SnakePit Round Table: The Diamondbacks Go Streaking!

The league will be looking into whether the anti-gravity cleats worn by Young and Roberts provide them with an unfair advantage.

The team is enjoying its best winning streak in more than three years, and is now preparing for a road-trip that could see the team move back above .500. There were a couple of big roster moves to discuss as well, and we also talk about the conditions which might trigger a move as we head towards the trade deadline. Boot up the happy Swedish techno music, for the most up-beat (and probably chattiest!) round table of the season to date!

The Diamondbacks reeled off six straight wins for the first time since April 2008. Are you on the Gibbywagon?

Wailord: I’m not all that sure that I’m on the "Gibbywagon", per se, but it’s certainly nice to see the team winning. I still feel that we’re playing over our heads at the moment, and ultimately the season will end up a slight improvement upon last year. I don’t think you can look at Gibby and say he’s the reason for that, either, but I’m of the school of thought that managers can only do so much. Maybe I’m just fearful of investing too much into this season because I don’t want to watch the success dwindle.

emily: I’m not exactly sure what the Gibbywagon is, if you want the honest truth, but I tend to agree with Wailord on this one...the manager only actually does so much, and I’m much less emotionally invested in this team than years past because I know they’re going to be less than I want.

Jim: Actually, I’m not sure what the the Gibbywagon is either, and I wrote the damn question. But I think the last sentence of Emily’s answer is the crux. I can relate to the lack of emotional investment - after two wretched seasons, I was reluctant to commit. Prior to the season, the general consensus was that .500 would be an impressive achievement. So I guess what I am asking is, now we’ve reached that mark, is it safe to get excited about the team again, and believe in them? Or are we just setting ourselves up for a fall?

I think the upcoming road-trip might go some way to show whether we are pretenders or not. We may be at .500, but the schedule has given us a home-skewed schedule, where the team’s brand of baseball has played better. We’re 16-10 at Chase, but only 7-13 elsewhere. If we can go through Colorado and Houston and still be above .500, then my heart will continue to thaw.

snakecharmer: Well.. hm. I’ve never quite understood the personal side of the manager. I understand the in-game moves, and Gibby admitted he was out-managed in San Francisco, so in that sense I see the importance of making the right decisions and putting the right plays on at the right time. In THAT sense, I’m actually not quite on the Gibbywagon yet, but certainly after this week I’m getting there.

But I never really understood why the team didn’t do what AJ Hinch wanted them to do and are doing what Gibby wants them to do. I know a coach has to be motivational, but also, he’s your manager, your boss, you do what he says. Part of my lack of understanding about that is my lack of participation on team sports, but I do see it more nowadays. I see the team performing better and not giving up. We all know that last year, down late in games, it usually got worse, not better. They didn’t have the "we’re-in-this" fight in them mentally. But this year they are doing better! Hitting, pitching, and scratching and fighting to stay in the game and come back to win. I think Gibson’s mentality is much more beneficial to the team than Hinch’s (which is too bad, because I think Hinch is a great baseball mind) so in that sense, I am on the Gibbywagon.

Sprankton: I think the fact that Kelly Johnson went out of his way to mention Gibson in a post-game interview says a lot about what Gibson means to the players. We might not be on board with the so called Gibbywagon, but apparently the players are and that’s all that matters.

soco: Sure, why not.  Baseball’s fun right now, but ask me during the next losing streak.

Kishi: I’m not so much on the Gibbywagon as I’m on the confused-mobile. We just won six games? Is it possible that the rapture did happen and, against all odds, I’m in heaven? No, seriously, if they want to attribute this to Gibby or Gozer or something really crazy, like bracelets with magnets that bestow mystic powers, I’m all for it. It’s fun to watch, and I’m in favor.

DbacksSkins: We tend to claim that the manager affects the team very little, or only in close games, e.g. one run games. Before our horrid NL West road trip, we were 6-1 in one run games. We went 1-6 over it, to fall to 7-7. Now, we're back to 11-7 in that category. We can go one of two routes here -- we can credit this to a bullpen that's been nails and a savvy manager, like in 2007, or to mostly luck. I still think that Gibson's aggressive baserunning is hurting us more than helping, at least in the basic runs scored/runs against level, although there may be something to be said about affecting the opposing pitcher and defense. But we've also outscored our opponents by exactly one run, so it's not as if we've gotten super lucky.

