Lancaster had a great season with a lot of standout players this year. Let's talk about a few of them. How about Jon Zeringue?
A lot of what I'll say is just from a baseball fan's perspective. I work with these guys, but I see what the fan sees. With Jon I think you're going to see, obviously, a guy who's going to hit. Also, I think he really showed the Diamondbacks a lot with his defensive skills and that just enhances his prospect of moving up. Certainly with him, the biggest thing was getting him signed and seeing the opportunity to start his career at High A, which means next year he's going to be moving up that much closer. So it accelerates his career. He's a great guy. I think he's someone that you'll see playing on TV pretty quick.
Conor and Carlos were as advertised. We heard about them all last off-season and they came in and they showed why they are the top prospects in the organization. So, again, I think you're going to see two individuals that are going to be an integral part of the Diamondbacks in years to come. They're fun players to watch and they're guys that play all out. With Carlos, his defensive skills are second to none that I've seen at this level. Conor is still learning the outfield, but the guy can hit like there's no tomorrow. So, I think you're seeing two individuals that, as they progress up, are as advertised.
Yeah, and Carlos Quentin – Not too shabby for a guy who just came off Tommy John surgery.
He showed why he was a top pick. He showed how he contributed to Stanford in the World Series for several years in a row. I think there's nothing but upsides for these guys. Certainly they were a big reason why we had the season we had. They're decent clubhouse guys, but they're also guys that are going to come out and play and I think that's what people are looking for.
Are there any other players that you think standout or get overlooked?
Phil Avlas was our catcher the entire season. He was not really considered a top, top prospect, but he made giant headway this year offensively. He has a major league arm and from an offensive standpoint he really stepped up this year. From a defensive standpoint, the guy is as good as it gets. He was able to keep the pitching staff under control. Throughout the season, we had a lot of changes and he was kind of the glue that held everyone together through the entire year.
From a pitching standpoint, Enrique Gonzalez converted from a relief guy into a starter's role and absolutely dominated. He's now on the 40-man roster.
Jason Bulger and Justin Wechsler were with us, both as closers and they both stepped up. I think with all these guys, from a Diamondbacks perspective, there's a lot to be optimistic about, because there's a core group of guys that are moving up in this organization that are going to prove that they can succeed at the next level.
As I said before, the JetHawks had a great season, quite possibly one of their best seasons. This was in large part because of Wally Backman. What kind of manager was Wally during his time in Lancaster?
Wally was great. What I look for in a manager has nothing to do really with baseball. It's how do they interact with us and what they are willing to do. Anytime we needed a player to sign an autograph or make an appearance or do something, Wally was backing it up one hundred percent. That's what you need in a manager at the minor league level: someone who is willing to do some of the things that, from a community standpoint, we need. From a baseball perspective, it doesn't get any better than what Wally offers. During one of his suspensions, I had the opportunity to sit up and watch part of a couple of innings with him. Watching him dissect certain situations as they're taking place and then, in essence, predict what's going to happen, was remarkable. The guy was always doing his homework before and after games, identifying things that the team could take advantage of. From that perspective, it doesn't get any better in terms of a baseball guy. And then you have a team with players who will walk through a brick wall for him. So, he brought that to the table. Yes, he's going to get on your case, but at the same time, you're going to want to play for this guy. So, all of it wrapped up into a package was as good as it gets from a baseball perspective.
As a GM, taking into account his stellar baseball past, do you think that Wally's past off the field should have been a factor in getting the Diamondbacks managerial position?
In terms of Wally's background, it is what it is. You'd like to think that someone has overcome that and gotten by. Did it warrant his firing? I can't say. It's not my decision; I don't know all the facts. I only know what it was like working with Wally for one year and from my perspective, it was a great experience. So, it's tough to say how the other stuff factors into everything.
Are you involved in any way of hiring a new manager for the JetHawks?
The Diamondback organization tells me that they're making their decision on who our coaching staff is going to be, but I don't have any say in that. They say, "here's three or four guys, and they'll be joining you next year." Then, I make contact with those guys, introduce myself and we see each other next year.
Do they give you any names of people up for the job?
Well, they give me some names and they give me some ideas of what they're thinking, but they say they'll let me know. The Diamondbacks have gone through a lot of changes at the Major League level. So, as they determine who their coaching staff is going to be, it all kind of trickles down from there, and that has an effect all the way down the organization. They'll give me an idea of who they're looking at, but nothing's set in stone until they call me and say, "this guy's coming."
And do you know when that might be?
With in the next couple of weeks. Probably shortly after Thanksgiving. Last time I talked to them was last week and they're narrowing things down.
One final off the wall question: Did you see the brawl at the Pistons/Pacers game or the similar brawl at the Ranger/A's game earlier this year? Have you ever seen anything like that in your career and how would a situation like that be handled in Lancaster?
One thing is, at this level, fans aren't knowledgeable about who our players are, except for a very small few. For the most part, when you're talking about a Major League player, regardless of the sport, you're constantly hearing about them in the media. You're hearing about their personalities, about their transgressions or things that go on and why they're good or bad and that carries over to fans that attend those games. The fans like to heckle and you're not going to see that necessarily at this level. Except for the very few fans that study on this. The majority of our fans are here, again, for reasons other than baseball. They're here for a community event, they're here for a bobble head that we're going to giveaway, or they're here for fireworks. So, what it comes down to is you don't have the animosity between the fans and the players at this level. However, I never say never, because you never know what could happen. I've been to games where, especially with the independent club, there were certain managers or certain players that had been in the league for four or five years that developed some sort of reputation that the fan base got to know and they like to get on a little bit. I've seen beer thrown at a manager, that type of thing, but erupting into something bigger? No. I think it would be a very rare occasion for that to even happen at this level. But, it's something that we have to keep in the back of our minds. We're in a venue that has 3,000 to 4,000 people on any given night – anything could happen. If there's a fight on the field, that obviously gets everybody jazzed up and you can see it when the intensity level in a ballpark picks up a notch. People are more vocal or they're heckling another club. So, those are things for us to be aware of. We have to try to go in and squash that intensity right away, whether it's escorting a fan out or telling a fan to calm down or having security really be attentive to what's going on. That's how we are able to avoid those things.