Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson’s the rare breed who stays, finishes the job

By October 22, 2013Uncategorized

Oct 22, 2013
By Bob Young
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To understand just what an unusual dude Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is, all you needed to do was watch Dodgers manager Don Mattingly on Monday.

Sitting next to his boss, General Manager Ned Colletti, Mattingly divulged that a team option on his contract for next season had vested when the Dodgers reached the National League Championship Series — but added that he isn’t sure he wants to come back for another year without a contract extension.

Mattingly managed this season with no assurance that he’d get next season, which he noted is “not a good position” to be in as a manager.

Nobody is blaming Mattingly for wanting the clout in the clubhouse that comes with job security.

And nobody would blame Gibson if he had told Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall that if the Tigers call to ask for permission to interview him to replace retiring Detroit manager Jim Leyland, he’d like for Hall to grant permission.

After all, Gibson played 12 seasons for the Tigers and helped them win a World Series in 1984. He’s a Michigan native and a Michigan State man.

One might think that the Tigers is Gibson’s dream job.

But Gibson doesn’t strike us as a dreamer. No, he’s a grinder, a person who sticks to the task at hand and doesn’t give in until the job is done.

If he weren’t, we never would have seen “the impossible” happen, as broadcaster Vin Scully described Gibson’s iconic home run 25 years ago in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

You may not always agree with Gibson’s strategies. Maybe you’d like to see him run out on an umpire a little more often or communicate better with his veteran players rather than keeping them on edge. But you can’t question the guy’s loyalty.

Remember last year when former Dodgers great Orel Hershiser, on his bobblehead night, threw out the first pitch before a game against the Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium and asked Gibson to catch it? Gibson politely declined.

“I’m a Diamondback,” Gibson said at the time. “I’m the manager of the team. I respect Orel tremendously. He knows that. It’s not disrespect towards him. If I was out of baseball I would have done it, but I’m in baseball and I’ve got different colors on … ”

A couple of months later, the Dodgers held a Kirk Gibson bobblehead night. He didn’t want it to happen and agreed only after Hall asked him to go along with it.

Hall also recalls the time Gibson said, “No, thanks” when the Dodgers wanted to salute Gibson and show that 1988 home run off of Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley when the Diamondbacks were in Los Angeles.

“They wanted him to step out and tip his cap,” Hall said. “He said, ‘Absolutely not. I’m there with the Diamondbacks. I’m not there to celebrate anything for the Dodgers.’ He even hid in the back of the dugout because he knew they were going to try to get a camera on him.”

Now, Gibson’s loyalty is being put to a much greater test.

Gibson is in Mattingly’s shoes. Yet, when Hall asked about the possibility of trying on a different pair, Gibson chose to keep the ones he has, even if they must be uncomfortable.

Hall spoke with Gibson Monday when Leyland stepped down, knowing that speculation already had begun regarding his manager moving to Detroit. He told azcentral sports’ Nick Piecoro that his inclination was to deny the Tigers permission to interview Gibson but told Gibson that if that’s what he really wanted, well, then that was different.

Gibson told the boss that he wants to stay where he is — which is going into the final year of his contract with team options for 2015 and 2016 that the club declined to exercise after back-to-back .500 seasons.

Who does that? Kirk Gibson, and maybe nobody else.

Hall also confirmed Tuesday that he didn’t exercise the same options on Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers’ contract.

“Yeah, they’re both in the same boat,” he said. “They both are under contract for this year, and it is my hope and intention to keep them both well beyond that. We just didn’t feel the need was there now after this season.”

The question is, are they both rowing that boat in the same direction?

Gibson and Towers were in Prescott along with Hall and other members of the Diamondbacks front office for a management retreat, and Hall said that Towers and Gibson are pulling together.

“I know some people are trying to create the perception that they’re not, but they are,” he said. “They were out walking together this morning talking about their plans.”

That planning will include new hitting, pitching and first-base coaches. It might include changing roles for bench coach Alan Trammell and third-base coach Matt Williams, assuming Williams returns and does not move on to a managerial job in Washington.

What Gibson’s planning evidently won’t include the Tigers.

“I don’t think there are too many people who have the same feelings and the same approach that he has,” Hall said. “I respect that. When he puts his signature on the line, he’s loyal. He works hard. He prepares. He wants to win.

“When the Dodgers asked about that bobblehead, he said ‘no.’ I told him, ‘Gibby, you’ve got to do that.’ He agreed, but only because I asked him to do it. That’s who he is. That’s what makes him great.”

And different.