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LaRussa, Dbacks Brain Trust

Pushing The Right Buttons

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Tony LaRussa. Image by Luke X. Martin and used under a Creative Commons License.
With Performances Indicative Of A Young, Hungry Team, The 2015 Arizona Diamondbacks Have Been Properly Motivated Through Guile And Cunning — And Perhaps The Tomas Experiment Was More About Lamb

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By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine

April 15, 2015 — After the disaster that was the 2014 season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, it was only natural for fans, media, pundits and even some baseball experts to scoff at Tony LaRussa and his hand-picked brain trust’s belief that the 2015 squad could compete.

Okay, maybe scoff is a bit too polite. They, in fact, were laughing their asses off.

While it is still very early — tremendously early, in fact — through the first week or so of the 2015 season, this incarnation of the Arizona Diamondbacks has shown it will compete as long as most of the regulars remain healthy. As always, keeping the best talent on the field is THE most important element to every team’s success. The decimation of the Dbacks’ pitching staff in 2014 — Corbin, Hernandez, Arroyo — was the single biggest factor in the team’s demise after all.

But beyond staying healthy is putting the best talent available in the best available position to succeed individually and consequently for the team. In this regard, LaRussa and the Diamondbacks so far have succeeded in bringing out the best in young and unproven players who have played such a big role in the early success.

While the players deserve kudos for their efforts — namely Ender Inciarte, Jake Lamb and Archie Bradley — Chief Baseball Officer LaRussa and his front office have not simply been bystanders in their development. Rather, they helped nurture and promote this growth in a way that early on in 2015, something many front offices aspire to, but few actually accomplish.

Whether by cunning or calculated risk, the early stellar performances by Jake Lamb, Ender Inciarte and Archie Bradley can be attributed to how they were groomed for the season over the off-season and during Spring Training.

Perhaps the biggest of all of the early-season success stories is Jake Lamb. Even though the national media and many fans thought the Yasmany Tomas third-base experiment was a failure, it is likely that the whole affair was really designed to motivate, focus and settle Jake Lamb at third-base. Competition was a hallmark of what LaRussa was preaching and the Tomas-Lamb affair is indicative of that.

Besides, if Tomas was out into an already jammed-up outfield, it would have accomplished little-else than to make a worse situation. Instead, LaRussa and company took a potential pitfall and turned it into a positive.

Ditto for Ender Inciarte.

He has outplayed a legitimate All-Star contender in AJ Pollack. Heck, he has been THE spark plug for this squad so far and nearly won the game for the squad against the Padres in the series-opener Monday night.

Again, this has LaRussa’s motivational tactics written all over it.

Again, competition.

Anyone starting to see a pattern?

If not, take a long look at the next recipient of the competition motivation team: Archie Bradley.

Sure, maybe Bradley has finally come into his own. Or maybe, Randy Johnson imparted some magical words of wisdom.

Regardless, the fact that he was being doubted publically by General Manager Dave Stewart less than two weeks before camp ended, then proceeded to deliver two performances that were amongst the best of the spring, he earned a spot in the rotation.

He then followed that up with a six-inning, one-hit performance against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He will next face Madison Bumgarner in the opener of a series against the San Francisco Giants Thursday night.

Sure, some will say the Diamondbacks will wilt and cannot keep up the pace for 162 games, and maybe the naysayers are right.

But with the performance of the team so far in 2015, betting against the competitive Tony LaRussa and crew might not be so smart.

Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.
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