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.
The writing was on the wall, but the Yankees made it official on Saturday: Aroldis Chapman is no longer closing games for the Bronx Bombers. Comments from manager Joe Girardi suggested that the move is a temporary one, however, and he told reporters that Chapman will be utilized at “different points” in the game as the Yankees try to pinpoint the source of the left-hander’s struggles.
There’s no question that the flame-throwing southpaw has been off his game for a while, and his season 4.29 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 12.6 SO/9 hints at some of the issues he’s been facing. He imploded in each of his last three appearances, issuing a cumulative five hits, six runs and five strikeouts over just 3 1/3 innings. It seems plausible that the left rotator cuff inflammation that sidelined him several months ago has resurfaced, but the veteran lefty said Friday that he doesn’t believe any physical issues have caused his decline.
While Chapman works out the kinks in his mechanics, the Yankees will look to some combination of Dellin Betances and David Robertson to cover the ninth inning. Girardi wouldn’t commit to either reliever in the closer’s spot, however, and said he’d take it on a case-by-case basis depending on the match-ups in any given game. The long-term plan is still to reinstate Chapman, whenever that might make sense for the team.
“He’s been scuffling over the past 10 days, two weeks,” Girardi said. “I just thought for us to get him back on track, maybe the best way would be to move him around a little bit until he gets going. When we get him going like I believe he’ll get going, there’s a good chance I’ll put him right back in that closer’s role.”
The Nationals officially activated Stephen Strasburg off the 10-day disabled list, the team announced Saturday. They’ll pencil him into the starting lineup for their second set against the Padres on Saturday night. Strasburg is expected to assume Max Scherzer‘s roster spot after Scherzer landed on the disabled list with neck inflammation prior to Friday’s series opener. No other roster moves appear to be necessary for the time being.
Strasburg, 28, is finally looking stable after serving a 26-day stint on the DL with a right elbow nerve impingement. It’s the first serious injury he’s sustained since last August, when he missed 20 days with inflammation in his right elbow, and one the Nationals are taking seriously as they juggle multiple stints for their elite starters. He’ll enter Saturday’s competition with a 10-3 record in 20 starts, supplemented by a 3.25 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 through 121 2/3 innings.
Elbow issues are nothing to be played around with, but Strasburg’s performance in his lone rehab outing relieved any residual apprehension the Nats might have had about his activation this weekend. He tossed 66 pitches for High-A Potomac, hitting 95 MPH with his heater and logging three hits, one run, one walk and five strikeouts over five innings. Club manager Dusty Baker is hoping for a similarly dominant start against the Padres, and told reporters that he’ll hold Strasburg to a performance count as the righty works his way back to a full-time gig.