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An Open Letter to Greg Hansen

A measured response to Arizona Daily Star sports journalist Greg Hansen's editorial dated July 28, 2014.


Dear Mr. Hansen,

I recently had the opportunity to read your editorial, "D'backs snuffing life out of former fans". I was born and raised in Arizona. I was also raised on baseball as something approaching a religion. Ty Cobb, Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Pete Rose - these weren't merely the names of gifted baseball talents. These were the names of legendary figures that had performed the sorts of feats that would have made Hercules gape in awe. While I did not have to make daily trips to the corner store for the paper (I was fortunate in that my father had home delivery), I did still take the time to dissect every article about the sport I could find. I had folders and scrap books filled with clipped out box scores from which I compiled my own statistical analyses. It was in 1988 that I boldly claimed that everyone was sleeping on Barry Bonds and that he was going to go down as the all-time Home Run King. (I rather wish that had played out differently than it did, but that is an entirely different story.)

Like you, I grew up liking the Dodgers although, being raised by my grandmother, my first love was for the Chicago Cubs. Harry Caray was no Vin Scully with the announcing, but he was still plenty of fun. Vin Scully and his lip reading abilities were the purview of weekend baseball. Phoenix Giants and Spring Training were how I got my live baseball fix. Then in 1998 a beautiful thing happened. The Arizona Diamondbacks took the field. By the time the 2001 playoffs rolled around, they truly were Arizona's team, not just a Phoenix team borrowing the state's name. They've been up and down since then, but hardly the train wreck you feel inclined to make them out.

You are right, this year's team has been mostly awful. At 46-60 the team needs to be looking to the future. Luckily for the team, that future isn't so far away though. They may not be a 90 win team in 2015, they would need to find a true ace pitcher and those simply are short order these days. But the possibility of them being a 90+ win team by 2016 is a very reasonable possibility. (We'll get to the how in just a moment.) By the way, since the Diamondbacks won the NLDS in 2007, there are still 8 other teams that have yet to make the playoffs, much less return to the playoffs and win a game.

Attendance is now dropping to an all-time low. A recession that the middle class has been slow to rebound from, combined with a losing record, and a number of other factors beyond the Diamondbacks' control has certainly punished the attendance. You might find part of the problem by looking in the mirror. When a fan is offered premium seats and a chauffeured ride all for free, to watch the Diamondbacks play against a team that they actually had a very good chance of beating, and the fan turns it down - there's not much the team can do to change that. If the organization can't get dedicated baseball fans in seats with free tickets, a free ride, and a reasonable chance of winning, what exactly are they supposed to do to bring the skeptics in?

This team is unwatchable and unrecognizable you say? You really haven't been paying much attention have you? Here are some names that you, as a professional sports writer might want to acquaint yourself with.

Miguel Montero: The man has been with the team for some time now. You might already be aware of him. Did you know that despite a down year in 2013 he's still one of the four or five best catchers in baseball?

Chris Owings: Here is an exciting player you have missed since you decided to give up watching the team. Until an injury curtailed his 2014 campaign, Owings was the front-runner for the NL ROY Award. As a former BBWAA writer, I'm sure you are familiar with the sort of excitement that award can bring.

A.J. Pollock: No offense to Messers Finley and Young, but if the performance Pollock has had thus far in 2014 is a true sign of things to come, he will go down as the best center fielder to play for the team in its first 20 years. Given the level of company that puts him in, you might want to go look him up.

Paul Goldschmidt: I like saving the best for last. This young man got a cup of coffee at the end of the 2011 campaign. You probably remember that since the Diamondbacks were in the playoffs that year. Well, in the time since then that you have completely written off the team, Goldschmidt has only turned himself into the single-best first baseman in all of baseball. He is doing for the Diamondbacks what Votto did for the Reds and Pujols for the Cardinals. In three full years of play he has 2 all-star appearances and a second place MVP finish. He'll be here through 2019, but you might want to come back and check him out before then. He's a real treat to watch play.

Other names you might want to look up include: Wade Miley, Josh Collmenter, Evan Marshall, and Archie Bradley.

