The Diamondbacks' worst-to-first rise in the NL West was not without its benefits to the front office. General manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson were rewarded with new three-year contracts only 13 months after being hired.
The sides agreed to the new deals shortly after the end of the National League Division Series, which the D-backs lost in five games to the Milwaukee Brewers, but the news did not become public until early November. Financial terms were not disclosed, although both Towers and Gibson also have two-year options that could keep them with the D-backs until 2016.
"Their greatest contributions were a change of culture," D-backs managing partner Ken Kendrick said. "From the first day, that was the mindset they brought. [The players] needed to learn how to win, and that's what [Towers and Gibson] taught them to do. This is a lot about leadership and creating a mindset of winning, and the continuation of understanding that winning is why we are all here. We wanted to show our confidence in them."
The D-backs became the ninth team since 1979, Gibson's first year in the major leagues, to go from last place in its division to first place in one season. The D-backs' 94-68 record was a 29-game improvement from 2010, when general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch were let go July 1 and Gibson was promoted to interim manager. Towers was hired on September 23.
Gibson is the leading candidate for the NL Manager of the Year award, to be announced next week by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Towers appears to be a top candidate for the Executive of the Year award, given out by The Sporting News.
The D-backs also became the first team since the start of division play in 1969 to go from last place in a division to first in a month when they caught the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants at the end of May last year.
"They expected to win last year," Kendrick said of Towers and Gibson. "If you would have asked me what I thought, I wouldn't have had that expectation. It was more of a hope than an expectation."
Towers had originally agreed to a two-year contract with two two-year options that could vest depending on the team's performance. Gibson was on a two-year deal through 2012 that included an option for 2013.
--SS/OF Willie Bloomquist signed a two-year, $3.8 million deal to remain with his hometown D-backs, adding another shortstop to the mix with SS Stephen Drew's availability for the start of spring question seemingly in question. John McDonald recently signed a two-year, $3 million contract. Bloomquist hit .266 with 20 stolen bases last season and was a spark at the top of the order. He appeared in a career-high 59 games at shortstop, most of them after Drew suffered a season-ending broken leg and fractured right ankle in mid-July, and committed only five errors. Bloomquist declined his $1.1 million option for 2012 before the sides agreed on the new deal.
--2B Aaron Hill has signed a two-year, $11 million contract to return to the Arizona Diamondbacks pending a physical Tuesday. After batting .225 with the Blue Jays this year, Hill came to the D-backs and batted .315 in 33 gmes. He became the fourth free agent to resign with the team, joining Bloomquist, McDonald, and Henry Blanco.
--The D-backs' new three-year contracts with general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson were not a proactive move to take both off the market during the annual hunt to fill openings, managing partner Ken Kendrick said. "You could expect their performances were noticeable by others, but that was not a part of our decision," Kendrick said. Towers and Gibson are signed through 2014, and each has a two-year option that could keep them with the D-backs through 2016. "Their greatest contributions were a change of culture. From the first day, that was the mindset they brought," Kendrick said.
--Team president/CEO Derrick Hall underwent successful surgery to remove his prostate gland on November 8, the D-backs said. The cancer had not spread, confirming a previous belief. Hall, who was diagnosed in September, is expected to return to work in the near future. He is 42.
--OF Adam Eaton is having a strong season in the Arizona Fall League, considered a proving ground for top minor league talent on the cusp of the major leagues. Eaton, a 19th-round pick in 2009, was hitting .360/.432/.510 in his first 25 games for East Division-leading Salt River. Eaton, 5-foot-8, was leading the league in runs (29), ranked third in hits (36), and was fourth in stolen bases (eight).
--D-backs managing partner Ken Kendrick was one of seven members inducted into the University of West Virginia College of Business and Economics' inaugural Roll of Distinguished Alumni in a ceremony at his alma mater. Kendrick, an original member of the D-backs' ownership group, became the team's managing partner in 2004. He was inducted into the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 2006.
DIAMOND STAT: 2016 -- The season through which general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson could remain with the D-backs if they fulfill their contracts.
QUOTABLE: "Their greatest contributions were a change of culture. From the first day, that was the mindset they brought. They (players) needed to learn how to win, and that's what (Towers and Gibson) taught them to do." -- D-backs managing partner Ken Kendrick, after announcing three-year contract extensions to general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson.
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