Sunday, since I've got some time freed up courtesy of our guest recappers, seems a good opportunity to take a look at the current state of the team. This will be a random grab-bag some of the issues, news and other bits and pieces which might otherwise get skipped or forgotten about.
It was, overall, a rough week for the Arizona Diamondbacks, losing consecutive series at home against their divisional rivals. Poor Dan Haren finds himself lumbered with an 0-2 record, despite an ERA of fractionally above two, thanks to receiving a single run of support over his two outings. Such has been the way of the D-backs: when we've pitched, we haven't hit, and the team scored just five times in the four losses. On average, we're down to less than four runs per game, and with our team ERA sitting at exactly six...well, you do the math.
After the jump is the rest of the Arizona week.
That pesky right-field position
Between them, Eric Byrnes and Justin Upton are 1-for-22 to start the season: Upton 0-for-9, Byrnes 1-for-13. The hope before the season was that we would have four solidly-hitting outfielders, pushing each other for the spots. Instead, the best-hitting one is Chris Young at a meagre .227; Jackson is barely above the Uecker line at .208, with no extra-base hits. Now, it is only one week, and we don't expect our outfield to continue hitting a collective .162, any more than we expect Emilio Bonifacio to keep batting .500 for the Marlins. However, we should consider the possibility that Upton will continue to struggle, as he has since the start of spring training.
If that happens, we have three possibilities. One is to keep playing the way we have, platooning Byrnes and Upton as their performance demands, hoping that one of them will eventually catch fire. The second possibility is to put Upton in there every day, and trust to his potential eventually shining through. The issue with both of these is that Upton's swing seems to have changed since last year. Said Melvin recently, "I think he's trying to make some adjustments to get shorter to the ball. He probably got a little too wrapped, which affects your route. It makes you a little bit longer. He's trying to get away from that." Is the big leagues really the best place to be doing so?
The alternative is to send him down to Triple-A Reno, until Upton gets his swing back to the sweet thing of beauty we saw towards the end of last season. [It seems unlikely it'll happen until at least April 25th - Justin Upton bobblehead night at Chase!] I was always of the opinion that we might have been better off leaving him in the minors last season, rather than starting his service clock for his age 20 season. But would another demotion - he was sent down last year, with an 'injury' - hurt the psyche of our #1 pick, possibly irreparably? And if that's the case, how long should we wait before making the change? The problem there is, we don't have anyone very good to replace him. Byrnes has shown no signs of hitting, and the Reno roster has Brandon Wilson, Alex Romero and Chris Roberson as choices. Would any of them be an improvement over Byrnes, even a slumping one? Hard to say.
The relief corps have been all over the place, but the net results (a 7.65 ERA in twenty innings) have been pretty poor. Chad Qualls is the only one who has looked consistently good [two innings, one single, no walks], though Tony Pena has not been too bad, with one earned run in 3.2 innings - his defense (or lack thereof) helped him to two unearned tallies. But beyond that, there's been no-one who has been able to put together consistently good performances. Juan Gutierrez was promoted to seventh-inning man before Saturday's game - and immediately allowed three runs that evening. He replaced Jon Rauch who has appeared in four games already, and given up five hits, three walks and four earned runs in 3.2 innings. He just doesn't seem to have an 'out' pitch any longer.
After a rough start, both Doug Slaten and Scott Schoeneweis have settled down somewhat, but Billy Buckner was lit up in his last appearance, and must be seen as a candidate for removal when the roster crunch comes. That has probably been pushed back a few days, with the news that Brandon Webb will be hitting the DL. This means Max Scherzer can take his roster spo on Tuesday, with (presumably) Yusmeiro Petit starting again for the Diamondbacks on Friday, in place of Webb. Our ace can come back in the middle of the week after that, and we should also be getting close to seeing Tom Gordon become healthy and available. Eventually, two of the current relief arms will have to be trimmed, with Petit returning to the 'pen. Performances over the next ten days or so will probably decide those.
Hey, now, you're an All-Star
If the news that Arizona is getting the 2011 All-Star Game was not exactly a shock, it is still satisfying for the current management, who have been lobbying hard for this over the past few years. Despite the protestations of Bud Selig, I think there's little doubt that it was held back from the Colangelo regime, because MLB did not approve of the way - in particular, financially - that he was running the franchise. If we take a look at All-Star games, we see new parks are usually rewarded pretty quickly, compared to the 14 seasons we've had to wait.
2010: Angel Stadium (N/A)
2009: Busch Stadium (4th year)
2008: Yankee Stadium (N/A)
2007: AT&T Park (11th year)
2006: PNC Park (6th year)
2005 Comerica Park (6th year)
2004: Minute Maid Park (3rd year)
2003: Comiskey Park (13th year)
2002: Miller Field (2nd year)
2001: Safeco Field (1st year)
2000: Turner Field (4th year)
1999: Fenway Park (N/A)
1998: Coors Field (4th year)
If you're keeping score at home, no less than six stadiums built after Chase Field opened, jumped the queue and got an All-Star game ahead of the Diamondbacks. I don't put much credence in the theory that the light rail completion had much to do with it - rest assured, few of those actually attending the game will be using it. And, of course, it's not as if global cooling will have struck Phoenix between now and 2011, so the weather is no excuse for the delay.
It was announced this week that Luis Gonzalez will retire as a Diamondback, and will then take on a role in the front-office. Said Gonzo, "They said it's there whenever I am ready. We had some preliminary kind of talks. Obviously I don't want to retire, but if it comes down to it I'll do what I have to do. Baseball has been my life. " The off-season wasn't kind, with Luis failing to find a job; as a result, his streak of 18 straight seasons with 100 games or more looks likely to end. That's the longest of any active player by quite some way: Jeff Kent had 17, but that finished with his January retirement - next are the likes of Mandy and Chipper Jones, all the way down on 14 years.
The likely process involves a one-day contract, Luis being announced in LF, then replaced before first-pitch. However, the way our outfield has been playing, it might be a good idea to sign him sooner than later, and keep him on the roster. Snark aside, that day, whenever it comes, should be a sell-out, if there's any justice, and is a remarkable turnaround given the nature of his departure from Arizona. Is there a personal grudge between Moorad and Gonzo? Not only has the former now left, but I note San Diego were apparently looking at Luis, until early February, when he "was all set to fly from his Phoenix-area home to San Diego to meet with the Padres. And then the phone rang. "There's no need for you to come," the Padres told Gonzalez and his agents." Just coincidence that Moorad reached his deal to buy the team on February 3?
The Arizona Diamondbacks welcomed their their thirty-millionth fan through the gates at Chase before the game with the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. It was ten-year old Blaise Wagner, who got to throw out the first pitch before the game. "It's probably one of the best Easters I've ever had in my life," Blaise said. Among expansion franchises, only the Rockies have made it faster to that number - our 1998 siblings in Tampa are barely even half-way there, not having reached sixteen million yet.