12/27/10 10:00 AM EST
2010 was a year of big changes for D-backs
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
A season that began with so much optimism in the spring devolved into a second straight last-place finish in the National League West. Along the way, general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch lost their jobs in a massive management shakeup on July 1.
With the moves, the organization's ownership set a new course for the future -- one that included the hiring of Kevin Towers as GM in September.
Towers brought with him a different vision as to how a team should be built. High strikeout totals for hitters were no longer an accepted trade-off for power and, whereas Byrnes believed in building a pitching staff from the rotation backwards, Towers focused on the back end and built forward.
Jerry Dipoto, who replaced Byrnes on an interim basis, began the roster restructuring before handing things to Towers, who continued the process following the season.
By the time the calendar was set to flip to '11, the D-backs sported a new look with a new management team in place -- and 40 percent of the roster overturned from Opening Day.
Once the overhaul was all but completed in December, Towers liked what he saw from his new-look club.
"I don't see us being at the bottom of the division next year if we had to field the club as it is right now," Towers said at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings. "I don't."
It was a wild ride to be sure. Here's a look back at the top five story lines from '10:
5. D-backs set Major League strikeout record
That the D-backs struck out a lot is not surprising. After all, they led the NL in that category in 2009 and were second in '08. However what they did in '10 was unheard of, as they whiffed 1,529 times -- blowing well past the previous high of 1,399 set by the '01 Milwaukee Brewers. Mark Reynolds fanned a Major League-high 211 times, with Adam LaRoche chipping in with 172. It is not a coincidence that both players will not be in Arizona uniforms in next season.
4. Bullpen woes nearly historic
Early in the season, it became clear that the bullpen was going to be the Achilles heel of this team. Lead after lead was coughed up. Nothing illustrated the 'pen's problems more than an 0-9 road trip at the end of May that all but sealed the club's fate. The last four losses of that trip were of the walk-off variety, with one of them occurring when Esmerling Vasquez balked home the winning run against the Dodgers. Arizona relievers finished with a Majors-worst 5.74 ERA, the third highest in Major League history.
3. Club given a new look at the Trade Deadline
With the season lost, the D-backs started an overhaul of their roster. The process began under Byrnes in June, when he dealt former first-round pick Conor Jackson to the A's for reliever Sam Demel. One month later under Dipoto's leadership, the team dealt ace Dan Haren, closer Chad Qualls, No. 2 starter Edwin Jackson and veteran catcher Chris Snyder in an effort to get younger -- and cheaper -- for 2011. While the fruits of the Haren trade won't be fully reaped for a few years, the Jackson deal paid off immediately, as Daniel Hudson stepped in and pitched like an ace during the final two months.
2. Towers hired as general manager
When Byrnes was dismissed, speculation immediately centered on Towers, who had a close relationship with team president/CEO Derrick Hall and an impressive resume after 14 years as GM of the Padres. Dipoto's performance in the interim role, however, caught ownership's eye, and in the end the club faced a difficult decision between the two of them. Towers got the job on Sept. 22, but the organization found a way to keep Dipoto as well -- making him a senior vice president in charge of scouting and player development.
1. Byrnes and Hinch are both dismissed on July 1
In 2009, Byrnes made a controversial decision to dismiss manager Bob Melvin and replace him with Hinch. It proved to be a regrettable one, as the team did not respond to Hinch's leadership and both men ended up losing their jobs on July 1. Hinch, who was 89-123 as manager, still had 2 1/2 years left on his contract -- while Byrnes had 5 1/2 remaining on his. It was a shocking development, given the perceived job security the pair had heading into the '10 season. Dipoto replaced Byrnes and bench coach Kirk Gibson stepped in for Hinch in the dugout. While Dipoto would not earn the permanent GM title, Gibson was given a two-year contract just after the regular season ended.