Sports

Third-Degree Byrnes: Dopey Managerial Change Looms Large as D-Backs Head to Hotlanta

Yo, Josh Byrnes. How's that manager switch lookin' a week in?

Now, we're no fan of Bob Melvin and his watching-paint-dry coaching style, but the biggest crime in the Arizona general manager's installation of glorified farm hand A.J. Hinch wasn't Hinch's four-year, no-questions-asked contract or Byrnes' transparent power grab in installing his own personal apparatchik/Adam's rib.

It was timing.

Since taking over the reins from Melvin on May 8, Hinch is 1-5. The once-smokin' L.A. Dodgers, since their star slugger, Manny Ramirez, went down on a steroids bust, are 2-4. It doesn't take a mathematical genius to see that, if you're the D-Backs and you're trailing the Dodgers by 10 games and you've only got 'til Manny's return from suspension on July 3 to play catch-up, you want to win now.

Apparently, it takes someone smarter than Josh Byrnes, whose God-complex selection of the zero-experience Hinch has (among other things) resulted in some of the sloppiest play of a sorry-ass season. Will it get better? At 13-22, it couldn't get worse. It's been unprofessional and butt-ugly.

And yet, thanks to the D-Backs' charter membership in the worst club in baseball, the NL West, all is not lost even with Byrnes' yes-man Hinch at the helm. After the Diamondbacks get through their current swing through the NL East, which takes them to Atlanta today through Sunday, rematches against Western dogs like the Padres and Giants -- and a head-to-head series against the Dodgers -- loom large in June.

A more immediate plus for the boys in baja red is that it should be slightly easier now than yesteryear to win in Hotlanta. These Braves (17-17) are not your daddy's Tomahawk-Choppers. Thus far in 2009, they're a miserable 5-9 at Turner Field, and there are very few remnants of the great Braves dynasty that set a Major League Baseball record with 14 consecutive division titles from 1991 to 2005. Head coach Bobby Cox is still waddling around, and Chipper Jones remains hard-wired to the No. 3 slot in the lineup, but Javy Lopez, Fred McGriff, David Justice, Ryan Klesko, Andruw Jones, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz are - if you'll forgive the regional allusion - gone with the wind.

The probable pitching match-ups are as follows:

Today, 4:30 p.m.: Arizona's Doug Davis (2-5, 3.25 ERA) vs. Atlanta's Javier Vazquez (3-3, 3.88).

Saturday, 4 p.m.: The D-Backs' Max Scherzer (0-3, 3.98) vs. the Braves' Kenshin Kawakami (2-4, 5.79).

Sunday, 10:30 a.m.: Arizona's Jon Garland (3-2, 5.18) vs. former Dodger Derek Lowe (5-1, 3.80).

TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR-AM 620. More info: www.dbacks.com.

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Clay McNear
Contact: Clay McNear