While Miguel Montero's 5-4 walk-off home run Wednesday night might have provided a temporary reprieve for D'Backs manager Kirk Gibson and general manager Kevin Towers, the next nine games will provide critical answers to the D'Backs organization.
The D'Backs road trip will take the team through games against the San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago White Sox. The three teams have a combined record of 47-40. Outside of the first-place Brewers, the rest of the schedule should allow Arizona the opportunity to win some games.
There is a black cloud hanging over this 2014 version of the D'Backs, especially in light of how badly the team has played at home (3-15) and in the month of April. The D'Backs have been effectively eliminated from the playoffs before May has even started, and now it's a real question if this veteran roster intends on losing 100 games.
If Arizona is going to show any signs of life this year under Gibson and Towers, this nine-game stretch requires the D'Backs to win a minimum of six games and demonstrate that the entire roster is starting to relax and begin performing up to expectations.
While making drastic changes to a team 40 games into the season might seem a bit drastic, Arizona simply cannot sit by and continue to lose amidst the daily speculation about the job security of the manager and general manager. The losing and endless speculations have already started to show signs of taking their toll on the players, according to AZ Central's Nick Piecoro, and the D'Backs haven't even played a game in May.
The problem with all of this is that the D'Backs were advertised as a team that could challenge in the NL West and be a playoff contender this season. Instead, this season has revealed a poorly constructed team with below-average starting pitching, inconsistent offensive performance and few minor league prospects on the verge of helping.
It is clear from the comments of all parties that the upper management of the D'Backs view Gibson and Towers as a package deal, comments that both men themselves have echoed recently. Normally in this situation, a team like the D'Backs would replace Gibson in hopes of sparking an underperforming roster. The fate of the general manager would often depend on whether the team responded to the voice of this interim manager.
In this case, it's tricky. Towers has been the architect of this team. He has made a multitude of poor decisions that have not worked out. Poor trades and player evaluations have placed Gibson in a difficult position. He hasn't been given much to work with this season, but he also seems like he has aligned himself with Towers, making it difficult to replace either man without firing the other.
Which brings us back to this road trip. If this team returns to Arizona in 10 days with a losing record on the road trip, changes will have to be made. The D'Backs will be faced with the prospect of playing more than 60 games at home in an empty stadium to an apathetic fanbase that will have already moved on to the Arizona Cardinals and the Phoenix Suns.
Friday night begins the most critical stretch of the D'Backs' season. It will be interesting to see if the players are up to the task of turning the season around.
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