Posted on: November 16, 2011 5:35 pm
More than ever, managers come in all shapes and sizes.
Two new skippers named this offseason -- St. Louis' Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura of the White Sox -- have never managed before in their lives.
Mike Quade had managed more than 2,000 minor-league games when the Cubs hired him last year.
So in this modern context, it couldn't have been more fitting that Joe Maddon (American League) and Kirk Gibson (National League) were named as Managers of the Year on Wednesday in voting by the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America.
Before the Rays named him as manager in 2006, Maddon spent 31 years in professional baseball with the Angels, the first 12 at the minor-league level as a manager or instructor.
When Gibson was named by the Diamondbacks as their manager last winter, before his three-month stint as their interim skipper in 2009, he had never managed at any level.
"As players, and if you talk to Mike and Robin I'm sure they feel this way, you always believe you can do stuff," Gibson said on a conference call Wednesday. "You always want to believe you are something more than you are.
"I was fortunate to fall into a good situation. I was familiar with the team and the organization because I had been in it."
Gibson, who came to the Diamondbacks as their bench coach in 2007, cited the belief and support of a front office led by president Derrick Hall and general manager Kevin Towers, who helped him put together a coaching staff that, philosophically, all hold similar beliefs and core values.
"They stood behind me when I maybe did something unconventional," Gibson, 54, said. "When I hear somebody say I did something unconventional it makes me smile because sabermetrics and numbers are a part of the game where applicable, but sometimes you need to fail to become a good ballplayer. Sometimes you need to fail to become a good team.
"When you've been in the game a long time, it helps you. I coached youth hockey and I coached youth baseball. That was instrumental. I spent five years in the television booth. That was helpful.
"You look at everyone's path, and if you utilize your resources properly, you can do well. [Matheny and Ventura are] great baseball minds. If the support is there, they will succeed."
Maddon, 57, managed rookie ball in Idaho Falls (1981), Single A in Salem, Ore. (1982-1983), and in Peoria, Ill. (1984) and Double-A in Midland, Tex. (1985-1986) before spending several seasons as a roving minor-league instructor before joining the Angels' big-league staff in 1994.
"I like the way I was able to get here," Maddon said Wednesday. "I'm very grateful.
"I'm always interested in the struggle. It's hard to say you have more fun after the struggle than you have during it."
Both Maddon and Gibson prefaced their remarks by noting they were speaking about their own situations, not those of Matheny or Ventura.
Maddon, known for his unconventional and creative way of thinking, honed some of those skills during his journey to the majors -- not after it.
"I'm so grateful I had all those years in the minor leagues," Maddon said. "A lot of things that are so-called 'outside the box', I had a chance to try those things in Salem, Ore., Midland, Tex., Peoria, Ill. I had a chance to try some of that stuff.
"You figure out what mistakes you've made, what you said to a guy and how he reacted. ... For me, I can't imagine what I'd do now without that experience.
"Having said all that, it's a little different now because a lot of the job today is not on the field. It's what happens in the clubhouse, dealing with personalities, having the ability to interact with the media."
But the bottom line today is the same as it was a generation ago: Winning.
Maddon is a new-age thinker in an old-school body.
Gibson, in turning a 97-loss Arizona team into 2011 NL West champions, helped blaze the trail for managerial neophytes like Matheny and Ventura to debut in the majors.
Together on Wednesday, they presented a pretty good snapshot of where today's managers are -- and where they come from.
Posted on: October 8, 2011 12:57 am
MILWAUKEE -- From 97 losses a year ago to the 10th inning of the Division Series this year. What a path the Snakes slithered, what diamonds the Diamondbacks carved out of last year's rocks.
When it finally ended with a hold-your-head-high 3-2 heartbreaker in the 10th inning of Game 5 here Friday night, it was a sad but proud Arizona team that headed toward the offseason.
"We fought to the end," said veteran general manager Kevin Towers, who fixed one of the worst bullpens in history to help pave the way for Arizona's remarkable turnaround. "That's what we did all year long. Never say die.
