Finally. Pitchers and catchers report this week, on Friday. Here's the countdown to the start of "real" baseball for our Diamondbacks, as shamelessly pilfered from yesterday's Republic:
- Feb. 16: Pitchers and catchers report to Tucson.
- Feb. 17: First workout for pitchers and catchers.
- Feb. 21: Full squad reports to Tucson.
- Feb. 22: First full-squad workout.
- Feb. 24: Fanfest from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Chase Field.
- March 1: Cactus League opener vs. White Sox at Tucson Electric Park.
I think I realised how excited I am about the upcoming season, when I did my interview with Joe Aiello regarding our chances (you can check out the results here - it's also available via iTunes). Definitely enjoyed the experience, as long as I forgot I was being "interviewed", and was just chatting about baseball. That's something I can do for hours. ;-) However, did feel that I was gushing somewhat; there just seems to be an awful lot to look forward to this year. Of course, part of that is the usual spring optimism, which infects fans of all thirty teams in February - but, really, I can't think of many teams with more genuine cause for eager anticipation right now.
But don't just take my word for it. Fox's Dayn Perry published their first power rankings, and the Diamondbacks placed ninth. That's better than it sounds, for we were first in the NL West, and second in all the NL, trailing only the Mets. Perry comments on us: "The Snakes are the team of future in the NL, and that future might just start a year or two ahead of schedule... The high-ceiling youngsters in tandem with a rotation that's better than you might think give the Snakes the edge." [I also note harsh words for...well, see if you can guess who: "The roster is decrepit, and the farm system has not a whit of depth. Get comfortable in last place; you're going to be there for quite a while." No prize if you said the Giants: let's face it, the previous quote comes perilously close to stating the bleedin' obvious.]
Yes, Dayn Perry. What a difference a year makes. Last season, he was a know-nothing who obsessed about run differential to the exclusion of everything else. Now, he's a genius who clearly has his finger impeccably on the pulse of baseball. :-) But another Fox writer, Ken Rosenthal, also rates our off-season moves: "Acquired two left-handed starters, Johnson and Doug Davis, without sacrificing elite prospects. G.M. Josh Byrnes also netted four draft picks by completely shunning the free-agent market." That final point is one worthy of note: don't be surprised if this becomes a regular tactic for AZ, stockpiling draft picks to ensure a steady stream of upcoming talent.
Couple of interesting articles in the local papers over the weekend - looks like the "real" baseball journalists are coming out of hibernation! In the Republic, Nick Piecoro looks at the re-tooled Diamondbacks. I note this (somewhat twisty) quote from Josh Byrnes: "I don't want to say we expect to win, but we expect to be right in the thick of it trying to win this division. I sort of color that by saying I do think it's a good division. We're going to have to play well in order to win it, but I think we can." He also came out today with his list of ten players to watch - and not necessarily for good reasons. Best line: "Another doughnut, Mr. Benitez?" A warm welcome will await Nick in the Giants bullpen this season. :-)
Over at the Tribune, Jack Magruder comes up with Ten Questions for the 2007 D-backs. Most of them will be familiar to readers, having been discussed here at some point since the end of last year, but it's a good summary of outstanding issues. It reports that Johnson "has been playing catch at 120 feet and is projected to be about a week or 10 days behind the rest of the staff when camp opens." If that holds up, it means he may miss only a couple of starts at the beginning of the season, which is promising news. The leadoff situation is also addressed, and it's good to see Magruder bring up on-base percentage in discussing that role. Hopefully, that'll help educate people there's more to offense than batting average: Exhibit A there, J.Estrada, Esq.
I'll close by pointing you over to Lookout Landing and their guide to making fun of the other teams in their league. I'd be tempted to do something similar for the National League, if I didn't have, like, ten million other things to do this morning. And I'm back to taking the bus to work, since Mrs. SnakePit got her long-awaited promotion to the Spanish department at US Airways, so her schedule has changed. I'll be talking to my boss today about shifting mine; hopefully, I'll get on to a day shift in time for the start of the season!