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Seconds out - Round Two!

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With a deep breath, into the second half we go, somehow - miraculously - still in contention, despite the fact than only five NL teams have lost more games than Arizona. Of course, it helps that three of those are in our division...

Hope you had a nice break, and return, ready to face whatever July, August and September may bring - you'll notice October is conspicuous by its absence there... But here's a list of what to look for over the remaining 72 games, in no particular order:

  • Glaus to go on the DL. His knee is not getting any better, and by all accounts, rest is the only cure, not cortisone shots. He'll hang on until our playoff chances are shot (which could be as soon as the end of this opening series against the Padres), then finally put his feet up.

  • The arrival of J + Q. Certainly on September 1st, if not before, the future of the franchise will be coming up: Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin. It could be sooner, if Glaus goes on the DL, for example; it could be not at all, if we trade one or other in a trade of doubtful relevance. If that happens, though, I'll simply be slitting my wrists.

  • Reliever relief. Brandon Lyon and Oscar Villarreal - kidney stones permitting - should be back, Lyon in late July, Villarreal a little beyond that. This is one of the key issues; any setback to Lyon, for example, will increase the pressure on the Diamondbacks to make a deal for a proven closer (TM).

  • Rotation of the rotation. Estes and Ortiz will return too, but if Vargas keeps improving (and Gosling performs well too), will there be anywhere to put them? Their performances might also impact the next point.

  • Vazquez: stay or go?. He can demand a trade, and if he doesn't get one, he'll become a free-agent. It's well-known he wants to be closer to his home, so a trade to an East coast team is likely; Florida seems most likely. I think he'll be gone, in exchange for some top pitching prospects.

  • Any other trades? Expect Arizona to be sellers at the trade-deadline, despite noises from Joe Jr. pointing the other way. Tony Clark would likely get most interest, but we may try particularly hard to dump Cruz - that would free up both his roster spot and playing position for Carlos Quentin.

  • A finish close to .500. Said Craig Counsell: "We're a .500 team. That's the best way to describe it. That's what our first half has been. We've been a .500 team. We've been good, we've been not so good, that's what a .500 team does." And that's no disgrace; only eleven 100-loss teams have come back to .500 since the 19th century, and we started eleven games below that mark.

  • Elsewhere.... The NL East looks to be the closest race; can the Nats hold on? Will the Yankees miss the playoffs, or will Steinbrenner open his wallet some more? What if the White Sox make the playoffs? And, on a personal note, I predict a strong comeback for my fantasy team, and a top-half finish. ;-)

Even if we - and I mean the D'backs, not my fantasy team! - drop out of contention, it should still be an interesting second-half. The key issue is going to be building for 2006, rather than contending in 2005, I think - we have a roster that is going to get better. Must confess to being stoked at the imminent arrival of Quentin and Jackson, and keep having to remind myself not to be disappointed if they hit less than .400 immediately.

We should, if we're wise, use the chance to shake down a few parts, and see if they'll be any help, or are irreperably busted. Firstly, we need to play Cintron and Terrero every day, instead of Clayton and Cruz (neither of whom should be here next year). If Clark is traded, that will help too, since we have to work out what to do with Chad Tracy; he's got the best average on the team so far, which makes Conor Jackson's imminent arrival a double-edged sword. The bullpen, too, can be scrutinized with an eye to the future.

Congrats to Line Drive in the High Desert, who have now moved to Out in the Desert, a part of MostValuableNetwork.com. In the past, this has been the place where AZ blogs go to die; let's hope Devin beats the curse. Finally, check out a spirited debate between myself and Dylan over the importance of home advantage in the World Series. The numbers suggest it's of growing importance recently, but is this just a statistical fluke?

Preview of the Padres to follow later...