam says:

    I do think that the article is remiss on pointing out some of the misfires of the Byrnes era: particularly the three-way trade that they did this winter that got them Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson in place of Max Scherzer. The same author, at the time, wrote:

    “Arizona, though… what a mess. Jackson and Kennedy will shore up their rotation, but they aren’t worth a kid as good as Max Scherzer. Jackson’s a mid-rotation starter whose salaries are escalating in arbitration, while Kennedy is a back-end starter who missed most of 2009. They didn’t get better, they didn’t save money, and they didn’t get younger. This move is just not a good one for the D’Backs, unless there’s another impressive piece going to Arizona that hasn’t been reported.”

    Over time, they add up. This is a team that is being touted as being on the verge of a breakout for the last 4 years or so. Byrnes did not play on the field, but he put this team together. At some point, you go from the Dippin’ Dots “Team of the Future” to “Team of the Present.”

    And if Byrnes wanted to manage this team himself, he probably should have done that rather than having his stooge placed as the manager of the team. Or at least get someone for whom the players would have had a modicum of respect. He didn’t do either, and that cost him his job.

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    • Dan says:

      You point to the IPK/EJ/Max trade as a strike against Byrnes, but yet don’t realize that Byrnes looks like a genius now with that deal. IPK has out-performed Max (though Max does look scarily back-on-track now – we’ll see how his Verducci arm/throwing motion hold up), EJ has been a solid team leader/middle-rotation cog, just threw a no-hitter, and has two really horrifying starts killing his overall line, and Schlereth just got called-up from the minors. JB was calling Ian Kennedy one of the team’s two untouchable players. This was a heist.

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  11. Jay says:

    How can you write an article on Byrnes and not reference all of the terrible moves he made over the last 3 seasons?

    1) A little research will show you that Byrnes DID NOT draft, sign or trade for: Upton, Drew, Reynolds, Snyder, or Montero.
    2) He gave Eric Brynes 30 million for one good season and a lot of hussle.
    3) Traded Carlos Quentin for Chris Carter because of the Byrnes signing.
    4) Traded Brett Anderson, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Carter and more for Dan Haren. Even if Haren is a great pitcher, they gutted their system with no success to show for it (Haren was not on the 2007 division winning roster).
    5) Traded Max Sherzer and Daniel Schlereth for an overpaid Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. Granted Ian Kennedy has been very good, but buying into Jackson was bad.
    6) Arizona currently has one of the thinnest minor league systems in baseball.
    7) Their team is currently a mess.

    Standings under Byrnes reveals that his team has had 1 good year out of 5.

    2006: 76-86
    2007: 90-72
    2008: 82-80
    2009: 70-92
    2010: 31-48 (so far)

    He basically destroyed his minor league system in search of success and other than one year he failed to achieve it. His current core group of players were not brought in under his watch. He has not offered that core a supporting cast necessary to compete. What in this record makes someone think Byrnes was a good GM, let alone one who deserved an 8 year contract extension? I think this move was more than justified and I don’t see where Byrnes gets his supposed golden reputation.

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    • Jay says:

      To add, Byrnes made the mistake of hiring Hinch in the first place, someone with no previous coaching experience.

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    • BX says:

      “3) Traded Carlos Quentin for Chris Carter because of the Byrnes signing.”

      Which set up the Dan Haren trade pretty nicely.

      Haren isn’t traded without Chris Carter in the deal.

      “Even if Haren is a great pitcher, they gutted their system with no success to show for it (Haren was not on the 2007 division winning roster).”

      Which is assuming that the DBacks won’t win anything through the many more years which Dan is under contract for. I don’t make that bet unless Bavasi or Phillips takes over as GM of the DBacks.

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      • Jay says:

        Given that Haren is one of the main players with trade rumors swirling around his head this season, I think it’s pretty notable that the powers that be in Arizona didn’t let Byrnes make the potential deal.

