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SnakePit Round Table: Game? What game?

Should you be interested in THAT kind of thing...

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s Super Bowl Press Conference Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

When will Opening Day take place?

Jack: It’s funny, I was always absolutely certain that Spring Training would be delayed, and very doubtful that the regular season would start on time. But over the last couple of days I’ve had the sense they will have a breakthrough in the next couple of weeks and go through a compressed Spring and get the season started on time, or very close to the original start date. I am writing this on Friday morning, and MLB and MLBPA are supposed to meet on Saturday. We’ll see if the counter proposal MLB is presenting moves the needle over the weekend.

Wesley: I’d be very, very surprised if Spring Training and the regular season start completely on schedule. Like Jack, I have a feeling the sides are close enough that we could see a breakthrough soon, but I wouldn’t bet money on it. If there’s progress made this weekend, then I think we could see the season start on time. If not, I could see this lasting well past when the season was supposed to start. After the meeting on Saturday, I don’t know at all if the season will start on time. At this point, I’ll say the end of May or early June.

James: I expect that there will still be a full, 162-game season. I am less convinced it will start on March 31st. I have a feeling the season will be pushed back by as much as a couple of weeks. I’ll go with Pete Rose’s birthday, April 14th, as a possibility.

Makakilo: No change in my prediction that the season would start in June. A slight delay in starting the season would be a good thing if the Omicron peak is behind us.

Steven: I’d say June, if the MLBPA continues to hold strong on what they deserve. But I have a feeling the players will bend and we’ll start in May.

ISH95: On a day ending in the letter ‘y’. Beyond that, I honestly don’t know. May seems a reasonable guess after Saturday’s negotiations didn’t go anywhere productive and Manfred’s blame game on Friday, I think it was? I’ve always jokingly said that they’d negotiate until the only option left was a 60 game season, but the pessimistic side of me is beginning to wonder if that might just happen…

DBacksEurope: I guess somewhere in May, but I have no arguments for that. If anyone predicts another month that could be plausible as well.

Has anything changed since the lockout began?

Jack: So far the most notable thing to come out of the “negotiations” such as they’ve been is that the universal DH is a done deal. It’s not been specified, but I assume that will go into effect for the 2022 season. Manfred made reference to draft pick compensation going away, but it’s not entirely clear from his wording how that will work. It also appears that expanded playoffs are going to happen. The number of teams will be at least 12, and perhaps as high as 14. The format is yet to be determined. And a draft lottery seems highly likely, although not until 2023, keeping Arizona’s #2 pick intact for the upcoming 2022 draft. It will be interesting to see if things like a pitch clock and pace of play initiatives make it into the negotiations.

Wesley: I don’t think much of anything has changed, other than it feeling like the owners really don’t have the fans, or the facts on their side. Profit is up, wages are down. That’s a pretty easy case to lay out that owners are hurting the players. I’m pretty sure we’ll see the universal DH implemented, and some changes to the draft, but other than that I honestly have no clue at this point. After Saturday’s meeting, it seems like the sides are far apart.

James: Nothing of substance has changed. The universal DH has long been a matter of when, not if. It seems that the official adoption will now be taking place. However, since MLB shut down any conversations about substantial issues facing the game, it seems that the focus will simply remain on how big a piece of the pie each side gets. I do think we will see expanded playoffs this season. Ownership is not going to back down on that and they can then use the DH and expanded playoffs as something to point to for how the rocky negotiations have resulted in improved baseball and better days ahead. This of course, will be nothing but a smokescreen.

Makakilo: We reached the negotiation stage where MLB could give the players a great offer knowing the players will say no to any offer. I don’t know whether Saturday’s offer was great, but I do know it was 130 pages long with several interesting ideas per MLB Trade Rumors.

Perhaps the modified proposal that I like most was, “Under the league’s latest proposal, a team can receive two picks if the [top-100 prospect] player [is on the opening day roster and] finishes in the top three of voting for multiple [at least two] major awards.” Quote from Darragh McDonald of MLB Trade Rumors. Two extra draft picks!

