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SnakePit Round Table: Mistakes Edition

Sept. 16, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks fan holds up a sign during the fourth inning against San Francisco Giants at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE
Sept. 16, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks fan holds up a sign during the fourth inning against San Francisco Giants at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE

We've only got two more of these to do, and the season will be over. Still, the team plays on, with moments of excitement still to be had. A couple of Tweets from Steve Gilbert also provoked some discussion, and we give our panelists a chance to change one thing in baseball. Guest should have been blank_38, but he never turned up. Still, Dan Strittmatter is back, so he chipped in for us instead. AzDbackfanInDc is up next week, then... Well, we'll see if blank_38 is around maybe!

Swept the Dodgers in a two-game set, but lost two of three to the Giants. What was your impression of the team's performance?

snakecharmer: It was just like it has been all year - low-scoring and half-hearted. Three steps forward, two steps backward.

ZM: There was a just enough hope to keep everyone motivated at the beginning, and then crushing disappointment in the end, with an end result of overall mediocrity.

Sonic: They come out and battled every game. They're not packing it in, so you have to respect that. We can't beat the Padres but we give LA and Frisco fits. That's good by me.

See also: the entire 2012 season.

soco: I think by this point in the season, we know what kind of time this is. So that they swept the fading Dodgers (still good, though), and then lost 2 of 3 (but had a nice whipping on Sunday) is about par for the course.

Jim: Yay, we're still in this thi... Damnit, no, we're not. The players may not have checked out, but emotionally, I have. Well, I keep telling myself that, anyway. The 1-0 win over the Dodgers on Tuesday proved otherwise, and yesterday's crushing victory against the Giants was a great deal of fun too. Take your pleasures where you find them.

Steve Gilbert Tweeted, "Just an opinion, but if the #Dbacks trade Justin Upton this offseason it will be the organization's second-biggest mistake ever." Agree or disagree?

Dan: Disagree. Arizona will only move Upton for a star-caliber MLB player in return (as the ever-so-speculated Elvis Andrus deal would be). Catastrophic deals happen when a star is traded for potential only to have potential fail to pan out, or when potential is traded for a star only to have potential flourish and the star not lead the team to success. Even if Upton returns to star form in 2013, the difference between him and Andrus for us would be, what, two wins? Unless Upton goes supernova and puts together an eight-or-nine-win season (which, mind you, he's capable of doing), I'm skeptical that it would be so disastrous.

snakecharmer: I don't think "will", I think "could". I still think Upton has the potential to be a star and you hate losing those, but thus I can see why he'd be worth a lot. But our recent trades haven't impressed me, so I'm leery of a package for Upton right now.

ZM: On the whole, I tend to agree with Dan. Bullpen/gritty veteran jokes aside, this front office is not dumb, and I tend to believe they understand that Upton is an incredibly valuable piece even coming off of a down year, and will value him in trades accordingly. Thus, anyone they get for him (Andrus has been mentioned, and makes a lot of sense, really) should provide immediate value, rather than potential value. I'm becoming less convinced that Upton will ever put up a 8 WAR, MVP-caliber season almost by the day, so if they could get a centerpiece player at a position of need, I don't think it would be much of a mistake at all.

Note: this will not stop me from freaking out if it actually happens, though.

Sonic: It really depends on what they get. That's kind of a dumb tweet. If they trade Upton for Trout, would it still be a mistake? Twitter never really allows for much context. It's too often used just to get reaction rather than actually saying something intelligent.

soco: There is always tremendous risk in trading a near superstar, even if you're getting a player of near caliber back. No one wants to be remembered in the record books as the team that traded away a great player in return for a bag of balls. The thing is you can't be controlled by fear. Yes, there is a distinct possibility that Upton, if traded, goes on to be the guy everyone thought he'd be. But if there's a good deal then I feel like the organization has to strongly consider it, simply because there's no guarantee Upton will become that superstar here or anywhere.

Jim: Yeah, worrying about hypothetical trades is always a waste of time. We've seen that before with complaints about management trading away our pitching prospects for David Wright or whatever. Didn't happen. Trading away Upton could be a big mistake. But it could also be the right thing to do, depending what we get back. It doesn't even need to be as good a player as Upton, to be a team win, if it fills a hole where we'll otherwise be replacement level.

