Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Since getting off to an 8-19 start, the Arizona Diamondbacks have played .500 baseball over their last ten games. Winning their last two series on the road, going 4-2, has, at least temporarily, quieted the calls for GM Kevin Towers and Manager Kirk Gibson to be fired. In particular, taking two of three from the Brewers – current owners of MLB’s best record – seems to have done the trick. Unfortunately, despite the recent upswing, they remain in last place in the NL West, and are minutely ahead of Houston for the worst record in baseball. More puzzling is how, to date, they haven’t figured out how to win at home, owning an abysmal 3-12 record at their own ballpark.
Still, there are some definitive signs of life. Paul Goldschmidt is heating up considerably, and just finished battering the Brewers, going 7 for 15 with a pair of HR’s during the recent series. He’s currently hitting up over.340. Miguel Montero is now hitting better than .285 on the season, with a couple HR’s and 7 RBI in his last five games. Aaron Hill, a perennial Brewer killer who also had a big series in Milwaukee, seems to have shaken his early season drought, hitting .345 in his last seven games. So certain key elements of the offense have definitely started to find their groove.
But the biggest improvement has absolutely been from the starting pitching. Bronson Arroyo‘s last two starts have covered 14 innings plus, during which he’s allowed just a single unearned run. Brandon McCarthy has turned in back-to-back solid efforts, and has finally earned his first win of the season. Josh Collmenter has been solid mixing in, Wade Miley has thrown pretty well, and even the recently demoted Mike Bollinger gave the team an excellent start in Chicago. For a team that had only three quality starts through the first twenty plus games of the season, they’ve now put together eight in the last 12 games, lowering their staff ERA from 6.06 to 4.84. Still poor enough to be ranked 29th, but better by more than a run in just a couple of weeks.
And yet, the question remains, is any of this relevant in terms of saving Kirk Gibson’s job? Should it be? On one hand, he has to play with what he’s been dealt. Which is inarguably mediocre, at least in terms of the pitching. Still, he and his coaches should be able to coax better than the aforementioned staff ERA, that atrocious home record, and a measly team batting average of .252. This team is sixth in baseball in runs scored, averaging nearly four a game. But when considering the shoddy defense and a lack of consistent timely hitting, combined with that pesky (nearly) five runs allowed per game number, one can’t help but think that Ken Kendrick might be considering crowning a scapegoat soon. Of course, Gibson is widely respected throughout baseball, and would likely land a new job as quickly as he hits the pavement, and certainly without any long-term negative effects. Which brings us back to the first statement. Should he be held responsible for this mess? Are there really any ways to polish a steaming pile of… well… you fill in the blank. Perhaps he isn’t the right guy for this roster. Fine. But better baseball or not, ultimately, someone is going to have to stand in front of the firing squad, and my money is on Gibson over Kevin ‘Teflon’ Towers, warranted or not.