Perhaps the new proposal with the most impact on the Diamondbacks was the MLB proposed 5 as the most times a player can be optioned in a single season. The MLBPA previously proposed 4, so one issue is nearly resolved. However, I’m concerned that the change from unlimited (last season) to 4 or 5 could negatively impact the Diamondbacks.

What next? An optimistic scenario is negotiations shift into high gear to reach a speedy agreement. A realistic scenario is slow progress continues and the season starts in June.

Steven: Manfred claiming MLB ownership is worse than stocks is a falsehood and continues to show the MLB is playing in a different world. If owners are that delusional, there’s just no possible way the players association can convince these guys.

ISH95: I think the biggest change has been just how vocal the players have become through social media. I don’t know if that’s a good thing for them or not, but it has been very interesting to see their real time reactions to things, such as Kolton Wong hoping out loud that Manfred was going to announce his retirement at his press conference. To me, it shows just how entrenched everyone on both sides has become.

DBacksEurope: I guess that by now we probably know there is a lot of bad blood between both sides and I hadn’t expected that. I thought that the prelude to the lockout was a lot of normal power play but apparently there wasn’t. I do believe that both players and owners should know that fans, who do not earn millions or billions, are fed up with both sides. If fans do not support either side then sooner or later they’ll have to find a middle road so they don’t hurt the sport much more than they have already done.

Do you feel the D-backs have the 3rd-best farm system, as Keith Law rated it?

Jack: Law has them 3rd, Baseball America has them 10th. Fangraphs will almost assuredly end up having them in the top 10. It’s all not very meaningful if Carroll, Lawler and Beer don’t make 100% recovery from their shoulder surgeries. So we’ll see. The farm system is greatly improved, that much is clear, and it darn well should be by this point. Now it’s time to develop these players into bonafide above average major leaguers. To garner multiple above average players out of the system getting 500+ PA and 160+ IP all at the same time will still take some time beyond 2022-23. I wrote about this in THIS ARTICLE last month.

Wesley: In the close to the twenty years I’ve been following the Diamondback farm system, this is definitely one of the best groups of prospects we’ve ever had. This compares greatly to the haul of prospects built up from 08-10, and might even be better than that group, outside of the guys Jack mentioned that need to recover from surgery making this group look a little worse. All that being said, I don’t know if I’d put the system at the third best, but I definitely wouldn’t put them as low as tenth best. It’s a top five farm system though, bottomline.

James: I currently have the team fifth. The have something most other systems do not, and that is quantity, when it comes to highly regarded prospects. What the system lacks is the top-tier quality. That though, is not something I think the team has much control over. They were never in a position to land the likes of Franco, Tatis, Jr. or Vlad, Jr. They have done well though, with the opportunities they have had. Losing Kristian Robinson, Seth Beer, Corbin Carroll, and Jordan Lawlar hurt the system. But it is a testament to the amount of quality players they have in the system that they seem to be weathering the storm. Hopeful, they can at least recover two of those players as quality, above average starters with multiple seasons of productivity for the Snakes.

Makakilo: The following points will lead to my answer (when available, included are links to AZ Snake Pit’s 2021 season reviews):

  • Diamondbacks Pitchers: 5 first-round draftees in the minors (Zack Burdi, Blake Walston, Drey Jameson, Slade Cecconi, and Bryce Jarvis) and 3 first-round draftees in the Majors (JB Bukauskas, Luke Weaver, and Madison Bumgarner). Caveat that in the minors 4 of the 5 first round draftee pitchers are below AAA.
  • Additional very talented pitchers in AAA include Ryne Nelson and Luis Frias.
  • A highly ranked farm system has very talented players AND is supremely skilled in development of the type of players that it drafts.
  • With the acquisition of Brent Strom and with the improved Diamondback system to more effectively develop players as they move back and forth between the minors and Majors, my expectations for those first round pitchers is especially high.
  • Diamondback Position Players. The four musketeers are a great foundation (Ketel Marte, Josh Rojas, Daulton Varsho, and Carson Kelly). In addition the Diamondbacks have two first-round draftees in the Majors (Seth Beer and Pavin Smith) and 5 in the minors (Corbin Carroll, Jake McCarthy, Jordan Lawler, Jake Hagar, and Matt Davidson). Although Matt Davidson is mainly a position player, he could potentially pitch (as a 2-way player) per this 2021 SB Nation article.
  • Additional very talented position players recently in AAA include Alek Thomas and Geraldo Perdomo.

