D-Backs Manager Gibson says West is "Open"

At this time last year there wasn't a lot of buzz at Arizona Diamondbacks Spring Training about a charge to an NL West division title. A year and 94 wins later, the D-Backs are the defending division champs looking to get back to the playoffs once again. Will they be able to fight off their competition and regression from just 88 pythagorean wins in 2011?

According to their manager, the division is wide open.

"[It's] strong, like it always is," Kirk Gibson said. 

Well, the Dodgers and Rockies figure to be better because both teams were unfathomably bad for stretches and let's knock on wood so that doesn't happen again. The Padres have the best farm system in all of baseball according to authorities on such matters Kevin Goldstein (Baseball Prospectus) and Keith Law (ESPN.com). There's still a gap between the division champs and San Diego's current major league club, though, perhaps leaving the San Francisco Giants as the only real competition.

"We know their pitching is always good, so we don't take them lightly," Gibson said of the Giants.

The Giants magical run in 2010 sure had a lot to do with a pitching staff that was dominant and was very effective in '11 also. However, since their World Series victory, the Giants have struggled mightily to find offense as Aubrey Huff has yet to live up to his contract extension and Brandon Belt still struggles for playing time. 

"We don't take anybody lightly," Gibson said. 

 Yup, he believes the NL West is wide open.

"I consider everybody to be [in competition for the division title]," he said. "The season is going to be tough, nobody knows who is going to be the team. You can speculate all you want, in my mind they're all the team."

Oh, I will speculate, Gibby. It's what I do and I want to do it, you don't have to worry about that. I'll sit around all month in my spare time thinking of who will challenge you for this division just out of spite! 

"I think it's a strong division, I don't think anybody knows," he said. 

Oh, c'mon, Gibby. Tell us, won't you? 

"Look at the last several years, us, Giants, San Diego," he said. "I think people maybe don't understand how strong the division is."

Maybe. Maybe I am underestimating the bottom teams in the weakest division in baseball right now. Maybe I don't understand how strong the weakest division in baseball is from top to bottom. I don't know, maybe I am, but I don't think I am. I was only at Spring Training for a week, but from looking at the rosters and the Rockies and Diamondbacks up close I think I know what a contender looks like and what a pretender looks like. It's always hard to make a good prediction this time of year because there is so much unknown about what this season will bring, but unless injuries alter the race I think the DIamondbacks are going to repeat.

Additional quotes from Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson:

  • On the addition of the extra Wild Card: "Initially, it doesn't do anything for me. I'm going to try to win the division. We want to make the playoffs to give ourselves a chance to do what the Cardinals did last year. That's our goal." 
  • On the addition of Jason Kubel: "He makes us a better team, definitely. We're deeper and he's another really powerful left handed bat. It's something we really need, whether Stephen [Drew] is with us or not with us. It would really give us another big bat to go with Stephen and [Miguel Montero] in the lineup everyday. He makes us more formidable and gives us a more balanced lineup." 

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