"We just didn't get last ups."
Indeed, the visiting Diamondbacks took a 1-0 lead early on Justin Upton's homer, fell behind 2-1 and then tied it 2-2 in the top of the ninth inning on Willie Bloomquist's gutty, successful safety squeeze against Brewers closer John Axford.
Axford had converted 43 consecutive save opportunities until Bloomquist's bunt. But the Brewers won it in the bottom of the 10th anyway.
"You look at both clubs and they're equally talented," Towers said. "They got the key hits at the end. If this series was to end the way it probably should have ended, it had to go extra innings."
Diamondbacks club president Derrick Hall checked in with a tweet as the Diamondbacks headed for their charter flight home Friday night: "I have never been prouder of my @dbacks. Those boys fought all year and their heads are held high. Thanks to our great fans."
"We've come a long way," said rookie manager Kirk Gibson, the overwhelming favorite to be named as NL Manager of the Year. "We set goals in the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, we didn't get all the way there. We talked about changing the culture and what does it mean to be a Diamondback.
"And I just told these guys that they should be proud because they've set the stage and the standard for how we want to play. And they've done it all year. Some of these guys will be back on our team. Some guys will move on. I feel like we've given them a positive experience, and they'll all be ambassadors for the game."
Talk about an offseason that will be colder and longer than usual. Given this year's success, the Diamondbacks are certain they're headed in the right direction and already can't wait to get started on 2012.
"The off season is too long," Towers said. "This was a fun group of guys. I'm going to miss being around them this winter. The comeback wins ... they just had a great attitude."
Posted on: August 23, 2011 11:22 pm
It's not necessarily the path to the NL West title. But it was not surprising to see aggressive, first-year Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers strike a deal Monday as Arizona's tenuous hold on first place shrinks.
The Diamondbacks were absolutely pasted on their current trip by NL pennant contenders Philadelphia and Atlanta, dropping two of three to the Phillies and losing all three to the Braves.
Will Tuesday's acquisitions of shortstop John McDonald and second baseman Aaron Hill from Toronto reverse that trend? Let's just say a shift in the schedule, away from the two best teams in the NL, will be the biggest help.
But it's all hands on deck now as the Diamondbacks work to keep baseball's biggest surprise story going, and both Hill and McDonald should help.
In McDonald's case, Arizona is still trying to plug the hole at shortstop left when Stephen Drew fractured his ankle a month ago. And in Hill, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson now has another hand to play at second base in place of Kelly Johnson, whose fuel tank appears on "E". Johnson, since the All-Star break, is hitting .181/.246/.324.
Hill isn't exactly tearing it up (.225/.270/.313), and his OPS is second-worst in the American League (his .584 ranks 150th of 152 players with at least 400 plate appearances). But he's a better contact hitter than Johnson and hit a combined 62 homers for Toronto in 2009 and 2010. In Arizona's thin air and homer-friendly park, maybe Hill can run into a few.
The Diamondbacks need something, and quickly. Their 2-0 win in Washington on Tuesday snapped a six-game losing streak. The ugly corollary to that: When Sean Burroughs cracked his first homer since April 30, 2005 -- a two-run blast -- they were the Diamondbacks' first runs scored in 32 innings.
During their six-game losing streak, Arizona batted a combined .153 with only seven runs scored, three doubles, a triple, three homers, 17 walks and 55 strikeouts. Ugly.
This just after new acquisition Jason Marquis, acquired to help eat innings and serve as a veteran anchor in the rotation, blew out for the season with a fractured leg.
Things could have gone from bad to worse Tuesday when slugger Justin Upton, having a career year, left in the fifth inning after being hit by a pitch in the left elbow. Early reports -- a bad bruise, no break -- are encouraging, but if Upton is slowed, that will make things even more difficult.