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    • Omar says:

      To be fair, ownership pushed the Byrnes move.

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    • kokushishin says:

      1. So it’s JB’s fault JB was hired over Rizzo?

      2. Moorad.

      3. Quentin in 2008 is not that better than CoJack was. Similarly, do you stunt Upton for a temporary boost? I suppose that might have been enough to defeat LALAland and all its works. Still, what do you do with him in 2009 and 2010?

      4. They were 2 games back in 2008. Two. Dos. 1+1. Of a team that basically paid twice as much AND Carlos Santana.

      5. Jackson can be aggravating but he’s doing better than Max. They can always move him. Schlereth is an arm injury waiting to happen. Would you rather have Doug Davis right now? Livan Hernandez?

      6. would you rather Drew, Reynolds, Upton et al be sitting in AAA right now?

      7.
      2006: rebuilding. It’s not like 2003, 2004, and 2005 were great shakes either.
      2007: NLCS.
      2008: 2 games out of 1st place
      2009: Would it be any better if they had won 80 games with Melvin?

      Compare to CLE and OAK, which have more or less the same constraints.

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  12. Jacob Jackson says:

    This is a quote from Byrnes, on the day he named Hinch manager last year, 5/8/09:

    “This obviously is an unconventional hire,” Byrnes said. “AJ’s leadership qualities, understanding of player development and organizational perspective are all key factors in his appointment. I am confident that he will set high standards and instill a spirit of collaboration in his new position.”

    From that quote, I’m inferring that the decision to hire Hinch was Byrnes’. Think about how rare that is: to replace your manager mid-season and replace him immediately with a guy who wasn’t even in the clubhouse, but rather in the front-office. Hinch had never even managed.

    Now, regardless of his in-game decisions, which I know nothing about, the reports that he had lost the confidence and respect of the players IS very relevant. It probably means that Hinch should have been fired.

    So, Byrnes’ refusal to fire Hinch could be seen as a stubborn refusal to admit his (Byrnes’) own initial mistake: the hiring of Hinch in the first place.

    In that light, I think Byrnes’ firing is justified. Your subordinates need to do what you tell them, and they need to admit their mistakes and make efforts to avoid repeating them.

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  13. The Nicker says:

    I think Byrnes has done an ok ob, and probably didn’t deserve to be fired.

    At the same time, if what sources are saying about the Hunch Ultimatum is true, then yeah, he’s gotta go. He basically hired a buddy with no credentials to manage the team, and then he staked himself to that hire so hard that he refused to let him go? If true, that’s unacceptable.

    It’s been discussed that the importance of a manager is a hard thing to value, but I think most people would agree Hinch has done a bad job. Not a smart move by Byrnes to stake his job on this type of issue, unless he assessed his own value and decided he could get a better GM job in the future, which may be the case. If he gets one, though, I doubt he’ll hire his buddy to manage the team again.

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  14. CircleChange11 says:

    Interesting that a “spirit of collaboration” was one of the main phrases for a manager’s job. Where I work, collaboration means “every gets a say in how things are run”.

    Makes me wonder if JB wanted to call more shots than a GM should.

    Ridiculous ( not just risky) hire for manager. Poor results. Refusal to fire.

    Sounds like a great recipe for getting fired. I don’t admire his loyalty to a poor choice. Do we admire Hendry for being loyal to Big Z? No, and for good reason.

    The DBacks were, as rightly described, a mess. The GM played a role in that.

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    • joe says:

      Yup….. I think folks are using loyalty a bit generously. It’s one thing to defend a guy and refuse to fire someone who you think is doing a good job or is a victim of poor circumstances (injuries, etc), but refusing to take action on what was a poor decision sounds a bit more like stubbornness or even hubris to me.

      Also while I realize this guy is well respected, that doesn’t always mean good.

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      • Jason says:

        exactly, he had a good rep 5 years ago when AZ signed him, and all it got them was 1 playoff appearance.