He followed up with, "For me the first is firing Bob Melvin and hiring A.J. Hinch."

Dan: Heh. Strongly disagree. The defining mistake of that era to me is failing to understand that while relievers are largely fungible, they are also necessary and volatile, and thus need to be stockpiled rather than discarded.

snakecharmer: Hah, well, that was bad but I think that was a syndrome of a whole lot of other "biggest mistake" issues for a few years there. As we talked about on Twitter, there are plenty of player-related mistakes, but yes that was a biggie.

ZM: A.J Hinch should never have been hired, but you can make a compelling argument (and plenty of people did at the time, as I recall) that Bob Melvin deserved to be fired. This franchise has made enough idiotic personnel decisions that firing a manager shouldn't count as their biggest mistake.

Sonic: I have to agree that wasn't our club's finest hour. But that's really two separate mistakes, not one. Firing Melvin is one decision, and while I didn't really have a problem with that I would hardly suggest it was the team's biggest mistake ever. Hiring A.J. Hinch? Totally separate mistake all on its own. And the real mistake was hiring Josh Byrnes which caused the Hinch hiring. So no, those were not the biggest mistakes in franchise history. The biggest mistake in franchise history was trading away all that talent in the Haren deal. Cargo should be a mainstay of our lineup. We're still paying for that mistake, not to mention Brett Anderson. I realize we now have Skaggs and Corbin from that, but I would trade Skaggs and Corbin for Cargo and Anderson in a heartbeat.

soco: Hiring Hinch was embarrassing, but it probably didn't matter that much. It didn't cripple the team for years. Even trading away for Haren didn't cripple the team (though having Cargo and Anderson might have made our current team better). Of course, the counter-argument is then, if these aren't two of the biggest mistakes, then what are? Maybe jumping the gun on resigning Josh Byrnes? But even he was dumped fairly quickly, so not like he's available to kick around anymore.

Jim: Good points. I wouldn't tend to agree either. In the last 162 games before he was fired, Melvin went 74-88. In his first 162 games, Hinch went 72-90. Hard to say it made much difference (and incidentally, Gibson, in his first 162, was 77-85). The whole "organizational advocacy" was part of the wholesale change in the front-office. Did the team decide to fire Melvin, then realize they needed a new GM, or the other way round?

Looking back at the 2012 season, what one thing do you think is the biggest reason for the team's underperformance?

Dan: Upton, Roberts, Kennedy, Hudson, and one-run games.

Jim: Dan, that must be some new definition of "one thing," of which I was previously unaware...

snakecharmer: The career years of a lot of players, including the four Dan mentioned. We knew they'd have a dip but we certainly didn't expect it to dip so far and I don't think the organization did either, nor were they fully prepared.

ZM: If you had told me in March that the Diamondbacks would be fighting to get above .500 in September, I would have been sad. If you had told that the Diamondbacks were fighting to get above .500 during a season where Hudson made all of nine starts with an ERA north of 7, that Upton would have an OPS+ below 100, and that Kennedy would have an ERA almost a run and a half higher than he did last year, I probably would have been impressed that they were even in third place. It's hard to win when your all-stars have seasons like that.

Sonic: We never put together a run all year. To be successful you usually have to put a run together somewhere to create some cushion. We never had that stretch where we won 13 out of 14 or something like that. Looking at individuals, as I've said before Kennedy, then Hudson, then Upton.

soco: I feel like we covered it at the beginning of the season. There was a worry that they team would regress, that some of the gritty roleplayers would go back to being pumpkins (Roberts), that some of the pitchers wouldn't be quite as lights out, and that team wouldn't win so many 1 run games. Of course, we didn't expect Young and Upton to struggle, or to be picked up by Hill, Goldschmidt (who I really worried would fall backwards), and Kubel.

Jim: Inability to score when we needed to. We're hitting .191 in late and close situations. That's 16th in the NL, fourteen points worse than the 15th place team. Compare 2011, where we hit .280, best in the league by 20 points. We're also last in L&C SB attempts this year, and have been caught six times in 14 tries.

Three of the team's minor-league affiliates won their championships this week. Thoughts?