As things now stand, once the Diamondbacks leave Washington following Thursday's game, 29 of Arizona's final 32 games are against NL West clubs (with a three-game set at home against Pittsburgh mixed in).
Will that help? Hard to say: Arizona is 23-21 against NL West opponents this season. What might help most is this: Arizona plays 19 of its final 32 at home, and the Diamondbacks are 36-26 in Bank One Ballpark so far this season.
Likes: Two bumper stickers I've seen recently. The first: "My Child Was Student of the Month at Pedro's Tacos." The second: "Whassup haters?" Love the first one. ... Cool summer in Southern California, but it's warmed up this week and I got out for a bike ride along the ocean Tuesday. And it was beautiful.
Dislikes: An earthquake in Washington, D.C.? What's next, a damn blizzard in Los Angeles?
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"She wrote a long letter
"On a short piece of paper"
-- Traveling Wilburys, Margarita
Posted on: June 2, 2011 4:54 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 5:24 pm
Short hops, backhanded stops and quick pops:
-- The Brewers have climbed into second place in the NL Central thanks to ... their own beds? All that bratwurst? Milwaukee is 21-7 at Miller Park, the club's best home record EVER after 28 games. But at 9-19 on the road, the Brewers are the worst in the NL. Manager Ron Roenicke is not yet a believer in the trend, figuring "if we go three months into" the season and things don't change, then it's a problem. One reason the Brewers' road mark could be skewed: They opened with 21 of 34 games on the road, including an 11-game trip and a 10-game trip during a cold and wet spring. Assuming they stay in contention, look out for the Brewers in September: They finish with 14 of 25 games at home.
-- Milwaukee right-hander Shaun Marcum, though stuck with a no-decision in Cincinnati on Wednesday night (and though teammate Zack Greinke has received more pub for fewer starts), has pitched like an All-Star. He's allowed one run or fewer in six of his 12 starts. "He wasn't under my radar," Roenicke says. "He's the same guy I've seen pitch in Toronto. He was in the toughest division in baseball, for me. That league can flat-out hit. If you can pitch in that division, you can pitch anywhere."
-- Maybe if a team can get through the early part of a game without genuflecting to the big, bad, Yankees, it'll have a chance: New York has pummeled opponents 83-44 over the first two innings of games this year, according to STATS LLC. The Yankees are outscoring their opposition 43-16 in the first innings.
-- Clint Hurdle for manager of the year? Pittsburgh winning its 17th road game on Wednesday night ... matching the Pirates' total for all of 2010 (17-64). They're 17-14 away from PNC Park so far in 2011.
-- Kirk Gibson for manager of the year? When Arizona moved into first place in the NL West after being 6 1/2 games back through April 30, the Diamondbacks became the first team in major league history to take sole possession of first place in their league (before 1969) or in their division (since 1969) during May after starting the month at least 6 1/2 back.
-- What's up with St. Louis' Chris Carpenter, an annual Cy Young candidate who is 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA over 12 starts? "I've been up and down all year," he says, pointing to one basic element for a pitcher that he's still battling: Fastball command.
-- Lance Berkman on his experience with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa this year: "Love him. He's great. He's such a players' guy. When you think of Tony La Russa, being a players' manager is not the first thing that jumps through your head. At least, not from watching him from the other side. But he's got a bunch of guys here who will run through a wall for him."
-- One significant difference between this year's Cardinals and last year's: The clubhouse atmosphere is far better in 2011. The stuff with Colby Rasmus has blown over. The presence of Berkman, in addition to that of Matt Holliday, has really helped. "He's unbelievable," Cards GM John Mozeliak says of Berkman. "He's a gentleman and a class act. I've really enjoyed getting to know him."
-- That the Yankees' Russell Martin currently is the AL All-Star leader at catcher is attention-grabbing. But the fact that Martin actually is deserving of consideration speaks more toward the dearth of quality catching than it
-- Most productive designated hitters: Red Sox (.315 combined average, 34 runs scored, .565 slugging percentage), Royals (.302, 31, .394 on-base percentage) and Indians (.299, 27 runs, .510 slugging). Least productive? Yankees (.185, 21 runs, .350 slugging), White Sox (.234, 21, .383 slugging) and Mariners (.242, 15, .328 slugging).
