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Why was Josh Byrnes really fired?

Jul 2, 2010, 10:59 AM EDT

A.J. Hinch probably had to go, but the Byrnes firing doesn't make a ton of sense to me.

Matthew and Drew covered the bases on the Diamondbacks’ firings last night, but I’m still thinking about it.

I think it’s apparent that Hinch had to go. All reports I’ve read reveal that he had lost the confidence of the clubhouse. And he maybe never had it. I was a cautious fan of his hiring last year because I’m a sucker for unconventional moves, but it’s clear now that plucking a young guy from the front office who neither (a) had any coaching experience anywhere; and (b) was never a big enough deal of a player himself to at least give him a temporary pass, credibility-wise, was a big gamble.  The Diamondbacks have a lot of problems, but given how people default to blaming the manager no matter what’s happening, Hinch stuck out and his fate was sealed.

Byrnes is a more interesting case. The first take on it I read was Matthew’s. I take mild issue with some of his arguments — you’ll be shocked to learn that we don’t engage in groupthink at HBT — but there are a lot of people coming to Byrnes’ defense this morning that aren’t addressing, say, the Dan Haren trade in terms of the talent he gave up and the Dbacks’ place on the success cycle at the time or, for that matter, questioning the choice of Hinch from the point of view of risk management and self-preservation. I don’t think I would have fired Byrnes based on his transactions, but I don’t think it’s an atrocity like some people are saying this morning.  There are arguments on both sides of the equation. There almost always are.

But I think one thing we can maybe all agree on is that the Diamondbacks’ ownership is lost at sea at the moment.  The timing is what gets me mostly. We’re less than a month from the trade deadline and the Diamondbacks are poised to unload a lot of talent. Haren maybe. LaRoche. Kelly Johnson. Possibly Edwin Jackson. If the owners had questions about Byrnes’ ability before last night, they should have gotten rid of him before all these moves needed to happen.  Of course if they did have reservations earlier, they shouldn’t have let him handle the signing of a big free agent in LaRoche and run one of the bigger trades in team history over the offseason in the Scherzer/Granderson/Austin Jackson trade.

Given his very long contract you figure ownership was willing to take the long view with Byrnes. Given that he was allowed to make those moves this past winter but can’t be trusted to handle the trades that are necessary this month, that trust disappeared rather quickly. Either something notable and negative happened in the past couple of months to sour the owners on Byrnes, or else the owners are panicky and are laying the team’s bad year at his feet. 

Given how these things tend to go — people with futures like Byrnes’ rarely dish dirt — we’ll probably never know.  Something just doesn’t seem natural about this firing, however, and I bet there’s more to the story.

  1. geoknows - Jul 2, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    Fanhouse says Byrnes was fired because management wanted him to fire Hinch and he refused.
    http://mlb.fanhouse.com/2010/07/01/report-diamondbacks-fire-manager-gm/

  2. Drakos - Jul 2, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    Byrnes did have a long contract but that happened when Jeff Moorad was the team’s CEO. Now that Moorad is the Padres owner taking the long view with Byrnes wasn’t as much of a given anymore.

  3. Xpensive Wino - Jul 2, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    Bottom line is this: The Diamondbacks are awful and that falls on the GM. The players they have, the combination of players, their skills, their baseball acumen, everything……….they’re brutal. I wish I had a dollar for every time they strike out or make an unproductive out. They’re simply a collection of stiffs and their only stud is having a bad year which hasn’t helped. Hinch was not qualified for the job, but no manager is going to make chicken salad out of this bunch. Byrnes has made way too many bonehead moves. They’re obviously going to start over on the field and build around Upton and Kennedy, so they may as well have a new GM and manager head up the project.

  4. jd1 - Jul 2, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    So you’re saying they should strike out less and make more productive outs? I wish I had a dollar for every comment from someone who doesn’t understand what really drives run scoring in baseball.

  5. Fthrvic - Jul 2, 2010 at 6:37 PM

    Surprised there’s no mention of Byrnes being part owner of the team which complicates this whole situation even further.

  6. Buccofan - Jul 5, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    To me, it looks like he was following the Billy Beane method of job preservation and management–Get a reputation with the media as a “smart young man”; get a piece of the team in exchange for squelching the non-existent threat of leaving; hire yes-men to manage the team on the field, guys who are easy to fire if the team wallows in mediocrity or worse; keep up the endless self-promotion.
    In Byrnes’ case, a perfect storm came up and the team wound up losing after all of his “brilliant” moves (as good as Haren has been at times, the trade simply wiped out the farm system). Then, like Jim “I’m A Genius, Just Ask Me” Bowden in Cincinnati, he refused to fire the bad manager he had installed when the owners asked him to do it, not when he planned to do it. Ownership then surprised him by saying, “Fine, you’re both gone”.
    In poker terms, he bluffed and got called.

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