Dan: A cool deal, but meaningful only so long as the organization's more talented youngsters contributed and developed the mindset of playoff baseball and winning. Matt Davidson hitting a walk-off home run in the championship series is a positive sign, as is Chris Owings contributing for Mobile, Michael Perez raking at Missoula, Bauer being fantastic at Reno, and even Brewer putting in perhaps his best start of the season in the championship series for the Aces.

ZM: I have to admit, I was astonished that Reno did as well as they did. My understanding was there weren't very many legitimate prospects on the team (partial seasons from Bauer/Skaggs notwithstanding), and that most of the prospects that were there ended up on the major league roster. Part of me wonders how much playing in an absurd hitter's park has contributed to the team's success.

Sonic: Very exciting stuff. I think being in playoff races is actually more valuable than the handful of playoff games they play. Getting used to playing in high leverage situations for long stretches can only help the development of some of the young guys. Learning and understanding how all the little things can make a difference between winning and losing important games. It helps players learn how to prepare on a daily basis and that there are no throw-away games--how important every game is through the long grind of a season. Lots of value to being in those playoff races. Missoula was by far the most fun as they kept playing in and winning games that were win-or-go-home, with several being late inning magic. Fun stuff.

soco: Pretty cool, makes me wonder if a franchise has ever swept the minor league championships available to them. In the long run I don't know how much this matters, as I can't imagine there's a ton of correlation between the minors winning championships and the majors winning championships.

Jim: Wooo! We're assured of winning the World Series in 2013 now! [Cue shoewizard's head exploding...]

If you were made baseball commissioner and could send down one decree, what would it be? [hat-tip: ish95]

Dan: Replay and challenges on all things not related to calling balls and strikes.

snakecharmer: That the Diamondbacks and Giants switch cities so I can see them all the time. (Cuz, I'm sure not moving.....)

ZM: Blackout rules: make them better or just make them go away.

Sonic: Get rid of expanded rosters in September. That's just ridiculous and throws the competition out of balance at the most critical time of the year. It just makes no sense in modern baseball.

soco: DH in both leagues (/runs for the hills).

Jim: Relocate the Giants franchise to Wyomi... WHAAAAAAAT? Soco, you got some ‘xplaining to do...

OT [hat-tip: hotclaws] Apples or oranges?

Dan: Oranges is the right answer.

snakecharmer: Oranges upset my stomach, so, apples.

ZM: Apples > oranges, with the counterintuitive corollary that orange juice > apple juice.

Sonic: Definitely oranges. But I like apples too.

soco: A great apple is hard to beat, but a mealy apple is about the worst out there.

Jim: Difficult choice. I like ‘em both, and would happily endorse either as a good source of Vitamin C. I'd go with juice over the actual fruit, because I'm no fans of skins, but in general, I'll go for apples, simply because they're "ready to eat". Peeling oranges inevitably leads to very sticky hands.

After an off-day today, the Padres come to town, and we then head to Coors Field. Have you tuned the team out?

Dan: Of course not, at least so long as life allows me to stay tuned in.

snakecharmer: Sorry, I was busy doing... uh..... what?

ZM: I haven't been able to participate on GDTs as much as I would want to because of school and because of the awful internet at my apartment, but I'm still paying attention. There's too much talent still on this team for me to tune them out completely.

Sonic: Ugh, the dreaded Padres. That's another reason we're out of the hunt. It seems like we didn't get to play the Padres much when they were sucking. We've had to play them every other series when they're red hot. It's funny how the ebb and flow of a season can just seem to work against you some seasons. We always seemed to be playing everyone when they were hot, or the pitchers we faced were hot. Or maybe we made them look hot, lol.

soco: Yes and no. If I have something else going on, then I get to make a choice. That doesn't mean I won't check the boxscore or come back to the ‘Pit and read the recap and such, but if I miss some games, well that's life. I normally feel that way, but I feel it especially during these lame duck weeks.

Jim: Not out, but down. I've got a crapton of stuff to do for our festival - I'm sitting here beside a heavily whirring ‘puter, ripping short films to AVI files - and so the games have tended to be on in the background, rather than actively watched. When does the AFL start?