GM Byrnes on a limb with selection of Hinch as manager
PHOENIX – Josh Byrnes is a visionary. Or he’s a classic meddler consumed with regaining his wonder-boy status.
Either way, it’s his neck on the line now.
The Arizona Diamondbacks general manager just fired a consummate professional and deep thinker, replacing him with a man who has never coached or managed on any level. And this is progress?
Bob Melvin is gone. A.J. Hinch, 34, is the new boss, inexplicably signed through 2012. For the second time in their brief history, the Diamondbacks are acting as if they’re smarter than everyone else in baseball.
They acted this way under the little dictator, Buck Showalter. They’re acting that way now.
During the news conference, Byrnes dropped phrases like “organizational advocacy” and “collaboration” and how Hinch had a “greater understanding of standards and concepts.”
He talked so far above the room that he might as well have been standing on Pluto. It’s unbecoming, and this stuff makes other teams extremely motivated.
“(Hinch) has never done a double switch,” Byrnes said. “But he knows what it looks like. He’ll figure it out.”
You can convince me that this team needed a new voice, a new leader. After losing 5-4 to Washington on Friday, the D’backs are 12-18.
Many fans are extremely disgusted with this group and envisioned a new manager who would flip tables, throw coolers and light a fire under listless players struggling to hit their own weights.
They would have gladly embraced a Mark Grace, a Kirk Gibson, and maybe even Chip Hale, an ex-Arizona Wildcat who will stay on as third base coach.
“Why so unconventional? Why did we choose A.J.?” Byrnes said. “I’m very happy to answer that.”
Byrnes went on to paint Hinch as a great untapped leader who can connect the organization “from top to bottom.” He intimated that Melvin had created a bad vibe, a negative energy in the room that exacerbated the failure.
That’s very possible, and possibly very insightful. But the solution is bizarre.
After the news conference concluded, managing general partner Ken Kendrick engaged in heated exchanges with skeptical members of the media.
It was beyond comical. At one point, Kendrick asked why he should follow conventional wisdom and hire from the traditional talent pool when that pool is full of losers who had failed in the past.
It’s a good point. Of course, that doesn’t explain why he once hired Melvin, who was fired in Seattle.
And nobody had a good answer how a manager with no experience can turn a fragile team around, or why they didn’t just place the interim tag on Hinch and see how he performed.
“I understand the enormity of the job,” Hinch said. “I have a lot to learn.”
Inside the clubhouse, many players are scratching their heads.
They know Hinch is Byrnes’ right-hand man. They are free to wonder whether the new manager expedited the departure of their ex-manager. They might wonder what the new manager is telling the general manager on a daily basis, realizing now that no secrets are safe.
They also know that Melvin’s daily lineup was beginning to have Byrnes’ fingerprints all over it, a fact that Byrnes did not dispute or apologize for before Friday’s game.
That dynamic grated on Melvin, but it will assuredly continue under the Hinch reign.
“At game time, the manager is the manager, there’s no question about that,” Byrnes said.
To the paying customers, the selection of Hinch only adds to the Diamondbacks’ credibility problems.
This organization has some strange ideas, from embarrassing in-game entertainment to a broadcast that’s often sophomoric and self-serving.
The best coach in the organization, Bryan Price, just quit out of respect for Melvin. It’s a long way from 2007, when the Diamondbacks were considered the model franchise in Major League Baseball.
But don’t feel sorry for Melvin. He’s the big winner here. This early termination turned him into a martyr and a scapegoat, and his popularity is higher today than it has been in over a year.
As for Byrnes, he better hope this unusual maneuver turns into an inside-the-park home run. After all, the general manager’s batting average is plummeting, just like some of his prized players.
Former Arizona Wildcat Jack Howell, a Palo Verde High School grad, was named the Diamondbacks’ hitting coach and Mel Stottlemyre Jr. the pitching coach.
Howell for the past five years has been the organization’s minor league field coordinator, a role in which he helped oversee the club’s minor league operations.
Stottlemyre, the son of longtime pitching coach Mel Sr. and brother of former Diamondbacks pitcher Todd, has been the organization’s minor league pitching coordinator the past two-plus years.