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Arizona Diamondbacks: The First Ten Years

Arizona Diamondbacks: The First Ten Years
DVD, 78 mins [+ bonus footage]
$19.99, from Fry's supermarkets

In the absence of anything positive in the Diamondbacks present, it seems an appropriate time to look back at history, with the tenth anniversary DVD recently put out by the franchise and MLB. Has it really been a decade? To think, back at that point, I was living in London, working in the IT department of HSBC, and the future Mrs. SnakePit had just made her first trip to the United Kingdom. How things change, Now, we have this DVD, which covers the first ten years of the franchise, It doesn't get off on a good foot, with commercials for both the team and Fry's which are utterly unskippable by the menu button. Look: you don't need to sell me on the Diamondbacks, or I would not have bought the DVD.

Narrated by Joe Garagiola Sr., it starts, oddly enough at the end, talking about the young players who took the team to the 2007 division title. But it's not long before they go back to the birth of the franchise, with Selig admitting that Phoenix was the overwhelming favorite for an expansion spot. They attempt to draw parallels with the 1998 team, but it seems a bit of a stretch to me, since that original team contained - for obvious reasons - no players who had 'come up' through the farm system.

The DVD then moves on to the change of plan, necessitated by the departure of 25% of their season-ticket holders after the first year. After they signed Randy Johnson for the 1999 season, that opened the flood-gates for the acquisition of Steve Finlay, Tony Womack and Luis Gonzalez, key pieces of the team. That year also saw Gonzo's 30-game hitting streak, which was the start of Arizona's love-affair with our left-fielder. Was that team, which has 100 victories, possibly the best Diamondbacks lineup ever? [I have to say, I did like the blue alternate shirts] But the lasting memory might be the look on Finlay's face as he just missed Pratt's extra-inning homer than ended the NLDS.

2000 brought a triple-play and Gonzalez becoming the first D-back to hit for the cycle. But an injury to Stottlemyre derailed the team and even the arrival of Curt Schilling couldn't help. The resulting failure to reach the playoffs led to the departure of Showalter and the arrival of Brenly, to deliver "a different kind of relationship with the players." He was the final piece of the jigsaw, managing the veteran players. Gonzo had thirteen April homers, and the team were never more than three games out of first all year, with Reggie Sanders [I wonder what might have happened had we not let him go after one year?] and Mark Grace important cogs. Johnson's 20 K game, and combined with Schilling for 665 strikeouts, the most by any duo in modern history. Then there was the post-season, about which not much more really needs to be said: Womack's bloop single to left-center, that won the series against the Cardinals was an interesting omen of the way the World Series would end.

Inevitably, the next season was a let-down, despite Johnson and Schilling again dominating the league with an astonishing 47 wins. The collision of Tony Womack with Luis Gonzalez, down the left-field line, which took the latter out for the season, was perhaps the crucial blow. They went 14-17 down the stretch, and got swept out of the playoffs. This was the start of the downturn: injuries hampered both of the aces in 2003 and the team won fourteen less games, though young players like Webb and Valverde made their debuts. 2004... "We're going to be a ballclub that scores a lot more runs this year," said Brenly - unfortunately, Richie Sexson's shoulder didn't get the memo. Still, Johnson's perfect game was the highlight of the year. Disturbing to see Johnson in a Yankees cap discussing it though.

The 2005 team was better, simply because they couldn't get much worse. Enter Bob Melvin to replace Brenly, Kendrick saying "he has the patience to deal with younger players that we knew would be the core of our team going forward." This marked a transition in many ways - the switch to growth from within, rather than veteran free-agents. Interestingly, there is no mention at all of the change of ownership from Colangelo to Moorad, though the switch from Joe Garagiola Jr. to Josh Byrnes is covered. 2006 brought the arrival of the other Byrnes, Eric, and also Orlando Hudson and it was fun to hear him miked up during a game. Webb's Cy Young is also covered, and the debut of Stephen Drew and Chris Young.

2007 probably gets more coverage than any other season on this DVD. It starts with the change to Sedona Red, a "difficult decision" according to Derrick Hall, though he adds that he believes "our fans now see just how special and unique these uniforms are to our division and to our state." No kidding. I can't believe I actually had purple in my closet for more than eight years. Mark Reynolds'  five-hit night and the stirring comeback against Tampa are covered, and the back-to-back-to-back walk-off wins as the team marched towards the playoffs, thanks largely to a 21-5 streak after the break, and Webb's scoreless streak.

On the other hand, there is a certain irony in statements such as, "The team also got a lift during the stretch when Eric Byrnes was signed to a long-term contract." Or, as Josh Byrnes put it: "He's certainly one of our best players, one of our leaders and he's part of what we're going to do going forward." No comment. Still, we squeaked out of the NL West by the narrowest possible margin, and there's a great deal of joy to be had watching our demolition job on the Chicago Cubs. Had to laugh at Valverde's emphatic reaction after closing our the victory in Game One, and Lilly's petulant reaction after the home-run in Game Two is something I could watch for hours. Best draw a veil over the NLCS though...

The extra features are worthy of mention too. They include things like the last at-bat of the 2001 World Series, albeit mis-described on the menu as the 'last out' - as well all know, fortunately it wasn't an out! - and the on-field celebration. Though has anyone ever looked as uncomfortable in a baseball cap as Jerry Colangelo? There's also the last out of Johnson's perfect game, the clinching of the NL West title last season and various other, off-field moments such as Bob Melvin's Manager of the Year press-conference and a feature on O-Dawg from This Week In Baseball. Nice little bits and pieces, though again, largely skewed to the last couple of years.

The DVD offers an entertaining ride through it all: as you'd probably expect, it's never exactly in depth or overly detailed, and is unremittingly upbeat. You won't find any mention of, say, Jason Grimsley here. Still, for anyone who has followed the team, it's sure to bring back a bunch of memories - and for those just picking up on the team [where have you been?], it's a good primer on the first decade. Here's to another edition in 2018 - hopefully including more division titles and maybe, just maybe, another World Series.