"I really feel like for our organization and where we're going we start fresh with the manager. We just decided that being fresh, starting fresh, with not just the upstairs leadership team but downstairs, is more consistent with what we are doing as an organization."
-- Tony La Russa
The news of Gibson's termination hardly came as a surprise - many expected it from the moment La Russa was hired. But not many would have had it coming 159 games into the season. It was almost simultaneously with the start of the press conference at Chase, to introduce the new management team, that the official announcement was made:
#Dbacks manager Kirk Gibson and bench coach Alan Trammell have been relieved of their duties.— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) September 26, 2014
Gibson had the longest tenure of any Diamondbacks manager, occupying the position for a total of 728 games, 51 more than Bob Melvin. But his overall winning percentage was .485, ahead only of short-term occupants of the hot seat, A.J. Hinch and Al Pedrique. His teams finished every spot in the NL West possible save fourth, but it was his inability to do anything about the 2014 pile-up which likely cost Gibson his job. After playing .500 ball from May through July, the wheels fell off over the last couple of months. The Diamondbacks went 15-35 since the start of August, their worst record over any 50-game period in a single season for a decade.
"I am extremely appreciative for this opportunity and I had a great experience with the Diamondbacks. I know we had a tough year and people will look at this as a negative, but we accomplished a lot of good things here. I told the team that I have nothing but the utmost respect for this organization and the people I've met along the way. Most of all, I'd like to thank the players, coaches, staff and everyone within the organization for their unwavering support while I was here."
-- Kirk Gibson
It's an odd twist that bench coach Alan Trammell - fired alongside Gibson - will stick around to manage the team for the final series of the year. Admittedly, given there are only three games left, it's not worth appointing any kind of interim manager, but it's strange to see a dead man walking in the Arizona dugout. The timing generally is pretty strange. La Russa said he had promised to tell Gibson as soon as he decided, and that was apparently this morning. But which one of them was it, who decided Gibson should not see out the final three games? Maybe Cap'n Kirk just didn't want to stick around.
"The players all loved him. Everyone loved him. He was working as hard as anyone. We know that performance is how it is in this game, so when you have the worst record in baseball, you know change may be possible. We all know how the game works. Wins and losses. Batting average. ERA. This game is about performance. Right or wrong, it doesn't matter if it is your fault sometimes. It comes down to that."
-- Paul Goldschmidt
The process to find a replacement is under way, and names of interest cropped up during the press conference, both internally and externally. Minor-league managers in the Diamondbacks' farm system, Phil Nevin and Andy Green were mentioned by La Russa, along with current hitting coach Turner Ward. If the team opts to go outside the organization, Jose Oquendo, third-base coach for the Cardinals, is currently in town, and was seen talking with La Russa and Dave Duncan during batting practice this afternoon. Joe McEwing is another name mentioned in more than one place. He's currently third-base coach for the White Sox, and played under La Russa in St. Louis.,
"I’m not outwardly looking for a position from the White Sox. This is my home and my organization. I focus on the things I can control and that’s helping us try to win a ballgame tonight. If it presented itself, have the conversation and see where it is. But I’m focused on right here and I’ve always worried about things in my control and not exterior distractions. Whether it be in baseball or everyday life, that’s how I try to be with things."
-- Joe McEwing
Other possibilities? Take your pick from this trio of bench coaches. Mike Aldrete, like Oquendo, in town with the Cardinals. Terry Steinbach, occupying the same position for the Minnesota Twins. And Nick Piecoro Tweeted an intriguing name in a member of the 2001 World Series champion Diamondbacks, Jay Bell, who is currently with the Cincinnati Reds. But it doesn't seem the team will rush into a decision, La Russa saying, "We're going to just take our time, make sure that we put the names together that are right. Not only match what we're looking for, but are a good complement to the players that we have in our clubhouse and on our team."
"We are looking for somebody who can lead this club, not just in the short term but the long term. There are some good names out there. We've got veteran guys who are out there that are available, and we've got some young stars that are actually within our system. We definitely are going to look at those guys, but the outside guys we are going to take a little bit more time and really, really do a good job of who we bring in here."
-- Dave Stewart
It seems likely the decision will be a communal one, albeit with La Russa having the final say. Input will come from Stewart obviously, perhaps pitching advisor Dave Duncan and maybe even Kevin Towers, whom it appears the team does want to stick around, in some role. He was sitting at the back of the room with other employees, during the press conference to introduce his successor, which has to be weird. If Towers does stay - and since the club will be paying him regardless, I can see why they might as well make use of him in some way - his precise role is just one of the many aspects to be sorted out by the Diamondbacks, over the coming weeks.