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Your Random D-Back: Casey Daigle

The “husband of” had the worst starting pitching debut in Diamondbacks’ history.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Mines + French = sulphur.

Every now and then I take a dive into my family tree. It is fun to do, but a lot of work. Dutch ancestry is very well documented (it is also one of the reasons why the Germans were able to identify and transport that many Dutch Jews to the extermination camps) and online you can find lots of information on Dutch ancestors. That is one of the reasons how I found out that part of my mother’s family were coal mine workers, in the south of the country, where my mother grew up. Although production officially started in 1815, local mining activities already took place there in the 12th century. That is a lot of mining history, people! Not saying my family was involved in mining for over 7 centuries: the timeline of that part of the family doesn’t go any further than the 18th century.

On my father’s side, I found out we have some French blood in the family. It is no secret that when the Dutch went to war with Spain (sorry, Jim, but we were really the only European country that stood up to Spain unlike the movies about Elizabeth I would like to have us believe), there was a huge influx of French protestants, being chased by catholic France, and wealthy Flemish (Jews), being oppressed by Spain, into (the United Provinces of) The Netherlands. Most French would end up in Holland, one of the major provinces and nowadays most often used as synonym for the country The Netherlands, and in particular in the city of Leiden. Leiden was a city where for many years you could hear “mon dieu” in every corner of the streets. Over the years that would vanish, of course, and people would spread out all over the country, like this ancestor of mine who ended up in the north of the country, where my father hails from.

So, we have mines on one side and French on the other side, and that is the introduction to today’s random D-Back Casey Daigle, who clearly has French ancestry and grew up in Sulphur, Louisiana, a place that is named after the sulphur mines that were discovered in the late 19th century. But maybe the place is now better known as birthplace of Dak Prescott, the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback.

Slow development.

Casey Daigle was a baseball player at the Sulphur High School in 1999 when the Diamondbacks drafted him in the first round of the 1999 amateur player draft. For such a small town and school, the institution has been home of a remarkable amount of former major leaguers. Not only Daigle tossed once for the Golden Tors, but also JT Chargois (currently with the Rays), Pat Rapp (several teams from 1992 to 2001) and John Thomson (multiple teams from 1997 to 2007).

The 1999 draft would end up being an absolute bust for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Just two players, 8th round pick Chris Capuano and 18th round pick Lyle Overbay, made a significant impact in the major leagues, and both did it for other teams than the Diamondbacks. One of the busts was Casey Daigle. Now he might have had talent, but the reason why he was picked at #31 and offered a $1,200,000 signing bonus is a question mark. Or maybe not that much of a question mark.

“Arizona picked Daigle 31st overall in the 1999 draft, but he had a scholarship to Tulane. Daigle was on campus walking with then-agent Scott Boras to his first day of class — which would have caused the D-Backs to lose Daigle’s rights — when Boras’ phone rang with Arizona’s offer of a $1.3 million signing bonus.” - Storytelling on Casey Daigle’s signing on East Valley Tribune in 2004

Like many of the guys that would debut in the 2004 season in the majors or shortly after, Daigle was forced up through the minor league system. In the four seasons after entering the minor league system until his debut in the majors, not once did the right-handed pitcher have an ERA lower than 4.00. Well, technically he did, in 44 innings in AA in 2002 he pitched to a 3.25 ERA after a promotion out of A+, but he wasn’t able to maintain that brief period of success the following season.

The problem with Daigle was that he hardly struck out any batter, issued walks more often than he should and in general had severe troubles keeping batters of the base, evidenced by his career 1.544 WHIP in the minor leagues. A man with command problems.

In 2004 he has a good spring training though, and that puts him on the map of the major league coaching and front office.

“His development was not rapid. Diamondbacks bullpen coach Mark Davis recalls that when he initially got into coaching, Daigle was the first pitcher he ever yelled at on the mound. “I’ve seen him mature as the years go,” Davis said. “He’s just more focused on what he does as opposed to before. We’ve always seen what he’s had.”” - Storytelling on Casey Daigle on East Valley Tribune in 2004

Daigle is added to the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day roster on 2004 and is slated to make his major league debut on April 9 in a game against St. Louis, less than a week after his 23th birthday.

“It wasn’t very pretty,” Arizona manager Bob Brenly said. - post-game comment from Bob Brenly as quoted on ESPN on Casey Daigle’s debut in 2004

“He left the ball in the middle of the plate a lot.” - post-game comment from Cardinal Reggie Sanders as quoted on ESPN on Casey Daigle’s debut in 2004

After just 2.2 innings and 8 runs, coughing up 5 homeruns, Casey Daigle is removed from the mound in his debut and makes history that way.

“Amusing, if appropriate to note that the two worst debuts of all time by an Arizona starter both came in 2004. Daigle’s was truly appalling, and his performance that season - a 7.16 ERA over 49 innings - is among the all-time most ineffective. It’s Exhibit A for anyone who reckons Cactus League stats are meaningful, because that spring, the two best ERAs (min. 15 IP) were Daigle and Steve Sparks, whose ERA in the regular season was also above six.” - Jim McLennan on the AZSnakePit in 2010, looking back on Casey Daigle’s debut

Despite manager and the player hoping for better luck in the next outing, until the end of May, when Daigle is optioned back to AAA, the right-hander is unable to get batters out. He throws just 60% of his pitches for strikes and only 5% of them result in a swinging strike. Funny thing is that despite the 7.16 ERA, he is able to get 2 wins, one of those in a 12-8 win over the Mets where Daigle gives up 7 runs.

Husband.

At the time of his debut in the majors Daigle is already engaged with Jennie Finch, who he’d marry later that year. Jennie Finch is pretty much a star in 2004 after setting an NCAA record 60 consecutive wins at the University of Arizona on her way to winning the 2001 College World Series. Her status will only rise in 2004, when she leads the American softball team to a gold medal on the Olympics in Greece. Not sure if today’s society would allow it, but in the 90s her physical appearance makes her a popular sports athlete in many media.

Both athletes are happy with the role they have: she as a beautiful star athlete and a role model, and he as a professional athlete in her shadow and trying to find success in his own niche. But despite trying to apply the lessons he learns from his successful wife, the Louisiana native isn’t blind.

“There is no other way to put it,” Daigle said. “I will never be able to do what she’s done in her sport.” - Casey Daigle in 2010 on ESPN

After his demotion in 2004, the pitcher spends 2005 in AA with the Tennessee Smokies. In 2006 he once again cracks the major league roster in April, albeit this time as a reliever. He appears in 10 games again and pitches to a 3.65 ERA, but the inability to get batters out persists.

After spending the entire 2007 season in Tucson in AAA Daigle is released. He signs a minor league contract in 2008 with the Twins and in 2009 with the Astros. In 2010 he impresses once again in Spring Training with the Astros and is given an opportunity in June. His peripherals are still similar to those in Arizona and after a good start in the first 4 games, he gets shelled in the following 9 and ends his stint in the majors with an 11.32 ERA.

In 2011 he pitches for Fresno, in the San Francisco Giants’ organisation, but with abysmal results once again. He is released in August of that year.

After that, it looks like Daigle wraps up his baseball career and settles with his wife and kids in his home town Sulphur where he becomes a self-employed husband, supportive of his wife’s continuous media appearances.