Winter Meetings interview with Kirk Gibson

Winter Meetings interview with Kirk Gibson

Q. You got Eric Hinske. Can you talk about him?

KIRK GIBSON: Sure, just a veteran guy, left handed bat, mostly thinking about bench for him. He's got experience, understands how to read people, a little first base probably, but he probably could go third or outfield in a pinch in an extra inning game. His mentality is somewhat one that I can relate to, very intense. I like that.

Q. He's not seen as a platoon third baseman right now or a guy that could bat at third a couple times a week?

KIRK GIBSON: I think he could, and we'll see. But I mean, really he's a veteran guy, really look at him, and he'll get some spot starts at various positions. What I really want to do is help him. We were not very good in late or in close leverage situations. And I think as you analyze that, that's a lot of mentality involved in that, and you have to develop a certain approach in those situations and trust it, and I've watched him over his career, and I think he's a guy that can help us as a team, as well. It's just what he may do production wise just from his at bats.

Q. This division, is it becoming increasingly challenging given what the Giants have done and now the Dodgers with the way they're building up? Your focus has to be entirely in house, forget about what they're doing?

KIRK GIBSON: Well, I think I remember when I came over to Arizona, 2007 was my first year. So I was over here for a couple years and kind of learned the league, and the perception was that the West was very weak, and that's obviously not the case now. The Giants have won the World Series two years in a row. We've been competitive, the Brewers. Dodgers, like you say, they're obviously very motivated and have great resources to do so. Padres have certainly turned it around. You have to respect them, and I think as we sit and talk about names, we look at how a guy that you may want to acquire as far as you put your team together, how he may be able to perform against the guys in your division because you're going to play them 18 times, so that's something you have to focus on. At the same time, I think that you have to learn your personnel and try and utilize them properly and work on the things that you learn to believe in and are able to execute to help you obtain your what you're capable of doing. So I mean, it's the whole league is obviously very strong. It's challenging every series that you play. But the west is certainly very formidable. We played against the Giants last year. We were 9 and 9; they beat us the last two games. It's a lot of fun playing against the teams out west. A lot of fun.

Q. This past summer Joe Maddon told me that he won't do something just because it's been done for the last 100 years, and he was talking basically about the sacrifice bunt, but he obviously does extreme shifts and he'll go against the grain. How willing are you to do those things, and are you more willing now that you're established?

KIRK GIBSON: I think that if you look at our team last year, I think we were up there in sacrifice bunts by our pitchers. Obviously in the National League, you've got to do it. I think we were close to last just in bunting in general from our position players. I think the situation dictates there's many factors that you look at. I'd love to use the bunt more, love to hit and run more. I'd love to steal. You've got to be productive at it, successful at it. And if you're able to get to the point where you can execute these things, then it certainly is a tool. Look at the Giants. They bunted and they hit and ran, they stole, they defended very well, pitched well, bullpen was well. So again, I think it comes back to your personnel and your needs at any given time.

Q. Going into Spring Training in 2011, there's a lot of talk about competition and nobody had spots, and then last year it seemed like guys had spots going into Spring Training. Would you like to see more competition or do you think that maybe kind of had an effect on you a little bit last year?

KIRK GIBSON: You know what, you're looking all the time, and you're trying not to get stagnant in things that you do, so maybe you do some retreading. And I don't think that's very effective, and I don't think it worked good last year. Any kind of things that you can do with your team that makes them compete just beyond what you're thinking about, guys competing for a job, any drill you do, I think it's good. I think you get more it's more productive, there's more production out of it, makes it easier to do, guys have a better attitude to do it. You know, look at if somebody earns a job, they're going to earn a job. I would certainly encourage that. I had a guy after my job every year I ever played the game. So though you may be an established player, and there's just so many intangibles and mechanics of why you might stay there or somebody might replace you, you have to be alert to that. But we're always trying to get better. We're always trying to motivate guys to be better. The more you can do individually and as a team, the better chance you've got of winning.

Q. You also talked about wanting to take some time after the season to digest what had happened. Talk about possible changes. Have you kind of come to a little more clarity with that?

KIRK GIBSON: Well, first of all, the Giants were really good, as we all saw. We got out executed. I don't think we were we played up to our potential, so those are things we want to correct to we just didn't maybe we didn't have as good of a buy in. I said many times prior to the season that success is very dangerous. I think it was. I don't want to say anybody was complacent or that I was, but it's really hard to explain. There's just really not a good word for it. It's really a little bit disruptive in the process, and there's a lot of positive things that happened with us, as well. We just beyond the execution part, you look at our Minor Leagues, we had five championships in our Minor Leagues, and what's the key to one of the keys to being competitive year in and year out is having great depth and establishing things throughout your Minor Leagues. We did that. Obviously we've been building our pitching depth within our Minor Leagues. We brought some of those guys up at the end of the year. That was kind of an impactful decision we made. If you keep Joe Saunders, do you win another game or two, and does it really matter in the end? But at the same time we pitched our young guys, and we know it's going to have a huge impact in what they can do for us this year and beyond. You've got a guy like Wade Miley, he's a total development story. It's just total development. We brought Kubel over, very, very productive. On the other hand, you look at like Will Bloomquist, he broke down, played him too much. I'll analyze all those things, and hopefully I learn some lessons on part of that. We'll come back, we'll deliver a good, clear message and try and make it fun yet demanding so we can have better results and play more consistently and reach our potential.

