D-Backs reeling, but club president says it's not time to blame Gibson
Arizona is 4-14 but club president Derrick Hall isn't pointing the finger at manager Kirk Gibson or GM Kevin Towers.
The Diamondbacks are startled to have started poorly, and maybe even are reeling a bit at this point. But while manager Kirk Gibson and general manager Kevin Towers are being put under a microscope by critics, their boss apparently isn't ready to point fingers or lay blame.
It's only natural for the question to come up regarding the job security of the team's two baseball leaders at a time a team is badly underperforming, as the Diamondbacks are with their 4-14 record, at a time not one other team has more than nine defeats. But club president Derrick Hall, the boss of Gibson and Towers, made clear in a phone interview that drastic change isn't something they are currently considering.
"It's far too early to say they're in jeopardy," Hall said in answer to a question about the status of Gibson and Towers. "I wouldn't say anybody's in trouble at this point."
There's little question the Diamondbacks are stunned to be sitting with baseball's worst record by far, and to have a rotation that's having so much failure, all at once. The D-Backs' rotation ERA is 7.82, more than two runs worse than second-worst Minnesota.
"It's very strange," Hall said. "I've never seen something like this where every night our starting pitcher goes four, five innings, and gives up [several] runs."
Gibson and Towers were given extensions of unannounced length in the winter, and it was said to be done partly as a way to show support for them after two seasons playing exactly .500 ball. The higher-ups were said not to be thrilled to have been an average team two years running following a 94-win season in 2011, and with their feelings well known, the decision was also made to extend both Gibson and Towers for an undisclosed term, at least partly to show support and quell rumors their status may be tenuous. (Remaining consistent, Hall Wednesday declined to reveal the length of those extensions.)
There has been suggestion on the part of a couple clubhouse personnel that there was room for improvement in the communication between Gibson and some of both veteran and young players, and to that end, Hall said, "The communication has been much better this year."
Gibson was already in the organization when Towers was hired as GM, but Towers elevated him, and the two are said by club intimates to be almost "inseparable." That shouldn't come as a surprise as they are two old-time, hard-nosed baseball people.
Beyond the big winter changes to acquire power hitter Mark Trumbo through trade and veteran pitcher Bronson Arroyo via a free-agent deal, there was something of a shakeup in the coaching staff, with several respected coaches leaving, including Don Baylor, Steve Sax and Charles Nagy, though Hall said Baylor left because he had interest in going home to the Angels, where he won the 1979 AL MVP. In any case, only Alan Trammell, the Tigers great and a close friend of Gibson for decades, plus Turner Ward, returned to the coaching staff once Matt Williams left to become the Nationals' manager.
Hall said they felt it best to show support for Gibson via coaching staff changes, too -- though these coaches were generally very popular with the players.
Hall, speaking before the latest defeat, a 5-2 loss to the Mets, suggested he believed the hitting and defense have been fine, and for the most part it's just the rotation that's struggled. The loss late in spring of ace Patrick Corbin, who had Tommy John surgery, was a major blow, as the pitchers behind him almost invariably have underperformed.
Regarding that, Hall said, "These guys are veteran guys. We know it's in them. It's all just happened at once."
It's happened quickly, too, threatening to bury the Diamondbacks in a tough division, where the Dodgers and Giants were the favorites. The Diamondbacks on occasion in the past have been willing to alter course, sometimes quickly. SI.com's Jay Jaffe recently referred to the enthusiastic, involved Diamondbacks managing partner Ken Kendrick as a "desert Steinbrenner wannabe."
So far they've only moved Randall Delgado and Trevor Cahill out of the rotation, using veteran swing man Josh Collmenter and minor leaguer Mike Bolsinger as replacements but refraining from calling upon top pitching prospect Archie Bradley. Bradley's agent Jay Franklin went public, telling Foxsports.com and other outlets Bradley should be in the majors; however, other team sources (not Hall) suggest he didn't prove he was ready in spring training.
And as for the bigger question about the key decision makers, Hall said, "Right now you can't place blame on any one person."