When news first broke about the Diamondbacks firing both manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Josh Byrnes, my reaction was that the ownership wanted Hinch gone and Byrnes refused. Early indications seem to substantiate that instinct.
When the team fired previous manager Bob Melvin in May 2009, Hinch was seen as a controversial choice due to his lack of experience managing a team but was known to have close ties to Byrnes. According to Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse, those bonds might have brought both men down:
Twitter / Ed Price: Major-league source: #Diam ...
Major-league source: #Diamondbacks upper management wanted GM Josh Byrnes to fire manager AJ Hinch. Byrnes refused, so both were fired.
For their part, Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick and President and CEO Derrick Hall stated that the move was both a "significant decision" and one that was made in order to improve the team.
"We have all been disappointed in the results over the last few years, and we have come to the conclusion that a change in the leadership of our baseball operations staff is necessary at this time," Hall said. "This franchise has enjoyed tremendous success over the years and we want to get back to our winning ways."
No other mention was made for the reason or timing of the move or of the remaining years both men have on their contracts. Hinch is signed through 2012 and Byrnes, who was given a small equity stake in the club, has five years left on his deal. The team is still paying on the contract of Bob Melvin as well.
According to Fox Sports, the Diamondbacks are eating $7 million in salary for Byrnes and Hinch. That's a pretty big chunk of change for replacing non-players.
Locally, Byrnes was well-liked by the media but the on-field results of his team left many people disappointed. The team he assembled this season is known for its horrendous bullpen and a lineup made up of too many high strike-out hitters which lead to a disappointing 31 and 48 record so far this season.
Nationally, Byrnes is regarded by many of his peers as a top-notch baseball executive.
ESPN's Buster Olney reported that Byrnes is "very, very, very highly regarded" and conveyed the thoughts of one rival GM who said, "That is a brutal decision. They just tore apart one of the best front offices in baseball."
The Diamondback can certainly limp through the rest of the season with Gibson calling the shots in the dugout, but like the hometown neighbor Phoenix Suns will be without an experienced general manager during a complex period. The D-backs are widely thought to be active participants leading up to the MLB Trade Deadline on July 31.
Without Byrnes at the helm, the team will rely on an interim GM and the team's owners to make crucial decisions impacting the long-term success of the franchise. Of course, given Byrnes lack of success, that might still be an improvement.
Dipoto and Gibson Step In
Current Vice President for Player Personnel Jerry Dipoto will step in as interim general manager. Dipoto has been with the team since 2006 and and served as the Director of Player Personnel for the Colorado Rookies in 2005 and was in the scouting department for the Boston Red Sox for two seasons (2003-04).
Dipoto is a former major league pitcher who posted a 27-24 record with 49 saves and a 4.05 ERA in 390 appearances as a reliever during an eight-year major league career with the Cleveland Indians, New York Mets and Rockies from 1993-2000
A.J. Hinch will be replaced on an interim basis by the D-backs' bench coach Kirk Gibson. Gibson has been with the team in his current capacity since 2007 and was the bench coach with the Detroit Tigers from 2003 to 2005.
Gibson was named the National League MVP in 1988 while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers and led them to a championship by hitting one of most memorable home runs in World Series history off of the Oakland Athletics' Dennis Eckersley in Game 1.