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Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Diamondbacks need talent, not toughness

By David Schoenfield

"Not that I don't take any of our guys from a lesser standpoint, but if Goldy's getting hit, it's an eye for an eye, somebody's going down or somebody's going to get jackknifed." -- Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers

According to Towers, the Diamondbacks weren't a disappointment because their outfielders hit the fewest home runs in the majors or the rotation ranked 25th in the majors in strikeout rate or Ian Kennedy was terrible and Miguel Montero had a bad year, but because their pitchers didn't hit enough opposing batters.

Hey, maybe he's on to something, some sort of market inefficiency in violence. After all, the Nationals, Royals, Giants, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays, White Sox, Mariners and Rockies hit fewer batters than the Diamondbacks, and only the Rays out of those teams made the playoffs.

And who led the majors in hit batters? The Pirates!

After finishing 81-81, Towers decided to keep Kirk Gibson as manager, but fired first-base coach Steve Sax and pitching coach Charles Nagy. Per Towers' comments, Nagy didn't instill enough toughness in his pitchers. Of course, you can't get rid of all the pitchers, although it sounded like Towers would like to.

"Some of them, contractually, it's tough to move," he said. "But I think come spring training, it will be duly noted that it's going to be an eye for an eye and we're going to protect one another."

By the way: Note that this isn't an issue of the Diamondbacks not pitching inside often enough, in the general sense; they actually had the fifth-highest percentage of pitches thrown inside or to the inside part of the strike zone. So Towers isn't demanding the Diamondbacks throw inside more, he's actually demanding that they throw at opposing batters on purpose. (But not to injure!)

But this is the world that Towers lives in. He traded Justin Upton last offseason, not because he wasn't good or talented, but essentially because he had some sort of character flaw, like not showing enough intensity. He traded away top prospect Trevor Bauer because Bauer had the audacity to do things his own way. He signed Cody Ross for $25 million not because Ross is all that great but because Ross is full of grit and intestinal fortitude or whatever you want to call it. He was also a 32-year-old outfielder coming off a career year in Boston mainly because he was able to pop a few extra home runs over the Green Monster.

Look, those deals weren't the reason Arizona failed to win 90 games -- Upton wasn't that great with the Braves and Bauer didn't do anything for the Indians -- but they speak to a mindset: grit and guts over talent. The Diamondbacks' way.

How'd that work out in 2013?

So now the Diamondbacks will add throwing more at opposing hitters, grit on top of grit. Towers cited an incident when MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt got hit and nobody retaliated. OK. You know how many pitches Goldschmidt got hit by in 2013? Three. It's not like opposing pitchers were having target practice at him all season.

But whatever. Easier to blame the pitching coach rather than blame the fact that maybe the team just wasn't good enough.