Diamondbacks in rebuilding mode after tough season
PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Diamondbacks boosted their payroll to unprecedented levels, hoping the influx would break them out of a two-year funk.
Instead, they went into a freefall to the bottom of the standings.
Arizona’s retooling started during the 2014 season with the hiring of Tony La Russa and the firings of general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson.
But even after finishing with the worst record in baseball, the changes may not necessarily continue during the offseason.
“I don’t expect to see much change in this clubhouse,” new Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart said on Monday. “Going forward, I’m looking at the spirit of how they play the game. Most of names you see here in the clubhouse you’ll likely to see the same names up here.”
The Diamondbacks had much higher expectations than this heading into the season.
The team bumped up its payroll to more than $110 million and added pieces they believed would help them bounce back after a pair of 81-81 seasons.
Very little went right once the 2014 season started.
Arizona opened with a pair of losses to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Australia and continued to pile up losses, opening 4-14 for the worst start in franchise history.
The Diamondbacks never recovered, snake bit by injuries and subpar seasons by players they were counting on to be productive.
Arizona finished 64-98, the second-worst record in franchise history behind the 111-loss team in 2004, and watched a team celebrate a division clinching at Chase Field for the second straight season (the Dodgers last season, St. Louis this one).
“We had higher expectations coming out of the spring,” reliever Brad Ziegler said. “Whether you look at the injuries or the pure lack of execution on the field, this is not how we wanted to finish.”
The injuries made the Diamondbacks look, at times, like they were fielding a minor league team.
Patrick Corbin, their No. 1 starter was lost before the season even started to Tommy John surgery. So was David Hernandez, their primary setup man in the bullpen.
Mark Trumbo, the team’s key offseason acquisition, was tied for the NL lead in homers and second in RBIs, but went down with a stress fracture in his foot less than a month into the season.
Outfielder A.J. Pollock also missed significant time with a broken hand and All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was lost for the season in early August with a broken hand.
“It was a tough season all year long, especially getting off to such a bad start,” right-hander Josh Collmenter said. “We played some pretty good ball through the middle then some key injuries. We were constantly battling that. The disappointing season led to massive changes.”
In May, Arizona hired La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager and one of the sharpest minds in the game, to head up its baseball operations as chief baseball officer.
His task was to assess the organization from top to bottom and in early September, the Diamondbacks fired Towers during his third season.
La Russa brought in familiar face as his replacement, hiring Stewart, who spent eight seasons pitching under him at Oakland. Arizona also hired former Dodgers executive De Jon Watson senior vice president/baseball operations.
A day after that announcement, Arizona fired Gibson, who led the team to the 2011 NL West title in his first full season, along with bench coach Alan Trammell.
The first step in the offseason will be to find a new manager to work under the new leadership.
“Leadership is the No. 1 quality, plus he has to have a good personality and be a good communicator,” La Russa said. “When the manager addresses the team on the first day of spring training, the players have to buy in immediately and then from there, it’s a selling job every day. It’s about guys following and building relationships.”