02/16/11 11:31 AM EST
Discipline, camaraderie keys for Gibson
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
"I know most managers say they have really only one rule, and that's to be on time," Gibson said. "My one rule is to compete at all times. That's the way I look at it."
It's that kind of mindset that allowed Gibson to survive for 17 years as a player in the big leagues while winning a National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1988 and two World Series championships.
And it's the type of determination that he is expecting out of his team in his first full season at the helm. Gibson took over last July 1 on an interim basis when A.J. Hinch was dismissed, and he was given a two-year contract following the season.
"You have to compete yourself into good situations and out of bad situations," Gibson said. "You have to compete all the time, you can't quit. If you quit, your ability means nothing."
The D-backs have found themselves in plenty bad spots the past two seasons, finishing last in the NL West both years. It's a far cry from the team that won 90 games and made it to the NL Championship Series in 2007, and a 2008 squad that finished second to the Dodgers.
"What have we been defending the last two years?" Gibson said. "We've been defending where nobody wants to go -- last place. That's easy, nobody wants to go there. We haven't had to fight anybody for it, right? We want to raise what we're defending. It's going to be a little tougher, and so we've got to do things a little differently, think a little differently."
After he was hired in September, general manager Kevin Towers spent the final days of the season engrossed in long talks with Gibson about the pair's philosophy of the game, before deciding to retain him as manager.
What they both found out was they were competitors, and each agreed that the D-backs lacked toughness and leadership in the clubhouse.
With that in mind, Towers spent the winter remaking the roster with input from Gibson. Veterans like Melvin Mora, Geoff Blum, Henry Blanco, Xavier Nady and Willie Bloomquist were brought in to provide guidance to the young core of players.
There will be increased discipline as well. Gibson has banned pellet guns and toy airplanes in the clubhouse, and there will be a certain time before a game when cell phones and iPads need to disappear as well.
"We've talked about changing the culture," Gibson said. "We just have to have a different picture of who we are -- who the Diamondbacks are -- and it's a process to change that."
Gibson learned the process of how to change's one's self-perception early on in his playing career, when he took some courses at The Pacific Institute to learn the power of positive affirmations and goal-setting.
It is something that Gibson credits with turning his career around as well as helping him excel when the pressure was on -- like the home run he hit off Goose Gossage in the 1984 World Series, or the famous game-winner he hit in Game 1 of the '88 World Series off Dennis Eckersley.
"I'll take some of the techniques for sure," Gibson said. "It's just a lot easier to go somewhere if you can see it clearly. The guys we had last year and the guys we have this year, they're way better than they realize, and that's my job to help them realize it. "
As part of the change in culture, Gibson and his coaching staff sat through every session of the D-backs' organizational meetings.
"Usually the Major League staff do their gig and they're gone," Towers said. "I think it showed not only me, but the entire organization, that we're a team. Gibby and his coaching staff are about team and about being unified and understanding it's not just the players or the coaches, it's the entire organization [that must work together] if we want to get to where we're want to go."
Gibson spent the offseason consumed by the idea of figuring out how to get the D-backs headed in the right direction. That led to reading books by legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, a book on Vince Lombardi and a book called "The Imperfect Leader."
The conclusion Gibson came to was that the entire organization had to be on the same page, which is why it was important for he and his staff to stick around for the entire organizational meetings.
"If we can pull together and be the best we can be, then we give ourselves a chance," Gibson said. "If we're going to be selfish, we've got no shot. If we have a terrible culture, we've got no shot. If we're not all on the same page in this building and throughout the entire organization, we've got no shot. That's my opinion on it."
Once he's established the right mindset for the start of the season, Gibson knows there will still be work to be done to maintain it over a 162-game schedule.
"You throw your hat in," he said. "Are you going to leave it in or are you going to pull it out? If you take a beating, are you just going to keep taking your beating or are you going to stand up?
"There's a perseverance part. We're going to go work and do all that and prepare the best we can for that, but mentally we have to be much stronger, much more committed, and have much more perseverance. There are opportunities out there for us together, let's go find them."