Welcome to the start of Frontier Days in the NL West.
Everything is set but a Duel from 50 paces.
Arizona has hired Kevin Towers to fill the job for which it turned him down for five years ago.
And as the Diamondbacks general manager, Towers now will take direct aim at the man who fired him in San Diego last October ... and the man who was running the Diamondbacks back in 2005 and declined to hire Towers then: Jeff Moorad.
Let's see some network reality show beat this.
Nothing fuels rivalries more than when they're personal. And if guys privately wanting to gouge out other guys' eyeballs qualifies as personal, well, this has become the NL Wild, Wild West and the next couple of years could be incredibly bloody, er, juicy.
Start with Towers, who is still stung by the sudden end of his 14-year run in San Diego as the most successful GM in Padres history. And as this year's club of overachieving Padres built largely by Towers has contended for the NL West title, the wound remains raw.
Move next to Moorad who, as vice-chairman and chief executive officer of the Padres since January, 2009, continues to own a share of the Diamondbacks.
Sound funny, a guy who will be majority owner of the Padres who still owns a piece of the Diamondbacks? It should. Baseball rules preclude it, which is why Moorad has been working toward divesting his shares of the Arizona club.
Except, privately, according to sources, Moorad and the Diamondbacks have been unable to agree on a price for his shares. Moorad values his piece of the Diamondbacks much higher than Arizona owner Ken Kendrick and Co. think it is worth. The dispute has moved to the Commissioner's Office, and the stalemate continues.
Given the antipathy between Kendrick and Towers and Moorad, we probably won't even have to wait for the 2011 season to start before the two sides go at it. Do not be surprised if Towers raids the Padres and recruits some of his former colleagues as he builds his staff in the desert.
Meantime ... Moorad and the Padres this month hired A.J. Hinch as vice-president and director of pro scouting. Hinch was fired as the Diamondbacks manager on July 2, barely more than one year after he was named as manager to replace the fired Bob Melvin in Arizona by ... Moorad and Co. Specifically, by then-GM Josh Byrnes, whom Moorad picked over Towers in '05 (and whom the Diamondbacks fired, along with Hinch, on July 2).
While the Diamondbacks and Padres now have all the ingredients for a classic shoot-'em-up, don't discount the other angle in what has become an incredibly incestuous viper pit of a division.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy essentially was told by the Padres to go look for greener pastures when Sandy Alderson was the CEO following the 2006 season. Bochy worked under Towers in San Diego for 11 of his 12 years as Padres manager before, with a year left on his contract, Alderson made Bochy feel like he'd better go explore other options.
Time was, before Padres owner John Moores' marriage hit the skids and he became an absentee (and broke) owner, Moores told Towers and Bochy they would be in place as long as he owned the team.
Bochy still maintains a home in San Diego in the off-season. And though time has eased some of the rawness of his Padres departure -- he's in his fourth season managing the Giants -- no question that as San Diego, San Francisco and Colorado sprint down the stretch this September, beating the Padres is personal with Bochy (and his third-base coach Tim Flannery, who both played and coached for the Padres before being let go).
As for Towers taking over the Diamondbacks, the hiring is a coup. Working mostly with underfunded budgets during his 14 seasons in San Diego, Towers still managed to build four NL West winners, and one NL pennant winner (1998).
Known especially for his adroit work in building a pitching staff, it was Towers who acquired key members of a Padres bullpen that has been the most airtight in the majors this summer. The Padres' majors-leading 2.85 bullpen ERA and has been one key reason for the club's contending status.
If he can work that kind of magic with what has been a historically bad Arizona bullpen in 2010 -- the Diamondbacks relievers rank last in the majors with a 5.82 ERA -- then changing fortunes for the beleaguered Snakes could come sooner rather than later.
Already, well-respected interim GM Jerry DiPoto -- who will leave the organization after not being named to the permanent post -- has helped re-stock the rotation with a couple of July acquisitions, most notably that of young Daniel Hudson.
Among the details awaiting Towers is the fate of interim manager Kirk Gibson, who is expected to be retained for the 2011 season while the new GM gets the lay of the land. The two men met Wednesday morning in what was originally scheduled to be a 30-minute session. Two hours later, they were still gabbing.
"I liked the look in his eye and what he had to say," Towers said. "He probably deserves more time to set a foundation in a spring training-type environment."
Towers pointed out that Gibson has learned from "some great people", baseball men such as Jim Leyland and Sparky Anderson.
"He's an intense guy," Towers said. "I like him."
But don't expect Towers to need much time to assess the lay of this land. The game's longest-tenured GM when the Padres let him go last October, Towers knows this land very well. A little too well even, in spots.
Towers' nickname? Gunslinger.