The Arizona Diamondbacks made a stunning move when they brought in legendary manager Tony LaRusa as chief baseball officer in the middle of this dismal season. One of the most brilliant minds in the game, LaRussa, when he retired as skipper of the St. Louis Cardinals, had been a major-league manager for 33 seasons, winning three World Series titles. Most famous as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, he also helmed the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland A's, and he was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, this summer. He was the only manager in history to retire after winning a World Series championship.
At this writing, LaRussa has made only one significant move after a few months on the job. He gave general manager Kevin Towers his walking papers.And he is expected to overhaul the team, possibly from manager Kirk Gibson on down, before the 2015 campaign begins. As for Towers, who made many bonehead moves in his five years on the job, including trading slugger Justin Upton and pitching prospect Trevor Bauer, his end couldn't come soon enough for us.
Though better than in the past, Diamondbacks relief pitchers have faltered this year, but La Russa's just the exec to change that. He's credited with streamlining, if not inventing, bullpens. Rather than overusing his closers, he's employed a series of set-up specialists — from flamethrowers to lefties on lefty batters to righties on righty batters — to give his teams match-up advantages. The idea is to give the closer a clean slate to shut down an opponent in the ninth inning and to keep a franchise's ultimate power pitcher fresh.
LaRussa, who reportedly is the first to arrive at work in the D-backs' front office and the last to leave, has his work cut out for him — this year's was the team's worst start since its fledgling season and the deep hole eliminated the D-backs from the playoff early.