Yes, the Diamondbacks’ farm system is the third best! As Diamondbacks show their stuff in the Majors, the reasons for ranking the farm system very high will become more visible.

Steven: I’d prefer to have more high-end upside guys than the sure-fire ceilings they currently have, but I understand why this front office would target more established young prospects with limited funds. I’d rather have a couple 55/60 guys like the Mariners than a list littered with 45/50’s.

DBacksEurope: MLB Pipeline ranked the D-Backs as 9th so what is their real strength? Maybe with Lawlar we now have a bit more of an impact talent but I believe that it is better to have a couple of impact players and the rest mediocre than to have a large group of above-average players who might or might not stick at the highest level. I have a feeling that the D-Backs system is more of the latter. I don’t really follow Keith Law that much but he is always writing something different than the more general consensus, it seems, so I don’t think they are 3rd best in the country.

Does the Coyotes move to Tempe have any implications for the D-backs?

Jack: I have no clue. Perhaps a bit more competition for entertainment dollars during the overlap period of the seasons, but I don’t see it being much of a factor.

Wesley: I have zero idea how that will affect the Dbacks.

James: The biggest implication I see is that it likely removes Tempe as a potential destination for the team should they decide to leave Chase Field.

Steven: Only if the Coyotes secure land in Scottsdale for an arena before the D-backs potentially do.

ISH95: I think the move to Tempe will ultimately have very little impact on the Diamondbacks. It would have been more of an impact if they had been moved out of state. I think losing the Coyotes would have given Ken Kendrick even more reason to want to move them to Vegas.

Makakilo: Recently, typical plans for new baseball stadiums include reserving the area around the stadium for development of diverse businesses and recreational opportunities.

While I do not know if the Coyotes have that as their long term goal, the current move is to a temporary home in a multi-use stadium on the ASU campus. Perhaps the Diamondbacks will embrace a temporary stadium until their long-term opportunity happens..

DBacksEurope: Is this because of the Dbacks’ stadium situation? If at one time politics gets involved then of course this Coyotes’ move will affect the Diamondbacks. But I only know that the Coyotes are an ice-hockey team and nothing more so I just made a general appreciation here.

What are you doing for Super Bowl Sunday?

Jack: Celebrating Valentines a day early at Boyce Thompson Arboretum . They are hosting an outdoor concert event in their picnic area, “Lovestruck” , with the band The Sugar Thieves performing. It’s sold out (only 175 tickets sold.) We’ll go early and hike for a couple of hours around the arboretum. We’ll also bring our own lawn chairs, sit in the back, and sip some wine. Hopefully get up to dance a little. Should be a nice day.

Wesley: I’m probably just going to go to the dispensary and the not watching the game at all. I’ve been super, super, super busy working a second and now third job, so I’d rather enjoy my day off.

James: I’ll be doing a Valentine’s ribeye dinner with the Mrs. She might have us tune in to see the halftime show, since she likes some of the talent. Beyond that, I suspect we will be entirely too caught up in each other and the good food to pay the Super Bowl any mind.

Steven: Nothing too exciting, just a casual viewing party for one.

ISH95: I’ll be tuning into the Halftime Show for sure. I honestly have no idea how they are going to have a Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J., and Kendrick Lamar concert they can show on TV, and I’m curious to see what happens lol Other than that, I just got back from a six week business trip and I’m wiped out, so I’ll probably be keeping myself at home.

