After a disastrous 2016 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks fired general manager Dave Stewart. But 21 games into the 2017 season, Arizona sits at a respectable 13-8 and Stewart is not bashful about taking some credit for it.
“This means a lot to me because this is the same team, or very close to the one that I put on the field,” Stewart said, via Bob Nightengale of USA Today.” So basically all of those guys and baseball analysts who said I didn’t know what I was doing, it showed I knew exactly what I was doing.”
He went on, noting that injuries, notably all-star A.J. Pollock, had a negative impact on the team.
“Everybody was just beat up and not living up to expectations. So all of a sudden, it’s my fault. Well, it’s not my fault. I couldn’t prevent injuries or jump in their bodies to make them pitch better in the starting rotation. We put the right people on the field. So I don’t think anybody should be surprised how well those kids are playing. They’re healthy now. I knew this was going to happen. … Everyone should have seen it coming.”
While Stewart isn’t completely wrong, he’s not exactly telling the full story here.
First, Stewart seems to be showing some sour grapes here, which is really odd. Even if one agrees that he got a raw deal in Arizona, sport is a results-based business. Someone who’s been in baseball as long as Stewart should know that better than anyone.
The 2016 Diamondbacks were extremely aggressive in an apparent bid to break up the monopoly enjoyed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. It didn’t happen. Both of those teams made the playoffs, while Arizona went 69-93. With results like that, changes were going to be made.
Second, the 2016 Diamondbacks were a disaster by the time the season ended. After 21 games, though, Arizona sat at a respectable 11-10. Things went downhill from there with an 11-17 record in May, 13-14 mark in June, and bottomed out with a 7-17 record July. So, Stewart should wait at least a few weeks before crowning the 2017 season a success.
Finally, Stewart made some moves that were at best questionable and at worst, atrocious. The money given to Zack Greinke can certainly be second guessed. But he also gave up Dansby Swanson for Shelby Miller. Swanson was not even one year removed from being the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, a selection made under Stewart’s watch. Miller was abysmal in 2016, and while 2017 hasn’t been so bad, he’s back on the DL.
Swanson has been an impressive rookie with the Atlanta Braves. He’s shown potential to be a franchise cornerstone at shortstop. If Swanson continues to develop, the negative impact of that trade will extend beyond 2016 and 2017. It will only look worse if Miller doesn’t improve from even the positive form he showed before 2016.
The book on Stewart’s tenure as Arizona’s general manager didn’t close when he was fired. But the unwritten pages don’t necessarily all make that tenure look any better.