The Diamondbacks fire Kevin Towers

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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.

Major League Baseball threatens to walk away from Minor League Baseball entirely

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The war between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball escalated significantly last night, with Minor League Baseball releasing a memo accusing Major League Baseball of “repeatedly and inaccurately” describing the former’s stance in negotiations and Major League Baseball responding by threatening to cut ties with Minor League Baseball entirely.

As you’re no doubt aware, negotiations of the next, 10-year Professional Baseball Agreement, which governs the relationship between the big leagues and the minors — and which is set to expire following the 2020 season — have turned acrimonious. Whereas past negotiations have been quick and uncontroversial, this time Major League Baseball presented Minor League Baseball with a plan to essentially contract 42 minor league baseball teams by eliminating their major league affiliation while demanding that Minor League Baseball undertake far more of the financial burden of player development which is normally the responsibility of the majors.

That plan became public in October when Baseball America reported on it, after which elected officials such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren began weighing in on the side of Minor League Baseball. Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball were not happy with all of that and, on Wednesday, Manfred bashed Minor League Baseball for taking the negotiations public and accused Minor League Baseball of intransigence, saying the minors had assumed a “take it or leave it” negotiating stance.

Last night Minor League Baseball bashed back in the form of a four-page public memo countering Manfred’s claims, with point-point-by-point rebuttals of Major League Baseball’s talking points on various matters ranging from stadium facilities, team travel, and player health and welfare. You can read the memo in this Twitter thread from Josh Norris of Baseball America.

Major League Baseball responded with its own public statement last night. But rather than publicly rebut Minor League Baseball’s claims, it threatened to simply drop any agreement with Minor League Baseball and, presumably start its own minor league system bypassing MiLB entirely:

“If the National Association [of Minor League Clubs] has an interest in an agreement with Major League Baseball, it must address the very significant issues with the current system at the bargaining table. Otherwise, MLB clubs will be free to affiliate with any minor league team or potential team in the United States, including independent league teams and cities which are not permitted to compete for an affiliate under the current agreement.”

So, in the space of about 48 hours, Manfred has gone from being angry at the existence of public negotiations to negotiating in public, angrily.

As for Minor League Baseball going public itself, one Minor League Baseball owner’s comments to the Los Angeles Times seems to sum up the thinking pretty well:

“Rob is attempting to decimate the industry, destroy baseball in communities and eliminate thousands of jobs, and he’s upset that the owners of the teams have gone public with that information in an effort to save their teams. That’s rich.”

Things, it seems, are going to get far worse before they get better. If, in fact, they do get better.