Q. Was that maybe a little bit lacking last year, do you think?

KIRK GIBSON: I don't think it was lacking. I mean, I was on the '84 Tigers, we started 35 and 5. We won the World Series. '85, we were actually as good or better, and we just didn't win. It didn't work out. How many times did we get four games over .500 and then go back to .500? It was one of those deals. You look at guys and players all around the league, sometimes they have up years and they have down years. And there's been so much talk about Jay, the guy scored 107 runs, but he didn't hit as many home runs. But if you remember, he virtually broke his thumb in the first week of the season, played with it, and just maybe got a little out of whack on that, developed some bad habits and was never able to regain it. That's part of the game. It happens. Look, things have to go right to be a world champion. Things have to go right to make it to the postseason, and that was not the case for us last year.

Q. Are you any closer to adding to your coaching staff, your two openings?

KIRK GIBSON: I mean, I'm plodding through that. I've met with several people since the end of the season. I'd certainly like to come to resolution on we have two positions to fill. I'm going to come to Phoenix next week. Like I said, I've had some conversation while I've been here, conversations on the phone. It's not as easy as you might think. It's just you really try and analyze how you can accomplish some of the things you want to accomplish, and I acknowledge that part of it's me. It's just part of it's me. I'm difficult, and my expectations are difficult, and just try and find a guy that I can have balance with and we can accomplish what we're trying to accomplish. So I take it very seriously, and I'm going to do it very thoroughly, as you can see.

Q. Off the subject a little bit, do you have anything to offer on the Hall of Fame credentials of Morris and Trammell?

KIRK GIBSON: I think you can guess that I believe they should be in. I'd ask everybody here, what's the criteria whether a guy belongs in the Hall of Fame or not? Is there a clear criteria?

Q. It's hard.

KIRK GIBSON: I think it's somewhat political, which is understanding. I think the most consistent consensus thing that I've heard is you're supposed to measure the guy against his peers, the people he competed against within the era that he played, so I think if you look at Alan Trammell and Jack Morris, it certainly would make them Hall of Fame worthy. Was Alan Trammell flashy? Probably not. Look at his numbers. Barry Larkin just made it in. He's a worthy Hall of Famer. Alan Trammell is right there with him, played 20 years. I think the most outstanding thing about Trammell is he played with the same guy for 20 years, Whittaker. Those guys are just unreal what they did. With Jack, I think if you evaluate the numbers too far, you look at his ERA or things like that, I think that it kind of muddies his case, because I'm telling you, this guy, I've been in many games with him where he'd give up a four or five or six spot in the first two innings and refuse to come out of the game. Walk in the dugout and say I've never lost with 10, we'd win 9 8. Or if he's out there and it's the seventh inning and we're up by six runs and he has to give up four to run, he's certainly not coming out of the game. Certainly his postseason accolades and records is almost unmatched, certainly within the era of the game that he played. They're both great candidates for it. They both should get in in my view. I certainly support that, and they would represent the Hall very well.

Q. I did a little research, and the '84 Tigers are one of the two or three teams before 1990 to win a world championship and not have a Hall of Famer. How disappointing is that?

KIRK GIBSON: It doesn't discourage me. I know as a team we have the world championship. A lot of us grew up together. Then you have guys like Daryl Evans, Dave Bergman, Larry Herndon, Willy Hernández, so it doesn't diminish what we did. We didn't really have a team of stars. We were pretty damned good. I mean, as a team we just really gelled well together. We were led by a Hall of Famer and outstanding manager Sparky Anderson, Roger Craig was our pitching coach, just all around good story. I think that won't be the case for that much longer, I really don't. I think somebody will get in the Hall.

Q. Do you kind of get the feeling you're just getting started dealing here? Do you have your finger on the pulse of what might happen?

KIRK GIBSON: Have you guys talked to KT today? I have no idea. Again, everywhere I went, I've explained to you guys, we had a discussion today in our suite. We sat there, you talked about a zillion different things, almost all your players, starter, reliever. Where do you see him in two years? How many wins in 2014? Would you give this guy for this guy? Does this make you better? You have these conversations because it's what you should do. The reality of it is seldom does it come to fruition. So I think KT's philosophy, as you guys all have been told, is he's looking to get better, make our ballclub better today, tomorrow, a year from now. And that's a real tricky balancing act that he's got to do. I mean, that's what he does, he does it well, and we'll have a lot more conversations and ultimately he'll make those decisions and I'll respect it and I feel confident in his abilities.

Q. On pure talent, are these young arms about as good as any you've been around?

KIRK GIBSON: You never know how you never know what they're going to turn into. We had a discussion about all of our young pitchers today. You've got beat writers that cover, Corbin, Bauer and Skaggs. In your mind who's first along? Who's the toughest mentally?

