Ryan Roberts’ trip around the bases Tuesday night following an improbable grand slam that capped the Arizona Diamondbacks’ two-out, six-run comeback in the bottom of the 10th inning against the Dodgers was so Kirk Gibson-esque.
Capped off by pumping his left arm as he neared second base and headed for third. He pointed toward Gibson, in the Arizona dugout, the entire time.
“Some things rub off,” Gibson said, cracking a grin. “He deserved to do it.”
Vin Scully, calling Roberts’ homer against the Dodgers, didn’t use the words “improbable” or “impossible” as he did when Gibson hit his 1988 World Series Game 1 homer for the Dodgers to beat the Oakland A’s in the bottom of the ninth.
(On KTAR-AM in Phoenix, Greg Schulte’s call went something like this: “Roberts a drive … deep left field … Diamondbacks win! … Are you kidding me!? … Are … you … kidding … me? A grand slam by Roberts and the Diamondbacks are still alive … You are kidding me. This crazy, folks. Absolutely crazy. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. It’s been that kind of a year.”)
Roberts was an 8-year-old kid in Texas when that happened. Most of the 25 players on the D’backs current active roster were little kids when it happened. One — pitcher Jarrod Parker — wasn’t born yet, but his presence was felt as well Tuesday. He worked 5 2/3 scoreless inning and gave up just four hits in his debut.
The Gibson mindset in these Diamondbacks harkens back to when he carried the Dodgers as the NL MVP in ’88, before his post-season heroics.
“We just play until the final out,” said reliever Micah Owings, who somehow improve to 8-0 despite giving up five runs to the Dodgers in the top of the 10th.
The D’backs are the comeback kids of ’11, with 48 of them this season.
Is it all because of Gibson?
We asked the three MLB studio analysts for TBS about that as they prepare to start their postseason coverage:
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson congratulates Chris Young (24) and Aaron Hill (2) after both scored during the first inning of a game against the San Francisco last week in Phoenix.
==Ron Darling, the former New York Mets pitcher who played against Gibson in the 1988 NLCS as the Dodgers came back to win that series:
“That ’88 team will be the underdogs who came back from nowhere. Hershiser had the historic season, Scioscia hit the homer in the playoffs against Gooden, and then Gibson against Eckersley. I will say when Kirk got the job (as manager of the Diamondbacks two years ago), no one was more excited. In this day in age with all the psychological skills you deal with in today’s athletes, he’s a throwback. Go play hard, go from first-to-third, run over the catcher, catch the ball. He’s allowed his starting pitchers like (Ian) Kennedy and (Daniel) Hudson to feel their oats. There was a game back in June where Hudson couldn’t throw a strike for two or three innings, but Gibson let him figure it out. Some players need to be nurtured and some need a kick in the rear end to make them better, and he’s done that.
“As for the underdog role — if he doesn’t play that to the hilt, I’d be disappointed. He played on a team where anything was possible, and everyone is discounting them as an underdog in this postseason. Yeah, he’ll use that to his advantage. He’s an amazing guy, an unbelieveable competitor and he’s brought that football mentality to baseball.”
We also asked about how Gibson has former Detroit Tigers’ teammate Alan Trammell as his main bench coach.
Said Darling: “I don’t know if there’s a ying and yang there because (Alan) is more docile, but who isn’t compared to Kirk? He’s one of the great players of my generations, and also a knowledgeable manager himself. To have those two minds working as one is one of the reasons why they’re here. I don’t discount any of these (playoff) teams, but don’t be surprised when Fox takes over (for the World Series coverage) that you have two teams that makes you push your cap back on your brow and say, ‘I never saw that coming.’
== Cal Ripken Jr., who played for years with the Baltimore Orioles against Gibson’s Tigers:
“Gibson loved to compete, and I loved the way he played. There is that football flashback. When you watch him from afar, Gibby has a sense of playing the game right and holding his team accountable. When you look at his staff — Trammell, Don Baylor and Charles Nagy and Matt Williams and Eric Young — they know how to play right and they insist on it. So his personality is perfect for that. Taking secondary leads and the action pitch. Ron Washington (at Texas) has done the same thing. I love how Gibson calls his guys ‘grinders.’ The season is long. It’s not as if they have lesser talent — maybe they do position by position versus other teams — but he was a grinder and he expects his teams to do that and compete. They’re interesting to watch and he likes the role of the underdog.”
FYI: ESPN.com’s Jim Capel recently wrote (linked here) about the Diamondbacks coaching staff: The experience there with Gibson, Trammel, Baylor, Young, Nagy and Williams adds up to 9,662 career hits, 5,445 runs, 4,910 RBIs, 1,235 home runs, 1,323 stolen bases, 509 times hit by pitches, eight Gold Gloves, 127 wins, 1,242 strikeouts, two MVP awards, two MVP runner-ups, a fourth-place Cy Young finish, 16 All-Star appearances, 11 World Series appearances and an Olympic gold medal.
== David Wells, a former teammate with Gibson’s (1993-’95) in Detroit:
“My philosophy about Gibson . . . I’ve been dealing with him the last 18 years on an every-day basis (because) we own a ranch in Michigan. Seeing him on the field as a manager, dissecting his team, his thoughts on what moves to make with what matchups are there — it’s the same way he does with the hunting industry. What goes on at the ranch — it’s about how to make it better for the future, stuff like that.
“I can’t be more proud of one of my best friends to see what’s going on there. He’s got a lot of Sparky Anderson in him. What he brought to the table kind of goes into his own philosophies as a manager. The grinder that he was as a teammate, and playing against him, you hear the stories of what he’s done in the game. I’m sure Cal didn’t want to be at second base on a bang-bang play where Gibson would be there to take you out. You could hear him coming. That’s all he wants out of his team. He won’t get in their face. He just expects the guys to be committed, and be on time. We have a schedule to be on time, and that’s programmed. They’re accountable. He’s not going to change the game, he just wants them to realize their talent. He took a team that went .290 (winning percentage) last season to winning the NL West. That shows a lot of character.
“We’ve had so many conversations on life, baseball … he dissects and wants to get the best information at hand and challenge you like no other. That’s something about him. And that comes from his dad (a school teacher) as well. If (Kirk) had some trouble, his dad would throw him a book and say, ‘Read it, figure it out.’ Being accountable and transferring it to his players is what he does. He doesn’t want them to be Kirk Gibson, but be Justin Upton and Chris Young to the best of their ability. You know what? You can hold your head high and there’s nothing to lose at this point. He’s done his job. That’s why his team has responded to him putting the challenges out there. It’s remarkable. A lot of people don’t know him like I do. It’s exciting to see what he’s accomplished.
“And having Trammell there — it’s a great tandem. It was the other way around in Detroit when he coached and Trammell managed (2003-’05). They’re like Joe Torre and Don Zimmer. And it doesn’t hurt having the rest of that staff.”
Follow up question: How to players today buy into Gibson’s philosophy when it seems to be counter-intuitative to some of them these days?
Wells: “It’s a different game. It’s changed drastically with the 100-pitch rules and all the specialists and things, the five-inning quality start. It’s not like when Cal and I started, and when Darling came in. I’m still old-school and don’t like to see where the game is going. But (Kirk) just does what he does. Sure, you’re going to grind them and leave them out to there to see what they’re made of. He’s the manager that gives you the ball and says, ‘see you in the ninth.’ You don’t see that anymore. But Nolan Ryan (part owner of the Texas Rangers) is also doing a great job of stretching them out. That’s the way it should be. You can’t baby these guys. And (Gibson) won’t baby anyone.”