Three weeks ago, I was here writing about Shelby Miller, asking how long did everyone think his leash was. After that, despite continuing to look bad, Miller ticked off a pair of starts with entirely acceptable end results. Last week I wrote about how, despite current results, we as fans may need to buckle up and hold tight, living and dying this season with the personnel already on the roster. Then the Diamondbacks took two of three from the Cardinals, in St. Louis no less. This gave the faintest glimmer of hope that things might be looking up for the Diamondbacks. Paul Goldschmidt, despite not being the Goldschmidt of old had put together some key hits. Nick Ahmed finally got on the interstate and over the Uecker Line. Rubby De La Rosa was starting to look better, though he was forced to miss a start. Robbie Ray, despite not having his best stuff, turned in a solid outing. There was plenty to be happy about, plenty to get fans of the team hoping that the Diamondbacks were finally starting to live up to the potential everyone knows the team to have.
Then Tuesday evening happened. Or, more accurately, Shelby Miller happened. For the ninth time in ten starts, Shelby Miller dropped a stinker on the chances of the Diamondbacks pulling out a win when he gave up three first inning runs. Undaunted by the numerous and obvious issues facing his expensive right-hander, Chip Hale elected to leave Miller in the game, damn the torpedoes. Unsurprisingly, the Diamondbacks' ship was sunk by those torpedoes when Miller allowed another three-spot again in the third inning. By the time Miller was finally pulled after five innings, he had posted his worst game score of the season, an abysmal 26. Yes, the game score was even worse than the two times he left the game after hitting the mound with his pitching hand. At least in those two affairs, Hale had little recourse but to pull his starter before the game score could be further depressed.
To add injury to insult, Pirates relief pitcher Arquimedes Caminero hit not one, but two Diamondback players in the head in the late innings of the game. Thankfully Jean Segura, the recipient of a 96 mph heater to the helmet left under his own power. Nick Ahmed was more fortunate, and took a splitter off the shoulder before it deflected up and left seam marks on his chin. As of now, it looks like Nick Ahmed is going to be fine, and that Jean Segura will be headed to the 7-day DL. (Edit: Jean Segura did not go to the DL and wound up starting the game on Thursday.) This incident brought some fire to the dugout, but the postgame presser was something different. Chip Hale looked like a man defeated, not just a man who had lost a game, but a man who was in the midst of watching a 96-loss season. This, combined with some other observations about Chip Hale and his possible lack of active leadership found here, do not paint a pretty picture for the future of this team in 2016.
Edit: Since this is now going up a day later, a brief snippet about Rubby De La Rosa
Looking to bounce back from Miller's poor performance the Diamondbacks took to the field behind Rubby De La Rosa who seemed to be getting things turned around. Alas, Rubby De La Rosa's inconsistency reared its ugly head as he put up his second worse game by way of game score on the season. Despite cruising through the first three innings, he began to stumble in the fourth. By the time he was pulled after recording only one out in the fifth, the Diamondbacks were in a sizable hole.
When I wrote last week that this team needed to stay the course, there were some caveats in there. Among those were that this team would begin turning things around, even if by small steps. Part of the reason for not making wholesale changes was that there seemed few better candidates for the possible changes that might be considered. If Chip Hale has indeed lost the passion for this season, then it might just be time to move on. If Glenn Sherlock is interested in possibly managing, let him have a shot at it. If Chip Hale is still motivated to win this season, then the front office needs to give him the best tools for the job, and he needs to have complete control over the product on the field. He also needs to start paying attention to the numbers though, and not relying as heavily on his gut or his loyalties.
Mike Butcher would seem to be an easy selection to be dumped, though it is unlikely any better selections become available before the season comes to a close. (Maybe Roy Halladay is ready to do more than just teach pitching and would be willing to coach?)
It is time for the Diamondbacks front office to take off their Sedona Red coloured glasses and take a hard look at what they are running out on the field, and what they have to work with. It may be time to open the wallets, but that time probably won't come until November. But they do still have a number of hard questions to consider.
- Why is Shelby Miller still on the 25-man roster, and why are they now looking for ways to sugar-coat taking him out of the rotation?
- How much longer can they really stick with Rubby De La Rosa, despite his flashes of being a great pitcher?
- Is it time to overhaul the volatile bullpen again, keeping Ziegler, Clippard, Barrett, Hudson, and Curtis while adjusting roles and bringing in new arms?
- Despite his shaky MLB track record, is it time to give Bradley another shot at the rotation?
- At what point does the team switch focus from 2016 contention to 2016 development for a stronger 2017?
- Can the team find in-season replacements for Hale and/or Butcher? Should they?
Possibly the hardest question that needs answering though, does not involve the on-field talent.
- Are Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart the right men for the job? Or, are they too attached to their early decisions to course correct?
I don't have the answers to all of these questions. I do know that it is time this organization started paying attention to some of them though. This team built up an incredible amount of good will over the winter. Nearly all of it and them some has been squandered in less than two months of play. The Diamondback Nation is tired of empty promises and chronically underachieving teams, and frankly, so am I.