-- At 17-37, the Twins are 20 games below .500 for the first time since the end of the 2000 season (69-93).
-- So what is retired Braves manager Bobby Cox doing? He spent a nice summer's evening last week at the Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band's Atlanta show on the Welcome to Finland tour.
Likes: Former big leaguer Darin Erstad taking the job as head baseball coach at his beloved alma mater, Nebraska. ... Ian O'Connor's new book, The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter. ... Also, for you Giants fans, Worth The Wait, written by Brian Murphy and largely photographed by Brad Mangin, is beautifully done. ... The story on how Roger Ailes built the Fox news fear factory in the current issue of Rolling Stone. ... Professor Longhair's Rock and Roll Gumbo.
Dislikes: If it's anything like this, Michigan's "throwback" jersey for the night game against Notre Dame this Sept. 10 might make the game unwatchable.
"Good luck had just stung me
-- The Band, Up On Cripple Creek
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Bobby Cox, Brian Murphy, Chris Carpenter, Clint Hurdle, Derek Jeter, Ian O'Connor, Kirk Gibson, Lance Berkman, Milwaukee Brewers, Nate McLouth, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Professor Longhair, Ron Roenicke, Russell Martin, Shaun Marcum, St. Louis Cardinals, The Band, Tony La Russa, Zack Greinke
Posted on: September 29, 2010 10:51 pm
Sometime over the next several days, new Arizona general manager Kevin Towers is expected to remove the "interim" tag on manager Kirk Gibson's title. The Diamondbacks, according to sources, are on the verge of negotiating a two-year contract with Gibson and will name him as the full-time skipper.
For this, Gibson can thank ... former Detroit teammate Alan Trammell?
In a small way, yes.
Gibson was working as a television broadcaster when the Tigers named Trammell manager before the 2003 season. It was Trammell who recruited Gibson into coaching.
Aside from a longtime close friendship, what did Trammell see that he thought would make Gibson a successful coach?
"I've known him since I first got into pro ball," said Trammell, now the Cubs' bench coach. "Intensity. I've never met anybody quite like him. He has a football mentality that he's able to channel into baseball."
Gibson, who was an All-American flanker at Michigan State, was drafted 12th overall by the Tigers in 1978. Trammell was drafted by the Tigers two years earlier, and the two first were teammates in Detroit in 1979.
"Bo Jackson was quite good," Trammell says, recalling other notable football players on the baseball diamond. "And Deion Sanders. Kirk made the decision to go away from football completely, but he kept that mentality. Everything was a challenge to him.
"Coming into our situation [in Detroit in '03], we all were somewhat new. I knew we needed to have some energy. The team needed a lot of work. And I wanted coaches who would work."
The Cubs were in Phoenix to play the Diamondbacks just before the All-Star break, right after Gibson was named as the interim manager to replace the fired A.J. Hinch, and Trammell has spoken with his buddy only a couple of times since. Each has his hands full with his own team.
Gibson spent three seasons as Trammell's bench coach in Detroit. The staff was let go following the 2005 season.
Trammell joined the Cubs as Lou Piniella's bench coach in 2007. The same year, Gibson signed on with Arizona as Bob Melvin's bench coach.
What kind of manager does Trammell think Gibson will be if he sticks around longer than as just the interim guy?
"I think he'd be more than fine," Trammell says. "If he gets an opportunity to implement what he wants, and if people are willing to listen to him and pay the price. And by pay the price, I mean doing things for the team.
"That's the beauty of Gibby. You talk to him about his success as a player, he doesn't want any part of it. It's the team. That goes back to how we were all brought up by Sparky Anderson.
"I'm pulling for him. I hope he gets the opportunity."
