Kevin Towers has the D-backs in contention
Originally published: Aug 2, 2012 - 11:04 am
There are several reasons the D-backs enter the weekend in Philadelphia within striking distance of the National League West lead:
1) Manager Kirk Gibson has maintained a cool and steady hand throughout the season, not panicking when his team and one of his star players (Justin Upton) were at their worst.
2) Jason Kubel. He leads the D-backs with 22 homeruns and 72 RBIs. Not bad for a guy who many people felt received too big a contract during the offseason (2 years, $15 million) to take playing time away from Gerardo Parra.
3) Paul Goldschmidt. He appeared on the verge of being sent to the minors in mid-May when he was hitting just .223 entering a series with the Royals. Now, Goldschmidt leads the team in batting with a .304 average and effectively sucked the life out of the Dodgers with first inning bombs in the first two games of the D-backs sweep in L.A. earlier this week.
4) Aaron Hill (club-leading 117 hits) and rookie pitcher Wade Miley (12-6 with a 2.98 ERA) have also played HUGE roles.
Since general managers are often one of the first to receive blame when things go bad, let's give D-backs "architect" Kevin Towers his due now that he has the club knocking on the door of first place.
The D-backs are 148- 119 with an improbable division title since Towers was hired 23 months ago. If they can find a way to win another one in 2012 after how the first three months went, one could argue that the D-backs have the best GM in the game.
As of August 2nd, the first place Giants ($118 million) and second place Dodgers ($94 million) dwarf the D-backs payroll, which tops out at just under $75 million. There's also the matter of pulling off those "under the radar" trades like Kelly Johnson to Toronto for Hill and John McDonald last season. While grabbing Chris Johnson from a pathetic Astros team didn't make major headlines when it happened on Sunday, the Dodgers quickly felt the impact of it. Johnson went 6 for 11 with two homers and seven RBIs in the series.
Those are just two transactions over Tower's tenure that stand out. I haven't even mentioned signing J.J. Putz to a two-year, $10 million dollar deal before last season. All Putz has done is racked up 64 saves in 71 chances, including 45 in 2011. Willie Bloomquist, Henry Blanco, re-signing Joe Saunders and unloading Mark Reynolds for David Hernandez are other moves that have the D-backs in good shape.
Yes, the players have to perform and the manager has to fill out lineup cards, but it also helps to have the right mix of talent on the field. Towers is showing now, just as he did with the Padres for 14 seasons, that few are better when it comes to evaluating talent and making it fit.
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