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  15. bowie says:

    The fact that Byrnes was fired 30 days before the trade deadline is also peculiar. They are going to be making some big decisions in the coming weeks and it seems foolish not to get Byrnes’s input on them. I understand his trading record was mixed, but mgmt could have held on to him for his knowledge alone through the next month and not let him have free reign if they didn’t trust his judgment. To just axe him completely seems rash.

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  16. Sour Bob says:

    When Cameron says they “screwed up royally” does he mean they screwed up in a fashion befitting the Kansas City Royals?

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  17. Jason says:

    So now. after not commenting on the dbacks because of their mediocrity the last 2 1/2 years, everyone attacks them for firing a mediocre GM who has a good media rep?

    Check the bullpen stats from last year for AZ, it WAS a problem (if you actually paid attention rather than making excuses for hinch); Byrnes made 2 moves to fix it, retread Bob Howry who was the worst reliever in baseball before gettin released, and Aaron Heilman who has done a decent job. The team has been garbage since Byrnes dismantled the bullpen of the 07 dbacks.

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    • Valuearb says:

      Last years team had a bunch of problems. Josh fixed the black holes at 2nd and first, stuck with CY in center and he turned it around, substantially upgraded the starting rotation, and brought back conor Jackson to fix left field. I’m sure if ownership thought the 12th largest media market deserved more than a bottom five payroll, Josh would have done more with left field and the bullpen.

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  18. Jason says:

    BTW, of the offensive guys you mentioned, Byrnes only acquired one (Young), mike rizzo drafted the others.

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  19. CircleChange11 says:

    Ni kidding. The bullpen was THE problem last year. 8th innings were nightmares for the DBacks and their fans.

    Zavada was good at times, struggled at others (particularly on the road), but as a whole … that BP crew was a mess.

    The whole “Byrnes didn’t deserve it” thing really bothers me because it stinks of bias. Seroiusly, just because he’s sabermetrically inclined does not mean all of his decisions need evaluated through rose-tinted glasses.

    HE hired a manager that had NEVER coached before. It was a GOOFY move, one that was made (IMO) because the manager could serve as puppet for the GM (err, I mean collaborate). The manager has been terrible and never had the respect from the players to begin with. Then HE refused to fire the crappy hire HE made.

    The organization tied the anchor (Hinch) to JB’s foot, and rather than “cut anchor” he decided to go down with it. I’m not sure AJ Hinch is the manager you ATTACH yourself to, but he probably did feel obligated to stay loyal to Hinch since Hinch was probably just “collaborating” everything Byrnes wanted done anyway.

    Appears to me that a youngish GM got in a little over his head trying to show the “old farts” how it’s done, by proving that managerial experience is over-rated.

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    • lester bangs says:

      Agree, the Hinch hiring was horrendous, someone who had never been even a bench coach. If JB didn’t see that he had a bad manager on his hands, that’s a major flag right there.

      I can’t help but feel that so much of the SABR-leaning populace is taking a defensive stance on Byrnes. It’s one thing to look at the facts and conclude that you want to defend him, but it’s something very different to *start off* in a defensive posture. I’ve been frustrated by a lot of the analysis which seems obviously biased – “we wanted this guy to succeed because he thinks like we do, so we’ll defend him when he’s not successful.”

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  20. Anthony says:

    So the Diamondbacks fired Byrnes, Hinch, AND Barnes?

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  21. Chris D says:

    Watch him get a job with the Red Sox tomorrow: Kevin Towers Part 2.

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  22. BX says:

    Another defense for Josh Byrnes’ firing would be the role Mike Rizzo played in building the current nucleus.

    Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds, Brandon Webb, Stephen Drew, Max Scherzer, Brett Anderson, Carlos Quentin, Carlos Gonzalez, Micah Owings (got Dunn), Tony Pena, Greg Smith.

    That’s one hell of an awesome scout record.

