They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
  -James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
  -Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Not too late

Things look pretty bleak for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A talented team on paper, they are 20-31 so far in the season. Pitching is particularly poor. You can't call the bullpen erratic, they are consistently bad. They have an ERA of over 7. The worst complete season bullpen ERA ever was the 1953 Detroit Tigers who finished with 6 something. Looks like the DBacks will soon consider the season over with and start trading off good players to save money.

Is this their destiny? Maybe not, consider this:

On May 5, 2009, the Diamondbacks fired manager Bob Melvin, who had a 12-17 .414 record. They replaced him with front office man A.J. Hinch, who had no managerial or coaching experiencing at any level, and was one of the youngest managers in history. His 2010 record thus far is 20-31 .392, worse than Melvin's was. Hinch's hand picked coaching staff, particularly pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. and hitting coach Jack Howell, cannot seem to coax any success out the players.

On May 29, 2009, the Colorado Rockies fired manager Clint Hurdle, whose 18-28 record was almost identical to Hinch's record today and replaced him, not with a no-name like Hinch, but with an experienced baseball man, Jim Tracy, who had previously managed the Dodgers and Pirates. At that time, the Rockies were in last place, worse off than the Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks finished the 2009 season where they are today, in last place. The Rockies won the National League Wild Card and nearly surpassed the Dodgers in the NL West.

It is not too late to do something similar. The Hinch experiment has been a huge disaster. There are plenty of options in the organization. Either bench coach Kirk Gibson or AAA Reno Aces manager Brett Butler comes to mind, as does, to a lesser extent because of his first year status in coaching, 1st base coach Matt Williams.

The real problem extends beyond the coaching staff, however. It was general manager Josh Byrnes who hired Hinch and it was on his watch that this horrendous crop of losers that they call a bullpen was assembled.

But let's clean house now and get rid of Hinch, Howell and Stottlemyre. An experienced baseball man like Butler or Gibson could demonstrate how the talented position players could be turned into a winning outfit with some leadership. The bullpen could be improved with a little luck and some investment. If that demonstrates what it should, and the Rockies' experience of last season suggests that it could, then the dumping of Byrnes can happen in the offseason.