The Hall of Fame manager and former front office executive is stepping down from his role in Arizona.
After four seasons in the desert, Tony La Russa is done with the Diamondbacks. On Wednesday afternoon, the club announced that La Russa, who had been serving as a chief baseball analyst in the team's front office, would be leaving his role at the end of the month. The departure closes the book on a short and tumultuous tenure in Arizona for La Russa, who came to the D-Backs in 2014 to run the front office but was pushed aside last winter as part of a wholesale reorganization.
La Russa, 73, joined the Diamondbacks three years ago to take over as the club's Chief Baseball Officer, essentially replacing then-general manager Kevin Towers as the organization's point man on all matters on-the-field. La Russa, who had been working as a special assistant to Joe Torre and Bud Selig in the Commissioner's Office since retiring as manager of the Cardinals after the 2011 season, quickly put his stamp on the club, booting out Towers and manager Kirk Gibson at the end of the 2014 season and hiring former player and agent Dave Stewart and A's bench coach Chip Hale as his new GM and skipper, respectively.
The 2014 Diamondbacks were a mess, going 68–94, but with La Russa's new hires at the helm, things did improve the next season. Arizona jumped to 79–83, then made a huge splash that offseason by signing Dodgers ace Zack Greinke to a $206 million free-agent contract and trading several top prospects for Atlanta starter Shelby Miller. But things collapsed in a hurry in 2016, as the D-Backs plummeted to 93 losses. The Miller trade was a fiasco, as he posted a 6.15 ERA in 101 innings and struggled with injuries (and ultimately blew out his elbow at the start of this season), and Greinke turned in one of his worst years ever, with a 4.37 ERA in 158 2/3 frames.
Stewart and his front office, meanwhile, seemed like they were in over their heads: Beyond the Miller and Greinke mistakes, Arizona overpaid badly for Cuban pitcher Yoan Lopez, who nearly quit baseball a year after being signed, and spent $68 million on Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, who can't play any defensive position and hasn't produced offensively. On top of that, ESPN's Keith Law reported that Stewart didn't know basic rules when it came to trades, international signing restrictions or making draft picks.
That lost year was enough to cost Stewart, Hale and La Russa their jobs, though La Russa was able to keep a position in the Diamondbacks' new front office as an advisor to new GM Mike Hazen. Under Hazen and rookie manager Torey Lovullo, Arizona rocketed back into contention, winning 93 games and the NL wild card before being swept out of the postseason by the Dodgers in the Division Series. But with the season done, La Russa and the team apparently felt it was time for both sides to move on.
Where La Russa goes from here remains to be seen, though at his age and with his poor front office track record, a full retirement seems possible. Either that, or he might snag another part-time advisory role within MLB itself. But if that's the last we see of La Russa in baseball, at least he got to go out on his own terms. Hopefully he stays out of the broadcast booth, though.