I just finished this article last night for my high school paper. It took me about four hours, partially because I have the attention span of a small rodent, to complete because I like to do my research.
Since everybody knows no one reads the high school paper, I figured I'd post it her and pray someone enjoys it. So just tell me what you guys think. I really can't add anything though, as this is already a pretty huge article by the paper's standards.
Thanks for your input,
(P.S. Some grammer and spelling may be iffy because the copy writer has had a whack at it.)
The 2008 Arizona Diamondbacks team was like an extremely hot girlfriend with attachment issues.
When you first started dating everything was smooth sailing. During the first month, when you both would go out in public, others would be doing double takes and all your friends are giving you high fives when she’s not looking. Five months later, you’re in the fetal position in the corner of your room clutching your baseball cards as she throws your television and all your belongings out the window while she screams at you for giving the cute waitress at Denny’s “too large of a tip”.
The D-Backs got off to a blistering start, going 19-8 in April including an 8-game winning streak. By the end of the first month, they had sprung out to an incomprehensible 6 ½ game lead in the NL West. Former number one overall pick Justin Upton had seemingly corralled his endless yet raw big-league talent at the ripe age of only 20- batting .340 with 15 RBIs and 5 HRs in the month of April. He wasn’t alone though, as younglings Conor “Eyebrows” Jackson batted .348 with an astonishing 24 runs and 24 RBIs and the 24 year old Mark Reynolds hit a team high 7 HRs with 24 RBIs, in only 25 games. This group of “Baby Backs” were playing far beyond their years- which, to be exact, averaged out to only 25.8 years for the starting lineup.
Then, like with every season, pitchers adjust how and what they throw to hitters due to some wonderful inventions called the video camera and advanced scouting. And these one time Jedis reverted back to Padawan learners while their strikeouts rose and their batting averages fell. Arizona finished the season 27th in batting average and 2nd in the league in strikeouts with a whopping 1,287. Mark Reynolds also did his best Helen Keller impression at the plate, taking the title for most strikeouts in a season with a MLB record 204 wiffs.
The Diamondbacks amazing pitching couldn’t keep them afloat in the division though as they finished second to Los Angeles Dodgers in what could best be described as a “Pennant Limp”. They finished a disappointing 82-80, just two games behind L.A.
The despair carried into the offseason, as the small market D-Backs had five big name players unsigned including the face of the franchise, Randy Johnson. Knowing that they had no room in the payroll for all players to return, Arizona didn’t offer arbitration to two players who were sure to bring compensation draft picks in return, the mid-season acquisition Adam Dunn and Johnson, out of fear of that the players would accept and the organization would have to pay up. So Johnson skedaddled to division rival San Francisco and now Dunn has a Washington Nationals jersey over his Paul Bunyan-like frame.
The Diamondbacks did get five draft picks in return for mainstay second basemen Orlando Hudson, who joined the dark side, a.k.a. the NL West champion Dodgers, Juan Cruz, who migrated to the Royals, and Brandon Lyon, who signed, quite ironically because of his surname, with the Detroit Tigers. Combine those with the first two picks they automatically receive and Josh Byrnes’, the Arizona GM, mouth begins watering at the idea of have seven picks in the first two rounds of the draft. All this couldn’t come at a better time as most of their once highly touted farm system has either graduated to the big leagues or been traded in a number of deals- most notably the Dan Haren blockbuster.
To replace all the departed, the D-Backs got thrifty. They hired Felipe Lopez to replace Gold Glove second basemen Orlando Hudson. No one, including the Diamondbacks, knows what they’re getting with Lopez; the questionable starter who hit a paltry .234 with the Nationals over 100 games last season or the mythical Puerto Rican who hit an eye-popping .385 playing 43 games for the St. Louis Cardinals after being released by Washington. Odds are he won’t repeat his scorching finish to his 2009 campaign. But Josh Byrnes was smart to only sign him to a one year deal in an effort to keep him motivated as he plays for his money. Blend his contract with the fact that he’s playing for a contender and it’s quite possible the D-Backs are getting a good leadoff man, the first natural one they’ve had in quite some time.
Arizona also inked SP Jon Garland, who won 14 games with the Angels in 2008, and RP Tom “Flash” Gordon and traded for lefty RP pitcher, Scott Schoeneweis. These moves are all in effort to beef up the bullpen, which was a glaring weakness with this team last season. They’re hoping Gordon still has something left in the tank, even though he may not stand on the mound till late April due to injury, and that Garland can not only replace the Big Unit but also give them 200 plus innings so they have to dip into the pen as less as possible.
There’s a still a lot to smile about in the Arizona heat even though this article began with some negativity. This club might have the best starting rotation in all of baseball. Even the critics that say it’s not have to admit that Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, the tag team duo that combined for 38 wins in 2008, are the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball. And when you throw in Max Schezer, the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft who is developing into regular K-machine, you have three potential number one starters. In a playoff series, that’s more intimidating than a hungry bear on bole (A-Rod- 0, the rest or the world- 1).
Even though the entire lineup hasn’t reached its much discussed “potential”, there were some breakout stars last season. Stephen Drew led all shortstops in extra base hits with 76 and also was the 1st SS since Robin Yount to hit over 40 doubles, 10 triples, and 20 home runs. Conor Jackson was one of the only other hitters to not drop off entirely from his torrid pace. Even though he basically confirmed he will never rack up the big HR numbers, he had a respectable .376 OBP with 75 RBIs and 87 runs while proving he can start in left field.
This transition moves former starter, 33 year old Eric Byrnes to fourth outfielder (Yes, non-baseball fans, there are only three outfield slots). That’s $30 million dollars the D-Backs are paying Byrnes, who lost essentially his entire 2008 season to injuries to both hamstrings, over three years now seems a little pricey for someone who’s now a glorified water boy. Basically he’s getting paid about $10,000 for each time he smacks someone’s rear end when they enter the dugout.
All joking aside, the D-Backs now have excellent options because of this move. On their bench is the versatile little man Augie Ojeda, a clubhouse leader, aging slugger Tony Clark, possibly the best backup catcher in all the league in Miguel Montero, and a motivated Eric Byrnes ready to prove he is not only worthy of the big payday but also of a starting job.
If the position players can continue to properly mature and supply a decent amount of runs while play average defense, the starting rotation should be able to carry this club into October (That is a quite a big “if” though as the Diamondbacks committed the sixth most errors in the Majors). Their bullpen could be volatile as it is also a huge question mark but Chad Qualls proved at the end of last season that he can be, at least, an adequate closer, racking up seven consecutive saves after he replaced Lyon in the final two weeks.
The D-Backs have their fair share of competition to wrestle with this season. The San Francisco Giants, lead by the man who beat Webb out for the Cy Young last season, Tim Lincecum, are a greatly improved team looking to make strides in the division. The Dodgers, although they lost most of their pitching, still have the Diamondback killer Manny Ramirez (Ramirez batting an astonishing .512 with 5 HRs, 12 RBIs and 13 runs in just 13 games against Arizona).
A number of things could go wrong; like Qualls struggling and the rest of the bullpen falling like dominos or if their blossoming batters take two steps back instead of one step forward. But if this Diamondbacks team can turn last year’s disappointment into this year motivation, there is no reason this squad won’t win one of the weaker divisions in baseball or even possibly compete for this young franchise’s second World Series trophy in only eleven years.