I’ve been promising an offseason preview for the better part of a week. It’s coming. Life has gotten pretty hectic since my graduate program started a couple weeks ago, so you’ll have to excuse me for being a little late on the follow-through. I have a mountain of reading to complete for tomorrow — you’ll have to settle for a couple quick hits this morning.
ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE DEBUT
The Arizona Fall League kicked off yesterday, and the organization has prospects playing for the Surprise Saguaros. Mitch Haniger stole the show, launching a grand slam in the sixth inning on a 3-1 fastball and doubling in his first at-bat of the AFL season. It’s obviously only one game, but it was a wonderful way to kick off the campaign for the former supplemental first-rounder.
Right-hander Tyler Cravy also appeared on the AFL’s opening day. He threw 1.2 scoreless innings, but more importantly, we got a little taste of what he’s offering this autumn.
Cravy is a 24-year-old pitcher in High-A — which is immediately a red flag — but he turned some heads this summer by compiling a stellar 2.04 ERA and performing exceptionally well over the second half once he was moved back to the starting rotation. He reportedly touched the mid-90s with his fastball with Brevard County. On Tuesday, his fastball velocity fluctuated. He sat 88-89 with his first batter, but eventually bumped up his fastball to 93 in his second inning. He also featured a changeup and slider — though PitchF/X also classified a couple of his fastballs as cutters, which is interesting. Perhaps he’s 91-93 mph with his four-seamer and in the upper-80s with a cutter.
D-BACKS’ GM SAYS HE WANTS HIS TEAM THROWING AT OPPOSING HITTERS
This story will be getting plenty of play over the next couple days and you’ll probably see a follow-up story that severely softens the stance, but Arizona Diamondbacks’ GM Kevin Towers went off the deep end in a recent interview. He unequivocally stated that he wants his team to throw at opposing hitters more often. In fact, he expressed anger that it wasn’t done more this season.
Toward the end of the season, the L.A. Dodgers clubbed six home runs in an 8-1 drubbing of the D-backs, which was a game that saw the eventual NL West champs look a little too comfortable in the dugout.
“I was sitting behind home plate that game and when it showed up on the Diamondvision of stuffing bananas down their throats, I felt like we were a punching bag,” Towers told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo Tuesday. “Literally, if I would have had a carton of baseballs I would have fired them into the dugout from where I was sitting behind home plate.
“That’s not who we are as Diamondbacks, that’s not how — I mean, it’s a reflection on Gibby, on myself, on our entire organization. They slapped us around and we took it.”
Towers said that has to stop, and following the game he had “a few choice words for the (coaching) staff.”
“You’d think the GM comes down and makes it a point to talk to the staff about it that at we need to start protecting our own and doing things differently,” he said. “Probably a week later Goldy gets dinged, and no retaliation. It’s like ‘wait a minute.’
“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 jacknifed.”
This is obviously unacceptable in multiple ways, from the language used to the ultimate premise of punishing members of the team for not purposefully throwing at opposing hitters, but it goes a little deeper than that. I think Kevin Towers is upset about multiple things:
(1) A perceived insubordination from the coaching staff. I’m not so sure his anger is being directed at the players. It appears he’s much more upset with the coaching staff and their unwillingness to follow through on his requests/demands. It’s a bit of a power struggle between Towers and manager Kirk Gibson, and this is Towers asserting his dominance. When he tells Gibson to do something, Gibson had better follow through.
(2) A lack of intensity. This is the most obvious sentiment running through the tirade, so it probably doesn’t need to be elaborated upon. Towers wants guys who desperately want to win and bring a chip on their shoulder to the diamond every day. I think that’s being expressed in an inappropriate way in this interview, but I don’t think the issue for Towers is so much throwing at guys as it is showing a win-or-die attitude every single day.
With the amount of attention this story will garner today, though, I fully expect someone from the Diamondbacks (if not Towers himself) to backpedal from this stance in the coming days. I don’t think he’ll fully recant, but he’s going to get hammered from this. He’ll engage in some sort of damage control, I would think.