Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers has sent out a clear message to the entire organization. Players are expected to protect their teammates, and if they don't feel comfortable doing so, their days with the team could be numbered.
Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com passed along Towers' comments on Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo show. He talked about growing increasingly frustrated with the team showing a lack of fight as its playoff hopes faded away.
Towers said he reached a boiling point during a late-season game against the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers:
I was sitting behind home plate that game and when it showed up on the Diamondvision of stuffing bananas down their throats, I felt like we were a punching bag. Literally, if I would have had a carton of baseballs I would have fired them into the dugout from where I was sitting behind home plate.
That's not who we are as Diamondbacks, that's not how—I mean, it's a reflection on Gibby, on myself, on our entire organization. They slapped us around and we took it.
Nothing changed after talking with the coaching staff about the situation, however. Moving forward, Towers said there needs to be a clear stance from the organization concerning its protection of players:
You'd think the GM comes down and makes it a point to talk to the staff about it that at we need to start protecting our own and doing things differently. Probably a week later Goldy gets dinged, and no retaliation. It's like 'wait a minute.'
Not that I don't take any of our guys from a lesser standpoint, but if Goldy's getting hit, it's an eye for an eye, somebody's going down or somebody's going to get jackknifed.
Although the so-called unwritten rules of baseball suggest a team should retaliate if one of its players gets hit or if there's a general sense of disrespect from the opponent, it's rare for a person in a position of power to talk about it so openly.
Towers is clearly trying to build a specific roster in Arizona. Last offseason, he traded Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves in a deal involving Martin Prado. In the aftermath, he often talked about building a new identity.
Upton is a boom-or-bust talent with plenty of upside, but he also has a tendency to go through prolonged slumps. Prado is a grinder, somebody who can play all over the field and is a much better fit for that team-first mentality.
Towers' latest comments are seemingly just an offshoot of his continued effort to build a tougher team in Arizona. He wants players who fight for each other on a daily basis, believing that will help the team overcome any talent deficiencies.
Heading toward 2014, Towers is going to make the plan clear, and those who don't buy in could be shown the door:
Some of them, contractually, it's tough to move. But I think come spring training, it will be duly noted that it's going to be an eye for an eye and we're going to protect one another.
If not, if you have options there's ways to get you out of here and you don't follow suit or you don't feel comfortable doing it, you probably don't belong in a Diamondbacks uniform.
It sounds like it will be his way or the highway—literally.