25 September 2010

I Believe In Quick Turnarounds!

Well, that's nice. That's what the Dbacks new GM, Kevin Towers, said! Truthfully, Diamondhacks believes in them too. In this division, and perhaps even, with this particular team. Why not? (Full disclosure compels me to reveal I also believe in pixies, pegasus and the healing power of Parsley.)

Assertions abound that two years isnt long enough for Towers to build much, yet NL West teams regularly contend despite considerable flaws. This offense is young and already competitive. The defense is decent. Towers has some money, and apparent expertise, to address significant pitching woes.

Certainly he takes this opportunity personally, betraying press conference platitudes aimed at his former employer. That's a good thing for us. So too is his extensive direction over a pair of NLW managerial rivals: Bud Black and Bruce Bochy. That sort of intimate divisional experience is worth more than a supple touch with the slide rule.

Kendrick's relative parsimony doesnt make a turnaround easy, but to suggest (as kvetchers from The Eternally Blameless Josh Byrnes' Society have) that AZ finances preclude even a last place team from contending next year is just sabr grapes. Especially as Jamie and Frank McCourt cartoonishly pull from opposite ends of their gilded rope, and Aubrey Huff leads SF toward the postseason. Any Arizonan can confirm that small payroll combined with injuries and an unaccountable culture is a recipe for disaster.

One wonders, however, if what we too cutely call "Jeff " Street is finally trending accountable. Does the hire of Towers, passed over (2005) and dismissed (2009) by Moorad, signal an emphatic end to Jeff's devastating influence on Diamondbacks culture? Or is it simply more window dressing on a decrepit house, eternally condemned by a Moorad protege (Hall), schooled to talk about winning but unqualified to deliver? To that point, it's hard not to get the impression that Towers did a better job than DiPoto of simply telling Hall and Kendrick what they wanted to hear:

-- I believe in quick turnarounds.

--Hopefully, we'll play the pinstripes in the World Series in a couple years.

--I'm more of a contact hitter kind of guy.

-- I build staffs backwards, starting with the closer and move backwards from there.

Is that a blueprint for success, or a blueprint for what made Hall and Kendrick respectively tingle and jingle? "I'm a specialist in fixing your roster's most glaring problems. Therefore, we can and will be successful, within your delightful payroll parameters!"

This rotation needs one, probably two arms. The bullpen needs an overhaul and the bench needs better specialists. The Dbacks dont need three unqualified successes to compete, but they do need to make inroads in all three areas. Does Towers have the resources and acumen to pull that off? I think it's possible. He needs to acquire or flip four positional players (2 starters, 2 bench) and four pitchers (1 starter, 3 pen). A big job, certainly, but it's not like he has to beat the Yankees or anything.

KT is a popular hire. Almost as popular as Gibson. The usual cadre of upscale but murky opinionistas are skeptical of the healing powers of both however, and specifically dismayed by the GM's short contract. But the same know it alls were categorically wrong about Josh Byrnes. What they didnt sufficiently appreciate, and Byrnes miserably failed to leverage, is that professional baseball is still an abundantly human endeavor.

JB assumed his job was to think and to lead and the players' role was to methodically accumulate VORP. His bizarre "Hinchstallation" proved just how tone deaf, or perhaps disdainful, he was of the human element. Byrnes managed to efficiency ratios and extrapolated per inning measures. Towers manages people and games. Towers sees a bullpen as a critical chain of custody. Byrnes settled on a random chain of fools.

There will be changes. But that doesnt guarantee success. There must be blood. New blood. And some spilling of the old. Towers' brief experience with Moorad may prove ironically useful there. As will his urgently short contract.

So much comes back to Moorad. He's taking credit for the quick turnaround in San Diego, that is largely Towers' doing. Most (not all) of Moorad's endless Arizona contracts are coming off the books. His estimated $40-50M franchise share there is still in "abeyance", an esoteric escrow invoked by Kendrick meaning "You arent screwing us again, Benedict Arnold". No short turnaround there.

Abeyance accurately describes the Diamondbacks position as well. It actually means suspension, and nobody knows whether Towers will turn results around or not. I just think it's too early, and kneejerk arrogant, to suspend belief in his potential to do so.

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