Being a baseball general manager is a tough job. It should be a tough job. as there are only 30 such jobs in the world. The creme should rise, if that old adage applies.
There is so much competition for assets, so many decisions to be made – many of which counteract each other – and the playing field is far from even. It is a really hard job that requires skill, luck, long hours, and no small dose of humility due to the high rate of failure.
When attempting a task as tall as attempting to be the one baseball team celebrating a World Series championship in October, rather than the 29 teams figuring out what they did wrong, it doesn’t make sense to place barriers in your own way. To make things more difficult by limiting the type of player welcome on your team.
The consensus around baseball right suggests the Diamondbacks did just that.
First, from Ken Rosenthal, come the most damning quotes – both from former D-Backs’ players and their GM himself, who cited the minor leaguers Arizona acquired as players who “fit the mold” before offering this tepid defense of his own mission statement:
“Different clubs like to look for different intangibles in players. We kind of like that grinding, gritty player – hard-nosed. I’m not saying that Justin isn’t that type of guy …”
Maybe this isn’t the reasoning for moving Upton. Perhaps the Diamondbacks feel like Upton’s value will never be higher and trading him now represents a good opportunity to cash in. This is the same GH who, as Marc Normandin notes, insisted he be blown away by any offer to trade Justin Upton. As nice a player as Martin Prado is, few would say the Braves blew away the competition with their package.
Rosenthal then turns to a former player in Arizona to shine more light into this bizarre situation in the desert.
“Justin doesn’t have that [all out, all the time] kind of attitude; he has a quiet intensity that doesn’t fit the mold of what KT and Gibby seem to want. He plays hard, but has to look suave doing it. Slamming into walls isn’t his thing, and they will accept nothing short of all-out sacrifice for the team.”
Justin Upton isn’t the first player shunned for an inability to play the game “the right way” and he won’t be the last. No matter how many games players like Brett Lawrie and Josh Hamilton miss, the baseball culture still bows and genuflects before the alter of Intensity. If that’s how the Snakes want to run their team, I suppose that is their prerogative. Makes it easier on the Giants, that much I know.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports wonders if Kevin Towers’ background as a scout might make some of Upton’s physical cues tough to ignore:
Towers is an old scout, and it is an old scouting trope – that slumping shoulders can tell all he needs to know about a player. Fluidity can be mistaken for bad body language, too, and the ease with which the game comes to Upton and other such gifted players can be mistaken for not caring. When the seed of that idea is already planted, it doesn’t take much for someone to germinate it.
Towers was quoted yesterday saying players mannerisms or “they way they carry themselves” betrays a lack of grinderish tendencies – an unforgivable sin in Arizona.
The list goes on. Jonah Keri feels Kevin Towers puts his players on one of two lists: My Guys or Get Them the Hell out of Here. The Diamondbacks made their bed publicly. Grit over greatness, though it needn’t be dichotomy. It just might work.
Maybe the DBacks band of competitors outlast the big money Dodgers and talent-rich Giants and win the division. Maybe then they take down a perennial NL contender like the absurdly talented Cardinals or the stacked Nationals or even their old friend Justin and his new team in Atlanta before casting aside Mike Trout and his Angels or the Rangers and their slick infield or Blue Jays who overhauled their roster, bringing in talent from all across the globe to win the World Series.
Maybe all that happens and Kevin Towers ushers in a new age of guts and heart and sticktoitivness and the D-Backs become the beating heart of the American Southwest. It could happen. But are you going to bet against the Mike Trouts and the Miguel Cabreras and the Joey Vottos because Cody Ross gets his uniform dirty? That would take a lot of guts.
And the rest
From earlier this month, Dave Cameron reminds us that Justin Upton is not a home park mirage. [Fangraphs]
Baseball Prospectus was down for a little while. Now that it is back, you need to read this again. [BP]
That BP post is great, but I wish it included this:
On the Getting Blanked podcast, we wondered just what the Phillies are doing. [Getting Blanked]
At SB Nation, Grant Brisbee wonders the same damn thing. [Brisbee Believers]
Bill Baer knows exactly what the Phillies are doing: totally blowing it. [Crashburn Alley]
The Rays ownership rattles their saber in search of a better ballpark deal. [Rays Index]
Might the Nationals and Braves win 100 games apiece? [ESPN Sweetspot]