    The trades were mostly not that great throughout Byrnes’ tenure, the scouting was awesome. And when the awesome scout went away, the farm hasn’t really produced as many studs.

    Isn’t this kind of what happened in Milwaukee when the awesome scout that drafted that entire nucleus left for a GM job.

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    • Valuearb says:

      Wow you gave rizzo credit for two of Josh’s picks, Scherzer and Anderson, and credit for picking the consensus #1 in Upton when he was lucky enough to have the pick. And disappointments like Owings, Quentin, and Drew are. “awesome”?

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  23. Jeff says:

    Here we see what is–and forgive me for making a generalization–an example of the pendulum swinging too far toward the develop-young-talent direction. Prior to the season, nearly every rankings of GM’s had Byrnes in the top half, if not higher than that. This in spite of some of the moves mentioned above: the Haren deal (which looked okay at the time); the Jackson/Kennedy trade; Eric Byrnes’ contract; trading Quentin; the Hinch hire; and so on. Certainly, the best players on the D-Backs make a good nucleus, and who knows if things are different if Webb stayed healthy. But let’s remember that the 90-72 team far outplayed its run differential. The team was never really that good, and at some point, we have to look at results.
    Yes, good players are under cost-controlled contracts. Yes, not everything that went wrong is his fault (bullpens….if only we knew ‘ye). But my point here is that many of our more sophisticated bloggers were giving Byrnes a pass because his work looked like the model this sophisticated community advocates even though the results hadn’t turned up yet.

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  24. CircleChange11 says:

    Can we find any GM quotes that defend the hiring of Hinch?

    I ask b/c the article looks at the GM’s roster moves as a defense when the primary issue is the reluctance to fire Hinch.

    Will Hinch find another ML managing job? That will be revealing as to what others think of Hinch compared to what Byrnes thinks of him.

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  25. Required says:

    Two things:

    1) The DBacks would not eat five and a half years/estimated $7M just because Theo … oops, Josh Byrnes refused to fire his manager. That is a lame excuse concocted to save face. If Kendrick wants his manager fired, he doesn’t need his GM to do it. Ricciardi certainly didn’t want to fire Gibson, but that didn’t stop it from happening.

    2) As we are quickly finding out, these hyped young sabermetric “geniuses” aren’t very adept at reinventing the wheel as some people thought … at least not without a top-3 payroll and ton of inherited talent.

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  26. BobbyMac says:

    I think laying all the problems at the foot of the bullpen woes is a bit facile. Note the offensive Run values:

    1. Johnson 10.1
    2. Upton 7.8
    3. Montero 6.1
    4. Young 5.4
    5. Haren 5.3
    6. LaRoche 4.0
    7. Reynolds 3.8
    8. Snyder 2.0
    (nobody else above 0.2)

    That’s not the makings of a good offense. Their OPS+ (park-adjusted) is 94. I know it’s a flawed stat, but it’s a below-average offense if you adjust for park, I think that’s safe to say.

    The starting pitching is partly responsible for the bullpen woes too. Having more innings going to lesser (and/or more fatigued) relievers is going to blow up the “as Relief” stats.

    Not defending the pen here, they’ve indeed been brutal. But calling that the core problem is the tail wagging the dog, IMO. Organizations with talent and good talent evaluation skills can often plug bullpen holes once they see that guys they were counting on are failing.

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    • Valuearb says:

      Montero and Abreu have been hurt, uptown and Reynolds started in terrible slumps. It’s a good offense, but they can’t afford depth. And OPS+ ignores their good base running.

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    • Valuearb says:

      Oh and the starters are good, they have just been forced to pitch much deeper into games because of that bullpen.

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  27. Mark says:

    If his inordinate loyalty to Hinch was the whole of the story, then it’s a weird situation. (Why was he that loyal? Is that really the story?)