The players certainly seem to believe in Gibson, so I guess, on balance, I'm neutral, leaning slightly pro-Gibson. (Much as I make fun of #GibbyUp during games) When the team is winning, most people will be pro-Gibson, and the team is winning right now.

shoe: I'm gettng there. I said earlier that the biggest indication for me we would be how the team responded after their first real losing stretch. They responded to a tough stretch with a 6 game win streak. And the manner in which they have won games shows a great deal of resilience.  In the post game after Saturday's game, Gibby talked about the motto from the Navy Seals that came to visit the team.  DWI .  Deal With It.  This type of attitude seems to be working for them. There is no substitute for talent, but this type of mind set is helping them get the most out of their talent. You can't ask for anything more than that from a manager.

Two significant roster moves, with Armando Galarraga and Russell Branyan both being DFA’d. Which surprised you more?

Wailord: Both could sorta be seen ahead of time, but I guess Branyan’s departure was more "surprising", simply because no one really spoke of it all that much. There was a ton of chatter about Armando, and while Branyan was doing pretty terrible, there wasn’t near as much pleading to get rid of him. Like I said, both weren’t entirely unexpected, but I was more confident that Armando would be gotten rid of than Branyan.

emily: Branyan, definitely. The way Kevin Towers built this team’s bench made it look like the point was to get a bunch of not very good players and tossing them out there until one looked less bad than the others. Just unfortunate they had to pay these guys for that little experiment.

Jim: I’ll go with Galarraga, simply because we had an obvious alternative - indeed, an improvement - immediately available in Miranda. While the eventual decision made sense, I think they were looking to wait until Duke was available, and perhaps also take more of an extended look at Collmenter.

snakecharmer: Branyan’s definitely surprised me more, but as Wailord says, only because nobody spoke of it. Wilson and Burroughs aren’t known for power off the bench, and that’s why we got Branyan. But when you look at the numbers, seeing Branyan wasn’t doing what he was brought on to do and with both Nady and Miranda performing, why string him along any longer? In hindsight it makes sense, but at the time, it was a bit surprising.

Sprankton: Going with the majority - Branyan was a bit of a shot in the dark. In hindsight, though, it probably should have been more apparent.

soco: Neither?

Kishi: Branyan, if only because I figured we’d keep him killing time on the bench longer. What interests me, though, is how both releases were announced post-game. Seems an odd choice.

DbacksSkins: I’m surprised that Branyan was so turrable while healthy. Buuuut, I guess Sean Burroughs was just too much of a temptation for KT.

shoe: No surprise at all about Galarraga. A bit surprised about Branyan, even if most of us questioned the roster construction from the very beginning.  Still, it was a surprise to actually read he was DFA'd because I thought they were going to let this continue to fester. Kudos to them for correcting a mistake.

With regard to Galarraga, how much was his dismissal due to his performance and how much his startling outburst in the locker-room?

Wailord: I think most of it was the performance. Sure, the outburst probably represented the final straw, but if he wasn’t so awful on the mound it wouldn’t have been an issue. He simply wasn’t pitching at a level you’d expect from a Major League pitcher, so I think that was the primary reason.

emily: Performance, absolutely. That locker room outburst was just the hilarious point where everyone went "Yeah, okay, I’m pretty sure he’s done". I won’t go into the stats (because I know someone else will), but it was baaad.

Jim: His outburst might have pushed it up. I’m just speculating but Galarraga’s reaction was so unexpected - especially from the "Nobody’s perfect" guy - that one wonders whether he knew something, like he’d been given a pre-game ultimatum.

snakecharmer: I doubt his outburst had that much to do with it. We all suspected Galarraga was walking a tightrope in regards to his spot - that’s why Nick pressed it so much, because it was pretty obvious. The only part of Galarraga’s outburst that I think might have affected anything was when he said he wasn’t upset at anything else this year, only that last start. Because if you can’t admit your own faults, you aren’t going to get better. But I’m very happy that Galarraga sees that he can improve in AAA, because I think he’s a good pitcher.

Sprankton: I hope that the team didn’t put much stock in the notion that his outburst was cause for concern. He never said anything insulting or vulgar toward anyone; he was simply pissed off at someone questioning his job safety. No biggie. I’d go with... 95% performance, 5% outburst.

soco: Well, it certainly didn’t help.  

Kishi: It was the performance. The outburst maybe eased a little bit- like something they could look at and think, "Okay, yeah, time to move on." But the numbers on the field just weren’t there.

DbacksSkins: Performance, but I doubt Gibson appreciated his outburst very much, especially after going out on a limb in his OWN outburst after Galarraga’s previous start.

shoe: 90-10 probably.  Guys have acted a lot worse after a bad outing than Galaragga did. He just had too many of them, and from a scout perspective, his stuff has been terrible.

What do you think was the thought process behind Branyan’s departure?

