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Can Kevin Towers coexist with Tony La Russa in Arizona?

May 18, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

Kevin Towers AP

The first thought I had when Tony La Russa was announced as the Diamondbacks’ Chief Baseball Officer yesterday was that general manager Kevin Towers might resign.

I mean, how else can one take the hiring of La Russa as anything other than a demotion of sorts — or at least a vote of non-confidence — in Towers? Towers was the top baseball voice in Arizona, answering to Derrick Hall, the Dbacks’ CEO. Now there is another baseball operations-only guy above him. All this while Hall and the team’s owner, Ken Kendrick, says that Towers and manager Kirk Gibson remain “in an evaluation period.” That’s the sort of dynamic that causes guys with established track records and reputations to say “You know what? I don’t need this. Later, dudes.”

But I’m remembering that this isn’t the first time Towers has been in this situation. Indeed, he had almost the exact situation happen to him when he was the GM of the San Diego Padres. He took that job in 1995 after Randy Smith nearly destroyed the franchise. After a decade at the helm — during which he helped lead the Padres to four division championships and a pennant — Sandy Alderson was brought in as the Padres’ CEO and Towers was forced to answer to someone else like he’s supposed to answer to La Russa now.

That sent Towers out to interview with the Diamondbacks and to be publicly tied to the Dodgers as well. In the end the prospects outside of San Diego appeared to be pretty dicey, and he returned to the Padres where he remained in the job for four more years, answering to Alderson. And Paul DePodesta and other folks Alderson brought in as well to varying degrees.

Was Towers’ ability to check his ego and submit to people brought in, in part, to fix the things he messed up something he did naturally, or was it a function of him being comfortable and not having better options? Will he even have the chance to do that in Arizona, or will La Russa and Hall show Towers the door after this season?

There’s no way to answer that now — Towers was giving diplomatic quotes yesterday and, officially anyway, is said to be onboard with the La Russa thing — but based on his history, Towers is one of the few high-profile general managers who has had this happen to him before and accept it with at least something approaching equanimity.

It’ll be interesting to watch this going forward.

  1. andreweac - May 18, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    Who questions each other tWtW first?

    Looks like this isn’t going to be an old fashion gun draw on who will go nuclear with the ultimate insult in Diamondback land.

    • rohlo - May 18, 2014 at 8:40 PM

      towers is a gonner!!! dumpster diving gm’s are no longer needed in MLB!

      • darman55 - May 19, 2014 at 3:27 PM

        “dumpster diving GM’s?”

  2. luz56 - May 18, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    There would be no need for Tony LaRussa if KT could do his job… KT and Gibson single handedly destroyed the farm system and team need for grit…

    • gbrim - May 18, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      Gibby has his faults, but you can’t blame the stupid trades on him. KT had sole authority on the roster, even Gibby’s assistant coaches, until yesterday. KT is toast based on the merits, which is too bad in one sense as he seems like a good guy. Maybe a good neighbor, just not a good GM at this stage.

    • paperlions - May 18, 2014 at 10:53 AM

      If the problem is Kevin Towers, how is Tony LaRussa the answer?

      LaRussa has no experience above being manager. Running baseball operations is completely different and requires a skill set that we don’t know that LaRussa has (because he’s never done it before).

      In addition, they are making a 69 yr old the head of baseball operations on a team that is already on the trailing edge of incorporating analytics into the organization (something the owners recently said they would like to see further developed)…and it is not a forward thinking 69 year old, but a this is how I’ve always done it and how I’ll always do it 69 yr old. For managing, that can work (obviously), for heading up baseball operations?

      This feels like a hire based 100% on name recognition and 0% on experience or ability to fix what ails the organization.

      • nsauser - May 18, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        The problem here is the ownership group not having a clue about baseball ops. They now realize they need someone with more baseball sense than themselves. LaRussa should be an upgrade in that sense over Kendrick and Hall having sign off on baseball matters.

