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ESPN’s Kurkjian: La Russa will help toughen up Arizona Diamondbacks

LISTEN: Tim Kurkjian, ESPN MLB insider


It’s a team ingredient that has been talked about a lot — especially concerning the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Following the 2013 season, general manager Kevin Towers made national headlines when talking about the toughness (or lack thereof) of his own pitching staff.

Towers was frustrated that Arizona hurlers didn’t have their batters’ backs, and he voiced that frustration in an interview with Burns and Gambo last October on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. Specifically, it came down to an 8-1 loss in L.A. September 9, during which the Dodgers were very comfortable in demonstrating their accomplishments.

“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,” Towers said. “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.”

Many construed the comments to mean that Towers was advocating D-backs pitchers purposely hitting opposing hitters, although that remains up for debate.

Fast forward to the present, and the Diamondbacks have hired legendary manager Tony La Russa as their new chief baseball officer — essentially a position in which he’ll be Towers’ boss as far as anyone can tell.

ESPN baseball insider Tim Kurkjian joined Burns and Gambo Wednesday and said that Towers and La Russa definitely have one thing in common.

“I’ve covered Tony since his Major League debut in 1983, and he’s the number-one proponent of ‘you’re not messing with our team, there will be retribution no matter what,'” Kurkjian said. “Sometimes he takes it even too far, but in my mind, even though I don’t like that whole idea, it’s better to take it too far than not far enough.

“When you do that and your club becomes soft — this is a hard game played by hard men — and if you have a soft team you’re simply not going to be able to compete.”

The ‘soft’ label hasn’t been linked to the Diamondbacks as much this season as it was last, but Kurkjian doesn’t believe that will be a problem moving forward, not with the new CBO on the job.

“If Tony La Russa has serious input into this club, one way or another it will toughen up, that much I promise you,” he said.