The team is just 5-10 in the postseason since winning it all in 2001. That 5-10 record also includes a division championship in 2007 and coming about the thickness of a iPhone from a second division championship in 2011 - a year made all the more painful when it was revealed that the primary abuser of the Diamondbacks in that series was juiced up.

The Diamondbacks' history with the draft has been one of progress. Starting with 2009, the draft has been something of a Diamondback strength. Now, you did mention that you've entirely given up paying a lick of attention to the team on the field, so I'll just give you a quick primer, that way when you come back to Chase Field you won't be totally lost.

2009 brought the team Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Chris Owings (you might recall those three from above), and Chase Anderson.

2010 brought the team Kevin Munson, Cody Wheeler, and the dynamic White Sox's center fielder Adam Eaton.

2011 brought the team Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley, Evan Marshall, and soon Andrew Chafin.

2012 looks like another very strong draft, resulting in Jake Lamb, Andrew Velazquez (those are two names to really watch out for) along with ASU alumnus Jake Barrett, pitcher R.J. Hively, and outfield talent Alex Glenn.

2013 resulted in the Diamondbacks getting a steal by taking future top of the rotation pitcher Braden Shipley. He's joined by another top arm who is currently performing even better in Aaron Blair. Jimmie Sherfy, Justin Williams, Jamie Westbrook, and Daniel Palka are all names you might want to file away for future reference too. For all the talent found in the 2009 draft, the 2013 draft has the potential to put it to shame.

2014 was hardly a poor draft either. The organization managed to pick up yet another top arm in Touki Toussaint, as a sportswriter you've probably heard of him. They also picked up strikeout artist extraordinaire Cody Reed. Marcus Wilson and Kevin Cron will be interesting to follow as well.

The team has had hits and misses with free agency. Some of that has stabilized a bit under the new regime. The team is no longer following Jeff Moorad's advice. That has helped things. I was never a fan of the Arroyo signing. But if you're going to knock it, let's be fair. He had never once been to the DL in 14 years of play and was a soft-tosser. Under-performance was a foreseeable possibility. Arroyo blowing out his elbow was highly unlikely.

Cody Ross is another signing I didn't care for. In 163 games for the Diamondbacks, Cody Ross has only hit 10 home runs. We all would have liked to have seen more. The rest of his numbers have been fairly close to his career averages but they are certainly trending down. All-in-all, it's hard to find fault there though - not when considering that less a year ago Cody Ross had his right hip explode in what is the very definition of freak accident. In fact, it is such a strange injury that the closest comparison is likely Bo Jackson. Ross is a shell of his former self out there on the field. The amazing thing is that he is even on the field at all.

You lament the days of Jerry Colangelo being in charge. To be honest, I often do as well. His very public ousting from the organization has had many consequences over the years, not all of which I am convinced the team saw coming. But let's be honest. He mortgaged the future to win the World Series in 2001, and the result of that hefty leveraging was the 2004 team - a team even worse off than this one. Colangelo's model was unsustainable. It didn't help matters any when Major League Baseball changed the debt ceiling rules. This change hamstrung the Diamondbacks even more. It wasn't until 2013 that the Diamondbacks finally crawled out from under the weight of Colangelo's regime.

You claim that you were a baseball addict. The Diamondbacks were your team during their rise to the top. Then the team hit a few rough patches. Now, for the first time in four years, the team is on course for a losing season and here you are refusing to have anything to do with the team, despite having the baseball experience handed to you on a platter through your friends and through your job. That sounds more like a fair-weather fan of the sport than an addict. How did you ever survive following those Yankees teams of the late 80s and early 90s that you apparently knew so much about? There are those of us who follow and write informative articles about the team year-round, not just when they are winning, and not just from April until October. It's likely even the best journalists among us will never be treated to the privilege of BBWAA membership despite our very best efforts. Few of us will ever be treated to a night out in premium seats on someone else's dime. Some of my colleagues even hail from Tucson. They haven't given up on the team either. They, like those of us who bother to tune into games and actually attend games when given the opportunity, have been witness to the emergence of a new, young, dynamic team with one of the biggest talents in the entire game leading the way. You really should join us. Don't worry, you're not Ryan Braun, so we won't hold a grudge that you left.