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.