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Diamondbacks At The Turn, Exceeding (Almost) All Expectations

The Arizona Diamondbacks have now played 82 games which is one game over one-half of their 2011 MLB season. Most experts and fans alike going into this summer pegged the D-backs to finish last in the NL West and at best approach a .500 record. Instead, they are 44-38 and just two games out of first place. No one saw that coming...except maybe for general manager Kevin Towers.

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"Why not? Every year regardless of what our payroll is or ball club is, my expectation is...I wouldn't be in this business if I didn't think you had a chance to win," Towers said on February 13th.

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Kirk Gibson all along has been a bit more muted about his expectations. He doesn't talk about making the postseason or winning a certain number of games.

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Gibson is a grinder. He approaches each day, each game and each at-bat with a singular focus on giving 100 percent effort. It's a mentality his team has quickly adopted and the result has been an entertaining brand of baseball that is gaining national recognition.

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When Gibby talks about the season in broader terms, he's thinking about improving the team and getting better at the tiny parts of baseball so few people notice. In a highly competitive league with 162 games, those little things often make the difference.

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This team has a long way to go and six games over .500 isn't a huge accomplishment.

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The Colorado Rockies (39-42) are just four and a half games back and with a ton of inter-division games remaining on the schedule, even a second place finish in the NL West is far from assured. As much good as Gibby's team has done so far, he's got a long way to go before the results are locked in.

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PHOENIX - JUNE 16: Manager Kirk Gibson #23 of the Arizona Diamondbacks smiles as he walks out to the field during batting practice prior to a game against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field on June 16, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)