I'm not sure many Diamondbacks fans share that apparently unshakeable certainty at the moment, after consecutive seasons where the needle remained resolutely stuck at 81 wins. But if positive thinking wins pennants, our manager Kirk Gibson seems to have another title locked up, based on his comments in an interview with the Republic's Dan Bickley today. It's an interesting interview, well worth a read in full, but let's touch on the key quotes
Why he doesn't show more fire
As a player, Gibson was notably demonstrative - never more than his epic World Series home-run, whose 25th anniversary passed last month. But the managerial version has generally been a great deal calmer (though that said, Gibby was ejected from a career-high four games this season - Clint Hurdle and Dale Sveum led the majors with six apiece). Gibson says he has to be more restrained as a manager. "I’m steering the ship. Everyone else is throwing up? I don’t have the option to throw up. I have to be the last one off... I’m really the same guy inside. I burn inside. You’re just not going to see that."
On not applying for the Tigers' job
Bickley described Gibson as the "ideal replacement" for Jim Leyland in Detroit, calling Kirk "the ultimate Michigan man," and saying his decision to take himself out of contention, especially given the lack of a contract extension in Arizona was "not normal behavior." Gibson disagreed, stating "I love what I do. I love who I work for," and also indicated how much things had changed since he took over in mid-2010. "I remember when I first took over and the guys used to say, ‘F the fans.’ We had to change that. But this group of players is good, and they get it. They’re people you want to share with."
I do wonder which members of the 2010 roster were the ones saying "F the fans." Hard to be sure, given the wholesale house cleaning which has gone on since. Of the 48 players used by the Diamondbacks that season, almost all are now gone: the only survivors are Gerardo Parra, Miguel Montero and Daniel Hudson. But does that "matter"? As a fan, would I rather have a winning team of arrogant, self-centered bastards, or a lovable bunch of players who make tee reservations for October? Of course, we'd rather have both. But if forced to choose, which way would you jump? Hence today's poll...
The Diamondbacks way
That said, I am happy to enjoy the ongoing sense of moral superiority to the Dodgers, and Gibson called them out again, this time on their apparent disinterest in the Australian series which opens next season. "We had Goldy go down, along with Patrick Corbin and Derrick Hall, our president and CEO. Who’s the other team got down there? Are they too (expletive) good? Honestly?" A fair point, especially considering the D-backs are giving up two home dates for the series, but Gibson was even blunter about the overall approach, saying "I’ll put our organization up against anybody’s in terms of doing the right thing." I'm inclined to agree there, and it's certainly good.
Improving in 2014
We are less than a month in to the off-season, so it is perhaps a bit too early to be looking for wholesale change in the team. But I was quite disappointed by this section "[Gibson] says the only thing missing from his team is "that little edge we’re looking for"... Tweaking personnel to enhance the group’s competitive nature will be the most critical thing that transpires this off-season." Really? A team which saw its run differential go from +46 to -10 seems to have bigger issues than enhancing its "competitive nature". And wasn't the 2013 version supposed to be constructed carefully toward that very end? Not the grit you were looking for, Gibby-wan Kenobi?
He points to the Pirates as an example of "a franchise that stuck with a plan, fought through heartbreak, tweaked the recipe, and finally broke through last season." Certainly, in Goldschmidt, the D-backs have someone capable of leading them to the post-season, in the same way MVP Andrew McCutchen did in Pittsburgh. But I think the Pirates also did a bit more last winter than "tweaking," adding the likes of Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano, whose combined value was more than seven wins - not far short of McCutchen - for the Pirates this year. Will 2014 see a new everyday starter or rotation arm for Arizona? My magic 8-ball is cloudy on that one...