Wailord: Seems simple enough to me. He’s old, he was playing terrible, and he was taking opportunities away from Juan Miranda.

emily: What he said.

Jim: He’d served his purpose, to demonstrate the uselessness of spring training statistics are any measure on which to build a roster. What? That wasn’t why he was here? Who knew... I think the team had realized that dividing first-base between three players was counter-productive. Branyan was not only the worst-performing of the trio, but could only play first-base - Xavier Nady can give Parra the odd day off in left. But credit to the team for acknowledging the untenability of the situation. Now, if we can just cure Towers of his apparent desire to re-create the 2005-06 Padres...

snakecharmer: What I said above. He’s only a career .234 hitter, he wasn’t brought to the team to hit for average, he was signed to be a power hitter off the bench, a role at which he failed. Period.

Sprankton: I’d guess that he probably had that weird old people scent that no one likes to smell.

soco: I’m still wondering what the thought process was for getting Branyan in the first place.

DbacksSkins: See what Wailord said. Although, Jim, I maintain that Branyan could’ve played 3B, as well.

Jim: No-one in Seattle or Cleveland thought so...

shoe: I think they finally just figured out that they needed to find out what they have in Miranda and Branyan wasn't performing in the role of big bat off the bench that they hoped for.

As shoe noted, Kevin Towers is "tempted" to make a move before the deadline. What circumstances would make such a move justified?

Wailord: I don’t see any circumstances that a "win now" move would be justified. This isn’t a team that can compete in the playoffs (at least, I don’t think - hopefully I’m proved wrong in October), and if we end up with a team that lucks its way into the playoffs (much like 2007) and we get there because we traded away the future, that won’t sit well with me at all. It’s nice to be playing well, but that’s not sacrifice the future, please.

soco: 2008 was much more of a ‘traded away the future’ year than 2007.  That year we traded to get Dan Haren before the season, and gave up quite a bit, then traded in the season for Adam Dunn (though didn’t give up much).  

emily: none. Absolutely none. We aren’t going to compete this year (probably not next year, either), so why waste what you could build toward three or four years down the line?

Sprankton: Whether we compete or not in 2012, it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing some of those new faces people are always talking about - Goldschmidt, Parker, Miley...

Jim: It’s a bit like taking your house savings and gambling them on the ponies. Seriously a risky proposition. What would help us more than any trade, would be if KJ and J-Up could get back to being the productive ballplayers they were in 2010, or a rough approximation thereof. And if Joe Saunders could keep up his recent improvement in form, that’d be nice too. I don’t see us having a spot where one player would help us, except perhaps a reliable bench-bat, and even that should cost little or nothing.

snakecharmer: I don’t really see what we have to offer in exchange in a trade. We’re a decent team, with a decent rotation and decent hitters. But you remove any part of that - Johnson the most likely, Mora or Roberts maybe, a bullpen or rotation member - and it makes us less competitive. It would have to be for minor league players, and it would probably get us a pitcher. I would love to see us compete but I don’t want to make part of our team weaker...

soco: The two important questions are: who would we get, and are we one or two deals away from contending?  For the latter, I’d say no, which makes the first nearly pointless.  We should make a deal if it helps this year and the future, but not the present alone.

Sprankton: Again - majority. Towers has already traded away prospects for Juan Miranda and Armando Galarraga; I think he should just ease back some on some of this "let’s win now" mentality.

Kishi: The circumstances in which a move by Towers would be justified is if we are, at the end of July, in first place by five or more games. Actually, no, if the team had managed to get there with this roster, there’d be no reason to make any changes. Okay, the circumstances in which a move by Towers would be justified is if it’s 2012 or 2013.

DbacksSkins: Low risk, high return that we could use beyond this year -- for example, if we could get Mike Moustakas for Ryan Roberts and Aaron Heilman, or something stupid like that.

shoe: Depends on what kind of move you are talking about. What level of talent you are trading.

And what you are getting back ? Without knowing that, how do you justify anything? But in general, no more than 1 or 2 games out of first place around the all star break is the starting point for making any kind of "go for it moves", and even then, if you are not getting back a guy that has at least a year of control beyond 2011, and the prospect of a compensation draft pick if you lose him to free agency after 2012 or 13, (either type A or B), then I would be opposed to depleting the system of any of our top 10-15 prospects.

Upcoming schedule sees the team hit the road: off-day, four in Colorado, including a double-header, three in Houston. Can the team continue their good form?

