Preview: Game #106, Diamondbacks @ Rays

J. Meric

Off to see our expansion siblings in Tampa, as the D-backs start a six-game, three city road-trip against the Rays in Florida, with Ian Kennedy on the mound.

ari_medium

Ian Kennedy
RHP, 3-7, 5.22
tam_medium

Roberto Hernandez
RHP, 5-11, 4.92

Diamondbacks line-up

  1. Gerardo Parra, RF
  2. Aaron Hill, 2B
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Eric Chavez, DH
  5. Martin Prado, 3B
  6. Jason Kubel, LF
  7. Wil Nieves, C
  8. Adam Eaton, CF
  9. Cliff Pennington, SS
    Ian Kennedy. P

It's interesting to compare the history of the two teams, who both played their first games in 1998. Early on, the Diamondbacks roared out ahead, winning their first division title in only their second year, and adding to that, NL West titles in 2001 and 2002. However, they also had one of the worst seasons ever by a National League team in 2004, and that has generally been the approach in Arizona: cyclical swings from feast to famine in two or three years bursts.

The Rays, on the other hand, had a decade of sustained awfulness to open their life - not just losing seasons, they never won more than even 70 games in 10 attempts. But then, in 2008, it all clicked, and they improved 31 games over the previous season, to take the AL East and make it all the way to the World Series. They're now looking good for their sixth consecutive winning campaign, and fourth post-season slot over that time. Overall, the D-backs have had more success (five division wins to two), but the gap is closing.

However, that success hasn't translated into butts on seats. Outside of their honeymoon year in 1998, the high-water mark for Rays attendance is 23,148 - which would be the worst season in Diamondbacks history, by a clear couple of thousand. This campaign, they're averaging 17,791, which is less than two-thirds what we have been getting at Chase (26.880) and is dead-last in the American League. They are however, not quite the worst-attended team in the majors. Actually, not even in the state, since they come in 86 per game ahead of the Marlins, who are dead-last in the National League. MLB and Florida: it's not really working.

But as ZM pointed out, this is a good team, rather than one being treated as the personal cash crop of their owner, or to bait and switch the local council into building them a shiny new palace. Managing to lead the AL East on a payroll around the $60 million mark - or not much more than the Yankees are paying A-Rod and Sabathia ($51 million between them) is an impressive feat. Would I have preferred this approach to the more "all-in" one taken by the Diamondbacks? I suspect most people wouldn't: having seen the rioting that ensues after two non-winning seasons, a decade of futility would likely have reduced Chase Field to a smoking crater.

It's the land of the DH, of course, and Eric Chavez gets the first crack at the slot this evening. Interesting to note that Miguel Montero is also out of the line-up, despite a right-hander on the mound, and one suspects his back may be playing him up again. Surprised to see Parra leading off too, considering he is mired in a slump of epic proportions, having gone 4-for-53, whacking almost 30 points off his season average in three weeks. Still, he has a decent K:BB ratio of 9:7, so maybe he can take a few pitches. Yeah, I am clutching at straws there: thank you for noticing. Dodgers face the Yankees in an evening game in LA, so we'll monitor that in the recap.

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