D-backs players deal with sudden change
Clubhouse filled with emotion in wake of Melvin's dismissal
PHOENIX -- The introductory news conference of their new manager, A.J. Hinch, was playing on the monitors inside the D-backs' clubhouse on Friday afternoon.But it was merely background noise as Arizona players went about their normal routines -- changing clothes, chatting, reading -- while paying little attention to the screens. "You're in the wrong place. The party's over there," catcher Chris Snyder said to a lone reporter milling about the clubhouse, nodding toward one of the televisions. There wasn't any party atmosphere in any part of Chase Field, obviously. Perhaps even more than the typical managerial change, none of them easy on those involved, the Bob Melvin-to-A.J. Hinch changeover stunned D-backs players on various levels. For one thing, many felt they had let down not just a manager but a friend. "Bo-Mel had each and everyone's back," said pitcher Doug Davis. "He'd always take the blame, whether it was an error or a lack of hitting. We feel we failed to have his back." "It's disappointing when you're performing in such a way that a coach's or manager's job comes in question," said veteran Tony Clark. "Obviously we realize that we haven't performed as consistently well as we would have liked to." "It's [the front office's] prerogative to make changes as they see fit," said third baseman Mark Reynolds. "But change is difficult, no matter what the circumstances." For another, they weren't sure how to react to having another true friend as their new skipper. As the organization's vice president of player development, Hinch had worked closely with all of the club's young talent, and he knows what makes each tick. That might be one of the prime reasons for a managerial choice even general manager Josh Byrnes conceded as "unconventional." "It's a little weird," Reynolds said. "As farm director, A.J. wasn't one of those do-this, do-that guys. He was more like, 'Hey, how you doin'?'" Hinch's past role in the young core's lives could ease a transition that otherwise might be disturbing to young players experiencing their first managerial change. How they will react is "a good question," Reynolds admitted. "We've never gone through something like this. That might be one reason they brought in someone who knows us, who has seen us progress and be successful," Reynolds said. Still, the pregame clubhouse was subdued -- and virtually vacant. Clearly, the majority of players wished to avoid having to comment on the change of managers. The new manager recognized the pall. Hinch could remember being with the Kansas City Royals in 2002 when the club made a midseason managerial move from Tony Muser to John Mizerock. That clubhouse had a universal reaction to the change. "I understand players feeling an emotion of sadness, guilt, frustration and bitterness," Hinch said. "You feel responsible." "We realize more than anything that we haven't performed well," Clark said. "Obviously you never want to put someone in a position where the type of decision that was made has to be made. But going forward with A.J. here, our job doesn't change. We need to play better baseball, we need to win ballgames and we're capable of doing it. "Again, at the end of the day, we realize they decided to make a change, and we're simply hopeful we can get things going in the right direction." On that point, the players and their new manager agree. A few minutes prior to walking down a hall in Chase Field's basement to his news conference, Hinch held a brief clubhouse meeting. "It went well. He was fired up," Reynolds said. "He was anxious to get going and turn this thing around."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.