PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 17: Justin Upton #10 of the Arizona Diamondbacks safely slides in to score the game winning run past the tag from catcher Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants during the twelfth inning of the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 17, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Giants 6-5 in the twelfth inning. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Arizona finished the week having finally sunk to last in the NL West, where most people expected them to be this year. That was thanks to having lost a pair of series at home, although the week did end on a good note, with a walk-off win in the 12th inning on Sunday (another angle of Upton scoring the winning run is above - Padres' fans please note, he did touch home-plate). We discuss the ups and downs of the trips to Phoenix by both St. Louis and San Franscisco, Gibson's ejection, the arrival of Josh Collmenter and the upcoming schedule.
Not a good week for the Diamondbacks, as they went 2-4, losing both series to the Cardinals and Giants. Highlights and lowlights?
Sprankton: Highs: Scoring 34 runs. Lows: Allowing 44 runs.
bb: Highs: Paul Goldschmidt. Lows: Bobby Borchering.
Jim: Well, they went 2-1 in games I was able to watch, so it didn’t look too bad from my couch... The two wins had their moments: lighting up Chris Carpenter was thoroughly unexpected, and the comeback win on 12 innings was, obviously, a lot better to win than lose. On the down side, I’m really getting concerned about Kelly Johnson, and our rotation seems to be a series of holes loosely connected with strands of Daniel Hudson.
ZM: Highs: Justin Upton’s offense, David Hernandez and JJ Putz’s continued dominance out of the ‘pen, Ryan Roberts’ surprising contributions off the bench and, on Sunday, Josh Collmenter’s scoreless debut.
Lows: Pretty much everything else. With special emphasis on the starting rotation giving up 27 earned runs in 26.2 innings. Way to give the offense a chance, guys.
snakecharmer: We gave up way too many runs against St. Louis and then couldn’t score any against San Francisco.... shades of 2010. The win against S.F. was a highlight, good to see the team stick with it. Upton’s been good lately.
soco: Low: inconsistency from offense and pitching. High: Ripping Carpenter to shreds was nice.
Kirk Gibson got his first ejection as a manager, and was undeniably fiery in doing it. But do you think this has any positive effect on players - short- or long-term - or is it just meaningless pantomime?
Sprankton: I think a lot of it depends on what was actually said on the field during the argument. Was he just arguing for the sake of it or was he legitimately pissed? If it was meaningful, which it surely looked to be, I’d make a bet that every player on that bench took a bit of pride in it; knowing that they have a manager that can scare the bejesus out of someone.
bb: I think it had a positive effect. Especially when Miggy felt incredibly strongly that he didn’t go either time. Any time the manager sticks up for his team like that, I think it has to be considered a positive thing.
ZM: It can probably go either way. If the team feels like the manager has their back and is willing to stand up for them, it can fire up everyone in the dugout. But if the team feels like their manager is a loose cannon, they might lose some respect or trust for him. I honestly doubt it has much of an effect either way, but at least it keeps AZCentral for clamouring for his head.
snakecharmer: "as a non-interim manager." It’s a show. Gibson was right, the ump was wrong, and it got the team fired up in the short term. In the long term, it lets them know that their manager is willing to go fight for them. It might put the players a little more at ease, but, I don’t think it has a long-term effect on performance, the players still have to do their jobs correctly day in and day out. And Gibson and the ump are pros, once the game’s over, it’s over. But it was good theatre!
Jim: I think it is mostly for show. I can’t see it having any significant impact on the team, but then, I’d say the same if my boss went off on a customer. It’d be more amusing to me, rather than have any kind of motivational impact. Except of course, that I would not want him yelling like that at me, so it’d be another notch on the ‘management through fear’ scale.
soco: I think it depends on the situation, and what he’s arguing about. I don’t really think the team needed to be fired up this time. On the other hand, Gibson was completely right, and was willing to get tossed to protect one of his players. So I think that has a positive effect, since players want to feel like they have an advocate.
Kam Mickolio found himself sent down to Reno, barely a week after making the Opening Day bullpen. Was that too quick a hook?
Sprankton: No doubt. Vasquez looked good in his first outing back and surprised us with a fancy new curveball but Kam got kicked to the curb a bit too early.
bb: Way too quick. Mickolio has looked good in his short time in the majors. His biggest problem has always been control, and since he was showing that he could keep the walks down, then I see no reason why he shouldn’t have stayed on the major league bullpen.
snakecharmer: Very quick. It must’ve been a tougher decision at the end of Spring Training than we thought for Gibson/Towers to make the swap so soon. I think Mickolio is a much better long-term option simply because we’ve seen Vasquez for years now and he’s just not consistent.
Jim: Surprisingly quick, but I think that a statement was being made about this bullpen being entirely performance based. Well, for at least those who still have minor-league options left, since I doubt anyone would claim Juan Gutierrez had been any better than Mickolio, to that point.
soco: Should have sent him down in the middle of that August 12th game.
