The 20th century writer George Santayna once said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Perhaps he may have had the Diamondbacks in mind because there is plenty of evidence to suggest manager Kirk Gibson, and to some extent general manager Kevin Towers, may be condemned to repeat failures of the past two years.
There are several reasons why the Diamondbacks’ most recent baseball season lay in a heap pile. While pundits point to a combustible bullpen, lack of support in the lineup for Paul Goldschmidt, an apparent inconsistency among the starting rotation and plethora of untimely injuries, the stature of Gibson remains a compelling reason.
While Gibson emerged in recent years as influenced by the gathering power of technology in disseminating information and the reliance on statistics as a measure to predict and qualify results, his personality in the clubhouse equally become uneasy.
After his walk-off single on Aug. 7 that defeated the Rays, Eric Chavez told reporters the Diamondbacks could not afford to slip further down in the National League West Division. With the victory over Tampa Bay, the D-backs were within five games of the first place Dodgers that day, and the pennant race was gathering steam.
To avoid such a slide, Chavez said, Gibson needs to run his best eight players out every day. That would help to manufacture runs at the top of the line-up, players would know their defined roles and an everyday line-up would create the ability to foster “a chemistry” absent during the first four months of the season.
Instead, Gibson told listeners then and all season that his desire and penchant was to keep players “fresh” and active. In effect, it seems he wants to play all 25 players at once instead of listening to his club.
Gibson’s approach hardly had an affect on the team because the Diamondbacks never put together a sustained winning streak. Their max was five games and that was achieved twice. That created a gap between wins from which the Diamondbacks had no answer and no recovery.
“We never put it all together,” said reliever Brad Ziegler. “I know we had the talent but why we couldn’t do that, I don’t know.”
Clubhouse rumors circulated on the standing of Gibson.
Known as a gritty and aggressive player, it was hoped Gibson’s baseball personality would carry to the manager’s position. Instead, that may have had an adverse effect.
When the Diamondbacks took the NL West Division title two years ago, the result was nearly a “perfect storm.” The bullpen was reliable, closer J. J. Putz set a career mark for most saves, starters Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson combined for 37 wins, Aaron Hill carried the team in September and Goldschmidt emerged from the minors to torment the Giants and S. F. ace Tim Lincecum down the stretch.
Plus, the emotional charge from Ryan Roberts energized both the crowd and the clubhouse. All Gibson had to do was sit back, smile and watch.
During the past season, his management style was tested and the results were marginal.
Not considered a strong in-game manager, Gibson was criticized from insiders for watching his bullpen implode. Not that he could have stopped the bleeding on 29 blown saves (tops in the majors) and numerous other maladies, Gibson’s handling of his pitching staff came under constant examination.
If Gibson and Towers are to save their jobs, and each for 2014 is in their final contract year with Arizona but with options, Gibson’s mind set must change.
When Towers told reporters after the season that 90 wins would like gain a spot in the post-season, Gibson chimed in, “we’re not far off.” Citing an 81 win season, that would be about 10 victories away from qualifying for the playoffs.
Considering the wretched bullpen, injures and inconsistencies throughout the lineup, one could argue the Diamondbacks were fortunate to pull off a .500 season.
While Ziegler and others said the talent to win is clearly within the walls of the Diamondbacks clubhouse, perhaps it’s Gibson who needs to change.
Two years of mediocrity does not sit well with the players, the fans or the Arizona management.
Perhaps Santayna was right.
If Gibson does not change, does not recognize the need to create an everyday line-up and stick with it and comes across to his players as a personality distant from their needs and character, then he will be condemned to repeat the past.