As we all know, Tony La Russa absolutely, positively hates to lose. He'd rather jab himself with knitting needles.
So he isn't having much fun this season overseeing the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball operation.
The D-Backs (38-52) were supposed to contend in the National League West this season, but they staggered into the All-Star break with 12 losses in their last 14 games.
They have lost nine of their last 10 games to the front-running San Francisco Giants to plunge into the division cellar, 19 games off the pace.
This team traded the farm (system) to get former Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller from the Atlanta Braves, only to see him go 2-9 with a 7.14 ERA this season. Miller is, in a word, broken.
The Diamondbacks inexplicably committed $206.5 million over six years to gain free agent pitcher Zack Greinke for his twilight years. He is currently sidelined with an oblique strain, which is why Arizona will come out of the break with a four-man rotation.
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With the season lost, general manager Dave Stewart is starting to sell off parts. He moved closer Brad Ziegler to the Boston Red Sox, gaining only two so-so prospects in the swap, Jose Almonte and infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe.
What message does that send to the team?
“The message is that we moved one of our guys from the back end of our bullpen, but the core of our team is still here,” Stewart told reporters. “We’re still looking to compete. We’re still looking to play, and we’re still looking to play competitive baseball.
“This is not a case of where we’re throwing in the flag at all. I come to the ballpark every day with expectations to win a baseball game.”
Yeah, well, good luck with that. The Diamondbacks have been outscored by 54 runs this season and you can bet that La Russa and Stewart will dump more salaries as they fumble for the restart button.
Manager Chip Hale will get the pleasure of running a team heading into tank mode.
“We have not played well enough to really say anything about this,” Hale said. “This is what upper management, ownership want to do at this point. Our job is still to win games here.”
He realizes more roster changes are coming.
“You just deal with it day-to-day,” Hale said. “I’m sure as you get closer to the trade deadline, some of our guys that are on the higher end of the pay scale and can help a team that’s in a first or second-place race right now will be asked for. That’s over what I’m doing right here. I do anticipate there probably being some more people that will be questioned about. I don’t know if we’ll make any moves.”
Meanwhile, he will crack the whip the best he can.
“One thing our guys have been told and I think they need to think about where they’re going with their careers,” Hale said. “As an organization, we know where we want to go and do they want to be part of it. So they’re going to have to come back focused and ready to play.”
MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE
Questions to ponder while Matt Adams gets to relax and enjoy his All-Star break after ending his slump Sunday:
WHAT OTHERS ARE WRITING
Here is what the experts were writing about the weekend's events:
Keith Law, ESPN.com: "The early (Futures Games) pitching was impressive overall, none more so than St. Louis righthander Alex Reyes, who was throwing 96-101 mph heat complemented with a plus-plus changeup. His breaking ball is fringy and he was casting it Sunday, although he threw one pitch to Dansby Swanson that looked more like a slider -- a good one -- than the other curveballs. I don't love his delivery with his stiff front leg and shorter stride, but you can't change anything here given the quality of the stuff."
Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports: "This is a completely different (Brock) Lesnar than the one who left the UFC. This was the funny, interesting and articulate guy you could find far from the intensity of fight week, living and training in the woods of Minnesota (he’s now relocated to Saskatchewan). In his most public moments though, he was uncooperative, often disrespectful of opponents and even crude. He talked trash, tried to intimidate and grunted a lot. It's understandable; this is dangerous business . . . The Lesnar that showed up at the press conference Wednesday was all good guy, a full entertainer, quick-witted, accommodating, respectful and appearing to enjoy himself immensely. He is 38 now. Maybe he’s no longer searching for something. He remains an outrageous athletic talent, a 6-foot-3, 281-pound, fast-footed bulldozer who recently earned a blue belt in jiu-jitsu. He grew up a South Dakota farm kid, won an NCAA Division I wrestling championship at Minnesota, became a breakout star during multiple stints with the WWE, nearly made the roster of the Minnesota Vikings despite virtually no football experience, and of course, he became a UFC champion. It wasn’t always smooth though. Lesnar has admitted struggling with the demands of pro wrestling’s nightly grind of shows, self-medicating with alcohol and partying and eventually dealing with regrets from both."
Jon Wertheim, SI.com: "Serena Williams won the Wimbledon title on Saturday. And we mean won. After three majors, losing in the late rounds, this was awfully close to a flawless performance. She didn't lose serve, she won 88% of her first serve points, served 13 aces and played terrifically. With her seventh Wimbledon title, she ties Steffi Graf with 22 majors, but what must be more heartening still is the way she met the moment after three previous defeats in majors."
Mike Lupica, Sports on Earth: "Now there are 12 Wimbledon singles championships between them, two girls from Compton, Calif., who have rewritten the record books in American tennis, who have been American tennis for a long time. Peyton Manning and Eli Manning once won back-to-back MVP awards in Super Bowls their teams won. But there has never been and never be a sibling act, a sister act, like the Williams sisters. Now the younger one wins another Wimbledon. Old girl rules."
Katie Baker, The Ringer: "Matt Harvey is only 27, but sometimes it seems like he’s 35. His four seasons of MLB play have transpired in what feels like dog years. Already, he’s gone through the New York tabloid wringer, earned a moniker that has aged about as well as a middle-school AIM screen name; had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and a subsequent reassuring comeback in 2015; battled neck bloat and and innings limits; and reckoned with. All this, and the guy won’t even hit free agency until after the 2018 season. (He may have superstar status, but Harvey’s $4.3 million paycheck this season is the first seven-figure salary of his career. In comparison, Stephen Strasburg, who like Harvey is a (Scott) Boras client with Tommy John in his past, inked a $175 million extension over seven years early this season, while free agents David Price and Zack Greinke signed deals of $217 million and $206.5 million, respectively, this offseason.) It’s as if someone took a long and colorful baseball career, cut it into small pieces, and compressed and reassembled them in a totally random order."
"It is different. I feel happier, more content. You know, I feel like this was sort of more for myself and my team as well. Last time, it was just pure relief. It was such a big thing for a British man to win Wimbledon. It's something you start to think about and put more and more pressure on yourself to do. I didn't really enjoy the moment as much, whereas I'm going to make sure I enjoy this one more than the others."
Andy Murray, after winning again at Wimbledon.