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AZ 2, Mets 15 - How Low Can You Go?

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Record: 34-29. Change on last season: +1

There comes a point in every losing streak, where you just have to sit back and realise that there's no point worrying about it. Things will unfold however they're going to, and there's nothing you can do. Oh, you can rant and rage about Russ Ortiz being an overpaid, overweight, overdue for waiving pitcher, but... I get the sense, from the comments during today's game that, while the insults and criticisms kept coming, our hearts weren't really in it.

We've lost seven games in a row - the longest streak in AZ SnakePit history. And not just "lost"; lost, by a combined score of 16-58. Right at the moment, the Diamondbacks suck. We know it. The players know it. Management knows it. The opposition know it. And, frankly, we might as well save our energy stating the fact, and spend it on more worthwhile endeavours such as, oh, solving world hunger, curing cancer or watching the hourly bulletins regarding Brangelina's baby on E! The really weird thing is, feeling this gloom and despondency when only four teams in the National League have better records...

Is it GrimsleyGate? While it's certainly true that we haven't led for a single pitch since word of the scandal seeped out early in Tuesday's game, there is a certain point beyond which highly-paid professionals should be able to put distractions such as that behind them. What we now appear to be dealing with here is simple poor play. This may be a particularly sharp, savage regression: the general consensus before the season was that this team would be lucky to reach .500, and so a 34-22 start - on pace for 98 wins - was far, far above expectations.

If that's the case, then there's probably little that can usefully be done, with the current roster. We won't lose the remaining 99 games. We could play .400 ball the remainder of the way, and we'd still be around the 75 wins mark, about what most people anticipated. Where things get interesting, is when the debate starts - see VIII's diary - about calling up our prospects, to revitalize the team. As he so eloquently put it: "Look, we suck now. Our vets cannot handle this. I think we need to call up our prospects. Right now."

But I don't agree. Sure, Hairston's line (.320 BA, 15 HR, 46 RBI) looks gaudy compared to the likes of Gonzalez, but there are a couple of issues. Firstly, obviously, it's off AAA pitchers. There's a nice article on 'What Minor League Stats Really Mean': they compared the stats of players who played in both leagues the same year, and came out with translation values. For example, when promoted, a typical hitter will get 83% of the number of hits he got in AAA. Using these figures, Hairston's stats are the major league equivalent of .266, 10 HR, 34 RBI - much less impressive.

Secondly, there's the issue of "starting the clock" - that doesn't affect Hairston, but does Drew, Young, Callaspo, etc. Basically, the sooner we call them up, the sooner they will reach free agency. If we call them up for 2006, that means they'll be free agents after 2011, not 2012. And which would you rather have: half a season of a 23-year old rookie, in pursuit of a meaningless pennant [Anyone think we'd NOT get swept in the first round of the playoffs?] or a full year of Drew, aged 29, with five years of major league experience and in his prime? I know which is more likely to help the Diamondbacks, that's for sure.

By all means, we should strive to do as well as we can this year - starting by breaking this losing streak. That goes without saying. But I am not interested in sacrificing the future for the fools' gold which would be the 2006 NL West Championship. The current roster is not Stephen Drew short of being a World Series contender, and until issues such as our starting rotation are addressed, pulling up our talented prospects is really a diversion from the genuine problems this team has.

You'll notice I haven't said much about the actual game. That's really because there isn't much I can say. Even Russ Ortiz seemed battered into an unusual terseness: "It's one of those things. You don't how to explain it. It just happens," he said, before returning to his usual form: "The way I feel now, I don't see any reason why I should be struggling." It's not how you "feel" that matters, Russ - it's what you produce that matters. Today, that was 7 hits, four walks and seven runs, five earned, in just 3.1 innings.

Kevin Jarvis was hit even harder - six earned runs in 1.2 innings. From there, the rest of the bullpen took over, with four different pitchers each throwing an inning, and each one getting two strikeouts. Vizcaino and Julio were perfect, Aquino allowed a couple of walks, but Valverde struggled again, giving up two runs on two hits and two walks in the eighth inning.

Martinez was pulled after only five innings and 91 pitches, but with a twelve-run lead at that point, there was really no need for him to hang around. Craig Counsell was the only hitter who dealt with him to any degree, going 3-for-3 and getting thrown out at home plate in the first. The rest of the lineup were a combined 5-for-30, with Estrada's solo home run in the fifth providing a rare moment to smile about on an afternoon that was a grim slay-ing, if you see what I mean...

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Today: Scraping the bottom of the barrel

Even an npineda GameDay Thread couldn't save things. But thanks to icecoldmo, Devin, IndyDBack, Ben, micmac99, Spencer, andrewinnewyork (whose fake Ortiz comments were clearly damn convincing!), kylerkenney, VIII, and William K, for managing to restrain the profanity to manageable levels, despite our abysmal performance. Thanks also to VIII and micmac99 for starting lively debates with their diaries; I'll hopefully get round to posting more thoughts in there myself, at some point tomorrow.

It's an off-day for Arizona - much needed, I think, and will hopefully give us a chance to regroup. Melvin had a closed-door meeting with the players after todays game, and that may not be the end of it. Bob McManaman writes in the Republic today:

Jason Grimsley might not be the only pitcher who gets his contract terminated by the Diamondbacks today. If Russ Ortiz isn't careful, the same fate may await him... That may sound a little drastic, but don't think the Diamondbacks aren't considering all their options after the veteran imploded Sunday - as many probably expected - during Arizona's exasperating 15-2 blowout loss to the New York Mets.

Ortiz's grip on remaining in the starting rotation, meanwhile, is tenuous at best... On Sunday, he was chased after allowing seven runs (five earned) and seven hits in just 3 1/3 innings. When asked if he would be inclined to let the struggling right-hander make his next start, set for Saturday at the Texas Rangers, manager Bob Melvin was noncommittal. "We'll discuss that," he said. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. But things have gotten so bad so quick, that ownership has an itchy trigger finger and after deciding to go to war with Grimsley, they aren't particularly worried about hurting Ortiz's feelings.

Could be an interesting off-day. Heroes and Zeroes for the series to follow, though I do not expect the former list will take long to read...