There was a lot of talk about "passion" Friday afternoon as the Arizona Diamondbacks new manager was officially announced. Most of it from the fledgling skipper himself, A.J. Hinch. Let's hope his exuberance rubs off on the lackluster D-Backs lineup.
We want to be optimistic that a positive attitude is the answer (and Bob Melvin was kind of a sad sack), but it seems nothing short of a blockbuster trade will help this struggling ballclub.
Putting Hinch in charge is a gamble to be sure, as the 34-year-old former journeyman catcher (who's served as the D-Backs' director of player development since 2006) has absolutely zero managerial experience on the baseball diamond. General manager Josh Byrnes addressed this right off the bat.
"Why so unconventional? Why did we choose A.J.?" Byrnes says. "He brings a unique leadership and perspective to the job. He connects with people, he gets why things are done in the organization."
Byrnes also stated that Hinch will not be serving as an interim manager and has been contracted through the 2012 season.
Hinch feels he'll be better at leading the Diamondbacks than his predecessor Bob Melvin, fired yesterday, because he has a both a connection with the players and a "certain passion."
Guess Melvin didn't, eh?
Hitting coach Rick Schu also got his pink slip yesterday, while pitching coach Bryan Price resigned.
"With those players in the clubhouse and the staff that we have I feel a part of each and every one of them. I've been involved in different aspects throughout their career so far during my time," Hinch says. "And I think that's to their advantage, and I think it's to my advantage."
But a managerial switch probably won't cure of Arizona's numerous ills this season (including an anemic .222 team batting average, the worst on-base percentage in the bigs, and an awful bullpen). The D-Backs roster will have to get out of the funk they've been since last season. (We're looking in your direction Eric Byrnes, Conor Jackson, and Chad Tracy).
Hinch also feels the players will respond better to new hitting coach Jack Howell.
"I'm a passionate guy. I'm very direct in how I do things," Hinch says. "I think players probably catch onto attitude more than they do actions sometimes in terms of throwing your hat down, turning over a table, throwing a water cooler. In the clubhouse, people respond, in my opinion, to confidence. To developing a plan, taking it through a process and seeing it through. And then rewarding the success and addressing the failures."
The Hinch era will start to unfold just a few hours from now, as the Snakes start a three-game series with the Washington Nationals at Chase Field tonight. It might just be the best possible opponent for the rookie manager to cut his teeth on, as the Nats (8-18) are one of the few teams that are in worse shape than Arizona. Their pitching staff has a 5.40 ERA, the worst in the National League.
Nothing is certain, however, in this roller-coaster season, as Washington managed to deal the Los Angeles Dodgers their first home defeat yesterday in extra innings.
Here are the probable matchups for the weekend series:
Tonight, 6:40 p.m. Yusmeiro Petit (0-2, 7.84) vs. Shairon Martis (3-0, 4.60). Expect the D-Backs pitcher to only last through the early innings, much like he has during his last two outings.
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Tomorrow, 5:10 p.m. Doug Davis (2-4, 3.52) vs. John Lannan (1-3, 4.59)
The D-Backs third-best active pitcher (behind Dan Haren and Jon Garland) squares off against the Nats troubled lefty.
Sunday, 1:10 p.m. Max Scherzer (0-3, 3.38) vs. Scott Olsen (1-3, 6.54)
This one is frankly a toss-up as Scherzer has the posibility of performing much better than in his previous outings, but may end up getting rocked if the Nats decide to come alive.
TV: FSN-AZ. Radio: KTAR-AM 620.
For tickets and more info, visit www.dbacks.com.