Towers: 'I want to get back to a World Series'
General manager takes responsibility for .500 season, says neither he nor Gibson safe
PHOENIX -- General manager Kevin Towers said everyone is accountable for the Diamondbacks' season, including himself and manager Kirk Gibson, both of whom are approaching the final season of their contracts. Arizona entered Wednesday with a record of 76-74 -- 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Dodgers in the National League West.
"My job is as much at risk as Gibby's when you have seasons like this," Towers said. "I still fully support Gibby. This happens in baseball. When you're down, everybody is going to start pointing fingers about who's to blame. Good organizations have some solidarity and believe in one another.
"All of us need to look in the mirror and ask: What did we do right, and what did we wrong? How do we get better? And [we have to] be willing to change and not be stubborn about it. We won a division [in 2011], finished .500 , have a chance to finish .500 again. But that's not me. I wasn't hired to play .500 baseball in Arizona. At this point in my career, it's not much fun. I want to get back to a World Series again. That 1998 season with the Padres seems like a long time ago.
"I thought we were heading in the right direction. It's a disappointing season, because we had such high expectations. But I'm not going to lie. I think we've taken a step backward. We've got to somehow find a way to take two or three steps forward."
MLB.com: What do you want Gibson to do to improve as a manager?
Towers: It's experience. I mean, Gibby didn't have the opportunities [Giants manager Bruce Bochy] had coming through the Padres' Minor League system managing. [Angels skipper Mike] Scioscia had that. It helps. When you just go from being a big league bench coach to managing, it's tough. For us, it always seems easy. When you're down in the dugout, the game is fast, man. And as a manager, you have a lot going through your head.
For Gibby, I think his best quality is that he's not stubborn. We can sit and talk after a game, and he's open to suggestion if it makes sense. It's a process for him. For him, it's utilizing his coaches, too, and listening.
MLB.com: Do you think you need to make changes in your coaching staff for next year?
Towers: We're going to talk about that at the end of the season. Possibly. It's about communicating. Even though it's baseball, it's a people business. Gibby is tough love, man. It's old school. It was the way he was brought up. We've talked about it. I said, "Today's players are different than when we played, both of us. There's more structure. We didn't have computers. We didn't have cell phones. We skipped rocks. We played home run derby. We had to carry sheetrock in the offseason to make ends meet. These kids sign for lots of money. They have personal trainers. They've got iPads, Internet. They're different kinds of people."
MLB.com: How do you adjust to that?
Towers: We, as leaders, have to understand the people we're dealing with on a daily basis. It's not to say we're going to be enablers or be one of them. But we have to be conscious that the game has changed, that people are different than they were 20, 30 years ago. What makes them tick and what motivates them is different than the way Sparky [Anderson] did it and Earl [Weaver] did it. Those guys would probably get killed these days.
Over time, working with Gibby, I tell him that we all have to change and be something we might not necessarily want to be. To get the most out of our product here, we might have to do things a little bit differently. How you handle them. How you communicate with them. How you deal with them. Tough love doesn't work with all of them.
MLB.com: How much time can you to take to let him develop?
Towers: As you well know, I'm a very loyal person. I feel I've failed if I can't help him be a better manager. When I think of Gibby, I think of Sparky. I'm sure he was a tough student for Sparky in Detroit. And Sparky believed in him. I think Gibby is the type of guy, if you show confidence in him, he'll find a way to be a champion again as a manager. It's not going to happen right away. But we have his back as long as we're together. What I like about him is that he listens well. He's not stubborn. There's a lot of things I think we should do differently, and we talk about it. I like him. I'm going to stand by him. I really am.
MLB.com: What's your synopsis of the season?
Towers: Very similar to last year. The most frustrating thing is that most clubs have hot streaks where you win a lot of games or cold streaks where you lose a lot of games. We haven't had either the last two years. We've basically hovered at the .500 mark. When you're bad, you know what you need to fix. When you're good, you know who you need to keep, what you need to do to get better. At .500, do we go another year and see if it straightens itself out? Like a lot of clubs, we had injuries, but ours were significant ones that lasted two months at a time.
MLB.com: And you made significant changes in this team in the offseason to improve from .500.
Towers: Exactly. I fully expected this to be a better ballclub. It may have been if it had stayed healthy. I usually say, "Your better teams are your healthier teams." When you draw up your ballclub, if you can keep those core guys in there all year long, good things can happen. We lost a lot of guys for a lot of time. Still, I thought we were going to be a lot better than we were last year. I thought we had a chance to win 90 ballgames. Now we're going to have to push to be .500 again.
MLB.com: With all the changes you've already made, how do you get better moving forward?
Towers: Ultimately, it's always going to come down to pitching. Our pitching has to be better next year for us to be better. Offensively, this is our team. I thought we'd score a few more runs. I knew we weren't going to win via the home run. I don't see us tweaking that much. We're going to hopefully play good defense. Play small ball. Do the little things right and pitch. Maybe Archie Bradley comes up and makes an impact, emerges as another [Patrick] Corbin. [Tyler] Skaggs figures it out again. For us to get to the next level, we're going to have one of the best rotations in the National League West. Our pitching has to step up. If it doesn't, we're going to be in the same spot.
MLB.com: Do you go into the free-agent market? There's a lot of good front-line pitching out there this offseason.
Towers: You know, I personally have never felt that comfortable in the free-agent market. I always felt better trading for pitchers than signing free agents. There are a couple of pitchers in Asia who are interesting -- Masahiro Tanaka, for one. We've seen him a lot. We've scouted him very heavily. The questions are whether he'll be posted, and what will that price be? Everybody is going to be in it, not just the Diamondbacks. I like guys who are 20-0. He'd fit good in our rotation.
MLB.com: Since you spent nearly $20 million on the bullpen, the inconsistency out there had to be very disappointing.
Towers: Yeah, I expected a lot more out of our 'pen. They all had closing experience. David [Hernandez] had a down year, J.J. [Putz] has had a down year and Heath [Bell], all three of them. It made us shift our whole 'pen around. With the clubs I've had, I've always had bullpens with pretty set roles, man. You knew who was going to pitch the seventh, eighth and ninth. This is the first time in the longest time we didn't know who our seventh-, eighth- or ninth-inning [pitchers] were going to be. With as much money as we invested in that area, there wasn't a lot of success down there this year. The one thing you have to worry about with relievers, when they're in their 30s, there comes a time when they start regressing.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.