Hale's plan: Make every player '15 percent' better
New manager's statement drew attention of La Russa, Stewart
PHOENIX -- During his managerial interview with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chip Hale said his goal has been to try and make each player he has come in contact with 15 percent better.
D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager, immediately jotted that down on his notepad. The statement also drew the attention of general manager Dave Stewart.
"He was the only one in the interview process that made mention of that 15 percent," Stewart said. "To me, that shows that he's going to get in there and grind and pay attention to the small things and even more important, it leads you to believe he's a motivator. He can motivate the kids to play better."
That Hale was introduced Monday as the sixth fulltime manager in D-backs history speaks to how much confidence La Russa and Stewart feel that he can do just that.
"That's just something that I've always thought about since rookie ball," Hale said of his 15 percent philosophy. "Our mantra was, you look at your team and say, OK, this guy is a 30 [on a 20-80 scale used by scouts], well, I'm going to make him a 35. I'm going to make him a 45. You have the present and the future grades. That's where that comes from. If I'm doing the fantasy camp, then by the end of the week they're going to be better players. In Triple-A, they tell us this guy is a lifetime Triple-A guy, but I wouldn't ever want him to think that. I would want him to play above his talents."
Hale was chosen out of a nine-man candidate pool that also included Sandy Alomar Jr., Jay Bell, Tim Bogar, Andy Green, Joe McEwing, Phil Nevin, Jim Tracy and Turner Ward.
"It feels like coming home again," Hale said.
That's because it was a homecoming for Hale, who got his managing start in the Minor Leagues with the D-backs in 2000. Hale managed in the Arizona system through 2006 before being asked to join the big league staff under manager Bob Melvin.
Hale moved on to the Mets in 2010 and after two seasons rejoined Melvin in Oakland serving as bench coach for three seasons. He inherits a last-place team that finished 64-98 and he takes over for Kirk Gibson, who was dismissed with three games left in the regular season.
Winning has long been a part of Hale's resume.
In his first year as a professional manager, in 2000, Hale led Rookie-level Missoula to a second-half championship, and he was named the Pioneer League's Manager of the Year the following season. He led Tucson to Pacific Coast League and Triple-A titles in 2006 with a 91-53 mark and had a .540 winning percentage in three seasons with the team.
Hale starred collegiately at the University of Arizona from 1984-87, starting every game during his college career, and he established school career records for hits and walks. He batted .345 in 1986, when UA won the College World Series.
"It was just the completeness of his background and the way he presented himself," La Russa said. "We were looking for a leader and a guy who loves baseball, and there wasn't a box he didn't have checked."
In fact, the D-backs judged their candidates by five categories: Leadership, handling a pitching staff, offensive creativity, personality and experience. La Russa and his staff then assigned points in each category to each candidate and Hale came out on top.
Hale admitted to being slightly intimidated walking into a managerial interview with La Russa, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past summer, but said that now that he has the job he's looking forward to learning from a legend.
"It's going to be unbelievable," Hale said. "We've already talked about how it's going to work. Basically, I manage the games and when the game's over, Dave and I talk about the game and Tony will always be there to help me. If I have questions, if he has suggestions. I mean, who would not listen to Tony La Russa, correct? For me, it's the greatest sounding board. I've already asked him two or three things about things he did as a manager that I saw as a player or coach. What were the reasons for it? It's like reading a book. His answers are just perfect. I think it's going to be a big help for me."
La Russa made it clear that he "won't do anything to undercut" Hale and believes that the manager should be the one who makes out the lineup card, decides how to use pitchers and makes the in-game strategy decisions.
Still to be decided is the composition of Hale's coaching staff. La Russa seemed to indicate Monday that pitching coach Mike Harkey, bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and first-base coach Dave McKay would definitely be back. As for the rest, Hale will have input and if all the current coaches were to return that would still leave the bench coach spot, which came open when the team dismissed Alan Trammell.