On August 11, 2011, the Arizona Diamondbacks provided the following post on the team’s official Facebook page:
“Resiliency… perseverance… determination… never say die. Call it what you want. We like to call it Gibby Ball.”
Since August 17, the day the Diamondbacks began a four-game series in Cincinnati for their playoff lives, the team has gone 8-14. Their 3-7 record in the month of September ranks among the worst in Major League Baseball. And their 22 runs scored during that stretch is a full two runs off their season average.
Resiliency? Never say die?
General Manager Kevin Towers built this team around grit and bullpen. His bullpen has blown more saves than any team in the National League, and his roster of grinders has looked undeniably lethargic since Cincinnati.
Don’t take my word for it.
“It’s just the sense of urgency, you almost feel like it’s a sense, for a large part of them, just being content where we’re at,” Towers told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf September 4.
Ur-gen-cy. An earnest and persistent quality; insistence. Or – perseverance.
Doesn’t sound like Gibby Ball to me.
The Diamondbacks organization began referring to Gibby Ball in 2010, when Gibson was still just an interim manager. He had 34 career wins when 2011 Spring Training opened, and yet the new skipper’s “blue-collar approach” to turning around a struggling ballclub was used as the selling point for fans to believe in the organization’s new direction.
Instant results occurred. A surprise 2011 division title, an exciting playoff series with Milwaukee, and Gibson was named National League Manager of the Year.
The organization, the fans, the media, everybody was all-in on the concept of Gibby Ball.
– Every game, every inning, every at-bat
– More aggressive on the basepaths
– More aggressive when ahead in the count
– And when in doubt, just grind
Justin Upton was traded because he didn’t fit the profile. In fact, the entire team has been built around the personality of its manager. Who does that?
So, here we are, September 11, 2013, the D-backs are a .500 ballclub for the first time since April 2 and they’re falling. Since June, the team has suffered a 21.5-game reversal with the Los Angeles Dodgers (boy, did I get that one wrong). A team that plays in a home run-friendly ballpark ranks 26th in MLB in long balls. But that’s OK, right? Because we’ve got “Gibby Ball.” Oh wait, the team has stolen just 54 bases (25th in MLB).
Look, this story I’ve written has been admittedly scathing and borderline nasty in an effort to make my ultimate point.
This organization sold out to the wrong identity.
You NEVER build a team around your manager. You ALWAYS build a team around talent first. And if you do commit to a grinder mentality, well, then you better make damn sure you’ve acquired grinders, and not a roster of players who fold the tent the moment the more talented team gets the upper hand.
You may read this and think I’m calling for Kirk Gibson’s head. I’m not. Truth is, I’m not calling for anyone’s head. Because I don’t know who’s calling the shots.
Did Kirk Gibson ask for “Gibby Ball” to become the centerpiece of the organization?
And even if he did, who agreed to it?
The one constant within the organization is not the manager or the general manager or the president or even Baxter (he could be replaced by Skippy the Scorpion tomorrow if necessary). The constant is a hitter-friendly ballpark. And yet, the organization has built a team around outhustling and outscrapping their opponents rather than outhitting and outpitching them. And what’s truly baffling is that the scrappers they’ve assembled have apparently rolled over on an otherwise promising season.
So, now what?