Wailord: We’ll split with Colorado (both Saunders and Owings will take the losses) and we’ll sweep Houston. Yeah, I’m predicting a 5-2 road trip for the Diamondbacks. Color me optimistic.

emily: 4-3. One from Colorado, sweep Houston. (Oh, how I want, more than anything, to be wrong with my Colorado projections)

Jim: I want to destroy the Rockies so badly, I can taste it. 2-2 there, but 1-2 in Houston, for a 3-4 overall week. But, hey, even my 5-2 projection from last week proved pessimistic, so here’s to it being a winning trip.

snakecharmer: Well, we were really bad on our last road trip. I don’t know how much of that home momentum we can carry with us. I want to say 4-3 but somehow I suspect it’ll be 3-4.

soco: I think we should be able to handle Houston.  Split the doubleheader and maybe steal the other two days.  I think this is a good week to see a winning streak continue.

Sprankton: I’m with soco. 4-3.

Kishi: My predictions are usually terrible, but hey, who knows. Did you know we’re only a half game behind the Rockies right now? Take both halves of the doubleheader, drop the next game, and then win out the rest of the trip. Yeah, if I’m gonna be wrong, I’ll at least be overly optimistic about it. 6-1.

DbacksSkins: Why a double-header? Why not play on the offday? We’re away, but we can take the Rockies, (3-2 so far) and the Astros are bad -- REALLY bad. Still, I’ve predicted 2-4 everytime I’ve been asked, so I’ll up the ante. 3-4.

Jim: Playing on the offday would mean 27 straight days without a break for the Diamondbacks. I seem to recall the players’ union has to sign off on anything over 20.

Shoe: The series in Colorado is a "statement" series. They need to show they can win on the road, and they need to punch the Rockies in the nose on their home turf.  As for Houston, they should win that series, Houston is terrible. No more giving up series to bad teams.....even if they are on the road.  My expectations are raised. Thats what Gibby expects from his players, so if I am going to jump on the bandwagon, I'd like to see at minimum a 4-3 trip, which would mean a split in Colorado and taking 2 of 3 from Houston.  5-2 would be sweet.  But as we have learned, you gotta take these things one day at a time.  One or two bad games can completely change the feeling and atmosphere.

Random question: what fan behavior is most annoying at the ball-park.  What are your pet peeves and should they be regulated?

emily: People who start the wave when the home team is batting. More than anything. Another annoyance is the "stand at the top of the stairs" rule at Chase...I just don’t get that one.

Jim: The wave at any point. Really, it and its participants are unutterably dumb and insufferable, if they think that waving their arms about their heads and going "Woooo!" is fun. Participants should be ejected, and starting it a capital crime. Hey, I can dream.

Lack of enthusiasm should also not be tolerated. If you want to slump in your seat and text idly on your mobile phone, stay at home, dammit. It’s the ballpark: you are expected to cheer and get into the game. Some form of electric shock collars, applied to the more lethargic attendees, should do the trick.

Sprankton: As much as I dislike the wave, I can’t harp on it if it’s done at an appropriate time. If the D-backs are ahead in a blowout, I’m not really bothered by it. It’s when fans decide to start the wave during a tie game, in say the seventh inning , that it becomes a hazard to my blood pressure.

snakecharmer: I HAAAAAAAATE people who sit behind home plate (at any ballpark, Chase is one of the worst despite their "rules" for those seats) and stand up and wave, or sit on their phone and wave to the camera.

Sprankton: A lot of them seem to do it throughout the entire game too. Like, they’re calling every single person in their address book.

soco: I dislike people that go out of their way to confront the people sitting nearby.  Sure the wave is annoying, but largely ignorable.  People not being loud isn’t my problem.  But if you’re going to be a confrontational dick, you can take a hike.

Sprankton: Flags and signs are nice and all but sometimes people forget that others are sitting behind them...

Kishi: Yeah, stupid people behind the plate. And ever worse, stupid mascots. Yes, I’m talking to you, Dinger. Meanwhile, though Jim’s use of shock collars may be excessive (and overly expensive) maybe some sort of training classes to make sure you know when and how to cheer. I’m certain we wouldn’t see too much of a drop in attendance, if people were forced to be licensed as fans.

DbacksSkins: As fans? The wave, but there’s nothing you can do but teach people not to do it. Or bring emily to games.

Also, everything about Dinger, especially the "try to distract opposing pitchers" thing, is awful and should be banned.

shoe: People sitting in areas that they can be hit by a foul ball not watching the game.  One time I sat in the 2nd row behind the dugout, and the lady in the first row right in front of me sat there doing Soduku puzzles all night.  She seldom looked up on any pitch. I've seen too many people carried out bleeding. This kind of behavior at a game annoys the crab out of me.

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