Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic has the early details of what will be known as the Diamondback Purge. Both manager AJ Hinch and GM Josh Byrnes have been relieved of their duties by the club Thursday night. An official press conference has been scheduled for 10 am Friday morning at Chase Field.
Byrnes had been quoted as lobbying for Hinch to retain his job despite the poor showing by the club this season. Byrnes' reluctance to dismiss his manager may have been the catalyst of what Piecoro referred to as the "strained" relationship between Byrnes and Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall.
Arizona, despite getting excellent play from free agent acquisitions Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche, has struggled this season. That failure is primarily laid at the feet of their bullpen, which has combined for a 6.98 ERA. Their 31-48 record was the worst in the NL Wes, second worst in the NL and third worst overall in Major League Baseball. Only the historically bad Orioles season and the Pirates' 6-20 June keep the Diamondbacks from the worst record in the majors.
Byrnes took over Arizona's front office following the 2005 season. He had been Theo Epstein's assistant GM and one of the architect's of Boston's first World Series winner since the days of Babe Ruth. Byrnes found success in his second season transitioning from a thirty-something batch of ballplayers to a younger hungrier and less expensive bunch of home-grown players like Mark Reynolds, Chris Young and Stephen Drew. That team won ninety game and the division, but was stopped by the Colorado Rockies in the NLCS.
Byrnes worked aggressively to improve the team to build for a run in 2008. The failure of those moves to improve the club was the beginning of the end for Byrnes. Dealing Carlos Quentin the the White Sox for Chris Carter and then flipping Carter along with Brett Anderson and Carlos Gonzalez among others to Oakland in the Dan Haren deal seemed wise at the time. But with the failure of both Conor Jackson and Chris Young to consistently perform in the outfield makes the loss of Quentin and Gonzalez very profoundly felt. Haren necessarily became the ace of the staff when Brandon Webb went down with injury before the 2009 season. But without the one-two punch, Arizona slipped further back in the NL West last year.
Hinch assumed the field manager's job during May of 2009, and skippered the club to a 58-75 record after he took over, which was a mild improvement on the 12-17 beginning Bob Brenly authored. For his tenure Hinch had a 89-123 record in just over a season on the job. Hinch was considered a controversial hire, as his previous experience was as the club's farm director and had never coached in any capacity previously.
Bench coach Kirk Gibson assumes the manager's job on an interim basis, and Jerry DiPoto takes over as the interim GM as the club begins the search for what Diamondbacks Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick calls "permanence to these two baseball leadership roles".
Joe Tetreault is Managing Editor of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He can be contacted here through The Biz of Baseball
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