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 Game: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs NLCS Game 6
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Wrigley Field, Chicago
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Kyle Hendricks (Cubs) vs. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
We’re pulling out the big guns for this one. The Cubs took Los Angeles by storm again in Game 5, closing out their road trip with an eight-run spread over the Dodgers, and tonight they’ll try to clinch the NLCS on home turf in Game 6.
Pitching-wise, it’s a rematch of Game 2 with Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA) on the mound. Kershaw took the first set against the Cubs, going seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts in Game 2 while Hendricks held the Dodgers to a single run over 5 1/3 innings. Adrian Gonzalez was the only Dodger to capitalize on Hendricks’ cutter, going yard in his first at-bat to generate a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs’ biggest strength so far this series has been an electric offense, something the Dodgers have struggled to replicate against left-hander Jon Lester and Joe Maddon’s airtight bullpen. While they’ve already beaten Hendricks at Wrigley Field once this October, they’ll need Kershaw to go the distance in another playoff gem if they intend to keep the Cubs’ championship hopes at bay with a 3.4-run average. Should Kershaw and his crew knot the series again, the tiebreaker will fall to Rich Hill and Jake Arrieta in Game 7.
In a show of good sportsmanship, the Cleveland Cavaliers have moved their championship ring ceremony start time back to 7 PM EDT to avoid conflicting with the start of the World Series opener on Tuesday. The Indians are set to host Game 1 at Progressive Field on October 25, while the Cavs will open the 2016-17 NBA season against the New York Knicks at the nearby Quicken Loans Arena, preceded by a ceremony recognizing their first franchise title.
In the event that the Indians clinch a World Series title, it’ll be the first time Cleveland has seen two championships in the same calendar year since 1948, when the Indians’ last Series title came on the back of the Cleveland Browns’ All-American Football Conference championship against the Buffalo Bills. The same was true for the Dodgers in 1988, when their World Series win against the Athletics coincided with the Los Angeles Lakers’ 11th championship, while Chicago has yet to see a multi-title year among their NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB franchises.
Regardless of the Series’ outcome, Cleveland fans will get the chance to revel in one long-awaited championship win on Tuesday before watching the beginning of a nail-biting conclusion to another long-awaited playoff run. The Cavaliers are scheduled for 7 PM EDT on October 25, while the Indians will take the field at 8 PM EDT.