    Otherwise, the lesson is clear. Byrnes should have done a MUCH better job sacrificing to the baseball gods. You know, the ones who watch over games and decide which lazily hit flairs will fall in, and which grounders will be “atom balls”. Clearly the gods were not impressed with Byrnes’ rain dance, and have punished him by turning Haren’s excellent season into something that looks like spoiled goulash. Shame on Josh. Learn to dance better boy. Or at least get someone to put your ceremonial paint on better.

    The only thing worse than a sabermetrically naive front office is an owner who still thinks it’s 1950. Now we know that Frank McCourt is not the only one of those.

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  28. Mark says:

    Can I just get everyone who’s pointing to the “insubordination” justification on the record here, that the 1990s Steinbrenner model for franchise ownership is back in vogue? So, the GM really does NOT have sovereignty over what goes on on the team? What’s next, the team owner calling hit-and-runs, and pitches from the owner’s suite? What exactly IS under the GM’s purview, then?

    Not defending Hinch necessarily, just wondering about boundaries here. If the owner knows what moves the team should make, why have a GM?

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    • joe says:

      For the ‘record’ you don’t compound a bad decision with continued bad decisions.

      Forget the insubordination, if as a GM he cannot see that Hinch is no longer the right guy for the job, he should be fired for that large blind spot. It’s one thing to roll the dice on a hire and make a mistake, it’s another to not own up, evaluate it and refuse to act on it when the evidence is clear it’s not working. And that’s not even talking about the roster moves.

      Decisions in life are not so clear cut and assignable to one specific point… perhaps the combination of:
      - A GM not being able to determine the manager is failing
      - Or seeing the issue but refusing to act on it for whatever reason
      - A losing team trending in the wrong direction and clearly needed some change in direction
      - Some questionable roster moves

      Maybe one of these things by itself is not justification for firing the GM, but the combo seems like more than enough to me.

      Did I miss Hinch excelling in his role as GM and having the D-Backs clearly on an upward trajectory and path for success? Put aside his background, or a good media rep and ask “were the results there?”

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      • Valuearb says:

        What was the budget. What about alll those highly touted Rizzo draft picks that flopped.

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      • joe says:

        So I understand, you’re using bad past performance as an excuse to live with Byrnes? …interesting.

        You don’t need a big budget to evaluate that the manager was doing a poor job (you don’t even need that many statisticians for that). Again the combo of bad personnel decisions AND apparently his thinking Hinch was doing a good job and shouldn’t be fired is perhaps a bit more important than the “not as bad as the predecessor” theory.

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      • Randy says:

        Since Josh’s record on personnel decisions is actually very good, your sole focus on past performance is either results oriented or myopic, and you ignore that Josh’s teams had one NLCS appearance and missed the playoffs by 2 games the next year.

        And if you believe that available payroll doesn’t have a substantial influence on the options a GM has, you’re simply in denial. If the DBacks had a league average budget (which they more than deserve based on market size), Valverde isn’t traded, Rauch isn’t traded, the Haren trade might not happen, the team would have add additional options like free agency or taking on bigger contracts to fill out the rotation. And lastly, when trying to upgrade the bullpen this off-season they would have had a lot more than $3M to spend on two journeymen.

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    • joe says:

      That last paragraph should read Byrnes, not Hinch.

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    • Required says:

      Remember the Golden Rule, the one who owns the gold makes the rules.

      No owner in his right mind would allow major personnel decisions to be made without his input and approval.

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  29. CircleChange11 says:

    Yeah, what happened to JB’s desire for “spirit of collaboration”?

    So, the owner collaborated a bit on the decision of firing the manager. *grin*

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  30. Valuearb says:

    Wow, lots of uninformed blather on this thread, let’s correct the biggest inaccuracies.

    1) Josh did not give that contract to Eric byres, jeff moorad did without allowing Josh in the room.

    2) the scherzer trade is a huge win for AZ, Max still can’t get out of the 5th inning, he’s a bullpen killer. The backs ended up with two solid starters and more combined years of control.

