Devin Clancy of Sports Weekly interviewed myself and snakecharmer, for a story that was published in last week's edition. [by snakecharmer: Sorry, I will get the actual piece scanned soon!] Due to space limitations, some of the responses were, inevitably, edited down, but there were some good, thought-provoking questions. So, here is the full interview, with both of our answers to each. Be interested to hear everyone else's opinions too!
Are you able to move beyond the NLCS and appreciate a great season, or does it still stick in your craw?
Charmer I've moved on. It wasn't fun, but in a way being swept hurts less than, say, being one win away and letting it slip away. There were few expectations of this team going into the `07 season, and an NLCS appearance is a great accomplishment. All the players - young and "old" - excelled during different parts of the season, and they'll build upon this next year.
Jim It's over now. What hurt was NOT playing to our potential in the NLCS, but even getting there was still a great achievement for such a young team.
At what point this year did an NLCS appearance seem like a reasonable expectation?
Charmer I don't think we ever truly had much of an expectation! The team fluctuated so much all year that we never knew what team would show up. But I think early to mid-August is when we really felt we could make a run not only for the NL West crown but to make it to the World Series. The team had an 8-game winning streak during which Brandon Webb started his 42.1 inning scoreless streak. During those shows of brilliance is when I thought they had a chance.
Jim Only after the final out of the NLDS! This team were streaky all year, and could easily reel off three losses in a row at any point; we didn't clinch a playoff spot until the final series of the year, so until then, nothing seemed certain.
What was your take on the team in spring training and how did it change?
Charmer I was a little wary of this team from the start, and for me that didn't really change. I was never sure if they would have enough in them to be consistent, and that showed even in spring training. I thought the #5 spot in the rotation would be a lot stronger than it ended up being, but I didn't see the rookies stepping it up and being as much of power players as they ended up being. But after they came through a pretty bad June and first half of July with a decent rest of the summer, they showed me that this is a team that can bounce back and make a name for itself, and they had a great season.
Jim I expected them to score a LOT more runs, and the pitching to be weak. However, the exact opposite happened; Quentin and Drew, in particular, struggled at the plate, while Doug Davis and Micah Owings over-performed expectations, and the bullpen was brilliant.
Do you prefer the older purple colors or new Sedona red?
Charmer In a way, yes I do, because [purple] made the team unique; half the league has red as their primary color, and now we're blending in with that. But I can see why it was time for a change - bring on a new identity with this team of youngsters. And perhaps we "graduated" from being different, being the new guys, to being one of the good ol' boys. But a part of me will always love the purple and teal.
Jim Got to say, the new red is very cool. I can't wear purple without looking like Barney.
What's your explanation for a team that is outscored by its opponents but still manages to win a division title and lead the league in wins?
Charmer It basically sums up the season - they lost the big blowouts and won the one-run games. They were either superb and kept the game close, or they were awful and could neither hit nor pitch. It means we have a young team, a group of guys who have great potential but need to be more consistent. But I certainly think the "Win" column is more important than the run differential!
Jim A lot of blowout losses, and very few blowout wins skewed the figures badly. We also had a great record in one-run games, largely because of the bullpen, but also in part due to pinch-hitting production, giving us a run when we needed it.
Are you pleased with the team's potential for success over the next few years?
Charmer I am, yes. The rookies on the team need to not fall into the sophomore slump, because they had phenomenal seasons and showed a lot of room for improvement. Some of the veterans are signed for the next year or two. And there are several big-league ready minor leaguers that can be used either as trade pieces or rookies themselves next year if things at the major league level fall through.
Jim Immensely. The team is young, almost everyone of note will be back next year, and they should be a year older, wiser and better. The pitching staff could use another long-term arm probably.
Is success with a home-grown young team that you've followed all along more satisfying than the 99-02 teams that won with acquired talent?
Charmer (I didn't follow the team much before '02 but I'll try to answer anyway) Not everybody follows the minor leagues that closely, so sometimes rookie call-ups seem like acquired talent to the fans. But if a team can get a core group of young players in the major leagues and keep those players together for several years, I think the fans do get to know them (on the field and in the community) and feel for them better. The home-grown talent goes through the same ups and downs as the fans do over the years. So in a way, yes it is more satisfying to see a core group finally succeed. But that's not to say a deserving player can't come into a team, fit in with the other guys, and connect with the fans in his first season (Augie Ojeda, Jeff Salazar for instance). Anybody who helps a team achieve a high level of success will be loved by the fans.
