NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In the two months since the 2012 season ended, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has spent a good deal of time in the woods of Michigan pondering what caused his team to drop from 94 wins and an National League West title to an 81-81 mark and a third-place finish.
As a result, expect competition to once again be the buzzword around Spring Training.
Heading into 2011, Gibson declared that every spot was up for grabs, while last year, the team reported to camp with virtually every position spoken for.
"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," Gibson said in his news conference during Day 2 of the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. "And I don't think that's very effective, and I don't think it worked good last year."
While much of the starting lineup will likely return intact next season, look for the D-backs to create competition in other ways.
"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," Gibson said. "I think it's more productive, there's more production out of it, makes it easier to do, guys have a better attitude to do it."
There also figures to be a renewed emphasis on the little things like bunting, baserunning and relays and cutoffs.
"We got outexecuted," Gibson said flatly.
In 2011, the D-backs were underdogs who battled and clawed in one-run games, and the hard-to-quantify chemistry in the clubhouse was good.
In 2012, the D-backs were the favorites and did not seem to be as cohesive on or off the field.
"Maybe we didn't have as good of a buy in," Gibson said. "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. We'll come back, we'll deliver a good, clear message and try to make it fun, yet demanding, so we can have better results and play more consistently and reach our potential."
In his search for answers, Gibson recalled his playing days with the Tigers, who won the World Series in 1984 and then could not follow up on that success the following year.
"In 1985, we were actually as good or better, and we just didn't win," Gibson said. "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. 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."
Right fielder Justin Upton's name has been prominent in trade rumors throughout the offseason, and Gibson once again reiterated his support for the 25-year-old.
"I represented how I feel about Justin to you guys all year long, I've never wavered from that," Gibson said. "The reason he's being talked about, in part, is because of how much of a talent he is. He's very, very good. That's why there's so much interest in him. I think that if you guys were in [general manger Kevin Tower's] position, if somebody made you a deal that you couldn't refuse, you would do it. 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 re-energized, 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."
Gibson plans on being in Phoenix next week to meet with more candidates to be the team's next first-base coach as well as the newly created assistant-hitting-coach position.
At that time, he will likely touch base with Upton and several other players.