    3) the haren trade was another huge win, he’s been one of most valuable starters in baseball for two years, where it failed was Webb getting hurt, they would have dominated short playoff series. A contender trade is designed to give up more future wins to get a piece needed to win now, but nearly three years later Haren has produced still WAR than all the other pieces combined.

    4) Rizzos drafts were over-rated. In the last ten years he produced Tracy, Drew, Quentin, Conor Jackson, Parra, Micah Owing, Bonifacio, Montero, Hairston, etc. have all been disappointments or outright busts. Uggla was mediocre with Rizzo, only Webb, Reynolds, and CarGo succeeded. In four years, Josh signed upton, drafted scherzer, Anderson, Parker, zavada, and Schlereth.

    5) Quentin stinks, one good year and terrible before and since and cant stay healthy.

    6) Zavada had Tommy John, he’ll be back.

    7) AZ has a bottom five payroll. It may have seemed bigger, but moorad devoted nearly $60m in dead money to his personal signings of Russ Ortiz and Eric Byrnes. shapiro has had much more resources, because apparently his owners don’t sign guys against his objections.

    8) despite that brutal lack of resources, Josh brought in Dan Haren, Orlando Hudson, Adam Dunn, Doug Davis, Edwin Jackson, Ian Kennedy, Adam LaRoche, Chris Young, Tony Abreu, Kelly Johnson, Alberto Callespo, Heilman, and Brandon Allen on a shoestring budget.

    9) that budget forced the valverde trade, which is a big contributor to the bullpen decline.

    10) ownership forced the trade of Callespo for nothing.

    11) the final nail was losing Brandon Webb, few teams can manage the loss of a top 5 starter, but its a death sentence for a bottom five payroll team.

    The real problem is ownership, they are cheap and intent on never investing in the team again. The next GM is doomed as well.

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    • ikeaboy4 says:

      “In four years, Josh. . . drafted scherzer, Anderson”

      WRONG. A line of completely “uninformed blather”. Rizzo was responsible for drafting those two. He left Arizona for the Nats on July 24, 2006. That was month after he selected Scherzer and Anderson in his final draft with Arizona.

      Just had to correct this “huge inaccuracy”.

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  31. bobokie says:

    Why do all you Az. fans consider Reynolds a feather in the cap of whomever signed him? Setting the strikeout record in what will be 3 years in a row and below average defense for a few homers is rather dumb IMO.

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    • Required says:

      Because in the sabermetric commune it is gospel that walks are just as good as hits, sacrificing a runner into scoring position is never a good thing, and strikeouts aren’t that detrimental.

      Come on now, get with the manifesto.

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    • Randy says:

      Last year there were 11 NL third baseman who created more outs per plate appearance than Mark Reynolds. Why do you obsess about what type of outs he made instead of the number? Even if you want to obsess about the type why not also give Mark credit for having the 2nd lowest GIDP percentage of all NL third basemen last year? If Mark missed 20 games a year we’d never hear about K records anyways, so your K obsession ironically also ignores another big component of his value, his health.

      The reason he’s a feather in Rizzo’s cap is last year he combined a league average OBP with a 2nd in the league SLG, meaning he was the 2nd most valuable hitting 3B in the NL last year (or 3rd if you park adjust). Having a young player entering his prime as already one of the leagues best hitters at his position and whose below average defense is steadily improving is a coup.

