I was looking at the D-backs likely 2011 roster, and I noticed something which brings home how much the team has changed. Only four of those 25 players made their debut for Arizona prior to Opening Day 2009. Brandon Webb and Chris Snyder were two of the longest-serving players in team history, having each played in seven separate seasons (Webb had another year on the DL, of course) - only Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez had more active years with the D-backs. But now that Webb, Snyder and other "veterans" like Mark Reynolds and Augie Ojeda are gone, who does that leave as the "faces of the franchise"?
Here is the probable Opening Day roster, ordered by the date they made their debut for the Diamondbacks.
Stephen Drew: July 15, 2006
Chris Young: August 18, 2006
Miguel Montero: September 6, 2006
Justin Upton: August 2, 2007
Juan Gutierrez: April 7, 2009
Gerardo Parra: May 13, 2009
Brandon Allen: August 22, 2009
Kelly Johnson: April 5, 2010
- Ian Kennedy: April 7, 2010
Sam Demel: June 16, 2010
- Barry Enright: June 30, 2010
- Joe Saunders: July 29, 2010
Daniel Hudson: August 1, 2010
- Mike Hampton: September 4, 2010
- Never played for Arizona: Juan Miranda, Joe Patterson, Kam Mickolio, David Hernandez, J.J. Putz, Zach Duke, Xavier Nady, Geoff Blum, Melvin Mora, Henry Blanco, Wille Bloomquist
I am amused to note that two of the six longest-serving players currently on the team are still aged 23. 44% of the anticipated squad will be making their Arizona debuts. And Enright, who was playing Double-A ball in June, has more experience of Chase than the majority of the roster, so will presumably be showing the n00bs to their lockers. :-)
If you look at the number of games played, Drew and Young are neck-and-neck, having both been more or less everyday players since they arrived. Drew has 647, good for fifth on the franchise list, and he should pass Chad Tracy and Craig Counsell to reach third, before the All-Star break next year; Young is a couple of spots back, with 628 games. Upton and Montero have 422 and 373 appearances respectively, but then there's another long drop-off to Parra (253), the sole other player currently in the all-time Arizona top 50 or with more than a full season's worth of games (162).
In terms of "franchise faces," it's hard to pick one. Drew has been here the longest, but flies so far below the radar, it appears he is being piloted remotely from Area 51, as part of a black ops CIA-funded project to construct a stealth shortstop with a nuclear payload. [A good use of tax dollars, I'd say...] Upton certainly has the skills, but he is undeniably a polarizing force among fans, perhaps too much so to qualify. To be a "face," you probably have to be someone the entire fanbase, or close to, can get behind. His youth works against him there too, even if only a couple of team-mates have more appearances.
It seems to me to come down to between Montero and Young, and I'd go with the former. Being a face isn't just about performance, it's about communication as well - a bit like pro wrestling, where cutting a promo on the mic is as important as what you do in the ring [or even more so: see Hulk Hogan, The Rock, etc.] And that's an area where Montero appears to have the edge. I enjoy listening to him speak, because his love of the game and enthusiasm for it comes through, loud and clear. Young comes over as a little cooler and slightly distant, at least to me.
Another possible positive of Montero becoming the face would be to help repair the hit to the team's reputation over the whole SB 1070 issue. Rightly or wrongly (and that's a whole separate issue), there's little doubt that the D-backs were hurt by the fallout over the law, and establishing a Hispanic player in a prominent role could be a smart move. Of course, is Montero willing to take on that part? It's an important question. Some of the class of 2010 D-backs may step up over the course of next year, or even the "veteran presence," in the way Tony Clark did through 2007. The latter seems a little less likely, given the probable shorter-term presence of Melvin Mora, Willie Bloomquist, etc.
Finally, for amusement, I went through the rest of the National League teams, and picked out who their "face of the franchise" is, to me. Factors taken into account include length of tenure, accomplishments, role, national name recognition and association with the franchise. It was hard for a couple of teams. Notably, the Astros, who lost two obvious candidates (Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt), the Pirates, who have hardly anyone you've ever heard of, and the Padres who similarly lost the incumbent Adrian Gonzalez this winter.
- Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones
- Chicago Cubs:Carlos Zambrano
- Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto
Colorado Rockies: Todd Helton (heir apparent: Troy Tulowitzki)
Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez
- Houston Astros: Wandy Rodriguez
Los Angeles Dodgers: Jonathan Broxton
- Milwaukee Brewers: Prince Fielder
- New York Mets: David Wright
- Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmie Rollins
- Pittsburgh Pirates: Paul Maholm
- San Diego Padres: Heath Bell
- San Francisco Giants: Tim Lincecum
- St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols
Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman (heir apparent: Stephen Strasburg)