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.
It’s the last Clayton Kershaw start of the regular season. Prepare yourselves accordingly.
The Dodgers already have the NL West in the bag, but they’re still fighting for home-field advantage against the Nationals. Should the two teams end up with the same regular season record by Monday morning, the edge will go to the Dodgers, who have a better head-to-head record this year. Kershaw has already been announced as the starter for Game 1 of the NLDS, while the Nationals have kept their lineup close to the vest for the time being.
Facing the Dodgers is Giants’ left-hander Ty Blach, who is poised to make the second major league start of his career this afternoon. The Giants are in a precarious position heading into the last two games of the year and have the potential to force a three-way tie among NL wild card contenders. A thorough breakdown of the wild card and home-field advantage possibilities has been outlined here.
You can find more from Saturday’s action below.
New York Mets (Bartolo Colon) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Phil Klein), 1:05 PM EDT
Pittsburgh Pirates (Chad Kuhl) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha), 1:05 PM EDT
Baltimore Orioles (Wade Miley) @ New York Yankees (Luis Severino), 4:05 PM EDT
Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) @ San Francisco Giants (Ty Blach), 4:05 PM EDT
Miami Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen) @ Washington Nationals (Tanner Roark), 4:05 PM EDT
Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester) @ Cincinnati Reds (Tim Adleman), 4:10 PM EDT
Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer) @ Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez), 4:15 PM EDT
Detroit Tigers (Jordan Zimmerman) @ Atlanta Braves (Aaron Blair), 7:10 PM EDT
Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) @ Boston Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez), 7:10 PM EDT
Tampa Bay Rays (Jake Odorizzi) @ Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis), 8:05 PM EDT
Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta) @ Colorado Rockies (Jeff Hoffman), 8:10 PM EDT
Houston Astros (Collin McHugh) @ Los Angeles Angels (Tyler Skaggs), 9:05 PM EDT
Oakland Athletics (Jharel Cotton) @ Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma), 9:10 PM EDT
Raul Alcantara was in the business of distributing home runs on Friday night.
Robinson Cano caught the tail end of a 94.1 m.p.h. fastball in the first inning, driving it to center field to put the Mariners on the board. In the second, Norichika Aoka found his fourth home run of the year on a similarly-placed heater. The Mariners then targeted Alcantara’s off-speed stuff, picking on the right-hander’s changeup and slider to get two more home runs in the third: the first, another dead-center blast by Cano, and the last, a bomb by Nelson Cruz that popped off the center field wall and survived an umpire review.
Taijuan Walker, who enjoyed the spike in run support from his 3.6 average, was not immune to the home run bug either, giving up the first and only run of the night on Ryon Healy’s 102-m.p.h. home run in the sixth inning.
While Walker excelled at run prevention, he also came one walk shy of hitting a career-high mark, with five walks spread over six innings. Seattle’s bullpen stepped in for three perfect innings to close out the game and, despite six perfect frames from Oakland relievers Zach Neal and Daniel Coulombe, quashed the A’s hopes of closing a four-run gap.
The Mariners’ win on Friday puts them one game back of the wild card; if they take the rest of the series and the Tigers and Blue Jays lose one of their remaining weekend games, the Mariners will tie for the remaining wild card spot. With Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez on the hill this weekend, winning shouldn’t be an issue. Getting the Blue Jays to collapse against the Red Sox (and, to a lesser extent, the Tigers against the Braves) is another story.
Here are the rest of the box scores from Friday’s games. Keep an eye out for the first modest bat flip of Jose Bautista‘s career, Madison Bumgarner‘s eighth RBI of the year, and the Orioles’ three-homer inning.
Orioles 8, Yankees 1
Marlins 7, Nationals 4
Mets 5, Phillies 1
Cubs 7, Reds 3
Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Tigers 6, Braves 2
Rangers 3, Rays 1
Rockies 4, Brewers 1
White Sox 7, Twins 3
Indians 7, Royals 2
Cardinals 7, Pirates 0
Diamondbacks 5, Padres 3
Angels 7, Astros 1
Mariners 5, Athletics 1
Giants 9, Dodgers 3