Mike Hazen seemingly had the perfect job, working in his hometown as the general manager of the Boston Red Sox.
One aspect was missing: Final say in baseball decisions. That belonged to president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
So even though Arizona is on the other side of the country and the franchise has been stuck in a rut, Hazen jumped at the chance to become vice president and general manager of the Diamondbacks.
“There are some great players here and my job is to help bring this franchise to the next level,” Hazen said during his introductory news conference Monday. “It’s an enormous responsibility and we’re here to make a commitment to the fans. First and foremost we’re here to win a championship.”
The Diamondbacks were searching for someone with a blend of traditional baseball evaluation skills and analytics after firing GM Dave Stewart a day after the 2016 season end.
The 40-year-old Hazen fits that bill.
He was a two-time All-Ivy League player at Princeton and played two seasons in the minors after graduating and being drafted by the San Diego Padres in 1998.
Hazen spent five seasons with the Cleveland Indians, working in scouting and player development, before moving to Boston. He worked 11 seasons with the Red Sox, winning World Series titles in 2007 and 2013 while making the postseason five times.
Hazen was involved in every aspect of baseball operations in Boston and spent four seasons as assistant GM before being promoted to vice president and general manager before the 2016 season.
“He’s been a part of championships, he’s been a leader, he’ll be a leader here and will, without a doubt, outwork us all,” Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick said.
Hazen’s first order of business will be to replace manager Chip Hale, who was fired the same day as Stewart.
He could turn to Phil Nevin, the manager of Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate, who interviewed for the job when Hale was hired.
Another potential candidate could be Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, who has a good relationship with Hazen.
“In my opinion, he is ready to be a major league manager,” Dombrowski said from Boston. “Whether he would be their top choice, I can’t say. We would not stand in his way.”
After that, Hazen will begin reshaping an organization that has had only brief periods of success since winning the 2001 World Series.
Arizona won the 2011 NL West title, but followed that with five straight non-winning seasons. The Diamondbacks went 79-83 in their first season under Stewart and Hale, but took a step back this season (69-93) despite adding pitchers Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller.
“I want to help in any way possible in my role to make this a great franchise — it is a great franchise — to take it to another level,” Hazen said. “It will be my goal every day I come to work, it’ll be the goal of all those who work beside me and I’m excited to start doing that.”
With the addition of Hazen, the role of Tony La Russa will change with the Diamondbacks. He has served as chief baseball officer the past two seasons and now will shift back into an advisory role.
“I have 50 years of teaching and developed credibility and trust,” La Russa said. “If I left after the season we had, I couldn’t live with that the rest of my life.”