Kevin Towers, Kirk Gibson And The Rest Of The Front Office Deserve Much Of The Credit For Team’s Hustle, Play, Success
Kevin Towers is the closest thing the Diamondbacks have had as a general manager since Joe Garagiola, Jr.
By Bob Goodwood
Special for Modern Times Magazine .com
May 24, 2011 — So the Arizona Diamondbacks are relevant once again. A six-game home winning streak has them back in the thick of things heading into a long road trip and the month of June.
Not many would have ‘thunk’ it before the season, except for Kevin Towers, Kirk Gibson, the coaching staff and a few others, but here it is — 23-23.
It was a long road to get there and it is an even longer road to remain in contention. Even if they come up short in a bid for a playoff spot, kudos have to be handed to Towers and Gibson for the way they have handled the team. They have taken a group of guys with talent and turned them into a talented team in less than a year.
The success stories are everywhere: Josh Collmenter, David Hernandez, Willie Bloomquist, J.J. Putz, and of course, Ryan Roberts. But it is how failures and disappointments have been handled that has helped bring about this recent success.
Collmenter is flourishing precisely because it was decided that Enright just wasn’t pulling his weight. But Collmenter did not just succeed through destiny but because the Diamondbacks front office handled him correctly. They thought his arm slot might play well in the big leagues in Spring Training so when he had success early on in the minor leagues, they brought him up and he flourished in a relief role. So, when he made his first start it was not his first major league appearance. He was put into the proper position to be successful. At that point, all he had to do was trust in his talent.
And he has. It has been wonderful to watch.
But perhaps the most masterful bit of maneuvering that the Diamondbacks brass has accomplished has been at first base. They took Juan Miranda — a guy that hadn’t had much time at the major league level — and they eased him in. They brought in Russell Branyan, who thankfully for Miranda’s development, made the team out of Spring Training. The pressure was solidly off Miranda at that point. He then forced his way into the lineup when Branyan struggled.
Over his past 10 games, Miranda is batting .375 with one home run, three doubles, a triple and five runs batted in. On May 10 he had a batting average of .217. As of Monday, he was batting .272.
But the first base management plan has not only been manifested at the major league level but in the minors too. By now, everyone has heard that Paul Goldschmidt is tearing up the Southern League. He has 15 home runs and nearly 50 runs batted in while hitting over .330. But, Towers is taking his time and he should. Either Miranda will develop and he can be later traded if Goldschmidt works out or maybe Goldie can bring a quality arm by his reputation alone. Either way it has been masterful.
The Diamondbacks have been for real on this home stand and the team stats bear that out. There are no MVP candidates on this team with staggering numbers — except maybe J.J. Putz if he can keep it up. But, there is a group of guys that can deliver the big play at any moment.
Baseball is flush with stats and minutiae, but the stat that means the most day after day, after day, after day, is runs scored versus runs allowed. After all, the point of the game is to score more runs than the other guys, right?
Teams that score more runs than they allow are always the teams that are winning. This year, the only teams that have more runs scored than runs allowed are the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Atlanta Braves, Florida Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and, surprise, Arizona Diamondbacks.
Seems like the Diamondbacks are truly in good company, as they are the only team on the list that are not several games over .500. But the Dbacks are only +3 where the St. Louis Cardinals are +50 and have scored more runs than any team in the league.
The Cardinals and Reds are winning with great offense and above average pitching. Those two teams are first and second in runs scored with 243 and 237 but only in the middle of the pack with 193 and 214 runs allowed.
The Phillies and Giants are doing it with pitching. They lead the league in runs allowed with 146 and 160, but they are near the bottom in runs scored with 176 and 163.
The Diamondbacks are 23-23 with 204 runs scored and 203 runs allowed. That puts them right smack in the middle of average.
But after a year like 2010, Arizona Diamondbacks fans will surely take that through the first two months. More personnel moves are ahead and there still might be a trade or two in order to strengthen the pitching staff.
But all optimism might be blunted over the next two weeks as the Dbacks will again hit the road which has been a roadshow of horrors over the past couple of years. This year, they are a paltry 7-13 on the road.
Another trip like the one they had before the most successful home stand since 2008 and they will be right back where they started: looking up at mount .500.
But at least there will be meaningful baseball in the desert this June.
And, if Towers can get another arm or two, there just might be a chase for a playoff spot.
Now, let’s play two.
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