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  32. Ryan says:

    Really? Byrnes was terrible and had to go. I mean, look at the last few drafts. This year’s draft was just terrible (Barret Loux? Seriously?), and last year they had a great shot with all those picks, and I wouldn’t say that they had a GREAT draft, like one would think they would have; it was decent at best. And they 2008 draft… that was embarrassing. He traded away two stud corner outfielders in Carlos Gonzalez and Carlos Quentin. I would be fine with trading one, but the team pretty much just gave away Quentin. He had one bad year, and still had a ton of potential! That was stupid. Also, I would be fine with trading for Haren, as long as it didn’t mortgage away the rest of the farm system. Who was left after that trade? Max Scherzer and Jarrod Parker (who couldn’t be traded anyway). I think that’s it. Also, as for the core offense listed above, none of those guys were drafted and signed by Byrnes and his staff- they were products of the good scouting done before Byrnes came to Arizona. I believe Baseball America ranked the Arizona farm system like 28 or something, and that was because of all the talent added in the 2009 draft. Oh, and then Eric Byrnes! I know ownership gave out that ridiculous contract, but couldn’t Byrnes say “hey, ownership, Byrnes will regress because he is nowhere near being this good at all, and giving away all that money to a decent at best player would mess up payroll for years to come!” If he knew that would happen, why not say no? It’s not that hard. In the press conference, Hall and Kendrick said that they weren’t experts at all and relied on the opinions of others. They admited that they were not experts, so why not tell them that they were wrong, since they obviously had no idea what they were doing? And finally, they asked others for their opinions on this issue, so obviously other baseball people felt that this was necessary too. It doesn’t matter if those 2 general managers thought it was dumb– there enough other people to convince them that change was necessary. Alright, I’m done. Byrnes had to go.

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    • Randy says:

      .- ownership would not allow Josh to go above slot or take risks on signing high ceiling, high bonus guys. What kind of farm system ranking do you think that leads to?
      - Quentin isn’t a stud, he’s a failure. And Haren has been more valuable than all the guys traded for him.
      - Byrnes publicly announced Eric Byrnes would not be back. Then a week later Moorad made an end run and signed him. Clearly Josh made his arguments but the former agent thought he knew better.
      - Hall didn’t like Josh, and Kendrick is a flaming jerk, see the experience the West Virginia football program had with him. They found “experts” to tell them what they wanted to hear, or they lied about it.

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  33. Ewing says:

    The Haren trade depleted the D-Backs of nearly every top prospect in the organization and the ones that weren’t traded away in that deal were promptly dealt just a couple years later (Scherzer and Schlereth). The Haren deal is literally the worst trade of the last five years.

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  34. susan jamme says:

    the players either did or didn’t respect aj….these are professional, adult men who are PAID to play at the highest level of this sport. they are not little leaguers that need their hands held and be given endless encouragement and praise (deserved or not). they were not asked to bond with him or have him over for thanksgiving, just do what they were being paid to do. if they decided as individuals, or worse, as a group, not to play hard because they didn’t “respect” their manager well, shame on them.

    d’backs with this move retreat to one dimension old-school baseball. i don’t believe that sticking their ownership heads in the desert sand will serve them. we can talk about over reaction, but, i see it as a capitulation to a very unsophisticated and spoiled, impatient fan base who won’t even buy all the tickets to a playoff game.

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  35. Blumer says:

    Isn’t it interesting reading all this one year later and seeing what a great move it was bringing in Kevin Towers. Anybody want Byrnes back now. Don’t think so. Great Move.

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  36. valuearb says:

    DBacks fans ecstatic that Kevin Towers found Paul Goldschmidt mashing in AA, without wondering who actually drafted the kid. Hmm, how barren was that farm system?

    Mark Reynolds mashing in the toughest division in baseball, and Towers got nothing back for him.

    I don’t think Towers has done a bad job, but he’s basically inherited everything that Byrnes built. And the GM doesn’t matter as much as ownership, which in the Dbacks case is horrible.

    Towers contract demands he dump/trade every prospect this off-season for mediocre and cheap major leaguers just to contend. Otherwise no extension. That’s the real problem.

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  37. valuearb says:

    “This year’s draft was just terrible (Barret Loux? Seriously?), and last year they had a great shot with all those picks, and I wouldn’t say that they had a GREAT draft, like one would think they would have; it was decent at best.. ”

    Paul Goldschmidt.

    How a single year changes evaluations.

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