      • paperlions - May 18, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        I guess. The problem is that the GM is supposed to be that guy….and TLR doesn’t have any experience in the FO, there is no reason to trust his judgement with regard to GM-type decisions, is there? He isn’t familiar with their players (MLB or MiLB), he isn’t familiar with their scouting department, player development people, or anyone else. He’s starting from scratch from a knowledge base stand point…so how good of an idea is it to take his advice at this point? Not to mention, that he has no experience doing anything but managing.

        To me, it is a weird hire that looks like a combination of putting lipstick on a pig, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and polishing a turd. This move just doesn’t address any possible problem in the organization.

      • paperlions - May 18, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        To use an analogy, this is like having a gaping hole at SS and signing Beltran because he is the best player available and sticking him in RF. Yeah, he’s a nice player, but he’s old and has doesn’t address team need.

    • octagoncito - May 18, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      You are right. So many whacky trades and signings. Getting rid of upton and not being able to work with Trevor Bauer among other young guys. Gibson has his head in his a$$, he is bitter and brings no excitement to his players, he has a negative sign on his forehead.

  3. proudlycanadian - May 18, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    Short answer. No!

  4. xpensivewinos - May 18, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    This implies it’s up to Towers to decide.

    The Diamondbacks did not hire LaRussa wondering or caring whether or not Towers and Gibson could coexist with him. They hired him to fix what’s broken. He wasn’t brought in to simply leave things the way they are. Hope those like Sam Cooke, because a change is gonna come…..

    • tonyc920 - May 18, 2014 at 3:57 PM

      But how do you fix broken when you don’t have experience in that capacity ??? LaRussa has been around ball a very long time but he’s never actually been a GM. Maybe he knows a fair amount about it but then again, it never looks the same when you actually have to do it.

  5. chargrz - May 18, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    Towers was a horrible GM here in San diego. He drafted terrible every year. only a few of his picks ever made the club and no All stars were ever chosen. He selected Matt Bush 1st overall and ignored Verlander, Pedroia, same draft. He made crazy trades , sometimes he would score like A-Gon but most of the time swing and miss. The Padres may have made the play-offs a few times but once it was with an 81-81 season. Lets not forget the Padres also had the best manager in the game today in Bruce Bochy.

    • ptfu - May 18, 2014 at 9:18 PM

      Drafting was definitely not Kevin Towers’ strength in San Diego, no argument there. However, his Padres trade record was generally excellent. Not many stinkers and a whole lot of steals. And even the trades that broke even should count in his favor, as he was presumably dealing a position of strength for a position of need. Plenty of trades resulted in getting something useful for nothing.

      Andy Sheets for Phil Nevin. Bip Roberts for Wally Joyner. Scott Sanders for Sterling Hitchcock. A bunch of replaceable relievers for Greg Vaughn, who went on to hit 50 bombs in 1998. The trade for Adrian Gonzalez also brought in Chris (tall pitcher) Young, who had some nice seasons in San Diego. Getting Doug Mirabelli basically for free, then trading him back to the Red Sox for Cla Meredith (an effective reliever) and Josh Bard, who provided at least as much value as Mirabelli ever would.

      Plenty of his free agent signings worked too. Greg Maddux. Rickey Henderson. Winning the posting bid for Aki Otsuka. Mike Piazza. Sure, some didn’t work–ahem, Marcus Giles–but the good far outweighs the bad.

      All of this makes the Arizona mess so much more confusing. What the hell happened to Towers in the desert? All the things he was good at, now he’s terrible at…?

  6. chiadam - May 18, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    Does the title of President of Operations mean anything anymore? Did it ever? It just seems to me that being named President of anything would involve degrees, experience, business knowledge, and a long list of other qualifications. Now teams in all sports can’t wait to make Presidents of former players and coaches.

  7. jrbdmb - May 19, 2014 at 4:49 AM

    Towers and manager Kirk Gibson remain “in an evaluation period.”

    ??? They haven’t figured out yet whether Towers is worth keeping around or not? This is even worse than the dreaded vote of confidence.

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