You guys had a great year. What do you do to take that next step?
I think that, first of all, I was really proud of the year we had. Our guys came together in a very unique way, they believed, cared, trusted. I think all those things that go into a team feeling like they can be successful year in and year out are kind of built-in. But you're right, we do have to do a couple of extra things and raise the expectation and that's what we have done in Arizona.
So we're proud of what happened, we're turning the page, we have turned the page on 2017 and we'll get ready to, after the new year to get things moving downhill for another run. We know what it takes now. We know what the walk is. We know what the runway looks like. And when you get to the end of the runway and hopefully enter into the postseason that it's a whole new level of baseball and that you got to be ready to play.
I think that the Wild Card game took a little bit out of us. We were ready to playing the Dodgers, I just think we ran into a hot team and we got to make sure we're playing our best baseball at that time of year. So as we're moving forward we're not going to look past what we have to do during the year, but we know that there's an extra gear that we need to get to and we know what that feels like. And we fell short of our expectations and our overall goals, and I know that we're hungry to achieve things and bring it to the next level. How to crave that drive and that push and how to satisfy that hunger. That's what we learned.
Seems like you're going to bring back most of the team, but maybe not J.D. How do you look at the lineup without him?
Well, you're right, he was a tremendous addition to our lineup. We're always optimistic that we're going to continue to bring in really good players, and if one of them is J.D., he would be another, it would be another wonderful year for us. But if not, my expectations are that there's a natural progression that players walk through, that they're going to all get better, and get more experienced and have their own expectations raised to the level where they're going to fill in those gaps and fill in those voids. They know what a team needs to do to function and continue moving forward every single day and they're going to pick up the slack just because they know that there might be a little void there.
I want us all to remember for the first half of the season and beyond, until we did get J.D. we were a real good team, he just gave us that little push to take it to the next level. So I'm hoping because of what those guys tasted, touched and felt, that they understand what it will take to fill in those gaps.
Assuming that J.D. does not comeback, Christian Walker was pm the playoff team. Do you anticipate him being an active as a starting spot or a role player off the bench?
I look at all of our guys as contributors and Christian Walker certainly falls inside of that category. A player that we picked up on waivers from another organization, came in, was MVP of the Pacific Coast League and then found his way into our playoff roster. He got some big meaningful hits down the stretch, which is very hard to do for a young player who is trying to make impression.
So I love the approach, I love the ability to attack the ball and elevate the ball, I didn't get a chance to see him defensively as much as I would like to, but that's what we'll walk through in Spring Training. So we feel like we have a very, very talented group of players on our 40-man roster and it's up to us to make sure that we continue to develop the right guys and help us push forward to pick the best 25 to start the season in April.
What was J.D. like to manage?
It was such a fast-forming relationship which is a credit to him, he's just a very humble, down-to-earth easygoing guy, that off the field became a member of our family, our Arizona family. And inside of the day-to-day activities, I don't think I've seen a more passionate, smarter hitter walk through his day-to-day activities. He studies, he watches as much video as I've ever seen. He understands how the pitcher's going to attack him. He has a game plan against every pitcher and just watching the routine from the time the game started until he's finished with his at-bat never changed.
So he's a very dedicated, routine-oriented hitter and it all translates. I couldn't say enough good things about what he did to show the rest of our group what it takes to prepare for the moment and expect good outcomes from the moment.
Players today are bigger, stronger, faster than ever before. With all the information in the game, do you think they're actually smarter? Do they understand the game better than previous generations?
That's a loaded question. I think my dad and my grandfather teaching me the game from the ground level... Players like Mickey Mantle and hearing stories about Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, I would say that the players are probably just as talented, just as smart, maybe today's generation might be a little bit stronger because there's weightlifting; I don't think that was happening in the older days. There's also specific training, these guys are going very, very point specific on their bodies and areas that are going to be more conducive to add strength to their game.
So I just think it's a natural evolution where players have gotten more physical. That's helped them drive the ball out of the ballpark. You're talking about different things such as launch angles and spin rates, there's more technology which allows players to get more data and more information and visually speaking I know that there's a lot of video that these guys could walk, can get so they walk up to the plate more prepared.
I remember Alan Trammel saying to me when I was a rookie that it was almost unfair to me that the first time around the pitchers were going to have an advantage and the next time around - because I would get more familiar with them - the advantage would switch. Today that's more neutral. Players walk up to the plate knowing exactly what the pitchers have based on the video and the technology that's provided.
Due to circumstances, injuries last year Marte of the day really had to step up and he did. How do you see him fitting into the mix going into Spring Training?
Well, we have some very skilled middle infielders and we're very thankful for that so when we walk through that whole situation, Nick Ahmed goes down and Chris Owings goes down in a very short period of time, and we have somebody sitting in Triple-A that was our depth, and that's why he was brought over, and he went out and did his job and came up and was very, very productive. So without Ketel we would not have been in this position we were at the end of the year.