Makakilo: Although the Super Bowl is tomorrow, I have not yet decided. I’ll choose whatever idea occurs to me while ignoring the Super Bowl.

DBacksEurope: SuperBowl starts at 00:30 over here so that is a bit late. Previous years I only watched the first half and the half-time show so if I am going to watch some NFL it’ll be that and nothing more. As to what I will really do is watch rugby. Six nations started last week. Sunday’s match is Italy vs England. Not an exciting match but it’ll do.

What do you miss most from life pre-COVID? And has it made life better in any way?

Jack: Travel. We’ve not been able to fly across the Pacific to Asia to visit my son and his family in Vietnam, and my wife’s family in Taiwan. I have two grandkids I haven’t seen in over two years and a two year old grandson I’ve never met. We miss our son. My wife also misses her family in Taiwan a great deal, and just going “home” to see her native countryside and eat fantastic food. It’s put a major crimp in my business too, as it’s not been practical or possible to visit customers, attend trade shows, and “press the flesh”, which is essential for what I do. And frankly up till now I’ve not been comfortable with air travel anyway. Hopefully that will change soon? But all of these are relatively minor impacts and we count our blessings every day. The biggest positive to come out of the Pandemic continues to be our vegetable garden and enjoying healthy organic food as much as possible. Getting out and tending to it in the sun feels good too, (not so much from May to September though).

Wesley: I miss not worrying about getting sick from large crowds of people. I already have social anxiety disorder, the pandemic just made that worse, and I’d just gotten over it! The ease of travel (not that I’ve done much traveling) is another.

James: Eating out with any regularity. I just don’t do it anymore. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I think I have eaten out maybe 10 times. That includes the small handful of times I ate out during the earliest days of the pandemic and we were still getting a handle on just how contagious COVID-19 was proving to be. But, I stopped eating out in late-February or early-March of 2020 and have not resumed the practice outside of a few sparsely populated outings, including one where I was literally the only customer in a 3,000 sq. ft. dining room.

As for whether or not COVID has improved anything for me, I would have to say that the only real “improvement” has come in the form of others not judging me nearly so much for not wanting to leave my home. I am an introvert. I detest leaving my house. My idea of “venturing outside” is retrieving the mail from the curbside mailbox. Pre-pandemic, I often received push-back to my heavy introversion. Now, it is more or less accepted. At the very least, it is not openly questioned.

ISH95: I miss… I miss the idea that I had before all this happened that in the event of something like this we would all band together and pull through it. I thought that if times ever really, truly, got tough, we would set aside the petty differences and work together. It never happened.

Has anything gotten better? It’s made me more thoughtful and introspective. I guess hours, days, and weeks at home will do that. I’ve also made a lot of progress towards trying to understand where other people are in life and be more understanding of it. It’s been a tough three (?!) years of two weeks to stop the spread for all of us.

Makakilo: Although at my gym masks are required, Zumba classes without wearing a mask would feel great!. On the other hand, wearing a mask often makes other people feel safer and more comfortable, which is a worthwhile thing that I do with very little inconvenience.

I discovered one of my four zumba instructors was unvaccinated. Instead of her class, I went to my gym’s pickleball class. It was wonderful! Now, I play pickleball once a week. Pickleball is a little like playing tennis with a ping pong paddle. I enjoy pickleball very much!

DBacksEurope: Crossing Europe. Every country has different rules and restrictions so most people just stay within their home country. And if you get infected in a foreign country you get stuck with all the additional troubles that brings. So, yeah, if you remember that the European Union is about free movement of goods, money and people then it is pretty disappointing that that third principle has been severely hampered by this whole COVID-situation. Has it made life better in one way? Not really. People and companies were saying that there was a before and after but tendencies are that life goes on, experiences are easily forgotten and things get back to the old. As far as I have experienced, heard and seen companies are forcing their employees to return to office no matter what and that is a big disappointment. We have huge traffic jams again over here so I don’t think anything has changed in that respect. Distrust in governments has skyrocketed in Europe as well, so that is a bad thing as well.