In the end, it is not surprising. It is also not unjustified. The Arizona Diamondbacks have fired Kevin Towers as their general manager. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic broke the news in the wee hours this morning. The team is expected to make a formal announcement later this morning. There is no news if manager Kirk Gibson still has a job.
Towers was hired at the end of the 2010 season, and in 2011 the team was fantastic. Winners of 94 games before losing to the Brewers in the NLDS. But the team dipped to .500 in 2012 and repeated with an 81-81 record last year. This year was far worse. As of this writing the Dbacks would have to win every single one of their remaining 23 games in order to finish .500. Obviously not happening.
Many of Towers’ moves can be blamed for the Dbacks’ backslide. He traded away Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves for a package of Martin Prado — who is now gone, after Towers locked him up to a long-term deal — and Randall Delgado who has been a disappointment. He traded away pitchers Ian Kennedy, Trevor Bauer, Jarrod Parker and Tyler Skaggs, all of whom have had success away from Arizona. He signed Brandon McCarthy, who was subsequently ordered not to throw his most effective pitch, only to trade him away to the Yankees where he has been successful since being allowed to throw it again. None of the players Towers got back in those trades have flourished in the desert.
Beyond the trades, Towers has brought considerable criticism to the organization in the last two years following public statements about how he wanted players with a certain type of attitude — gritty and hard-nosed — and how he wanted his pitchers to intentionally throw at opposing hitters in order to show that the Dbacks were not themselves easy targets. The former idea was mocked because, in almost all cases, the “gritty, gamer” label is applied to players as a descriptor after they win as opposed to quality that baseball executives seek out over and above, say, baseball talent. Towers claims the plunking thing was misconstrued by the media, but it’s hard to buy that after seeing Dbacks pitchers throw at batters this year under the orders and to the praise of Dbacks manager Kirk Gibson.
Ultimately, though, a GM can survive anything as long as he gets results. Towers has not gotten results in Arizona, and now he’s gone.
When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.
May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.
The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.
Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.
The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.