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Kirk Gibson, the Diamondbacks Clubhouse and Dare-Devil Catchers

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An interesting article by Ken Rosenthal on Fox Sports Arizona, concerning Kirk Gibson and his impact on the clubhouse. He went in thinking, "Either Kirk Gibson will get sick of the Diamondbacks or the Diamondbacks will get sick of him. It’s just a matter of which happens first," but left concluding, "Gibson will continue pounding until the D-backs get it right. The players won’t always like it, but I learned my lesson, and maybe they will, too. With Gibson, it’s wise to keep listening. First impressions go only so deep."

That said, it doesn't exactly make for optimistic reading.

Witness the following quotes:
  • "The Diamondbacks look awful."
  • " Talk to me in June, when the D-backs are hopelessly out of it, and we’ll see if Gibson is still on message."
  • "The question is how well Gibson’s players will adjust to his style — and whether the D-backs are talented enough for their manager to make even the slightest difference."
  • "One scout puts it best: The D-backs have no apparent strength."

Thank you, sir - may I have another? Though, hey - if it takes until June for us to be "hopelessly out of it", that will at least be an improvement on 2010, where we were 11.5 games back when the calendar was still showing May. But, much as A.J. Hinch had a clean slate to work with last spring, the same applies for Gibson now. Those brought in for their "veteran presence" mostly seem to be saying the right things, e.g Willie Bloomquist, "It goes back to paying attention to detail. If you’re too good for that — too cool for school — then maybe you ought to think about going somewhere else."

"Mostly" being the operative word, as Rosenthal also reports that "One veteran player expressed irritation with Gibson’s intensity, telling me that the manager needed to "dial it down."" Justin Upton appears to agree somewhat:, saying, "It may be a little over-demanding", but seems to see the need for it, then adding, "That’s what you need to change the culture of a clubhouse." I'm always fascinated by this kind of thing; the clubhouse is a mysterious world, generally as secretive as the Freemasons: never mind Las Vegas, what happens in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse.

Well, generally - unless you're the D-backs legendary omnivorous bullpen catcher, Jeff Motuzas, anyway. His role as Arizona's version of Johnny Knoxville is now a matter of public record after the Wall Street Journal exposed his willingness to do just about anything for money. I wouldn't recommend clicking on that link if you have just had your lunch. Or are about to. Or, in fact, if you were thinking of eating anything, ever again. Let's just say, the story brings a whole new meaning to the term "moth-eaten", and leave it at that. They say goalkeepers - be they soccer or hockey - are crazy; I tend to think the same may be true of catchers.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how things unfold once the season starts, and all the drills have to be put into practice in real games. The spring showing has not been impressive, but that might be because, as even Gibson acknowledges, "We have thrown a lot of them." In any job, a wholesale change in direction and approach is never easy [I've gone through a few], and it inevitably takes time to adapt. "When you introduce a way of playing, a way of competing, it’s outside of their box. It’s different. They’re somewhat uncomfortable. I understand that. I respect it. But we have to change our comfort zone sometimes if we want to get better."

The main advantage Kirk has is likely lower expectations, which will give him a longer leash if things take a while to come around: Going 12-17, as Bob Melvin did in 2009, or even 31-48, like A.J. Hinch last season, will probably not result in Gibson's dismissal. But one week from today, we'll get our first taste of the Gibson approach in practice, and start to see whether or not it will "make even the slightest difference."