Q. Corbin.

KIRK GIBSON: You think Corbin? What do you think, Nick?

Q. I don't know.

KIRK GIBSON: What do you think? Who's the toughest? The guy who's the most polished right now out of the group? Again, that's today, then how about halfway through next year and the end of next year and 2014? It's all really good stuff. I don't know how it'll shake out. We're going to try to get better. I know that. We're happy with where we're at right now to be honest with you, not only with the people we have but the depth that we have. If we can get better, we'll look into doing that.

Q. Is it difficult to manage a player who is constantly being talked about being traded? I'm referring to Justin.

KIRK GIBSON: Yeah, I don't think it's difficult. It's somewhat I just think I played with the same rumors, okay. I got booed. I did all that. It's just part of it. I don't look at it as anything that's tough, it's just all part of it. Again, I represented how I feel about Justin to you guys all year long, I've never wavered from that. The reason he's being talked about in part is because of how much of a talent he is. I think that people somewhat, they get down or discouraged on what he isn't doing, but there's not perfect ball players out there, and he's damned good. He's very, very good. That's why there's so much interest in him, okay. I think that if you guys were in KT's position, if somebody made you a deal that you couldn't refuse, you would do it, okay. But the reality is that's probably not going to happen. I want Justin on my team. I know he's going to have a bounce back great year, he's going to be reenergized, he's going to be healthy, and I expect big things out of him. I mean, he's a huge impact player. We need Justin Upton to have a good year for us to compete in the West. I know why they want him on that team. Trust me, I know why they want him. But I want him on my team.

Q. Have you had a chance to visit with him?

KIRK GIBSON: I haven't. I might run into him next week. I met with him right before the end of the season. And the other thing is because it's Justin, it's kind of a bigger story. There's a lot of other guys whose names have been out there for years, as well. We understand that. But I think he should be a seasoned veteran by now. He'll be he's in preparation. Those guys are already working out over at Salt River. They're highly motivated to erase what happened last year.

Q. You mentioned earlier about your young pitchers and to predict where they're going to be in 2013 and 2014. Do you have that same conversation about Justin?

KIRK GIBSON: I think you have those conversations with everybody. Again, I've been consistent on how I feel about Justin, okay. I see good things out of him. He really didn't have a bad year. His power was down a bit. He's under the microscope, so more is made out of that. But I'm confident that he'll have a great year next year and beyond.

Q. You guys experienced last year how difficult it is to repeat even as division champions. What do you think the challenge is like for a team like the Giants who have won two of the last three World Series in terms of complacency, expectations, taking other teams' best shot?

KIRK GIBSON: Well, it's the same challenge that everybody that wins faces every year. They've brought virtually their same team back. They made some good additions last year in Pence, Scutaro, Pagan, Posey. Their starting pitchers this year I didn't think were as dominating in the postseason and certainly the World Series as they were in 2010, yet their bullpen was off the charts. They were just outstanding. They had the two lefties, Lopez and Affeldt, lights out. Casilla and Romo both really slotted those guys in really well, and then Lincecum. Tim Lincecum, I'll tell you what, this is really indicative of who the Giants were this year. Barry Zito got left off the roster in 2010, didn't pout about it, went to work, really redeveloped a new pitch and found his old self back, got the cutter, the change up, the breaking ball, the stuff, the speed and location. And Tim Lincecum who obviously is one of the better starting pitchers in the league went to the bullpen, did an exceptional job. It's a great buy in. They won with a world championship. They know what it takes. Our manager is as good as they get, and we get the luxury of playing in that great environment there. It's fun to play in, and we learned a lot from it.

Q. Have you talked to Trevor at all about his offseason?

KIRK GIBSON: Cahill?

Q. No, Bauer.

KIRK GIBSON: I haven't yet.

Q. Derek said he reached out to a couple veterans and also front office people.

KIRK GIBSON: He has. He has.

Q. Did you think that was necessary?

KIRK GIBSON: I think we all talk. You kind of catch you run into each other throughout the season and the offseason. It's just normal. Everybody evaluates how do we do better next year, how can I reach my potential. I think Trevor is smart and he wants to find a way to do what he did in the Minor Leagues in the Major Leagues. He had as good as year in the minors as anybody. There's no disappointment what he did at all. He's a very, very young kid, he was in college the previous year and the Big Leagues the next year. He's got enormous potential. He's highly motivated to take his success in the Minor Leagues to our team. Probably going to run into him fairly shortly. I'm going to go to Phoenix next week, kind of out of the tree now so get caught up on getting to more guys that I already have. I saw Cahill in there. Hilly is in there. Goldy, those guys are already starting. He just has tremendous potential. I would say he's probably ranked by everybody around our league if not the top, one of the top pitchers, young pitchers with potential in this coming year.

Q. What sort of role do you see Heath Bell playing?

KIRK GIBSON: Probably going to start him out in the seventh inning. He had a difficult year last year, talked to him quite a bit, just kind of got out of whack at the beginning of the year last year, was unable to throw the ball where he wanted to throw it like he's been able to really his whole career. Look at his three previous years last