Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Saturday, October 26, 2013

That June 11th Brawl with the Diamondbacks, the Aftereffects in Arizona

The June 11th beanball war and resulting brawl had a lot of old-timers grappling with each other (photo by Gary A. Vasquez/ USA Today Sports)

When the Dodgers and Diamondbacks brawled back on June 11th, the result of a beanball war that many consider to be the event that solidified the Dodger team together, the coaches and managers involved in the melee looked like a 1980s/early 90s who’s who of baseball stars.

For the Dodgers’Don Mattingly and Mark McGwire, Tim Wallach, Ken Howell and Davey Lopes.  The Diamondbacks countered with Kirk Gibson and Matt WIlliams, Charles Nagy, Steve Sax, Don Baylor and Alan Trammell.  In four short months, that D-Backs coaching staff is now completely dismantled.

Hitting coach Don Baylor has moved to Anaheim with the Angels where he won an MVP award in 1979.  Sax and Nagy were both fired.  Only Trammell along with Gibson remain, though it’s hard to believe that both Gibson and Trammell aren’t tempted to move back to their former team, a talent laden Tiger ballclub in Detroit.

Gibson has assured Arizona management that he will remain loyal and stay put, but the opportunity has got to be attractive to him.  Recently with Diamondbacks G.M. Kevin Towers questioning the fortitude and fight of his team in late season contests with the Dodgers, you’d think that Gibson would be highly offended.  Gibby is anything but “soft” as a player and a manager.

The reality is though that the D-Backs actions in games against the Dodgers did seem to be a tad “soft” following the fight in June that resulted in numerous ejections, fines and suspensions.  There is little doubt that the Diamondbacks probably reflected on the L.A. brawl and realized that they went over the line of decency with their head-hunting pitches on that June night.
(photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)
The usually reserved Don Mattingly and Mark McGwire were mad enough to tear heads off after both Puig was hit in the face and Greinke near the head.  Baseball etiquette had been breached in the Dodger’s view as Greinke had retaliated earlier for the Puig beaning by hitting D-Back catcher Miguel Montero flush in the back.

The teams met in 11 games following the June 8th brawl.  There essentially weren’t any incidents until the final series in Phoenix when on September 18th and 19th, Dodger pitchers hit five D-Back hitters and the Arizona team failed to retaliate at all.  The culprits were Stephen Fife, Carlos Marmol and Ricky Nolasco, three players that weren’t even present when the June brawl took place, so the likelihood that they were acting in retaliation for the brawl months prior was low, but Kevin Towers felt that actions should have been taken to “right the ship.”

The Dodgers September 9th drubbing of the D-Backs at Dodger Stadium where six homers were hit and Dodger celebrations included the Uribe/Puig/Hanley banana eating  clowning in the dugout incensed the Arizona G.M. to the point that he called out his manager and pitching coach for not ordering  a “jack-knifing” of Dodger hitters with inside stuff to back them off the plate.  The brawl from a  few months previous was probably on their minds, as a repeat of that in the final weeks of a pennant chase would not be seen in a positive light by MLB brass.

“They panned down to the dugout, and they were jamming bananas in their mouths and really just making a mockery of us," Towers said. "I just said if I had a carton full of balls sitting next to me, I would have thrown it in their dugout. I was just tired of getting beat up," said Towers in a mlb.com interview weeks later.
Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers (photo by Jake Roth/US Presswire)
There hasn’t been much mention of what was actually talked about by Gibson, Nagy and Towers in private following that game on September 9th , but certainly the effect of the earlier brawl had to have influenced them.  The dismissal of Nagy at season’s end appears to have been a direct result as the Dodgers 5 HBPs against Arizona in the final season series didn't result in one retaliatory pitch.  Then there was the division celebration and pool party on clinching night.  All a recipe for some 2014 antics to come.

What to expect from the D-Backs next year is anyone’s guess, but knowing Gibson’s history, he’ll want to send a message, and that isn’t that he’s got a “soft” side.

The Diamondbacks declined options on Gibson’s contract that would have extended him to through the 2015 and  2016 season.  He’s guaranteed a contract through the end of 2014, and it would seem that the timing of a move to Detroit would be appropriate, but Gibson’s a stubborn breed.  “I like where I am,” he told the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro.  “I’m motivated to finish what I started here.”

He’ll have to do it with a new coaching staff, and Brett Butler, the Triple A manager at Reno (Arizona’s affiliate), has left the organization as well.  Both Gibson and Kevin Towers have spent the past few days in Prescott, AZ, mulling over the changes that their franchise needs to make to put a division winner on the field next year.  You’d think with the public criticism from Towers of Gibson’s staff, that the two would be at odds with each other.   Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall claims it’s the opposite of that.

“They were out walking together this morning talking about their plans.”  He said earlier this week.  A restructuring of the coaching staff is probably the first order of business, which would include a fiery approach to the 2014 season.  It’s anyone’s guess who Gibson and Towers will select to fill out the staff, but it’s relatively certain that they’ll be hardcore baseball guys that won’t allow their team to be pushed around.  No Gibson team could ever be considered “soft.”  That’s a certainty. 

Watch for the D-Backs to attempt to make a statement early in the 2014 season, and that is that not only will they be a contender, but a team that will play with passion and fight.  A football mentality to the game is to be expected from any ballclub led by Kirk Gibson.  He knows no other way. 

1 comment:

  1. I expect there will be some interesting moments between these two teams in 2014. You are right that the D'Backs didn't look like a Gibson team for a large portion of the season.

    However, if Towers thinks throwing at some Dodger hitters will cure his D'Back ills he is sadly mistaken. It might appease him and make it seem his team is tough but that's not what counts. What counts is the real play on the field - hitting, pitching, running, fielding.

    Throwing at guys never solves anything, results in injuries, and leads to more throwing at guys. That is one aspect of the game I abhor. It isn't a solution, in my opinion, it is a problem. Most of the controversy around the game comes from unwritten rules. I continue to find that strange. It's a kid's game played by men who act like kids.