If he does, there is lots of speculation that Trammell will wind up on his staff in Arizona after being bypassed for Mike Quade to manage the Cubs after Piniella's sudden departure this summer. Trammell says he has seen the speculation but is not thinking about 2011 right now, other than knowing that whatever he does, he wants to keep wearing the big-league uniform.
Likes: Good for Cito Gaston as the Blue Jays honored him Wednesday night in Toronto. What a class act. Very nice touch that so many of his former players -- Joe Carter, Pat Hentgen, George Bell and others -- returned for the festivities.
Dislikes: Goodbye Gene Orza, and good riddance. As Don Fehr's right-hand man and attack dog for the players' union, the arrogant Orza, who is stepping down as chief operating officer, mostly just muddied the waters wherever he went. His behavior during the Steroid Era was reprehensible, claiming in 2004 that steroids "are no worse than cigarettes."
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I was pourin’ out my troubles
-- Jamey Johnson, Lonely at the Top
Posted on: August 13, 2010 1:56 pm
Edited on: August 13, 2010 8:57 pm
The reconstruction of the Arizona Diamondbacks has a long way to go, but the club this month has begun to settle in enough that it's worth asking:
Have the D-backs shown enough under interim general manager Jerry DiPoto and interim field manager Kirk Gibson that those "interim" tags will be removed?
Quick answer: Probably still too early, but let's just say the jobs that both men are doing is not going unnoticed by key head honchos.
"They've done a tremendous job," Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall says. "They both have. I think Kirk Gibson has really changed the makeup and the environment around the team. They've really responded to him.
"I'm pulling publicly for both of these guys."
One thing Hall has certainly noticed: Entering the club's series opener in Washington on Friday night, the Diamondbacks had either won or tied their past four consecutive series. They won three of four games in Milwaukee this week, took two of three from first-place San Diego, split a four-game set with the Nationals and won two of three against the Mets dating back to July 30.
Since the trading deadline, right-hander Daniel Hudson, acquired from the White Sox in the Edwin Jackson trade, is 2-0 and has allowed just three earned runs in 14 2/3 innings. Hudson was one of six pitchers obtained in trades by DiPoto -- including three from the Angels for Dan Haren -- since July 25.
"There will be some candidates we'll talk to, with Jerry obviously being at the top of the list," Hall says. "After that, we'll look at managers."
Understandably, Hall wants a permanent general manager in place before the field manager so the GM can choose someone he's comfortable with.
As for Hall?
"If at the end of the day I end up with Jerry DiPoto as general manager and Kirk Gibson as manager, I'd be happy," he says based on how things are going now. "I'm thrilled with the work I've seen so far from both of them."
Likes: Wow, Jose Guillen and Pat Burrell now swinging it for the Giants. With them and the outspoken Aubrey Huff, the San Francisco clubhouse will not be dull. ... This weekend's Giants-Padres series will be great fun. The Padres won the first seven games against Bruce Bochy's club this year, but this is a different Giants' team now. ... Fine, fine acting performance by Derek Jeter in The Other Guys. He's got one line and he delivers it with the gravitas of ... well, OK. So I exaggerate. But the movie's funny, the plot entertaining, Will Ferrell is back on his 'A' game and in the aftermath of the Jeter shooting, the cops even get a line in ripping A-Rod. Good stuff. ... Tyler Kepner's excellent piece in the New York Times on Ryne Sandberg managing at Triple-A Iowa while hoping for a chance to do it with the Cubs. ... How entertaining was it when the Kings of Leon had to abort their concert in St. Louis a few weeks back because pigeons kept crapping on them? ... Puget Sound and Ferndale, Wash. ... A weekend at home with baseball on XM radio and on television with the MLB Extra Innings package.
Dislikes: When Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez unleashes his inner punk, it is not a pretty picture.
"It was 1989 my thoughts were short my hair was long
-- Kid Rock, All Summer Long
Posted on: July 1, 2010 11:00 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2010 11:53 pm
The Arizona Diamondbacks fired both general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch on Thursday night, major-league sources have confirmed to CBSSports.com.
