Arizona Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart showed up to work as usual Monday morning, and got a telephone call around 1 p.m. from his boss, Tony La Russa.
The moment he walked in, he knew what this was about.
The anguish on La Russa’s face said everything.
Stewart was fired.
Just two years into the job.
He spent the next 20 minutes consoling La Russa, telling him that was fine. They are close friends, have known one another for 30 years. They won a World Series together in Oakland, and three World Series with Stewart as the Athletics’ ace, and La Russa as manager.
It was La Russa who believed that Stewart would be the perfect man for the GM job when he was hired two years ago to head the Diamondbacks’ baseball operations.
Now, two years later, La Russa was telling him that he still believes in him, but he was ordered to fire Stewart. The Diamondbacks have yet to determine La Russa’s future role, while La Russa must decide whether he wants to stay.
“They may think I’m going to blast people, but I’m not,’’ said Stewart, who already had dozens of clubs and sports agencies reach out to him. “It is what it is. It’s that side of the business. To be honest with you, I’m kind of relieved.
“Quite frankly, I’ve got better things to do.’’
There was no malice in his voice. He didn’t chastise owner Ken Kendrick or president Derrick Hall. He called them good people, but things were just different than he imagined.
“I don’t have anything bad to say about Ken Kendrick,’’ Stewart said. “I’m not mad at this guy. He’s different. I’m different.
“Really, we were oil and water.’’
Stewart, speaking from his Scottsdale condominium, will stay in Phoenix for a few days before packing his bags for his home in San Diego. He has an office to clean out. And a whole lot of good-byes.
“I’m leaving behind a bunch of good people,’’ said Stewart, who left his agent business to take the D-backs job in 2014, replacing Kevin Towers. “We have a lot of good scouts here, a lot of people I relied on. This team will be back. They’re not far away at all.’’
The D-backs, who also fired manager Chip Hale, finished in fourth place with a 69-93 record in the NL West, with only the San Diego Padres (68-94) and Cincinnati Reds (68-94) having worst records in the league.
“Everybody keeps talking about the Shelby Miller trade,’’ Stewart said, “but I made other trades too. We made plenty of other trades, too. I trusted my scouts. I valued their opinion. I was the one who ultimately made the decisions, and I’ll stand by that.
"But you look at everything, and I feel like I did a pretty good job here.
"You may not know it for a couple of years, but you will.’’
The firing of Stewart leaves Major League Baseball without an African-American GM. Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox and Mike Hill of the Miami Marlins were former GMs, but have since been promoted to club presidents.
Yet, unlike 2001 when he was passed over for the Toronto Blue Jays’ job when they instead promoted J.P. Ricciardi, Stewart doesn’t believe race played a factor. It was more of personality differences than color of skin, Stewart says.
“When I left Toronto,’’ said Stewart, who resigned from the Blue Jays, “I was angry. I’m not angry this time. It’s just different. Almost a relief.
“I just got to figure out what to do next, but really, I’ll be just fine.’’