The way I'm viewing it is it's Spring Training, it's going to be very competitive. For the guys that are there and competing for a potential starting spot or a spot on the roster, I hope that they prepare themselves and get ready for a very, very spirited Spring Training because we are open-minded and we know that there's some very talented group of guys that we have not set up any structure, as to who is going to be the starter or what position. We're still walking through that right now, the dynamics of our team may change, I'm not exactly sure. I know our front office is trying to help us get better every single day.
Once we walk into Spring Training with those 40 men and the extra guys on the non-roster, we're going to have a very spirited competition and the best players will go out and perform and win their spots.
Unless you guys were deciding on an established closer, you might have an interesting situation in terms of how to use Archie. I'm curious how do you kind of value the versatility that he brought to last year's role?
Well, certainly it was nice to have Archie and Chafin on the back end, and we were filling in the seventh inning with some really, really talented guys as well. But Archie's so unique, last year he was a lockdown reliever, no matter when he came into the game, he was going to shut his inning down. We asked a lot of him. He comes in as a starter. He rotates into the bullpen, really that happened by accident.
I feel like when Spring Training starts we're going to stretch him out, prepare him as a starter because that's what his body's used to and I think that's what worked for him. And anything can happen. Last year we walked through a lot of injuries, so if you stretch him out we're going to have that ability to maybe shift him into a different role but for right now it looks like we're going to keep him in the bullpen. That would be my choice.
We're just going to try to build back-end pieces. Brad Boxberger is a guy that I've seen firsthand. He saved 40 games in a very rugged AL East and has great stuff and he's healthy, so we feel like with those two components on the back end of our bullpen and we're going to continue to build pieces we have pieces that are still there, we like the way that's shaping up. So I would like to have a closer, when we walk out of Spring Training, it's a probability that I feel strong about, but I don't know who that's going to be right now. We have to filter some things through and I know there's a lot of moving parts and things can change between now and that time.
If you have two catchers, do you still use them with individual pitchers that you did last year like Jeff with Greinke and Hermann with Robbie Ray, would you still keep that format?
J.R. Murphy is also in that mix as well. So the first thing I want to mention about CI is that I'm happy for him. He had a tremendous year and he's moved on and we're going to miss him. But much in the same when somebody steps away it's an opportunity for somebody else to step in and assume the new role. So we're going to lean a lot on the three catchers that we do have. Chris Herrmann, although he didn't have a great offensive year, made great strides working with Robbie Ray, I know he caught Taijuan an awful lot. So we will find the good mixture that works for each pitcher and each situation to help us win games.
I thought it worked very well last year with the three catchers and they were all healthy, through the end of the year, well for the most part, Jeff was a little nicked up, but they were able to sustain a very rugged pose and position and I thought our catching was very, very successful. So if we go with three guys again I would be very happy. How that breaks down we haven't determined yet.
Mike Hazen mentioned that Chris Owings could be used in kind of a super utility role bouncing around the infield and also help you out in the outfield. How do you see the middle infield positions right now?
I think that all the obvious ones, Nick Ahmed getting healthy, CO and Ketel, Daniel and Brandon, so there's five guys there that right now off the top of my head would be the starting candidates, the early candidates I should say. Once that shakes down I know that versatility plays a big role in inside of CO's game and I love that versatility. I love, first of all, having him in the lineup but what that versatility does is allows another really good player to go out and perform.
We're going to continue to explore that option as using him as that type of versatile athlete and I know he didn't play a lot of centerfield, he might have played an inning or two in left out of necessity. So if we go that route we're probably going to see him play all three outfield positions and both positions in the middle of the diamond. So we're still walking through that right now.
He's getting healthy, which is very, very important, but I like to have a lot of mainstays I like to have some structure where guys know where they're going every single day right to the same position but I also think versatility play as important role with certain players and the success of the team.
What was it like having Fernando Rodney as your closer, and what does a manager have to accept or deal with for that experience?
First of all Fernando saved 39 games for us, and it was almost unbelievable how good he was in spurts. A credit to him. Guy that's been around a long time, 40 years old and kept himself in really, really good shape for those of us that got a chance to watch him every single day, we could see that there was a tremendous work ethic that translated to success on the field. All that didn't happen by accident. Smart, caring, with really good stuff. It's hard to believe he's still throwing 95, 96 miles an hour with the stuff that he has.
So without him we would not have won that Wild Card spot. We wouldn't have had the success that we had during the season, and I think a lot of Fernando Rodney. Based on what I saw at the end of the year, seems like he might be able to pitch until he's 50, to be honest with you. He works extremely hard during his pregame. As hard as any pitcher we had in our system. Do I think there's stuff left? Absolutely. How much, I don't know.
I think the experience and the walk that he's taken has allowed him to know that there's situations that are never too big or never too small, he keeps it right down the middle. So he buckled a couple times and we stuck with him and that was because of his track record and if you look at the overall body of work, I think he was 39 out of 45 or 46 saves, I don't know I'm not exactly sure, but we decided to stick with him because of the track record and what he had done in the past and it was a proven guy and he didn't let us down.
Is Tomas starting in the outfield?