Kirk Gibson, bench coach to Hinch and Bob Melvin in Arizona over the past few seasons, will be named as interim manager and will guide the club Friday when the Diamondbacks open a weekend series at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jerry DiPoto, who had been Arizona's vice-president for player personnel, will assume the interim GM duties.
USAToday first reported that Byrnes and Hinch are out.
The Diamondbacks hired Hinch last May 7, making him the youngest manager in the game at 34. He had no managerial experience when they named him to replace Bob Melvin, yet the Diamondbacks awarded him a contract through 2012.
Byrnes, meantime, is under contract through 2015.
Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick and club president Derrick Hall promised major changes last month, and these are the first of what is expected to be a complete makeover of an organization in utter disarray.
Posted on: March 14, 2010 12:22 am
From his perch in the desert, right-hander Ian Kennedy is perfectly content to have left the No. 4 train to the Bronx behind.
He's making his pitch toward the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation and, though they're not handing him the job, they are giving him what might be the most important guarantee he could get: They view him as a starter, period. The bullpen is not an option.
"We'd like him to win the job," manager A.J. Hinch says. "We feel like he's going to win the job."
As Hinch says, they're not handing out jobs. Kennedy must earn his keep. But you get the idea. ...
"It's nice, because when I was with the Yankees, I didn't know this spring if I was going to relieve or start, what my role was," Kennedy says. "If they wanted me to start in Triple-A. ...
"Coming here, they said, 'Here's what you could have. You've got to just do what you do.' That's the advantage of being here. If you look around, there's a lot of good, young players here. That's what I'm excited about."
Having missed most of '09 with an aneurysm near his right shoulder, Kennedy is doing his normal spring work and feeling good. The Diamondbacks' rotation is somewhat in flux because of ace Brandon Webb's slow return from shoulder surgery.
Kennedy figured to line up as the No. 4 starter behind Webb, Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson -- though with Webb expected to start on the disabled list, Kennedy could find himself pitching the third game of the season against San Diego.
He's spent a lot of time with Webb this spring which, among other things, has resulted in Kennedy adding a sinker to his repertoire. That first came up during the Arizona Fall League.
"I talk to Webby a lot," Kennedy says. "He's usually in the training room, and I've asked him a lot of questions so far about pitching, trying to pick his brain on how he can throw that great of a two-seamer [sinking fastball]."
Sunblock Day? Finally, some sun and some 70-degree weather. And don't look now, but they're predicting highs of 83 and 84 Tuesday and Wednesday in Phoenix.
Likes: Diamondbacks bench coach Kirk Gibson and former major leaguer Brett Butler, now managing at Triple-A Reno, giving hands-on lessons on baserunning the other day on one of the back fields. I hope the younger Diamondbacks in particular were listening, there's a lot of wisdom to be learned from those two men. ... The Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch off of I-10 on the way south to Tucson. Never fails to amuse. And no, I didn't stop and pet the deer (one of the options listed in the extravagant signage). ... Picacho Peak, between Casa Grande and Tucson off of I-10. My friend Steve Gilbert of MLB.com informed me that the westernmost battle of the Civil War was waged there. It's now a state park, and there's a re-enactment of the battle each year. ... Watching the Big East title game Saturday night on television, great scene at the end after West Virginia won and they blasted John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads over the speaker system in Madison Square Garden with the Mountaineer fans singing loudly, especially to the lines in which Denver sings, "To the place, I belong, West Virginia. ..." Sounded great on television.
Dislikes: So I hear there's going to be a "big announcement" on a Detroit radio station Friday night from Alto Reed, saxophone player for Bob Seger. A summer tour, perhaps? How cool would that be? Uh, no. The announcement, according to the crack Web site Segerfile.com, is that the sax guy will be joining the radio station's on-air staff. Yawn.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"It's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
-- Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fried