Baseball Gods Smile On Arizona Diamondbacks
Paying Homage To The Historical Lessons Of The Game Bring Gibby’s Grinders A Division Title
Kirk Gibson deserves some big-time praise for the performance of the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks.
By Bob Goodwood
Special for Modern Times Magazine
Sept. 24, 2011 — Rumor has it the Arizona Diamondbacks had decided as a group that no one was to say, “I told you so,” after they clinched the National League West title.
Such behavior is no surprise coming from this principled crew. All season long they have shown a tenacity to achieve and if not, to wring every ounce of will and intention into the battle.
But thankfully, I am not affiliated with the Diamondbacks. So, I will say it for them.
“Nah, nah, nah, I tooooold youuuu,” from me personally.
With all thanks to the editor who is allowing this “neener, neener” moment, I must remind anyone and everyone to go and read this link from an article I wrote March 28, 2011. In ‘said’ article (I am trying to make it sound real legal-like), I derided all the ‘expert’ prognosticators about their predictions that the Arizona Diamondbacks would be so bad that Gonzo would come out of retirement.
I reminded every one that Spring Training means very little and that all the team had needed since 2007 was a quality bullpen and for Josh Byrnes to have been fired before Bob Melvin.
Although I felt all the “experts” were unnecessarily piling on the Diamondbacks, I especially called out Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, azcentral.com and every other Gannett property on the face of the earth. After Spring Training, he operated under the assumption that the Dbacks wouldn’t be contending. Like it was predestined by the Fates or something.
But as the season went on, he was even worse. Instead of leading his readers on a thrill ride with the team, he constantly keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. By the All-Star game he progressed to assuming that the Dbacks would never catch the Atlanta Braves or Milwaukee Brewers. The Giants? No way, they were the champs. They have Lincecum!
This is the guy who is the Baseball Writers Association member at the region’s biggest news source. The guy must be great, huh? He and most of the other BBWA writers are some of the worst “experts” ever. So are the hacks on radio and the talking heads on television. Many “experts” proved they weren’t worth the weight of their egos this season.
But we will leave them alone. They are just doing their jobs. It’s not their fault that they suck at their jobs.
Anyway, I wrote in the March 28 article that if the Diamondbacks wanted to contend, they could only accomplish it by listening to the lessons learned from ballplayers and coaches of days gone by. They had the skills, but the whole organization had lost its magic inside one of Josh Byrnes’ computers or something. If they did heed those historical lessons, the baseball gods just might smile on them.
If the spirits of the mythic greats known as the “baseball gods” do roam ballparks as some romantics might attest, then surely Bob Feller, Bob Gibson, Lou Gehrig and Bob Lemon are smiling on the Diamondbacks.
First and foremost though, the players deserve all the credit. They made the pitches, got a hit, took a walk, whatever. They won it.
But they had a lot of help. And most of it came from what might just be one of the best coaching staffs in history. Pitching Coach Charles Nagy, Hitting Coach Don Baylor, Bench Coach Alan Trammell, First Base Coach Eric Young, Third Base Coach Matt Williams, Manager Kirk Gibson and the rest of the staff have done wonders with the preparation and psychology of this team. The front office of Kevin Towers, Jerry DiPoto and many others can also not be overlooked.
Towers provided a bullpen and the coaching staff molded the players into a team with one goal: win. Winning is a lot easier with a good bullpen and might be precisely why Bob Lemon might be smiling at Diamondbacks success in 2011.
Bob Lemon said in 1981, “I've come to the conclusion that the two most important things in life are good friends and a good bullpen.”
And both the pitchers they had, and the new ones they got, stopped trying to accomplish anything but getting batters and base runners out. If a reliever — or starter for that matter — was walking batters, he was gone. Pitchers began to encourage contact that put them at an advantage.
That made baseball god Bob Gibson smile (and yes, he is still alive).
“Believe me, I would much rather get three outs on three pitches than three outs on nine pitches, because that's going to make me that much stronger at the end of the game. My pitching philosophy is simple. I believe in getting the ball over the plate and not walking a lot of men,” Bob Gibson said.
But a baseball lesson that was eloquently related by the iconic Lou Gehrig, whose sentiments were expressed decades ago in another time and place, were a lesson for Justin Upton.
“The ballplayer who loses his head, who can't keep his cool, is worse than no ballplayer at all," Gehrig said.
It is hard to argue that Upton’s channelling of his intense competitive nature have helped to take him to the next level. His 2011 performance has set a new benchmark in his career and much of is attributable to his growth as a man. He was already a great ballplayer.
But the one baseball god that might be up in some heaven that looks like a baseball field in the middle of an Iowa cornfield smiling from ear to ear has got to be Bob Feller. And the guy that really puts a twinkle in his eye is Kirk Gibson.
Early in the spring, Gibson was heard to say, “we have to be our own experts,” in response to the supposed “experts” predicting failure as mentioned above.
The funny thing is Gibson was still saying the same thing after they clinched the National League West.
Surely, Feller is smiling. For, he said, “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again. That's the way life is, with a new game every day, and that's the way baseball is."
All of the experts such as Piecoro and the rest of the chronically inept — talking to you, talk-radio boneheads — might want to remember Bob Feller’s quote when they are saying there is no way the Diamondbacks can beat the Philadelphia Phillies.
They can. It is possible. It may not be probable but it is possible.
And it might just come true.
So beware, O experts. The baseball gods might not be done laughing at you yet.
Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.