The team lost Aaron Heilman, and he has been replaced by debutant Josh Collmenter. Do you see this having much impact?
Sprankton: I don’t really see it being for better or for worse right now, but maybe he’ll kill it and do something amazing.
bb: I’ve always been a proponent of using Collmenter in the bullpen. I think he has some potential there, and while Heilman was useful as a bullpen member, I think this will be a good chance to see if Collmenter can be a useful long-term piece.
snakecharmer: Well I don’t know much about Collmenter, but it’s replacing a long reliever with a starter/long reliever. I think it’ll take a while for the league to adjust to him so he has an advantage for a bit, and after that, we’ll have to see.
ZM: I think Collmenter has an advantage coming out of the bullpen, because opposing hitters won’t be able to adjust to his funky delivery as quickly. I think he has a niche as a solid long reliever, with his upside being a late-inning guy.
Jim Well, we got to see plenty of his this afternoon, as he worked two perfect innings and took the victory. I think his role will likely be similar to Heilman’s: long-relief and if we need a spot starter without a roster move, he could end up being the man. Interesting delivery, as advertised. I like that - as others have noted, it’s tough to adapt to that late in a game.
soco: Virtually anyone would better than someone I have no confidence in.
Crowds at Chase have teetered on the edge of an all-time low most of this week. Is there anything management should be doing - if so, what? Or is it an inevitable result of two last-place finishes and a last-place position in 2011?
Sprankton: Seeing as how much our fans love doing the wave, maybe management should consider advertising games as "a place where you can do the wave AND drink beer" instead of convincing people to watch a boring ol’ baseball game. Releasing Melvin Mora might also be a good start :-).
bb: Inevitable result of the past two seasons. I think there’s a much more significant time lag between how good a team plays and fans putting their butts into seats, than most people give credit for.
snakecharmer: Well, since I don’t live there, I can’t tell how the economy is, but I’m betting that’s part of it. But the rest has got to be related to how we play. A few small-name signings and some wins isn’t going to cut it, Arizona fans seem to like superstars. There’s not many more sad promotional things management can do before it just seems patronizing.
ZM: Find me a team that sells out its stadium with no marketable stars (Justin Upton doesn’t count...at least not yet) and consecutive last-place finishes. This isn’t just a "Phoenix fans are bandwagon" issue, since the Cubs attendance has plummeted after ONE losing season. The good news: if the team starts winning on a consistent basis, the fans will come. If not this season, then the next.
JM: Largely a result of poor performance. Fans need to be given a reason to come to the ballpark, and after what’s now almost three full years of mediocre baseball (since the start of May 2008), they aren’t getting it. I think we might see more promotions like the ‘College Night’ one, where $5 got anyone - student or not! - into the park. The team needs to get people to the ballpark; once there, they will then typically spend money, so even if there’s not much income off the ticket price, it’s still better than an empty seat and nothing.
soco: Well, the Diamondbacks could turn into Veeck 2.0. For anyone who whines about the ‘carnival’ atmosphere at Chase Field now, imagine if he ran the team. So they certainly could do things on the short term to bring people in, but I think it’s better to take your lumps and build for long term success. This time, build a team that will consistently fight for the playoffs instead of only twice.
Can the Red Sox turn around their horrid 4-10 start?
bb: Yes. But only because Theo Epstein is the Jesus of baseball.
Sprankton: Don’t call it a comeback. (Also, yes.)
snakecharmer: Yes, they usually do, but I don’t really care if they do.
ZM: They’re 4.5 games behind the Orioles, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Red Sox are more than 4.5 games better than the Baltimore Orioles over the course of 149 games. So yes, I think they can turn it around.
JM: It could become a vicious cycle if they don’t do so quickly, as the media and fans in Boston don’t exactly have a lot of patience. I’d love it if they did crash and burn. Remember when the Red Sox were lovable losers? How long ago that seems now...
soco: I think they’ll play better, but I don’t think they’ll catch the Yankees when the marathon is over.
Onto the road again go the Diamondbacks this week, with series against the Reds and Mets. Predictions?
bb: I’m always the optimist before a series begins. Sweep! Of both series!!
Sprankton: I’ll agree with bb, but only because I want a reason to do this.
snakecharmer: I think we’go 3-3 again. 1-2 Reds, 2-1 Mets. (Is it 6 or 7 games?)
ZM: I was going to say 3-3, but then I saw bb and Sprankton’s picks and I realized that this section was in desperate need of some hubris to avoid offending the baseball gods. 2-4.
JM: Not looking forward to this one. I can quite easily see us getting swept by Cincinnati, and losing in New York. I’d be happy with 2-4, but think 1-5 is quite possible.
soco: The Mets suck, but that’s just going to make it worse when they win the series. 2-4.