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Play ball!

2008 has started, and much as 2007 ended, with the Red Sox winning - albeit only just, taking ten innings to defeat the Oakland A's. It's good to have "proper" baseball back again, though I am using the quotes advisedly, since the first game of the season took place in Japan. I'm all in favor of broadening the international appeal of the game, but I am not sure that this is the way to do it. I certainly know that I had little or no interest in getting up in the middle of the night to watch the event. Opening Day? It's vastly over-rated: the Diamondbacks will get to see it in three different stadiums this year, playing the home opener in Cincinnati and Colorado, as well as in Arizona.

Back in America - y'know, where Opening Day is supposed to take place - it's now six one-run games in a row for Arizona, after they went down to the Angels in Tucson, by a score of 9-8. This one was started by Brandon Webb, and it was another less than impressive outing by our ace, in his final outing before Opening Day. He allowed ten hits in only 4.1 innings, also walking his first batter of the year. The result was seven runs - two were unearned, thanks to a throwing error by Mark Reynolds, but that still leaves Webb with a Cactus League ERA of 8.50, having allowed 34 hits in 18 innings. That puts him...well, basically in line with the rest of our starters: only Davis (4.15) has an ERA to brag about. With one or zero starts left, we also have Haren (5.14), Johnson (6.75) and Owings (9.77). Here's to much better things, as of Monday.

Webb was brutal on himself afterwards, saying, "Honestly, I'm not really where I want to be - definitely not in midseason form yet by any means. Pitch-count-wise and stuff, I think we're good. Arm-strength-wise and condition-wise, I didn't feel too tired... We'll just have to work on a few things in the 'pen and get after it in Cincinnati." Of the rest of the pitchers, Chad Qualls was the best, pitching a perfect sixth. Bongiovanni - no, me neither - allowed a walk in the ninth, Pena a walk and a hit in the eight, and Conor Robertson picked up the loss. He had to rescue Webb in the fifth, but allowed two runs of his own in the sixth, to give the Angels their third lead of the game.

Arizona had a handy advantage of their own at one point, scoring four time in the third and adding two more in the fourth, to make it a 7-4 game at that point. Each team had 14 hits and four walks: for the Diamondbacks, Drew, Hudson and Reynolds all had three hits, with Special K the pick of the litter, smacking a home-run and two doubles, driving in two runs. Conor Jackson reached base three times, with two hits and a walk, and had three RBI, while Upton had a pair of walks. No luck for Hammock, however, whose latest ohfer dropped his spring average to .140. That was despite being told by Melvin before the game, that he was officially on the Opening Day roster. Though given Miguel Montero, our only other catcher, has yet to face a pitch this year, if that came as any surprise to Hammock, I'd be rather concerned.

Steve Gilbert floats an interesting point. If Trot Nixon fills the final spot in the roster, he's going to have to be added to the 40-man roster - which is already full. If Medders or Nippert were waived, that would solve that one, but with EdGon likely to start in the rotation, we might end up with both men in the bullpen. Gilbert mentions Emiliano Fruto, whom we traded for only last August, sending Triple-A first-baseman Chris Carter to the Nationals [Carter's now on the Red Sox 40-man roster]. Certainly, looking at the current 40-man, there doesn't seem to be much slack. But do we really want to lose Fruto, when Nixon might not be with the club for even a month?

While too late for our draft, Razzball asked me to take a look at the D-backs for fantasy purposes. Mind you, given the blasted wasteland of a pitching staff which I ended up with on Saturday [It looks a bit better, now that I've added some hurlers whose count of functioning limbs does not end at three], I hardly feel like any kind of expert, but I do think that there will be some valuable players to be found on the Arizona roster this season. Of course, valuable in a fantasy sense does not necessarily equate to valuable in a broader sense; fantasy baseball values BA rather than OBP, for example. It might be interesting to do a league that dumps wins for pitchers and RBI for hitters, and goes towards a more sabermetric approach.

Rob Neyer came up with the Best 50 players over the next five years. They include Brandon Webb at #17, Dan Haren at #31 and Justin Upton at #43, though the last-named "would rank a lot higher if we were looking 10 years down the road instead of five." I don't know about you, but I think the unlisted Chris Young might be a bit better than, say, Melky Cabrera, whom Neyer has at #46. Finally, somewhat off the wall, Fanhouse have a series that compares MLB teams to bands. They've now got up the Diamondbacks' entry: we are Nickelback. I am not quite sure what to make of this - except "For f'ks sake, please start the goddamn baseball season!" - but that may be because I've never been all that keen on Nickelback. Neither is the creator of the video. Today's comment starter If the Diamondbacks were a tree, what kind of tree would they be?