My first reaction upon hearing that Tony La Russa and the Arizona Diamondbacks had hired Chip Hale to manage the team was, “Who?” And yeah, Walter William “Chip” Hale is not a household name. He played parts of seven seasons as a utility guy, Mostly for the Twins and finished up his minor league career with Memphis, the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate. As such, La Russa would know him and the choice makes more sense.
The hiring of Hale does fly in the face of what has been going on in managerial hires of the past seasons. New managers have either been former players getting their first managerial starts without much experience (Ausmus, Mattingly and even Kirk Gibson) or former catchers as that field position seems to be favored.
Chip Hale is not a guy without experience and he is not a former catcher. He played just about every infield and outfield position, but was never a catcher. And you can certainly tell he paid his dues managing in the minors.
Two years after his playing career ended in 1998, Hale was hired by the Diamondbacks to manage their rookie league team. He moved up to Double-A in 2002 and to the Triple-A Tuscon Sidewinders in 2003. He spent three years there and his 2006 team won 91 games.
Since then, he has coached in the big leagues, a year with the Diamondbacks and then the Mets. When he lost out on the managerial job there to Terry Collins, he moved on to the Oakland A’s where he has been the bench coach since.
It is sort of refreshing to see a baseball lifer kind of guy get the chance. There is no telling if this is a good move for the Diamondbacks or not. We can see with the selection that Tony La Russa is going against the current grain here and that makes the hire interesting by itself. After a miserable 2014, any change in Phoenix has to be a good one.