Winter Meetings Q&A: Kirk Gibson

During this week's Winter Meetings, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson spoke about fundamentals, his Manager of the Year Award, Paul Goldschmidt, Jarrod Parker, Hiroki Kuroda, and more. Here are some of the edited highlights from his press conference.

Regarding the fundamentals on which the Diamondbacks will focus during Spring Training:

Last year we made a lot of mistakes on base running. We want to be smarter and more efficient with our decisions. There's a time to be aggressive and make an out, and there's times not to. We're not there yet. But there's an example of things we need to work on. How do we do that? Well, I have many opinions and theories on how to do that and I'll formulate that and we'll implement a lot of those things in Spring Training. And when we go on to Spring Training next year, we should see things like that more efficient in our game. I think what we did last year is somewhat elementary, compared to if we establish our nucleus, which we have done, and then you just keep advancing.

My goal is to get them to where they're much more efficient and just know when to make what play, whether it's offensively or defensively, whether they're a pitcher, whether they're a base runner, whether they're throwing a ball in or cut off, that's something we didn't do very good. We started hitting the cutoff pretty good. But you've got to know what you do when you hit the cut off. There's ways to cut innings off. And overall you look at our season last year, our starting pitching had 67 wins for us out of  94. That's pretty fortunate. That made our bullpen better. Those things are going to be hard to duplicate. So we have to give those pitchers a chance, if they execute properly, they give a hit up and they get multiple guys on base, so we can cut that inning off for them.

On roster competition during Spring Training:

It seems like everything is set, but it really never is in my mind. If something else will make us better I'll push for it. And at the same time, just because you're struggling, doesn't mean I'm going to pull the cord on you. If you're doing things right and you're still doing things for us, I'm going to be your biggest supporter. You guys have seen that. I'm going to play everybody, whoever we've got on our team. They're going to play. And I know that when I tell the group in Spring Training just because you don't leave camp with us doesn't mean you don't have an impact on our team, they'll understand I'm not lying to them. Our depth is very important to us. And there will be some guys that don't leave camp with us next year that I expect will have a huge impact on our success. I'm going to ask them. Is it you?

Discussing what it meant for him to win Manager of the Year:

Not a lot. I want to win a World Series, and that's my goal because, I mean, I'll just give you an example, and when 1988 I won the MVP. And I had a press conference and there was probably about 70 people there, and it was all about me. But then when he won the World Series, we had a parade and there was a million people there. Which one would you want to be in? So for me, my motivation is not for me, it's for my team, my organization, and all the people that dedicate themselves and help us strive towards our goal. I'm not going to say it doesn't mean anything. I said that flippantly. But it's obviously an honor and it validates some of the things that you went through. But I want to make sure that everybody understands it's reflective of our whole organization and what we did this year. I had something to do with it, no question, but so many other people did, that really goes unrecognized, I don't want that to happen.

On keeping his players motivated:

It's certainly something I put a lot of thought into. You guys know me, I constantly shake myself to remain humble. Success is hard to deal with. We've talked about it. I'm not worried about it but yet I'm alert about it. And it's something that we'll work on. I feel pretty confident in the guys that we have in there. I really like the way we rounded into shape this year, and what they accomplished and how they did it and how they pulled together. And you could see that they're totally team guys. And they're able to put their own personal things behind them. It's something we'll remain alert from. It could damage our chances if we can't remain humble.

Regarding Hiroki Kuroda:

Tremendous. He's a good pitcher. Has a great track record, durable, solid. I don't know if he's going to be with us. There's speculation. But certainly the kind of guy you're looking for.

On having Aaron Hill for an entire season:

Aaron did a great job for us. I like him. The way we got Aaron Hill was that I felt that when Stephen Drew got hurt, I started playing Willie Bloomquist pretty regularly, and I didn't feel he was the same player after he played several days in a row. So we had a coach's think tank meeting and KT and some of the guys came down, and I expressed to them what my concern was and so I wanted somebody to give him a blow occasionally. And Charlie Nagy said how about Johnny Mac. And it ended up with Aaron Hill and Johnny Mac coming to us. And with the loss of Stephen Drew it allowed us to play at a faster speed by adding those two guys. Aaron did a great job. I love his work ethic. It was certainly a breath of fresh air for him. He struggled in Toronto, I understand that. I struggled on a different team, so I understand him. We expect him to be better than last year. 

On how much confidence last year's success gives him:

I was hoping I would make better decisions. I don't think the confidence is the proper word, because you're always confident. I was confident when I came in. We had discussions with you guys. I you thought I was speaking garbage. Who believed it? I was out at MLB, and asked who picked this? Were we on your radar? I understand that. So you have to have confidence and you have to have conviction in where you want to go. I'm reading a book; it's called The Sixth Sense of Baseball. You should read it.

I believe in affirming where I want to go, not where my fear is afraid I might go. And certainly to get my team to think the same way. We have a tendency to lock onto the negative things that happen to us in a baseball game or in life. It's very dangerous. And it's the easy way to go, okay? I try to do just the opposite. Why not lock on to the golden nuggets? I feel a lot better, so do they. It gets us better for the next at-bat. To the next season, we're going to think that way. We know it's not easy. We know there's other teams out there. I totally respect that. But that's not going to alter my thought process and the organization's thought process. We can do everything right and it won't workout, but that's our goal.

Talking about Paul Goldschmidt:

He did an exceptional year for us. It doesn't mean he'll be able to do the same thing. Goldy is a very humble kid, very studious, and I expect that he's not taking anything for granted. I know he wants to be a Gold Glover. He has lofty goals, I promise you that. But I'm working on some depth for him right now. But we expect him to play quite a few games for us this year, and be very productive.

I think he should try to improve on everything, the consistency. But if you [compare] what he was like in Spring Training to when he came to us [in August]: considerably better in all aspects. Certainly defensively. But then if you watched the way that he works every day, you'll understand why.

We saw some really good things from him [in Spring Training]. See, the way I look at it, and I always say, who's the guy this year? I think that there's somebody this year, maybe somebody next year. The opportunity is going to be there. If you do things right and you're in the minor leagues and you produce and you understand what the philosophy of the organization is and you're able to execute that on a consistent basis, you'll play for us. And that's what he did. Bryan Shaw, the same thing, we brought him up, sat him down, told him to work on a few things, he was with us the rest of the year. He's a guy that was really green, but he's very, very competitive. He's got a very good makeup. And he played 24 games for us? Pretty good. And big games, too.

On how Jarrod Parker's late season callup might aid him in 2012:

We're going to find out. I think it does. We sent him down, brought him up at the end. We've got to find out what his makeup is like. He got in the game in Milwaukee, they got pretty hot real quick. But I know he's highly motivated. And Spring Training will be really good for him - he's probably going to be really excited. He's come a long way since his elbow surgery. He's got a long way to go. We like him. Everybody likes him. Yeah, we need to get his ability and doing things consistently in the big leagues. That's part of our challenge. But I know he's on board, yeah. We've got a lot of young kids that will be excited for spring, I'm looking forward to that part of it, we'll have some fun with them.

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