Jim Yes. Having followed, say, Justin Upton, since he was drafted, there's a real pride in watching him develop, and seeing him reach the major leagues. There's much more of an emotional investment in a player that way: to draw a parallel, they're like your kids, while acquired talent are just people you work with. You may like them, but it's not the same.
What's your assessment of Bob Melvin's managerial skills?
Charmer He really is a mad scientist. He pushed so many right buttons this year, from starting pitchers to late-inning pinch hitters. He put out a different lineup 146 times. But more than his game-time maneuvers were the behind-the-scene skills of Melvin (and his coaches): the study of the opposing team, his knowledge of all the pieces on the chess board, and his ability to hold his team together as a cohesive unit. He's not without his flaws - he can be a little too conservative at times, particularly leaving in a reliever a batter or two too long - but he is as smart and as steady as they come.
Jim He seems very good at handling the players in general, especially a young team like this. However, I don't like his in-game tactics: he likes the sacrifice bunt, which I hate, and his pitching changes - or lack thereof! - often have me hurling things at the TV set.
If every player on the roster came up for free agency this off-season, who is the first position player and first pitcher you would re-sign and why?
Charmer Orlando Hudson. His defense is second to none, and defense can never be emphasized enough. A good second baseman not only stops balls from getting through and starts tricky double-plays, but by being a good defender he gives his pitcher more confidence in being able to pitch to contact or make a mistake without it killing the team's chances of a win. The Diamondbacks went through that before, they know how important the middle infielders are to a team. Orlando's defense, offense, and energy in the clubhouse make him the most valuable piece of the team. And Brandon Webb: he's young and he's still growing as a pitcher, and he's just plain good. His sinkerball is the best in the league, and just like Mariano's fastball, you know it's coming and you still can't hit it. He is definitely the ace to build a rotation around.
Jim Chris Young and Brandon Webb. They are the kind of players around whom you can build a franchise. Young will be an All-Star, probably in the next season or two; how many center-fielders hit 30 HR in their rookie year? [Now about those K's, Chris...] Webb is, simply, among the best pitchers in the National League.
Well, that was interesting. Just spent 5 1/2 hours at a meeting of the City of Tempe Development Review Commission. The Sets - where we have the IZW wrestling, and Mrs. SnakePit has put on a bunch of other shows - had their live performance license challenged by a neighbor who complained that he was disturbed by the noise. So this was the appeal hearing: we were told to get there at 8:30pm, but we ended up being the last item on the agenda, so didn't go on until past midnight, and it was nearly 2am by the time everything was finished.
It was actually pretty interesting, once it got to stuff we were involved in - a discussion about parking and some development at Monti's Steakhouse in Tempe seemed to drag on interminably beforehand. The complainant went up first and made his case, and then other interested parties (including Mrs. SnakePit) got three minutes apiece, before The Sets owner got to respond. I though he kicked the complainant's ass, since he had documentation that the guy had complained at time when there was actually no live music going on - once, when there was a poker tournament! He also had a report from an independent sound engineer, and a letter from their next-door neighbor asserting that noise wasn't an issue. However, one of the board members had visited the complainant and had heard noise, though it was not certain where this was coming from.
In the end, no action was taken, with the decision made to monitor the noice, with the commission members making a field-trip or two to check out the situation in person before coming to a final decision. Probably wise, I sense they were being cautious in proceeding, but overall, I was impressed with the thoroughness with which they went into the matter, asking a lot of pertinent questions of all parties. And besides, Madam Chairwoman was kinda hot. ;-) Definite cult following potential there! I don't think we'll quite be marking future Development Review Commission meetings on our calendar, but it was nice to see our tax dollars at work. The wheels of bureaucracy grind on.
No, the above isn't relevant to anything much. But I had to do something to kill a bit of time before going to bed: in my youth, I discovered that if I couldn't get a full eight hours, I could function much better on four hours sleep, than on six. Think it has something to do with sleep cycles. Mind you, it's been several years since I've tried it, so I am not looking forward to a full day of work tomorrow!