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Kevin Towers has the D-backs in contention

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.