The Arizona Diamondbacks have been saying all of the right things lately in regards to the end of this disappointing season, but as the last month plays out, I am beginning to wonder if manager Kirk Gibson will be back in 2014.
When recently speaking with Dan Bickley of AZCentral about the state of the D-Backs, majority owner Ken Kendrick mentioned that Gibson was “relatively new as a big-league manager.” It seemed like an odd comment to make about a manager who is currently in his fourth season with the team.
When speaking with Nick Piecoro of AZCentral, general manager Kevin Towers talked about assigning blame to the entire organization, but he said that he wouldn't discuss changes with Gibson until the end of the season. Towers also mentions that he would like to see the team play with more emotion.
This is where I wonder if the organization might look to make a change. As a player, Gibson was one of the most fiery and emotional players in the league as he very much wore his emotions on his sleeve. As a manager, Gibson has been decidedly more laid back in the dugout, maybe to the point where the players aren't responding with any urgency.
It's not that Gibson has done a bad job managing the D-Backs, he hasn't. It is just that the D-Backs roster that you see right now will likely comprise most of the roster that you will see in 2014 unless Arizona plans on significantly increasing their payroll. Arizona's payroll this season in $86 million and they already have $80 million committed to 12 players next season.
So if you bring Gibson back with the same roster, how will the D-Backs improve? It is a question that fans and management should be asking themselves right now.
This season has been a struggle for Gibson and the D-Backs this season, especially with the poor performance of the team's pitching staff, something that team president Derrick Hall acknowledges in this interview on radio station KTAR 620. Former ace Ian Kennedy now pitches for the San Diego Padres, traded at the low point of his value. Starters Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy have been terrible for most of the season. The bullpen has been simply awful. If not for the performance of Patrick Corbin, the D-Backs would have been out of contention very early in this season.
The 56-year-old Gibson is in his fourth season managing Arizona. His resume already includes winning 94 games and the NL West in 2011 and being named manager of the year. In light of the recent PED suspension of Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona's loss to the Brewers in the 2011 NLDS is a disappointing "what if." Braun almost single-handedly defeated Arizona in that series.
It is a talent issue with the D-Backs; they simply do not have enough talent to compete for the front of the division without making major changes. It is something that falls directly at the feet of Towers. He constructed this team. He missed on his evaluations. He has tied the team down to bad contracts. Gibson needs more to work with.
Gibson certainly has areas that he will need to improve on next season; constructing a better lineup, holding the players accountable and sitting veteran players when they are not playing well. Next season, Arizona will need to reflect Gibson the player as well as Gibson the manager.
Towers and Gibson will likely be given another season to turn things around in the desert, but they will face an uphill challenge in trying to displace the Los Angeles Dodgers. It will be David versus Goliath for the foreseeable future.
The most likely outcome will be changing the team's coaching staff, whether it is firing pitching coach Charles Nagy or hitting coach Don Baylor or both. Matt Williams needs to be moved off of coaching third base. Gibson may not agree to go along with those moves, but this situation needs to be watched closely.
Information used from Baseball Reference.