He's going to be one of the guys that's going to have to go out and compete. He's healthy, he had that lower core surgery and that lower core injury, but everything that's trending towards a very healthy Spring Training. He looks good. I've seen him working out at Chase, so he would absolutely be a guy we count on. There's thunder in his hands. I know he wants to continue improving in all areas of his game, which we need, and he can be a very exciting guy that can carry a roster. So we're excited about that. But health is the most important thing, and he's looking like he's very healthy.
If you carry two catchers, does that dictate 13 pitchers?
Those are always a challenge that we have carrying that third catcher. I think the ability of our starting pitchers and the consistency they showed this past year allowed us to keep three catchers all year long. We never really had to dig into that bullpen and carry an extra guy because they were all worn down. The starting pitching dictated a lot of the success of our year and a lot of the success of our roster being so consistent this past year.
I think that the construction of the team matters based on your personnel, but I really like the idea of having a third catcher, but with Chris Herrmann being so flexible he played a lot of left field last year I know he played infield and first base, I like that versatile type of player being able to kind of maneuver him in the National League is a great luxury.
Anthony Banda came up, made his debut last year. What was your assessment and what role do you see for him in 2018?
I see him competing as one of our starters. He came in to Spring Training last year and really opened my eyes. He attacked the zone with an aggressive fastball and that's what you want to see from every young pitcher, that they're not backing off of their best pitch or their most aggressive pitch. So I was impressed by that.
Then I watched him improve start to start. His first couple starts were very good. I know there was a couple wobbly ones mixed in there, but I enjoyed meeting him, watching him grow, and the comfort level in which he showed when he was on the mound. There was tremendous mound presence and the stuff improved. We need that to continue. It's a three-pitch mix, with that aggressive fastball, he could be a very, very exciting young starter for us this year.
What did you like about Ron Gardenhire as a bench coach and how do you think he benefited from his hiatus before getting a new job?
I felt like I was extremely lucky to first of all get in touch with him, spark his interest, sit down with him, interview him, and then offer him the position that he accepted. He's a special man because of his track record as a manager. He's won over a thousand games, and that all speaks for itself, but he's a kind, compassionate man that helped me grow up in my first year of being a manager. I can never thank him enough for what he brought to me day-in and day-out. It was the wisdom, it was the insight that he was able to share on a daily basis. It was the calm demeanor in which he delivered a lot of really, really important messages. I feel like I was lucky to have him sitting next to me for most of the season last year.
So I don't know what he was like as a manager before, I just know that's going to fit in very well with that group in Detroit, and Detroit got a very good manager and a good man.
At the end of the year when you evaluate the organization or certain points you probably try to evaluate yourself. What did you come up with at the end of the year?
I made a lot of mistakes. There's no doubt about that. I feel like I grew as a manager and understanding what it takes to make the right decision with a lot of stimulus and I relied on a lot of good people that were around me and I had to kind of do my own soul searching but learned how to rely on other people that helped me make good decision. So I would continue to ask questions of those around me and do what I could in that moment to make the right decision.
I was thankful for that, but at times I had to step out and make those few decisions that weren't so good and through experience you try not to walk down that road again, I'm not going to say that it's going to be a perfect science this next year but I learned how to let things go and not let it bother me. In certain situations where I was really disappointed in some of the decisions I made - that are all well documented, I'm sure - I just learned that's part of the game. I’ve got to turn the page as quickly as possible because the team will need me the next day.
I'm sure you went into spring and you said this is who we are, this is who we're going to be. Did you feel over the course of that seven months you stayed consistent in that?
I felt so. I felt like we did that. At times I felt like I was a broken record early on, but we were trying to change a culture, we were trying to establish what it took to be an Arizona Diamondback and I wanted our guys to go out and perform and show that every day what it meant to be an Arizona Diamondback and let their performance speak for itself, so teams would see that. We had to earn some respect in the National League, which I think we did.
That was my early message, and I didn't come off of that because I believe that's what it would take for us to be successful. I think by midseason we established that we were a team that a lot of teams needed it pay attention to. And I was very proud of what we established there.
With reliance on younger players getting greater and greater, how tricky is it thinking through long-term commitments to guys old enough to arrive at free agency, even if it's kind of in the middle of their prime, knowing what lies on the other side?
It's a very slippery slope. You have to be very careful about signing guys to a contract that may be a couple years too long and when organizations are challenged financially, you have to make some really key tough decisions. Passing on somebody might be the best move. So there are some challenges with that. We all know that there's some very well documented contracts right now that with some players that aren't playing or performing up to the level or expectations of what they're earning. That's just the nature of the game.
It's probably very dependent on each front office and each group so that each GM and president and owner as to what type of decisions they're willing to make. I just know that our front office is very diligent and hard working and very efficient in some of the decisions that they make.
How would you imagine J.D. Martinez, five years from now?
It's a key point right there because you have to look at the body and the mind and the soul and if anybody would have predicted that Pete Rose would have played until he's 45 when he was 25, would have said you're crazy, as hard as he played.
I know that there's some very unique set of circumstances and I've seen how hard J.D. works, I think that given his ages going to play several more years. I know that he's got a very healthy, strong body. That's information that I get to see inside of the clubhouse, so I know that he's the type of guy that could last the length of a long-term contract.