The Arizona Diamondbacks have been virtually written off in their 2011 MLB NLDS series with the Milwaukee Brewers, and for good reason. Not only did they fall 0-2 in a five-game series but they didn't look all that good in the process. The ace starting pitching was not postseason caliber, the offense non-existent in Game 1, and the relief pitching in Game 2 imploded.
On top of all that, there are plenty of questions to ask about the decisions of manager Kirk Gibson who's calling the shots for the first time in the postseason.
Needless to say, Gibson has no time for any of that. He knows the odds (which are pretty grim if you are interested) but has some numbers of his own that he shared with his team on Monday before they took the field for a light workout.
"We're behind by two games now, we need to win the next three," Gibson said, playing the role of math teacher / master motivator.
"We've won three games or more 12 times this season. We won nine games in a row after losing six in a row. We won seven in a row, twice. Six in a row, once. All those streaks came after bad, bad play."
What wasn't spoken but implied by his tone was a message to his doubters, "So, take those numbers and shove them up your abacus."
Don't start pointing the finger of blame either.
"We're going to focus on the positive things that we've accomplish and keep our good attitude. We prospered together and we've failed together and that's the way it will remain. We're not going to start blaming people. We understand people are going to have opinions on why things are happening -- it's not over yet so it's almost amusing."
For those that don't know, Gibson made it clear early in spring training that he doesn't have time for negative retroactive thinking. Here he is paraphrasing Peter Crone in February.
Arizona Diamondbacks Spring Training 2011: Kirk Gibson Gets Philosophical..
"When you think about the past all the time, when you get to the present day you are thinking about the past so it becomes your future again. You understand? We're not thinking about that. We're thinking about the future. Stop asking me those questions. That's not how my mind works and you know that."
Another Gibson decision that hasn't yet been picked over much is starting Josh "Farris Wheel" Collmenter in Game 3 and Joe Saunders in Game 4.
Saunders was ahead of Collmenter in the rotation and is a veteran with playoff experience (5.40 ERA in 3 starts in the 2008 and 2009 ALDS against the Red Sox and Yankees) but got bumped for a guy who was in "fall ball" this time last year.
Collmenter's deceptive delivery flummoxed and frustrated the Brewers in two meetings this season (14 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) and more importantly, Gibson likes the cut of his jib.
"There's just a look about people when they get in certain situations that we've watched him throughout the year that leads us to believe he'll be fine in this environment," Gibson said about his rookie pitcher starting an elimination playoff game.
Gibby understands that the critiques come with the job and accepts full responsibility for everything that happens.
"We're where we're at (down 0-2) and I'm responsible, I'm the manager of the team. I have no problem with that. I do find it amusing in that the series isn't over yet."
But, he'll respect you more if you "first guess" instead of "second guess", so get in line with your guesses now.
Gibson promised he would manage the game "tighter" than he did on Sunday and do what he can to prevent the Brewers from having another big inning like the one that doomed the D-backs in Game 2.
Regardless of the outcome, it's been a pleasure covering this team and especially Kirk Gibson who is a unique blend of old school hard ass and new age modern thinker. If you want to put Gibby in a box, it better be a big one and it better have strong walls.
We went into this season with Gibson being the face of the team and on the eve of what could be the last game nothing's changed.