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SnakePit Round Table: Drive Time

Of closers, Bukauskas and soundtracks for the road...

Women Driving Photo by Hy Peskin/Getty Images

Who’ll get the most saves for Arizona in 2023?

Spencer: Mark Melancon. I think he starts with the job, and with better arms in front of him, there will be less pressure throughout the season. Alternate: Scott McGough because he has closing experience - he’ll be the next guy up if/when Melancon pulls another Bumgarner season.

Justin: Going with McGough. If he fails his nickname could be mcOUCH.

James: I tend to agree with Spencer on this one. I don’t think any of the younger candidates will get enough opportunities in 2023.

DBacksEurope: Right now you’d say Melancon.

Steven: Melancon. Should have plenty of opportunities as well.

Makakilo: Melancon is a strong bounce back candidate. He could surprise fans with his excellent performance and earn many saves per this AZ Snake Pit article.

On the other hand, if he does not, Zach McAllister could be called up from the minors. McAllister had a faster fastball velocity, better strikeouts per batter faced, better whiffs per pitch, and allowed less balls in play (plus homers) per strike. For details see this AZ Snake Pit article.

The D-backs named the first High-A ball woman manager. What’s your reaction?

Spencer: Cool! I hope her players buy into her skill and relish the opportunity and history they have in 2023. Sadly baseball (and male-dominated sports in general) lag behind in gender equality, so I do find it more than a little depressing that she is becoming the first High-A woman manager in 2023…A good moment for Baseball, but it brings to the forefront all the sexism this sport barely hides beneath the surface.

Justin: It is pretty cool, and I wish her the best of luck. I remember doing a fan post last off season where I discussed Rachel Balkovec (Tampa Tarpons) as a part of it. I checked in on how her team was doing periodically throughout the season. I am pretty sure I mentioned her in my Snake Bytes a couple of times as well. In Balkovec’s case at least, her career before being appointed rivaled that of a male one, low level job, rising up, went to Europe to gain experience and other opportunities, etc, etc.

I agree on Spencer’s second points.

James: I’m happy for her. She is a terrific coach. If she was a male, she likely gets this opportunity a few years ago. If she does well, I would love to see the org move her up again.

DBacksEurope: That’s fine. If she has the qualities and results to support that, then hurrah for her. My kid’s soccer team has 3 female trainers this season and they have been the best he has had so far in his short soccer career, so I am totally in on women getting ground in what can be considered male sports teams.

Steven: All for it. She has plenty of both playing and coaching experience to be a qualified candidate. It’s just the first step in a long journey towards equality.

Makakilo: Great choice! She impressed me for the following three reasons:

She voiced her goal and achieved a big part of it 9 years later – wow! “My main goal is to be a head coach, retire and then work with little kids out in Yellowstone or Yosemite or anywhere out West.” – Veronica Gajownik, April 2014

She survived a very competitive process to be chosen for a 7-month baseball internship in Player Development with the Diamondbacks (April to October 2021). Yet her main responsibility is what most impressed me. She was “in charge of all technology during games and practice i.e. Trackman, Blast, & BATS.” – Linked In Profile

One of her many strengths is communicating and connecting with people. “I think some of the best coaches — obviously they have good content and she has that. But I also think they’re incredible connectors and she’s definitely one of those.” – Josh Barfield

Which team do you pick to win Group A in the WBC?

Spencer: Netherlands. It’s theirs to lose and none of the rest strike me as good enough. But the beauty of baseball is anything can happen (see: Phillies playing in the 2022 World Series and making it mildly interesting). |

Justin: Yeah, definitely the Netherlands Ja zeker Nederland.

James: This group is Netherlands’ to lose. Taiwan doesn’t have the firepower and has been on the shelf for too long. Cuba is a mess right now, though MLB tried to fix that, only to be rebuffed by Cuba. Good, I hope they fall flat on their faces.

DBacksEurope: There is some sentiment on my part involved, of course, and like Jack mentioned in my post the pitching lineup isn’t as strong as the position players, but considering they have always done well at WBC, the staff is pretty much the same as in recent tournaments and players know each other really well, The Netherlands have to be the favourites to win this group.

Steven: I’ll be contrarian and say Cuba.

Makakilo: Netherlands.

The team lost J.B. Bukauskas on waivers. Does this alter your view of the Greinke trade?

Spencer: Not really. JBB was a draft crush of mine, but it became obvious soon after he was always going to be a health liability. Even in 2019 he felt like a throw in lottery ticket. Beer was a big college hitter and Martin was a well thought of arm, albeit from a bad farm system at the time. Rojas being successful at all makes it a great deal in my mind (considering we also saved money, which the team says is important). If either Beer or Martin could give the team value before leaving, I’ll consider it icing on an already good cake.

James: I’m a bit disappointed that JBB couldn’t stay healthy enough to get a full season’s worth of auditioning in. However, injuries happen all the time. As such, I don’t hold this against the Greinke trade. The Diamondbacks took aim at a variety of high upside talent. Having even one of those talents pan out was the standard for a “good”trade. They seem to have managed that and might still get a bit more, though that clock is fast running out.

DBacksEurope: Not really. I think the Diamondbacks’ main goal was to get rid of Greinke’s contract and get as much value back as they could. It looks like they got one solid MLB-caliber player back, although not the one they had expected, and that is a really good return.

Steven: They doomed JB by not letting him start the season after his hot Spring Training back in 21 and I think that stunted his growth and self-confidence. Imagine pitching well, not allowing a run across every appearance, and the team still wouldn’t bring you up with the team. And when he did get a chance, it was only a couple weeks later. I still don’t mind the trade, prospects won’t pan out. It happens.

Makakilo: JB Bukauskas was not a deal-changer. The Diamondbacks came out ahead in the Greinke trade. Post-trade Grienke earned 6 bWAR with about $85 Million salary, with D-backs covering about $26 Million. D-backs gained Josh Rojas who earned 3.5 bWAR.

On the other hand looking at the bigger picture, it’s possible that trading away Greinke led to signing Madison Bumgarner, the fifth worst contract by the Diamondbacks and costing the Diamondbacks their third highest draft pick. There are two seasons left on Bumgarner’s contract; if he could earn 3 WAR per season he would be a top candidate for unsung hero.

If the Diamondbacks had kept Greinke, there would have been absolutely no reason (yes, I know that Hazen said something about always needing more starting pitching) to acquire Bumgarner.

At the time of the trade, I wrote, “Wow! I thought there was no chance the D-backs would want to sign Bumgarner because 1) signing him would mean losing a draft pick (their third highest pick), and 2) they just traded away Greinke who is a better pitcher albeit 6 years older [this turned out to be absolutely true, 4.9 bWAR compared to 0.3 bWAR, 2020 through 2022]…”

What are you looking forward to most or least about the new balanced schedule?

Spencer: As someone who doesn’t live in Arizona, and wants to watch the Diamondbacks play in all 30 MLB parks, I’m excited to have so many more opportunities to see them in AL parks!

Oh. And not playing the Dodgers as many times a year. That’s nice too.

Justin: Meh. - shrugs -

James: I have disliked the unbalanced schedule since it was introduced, so I am pretty happy for this change. I truly got tired of seeing NL West teams. Now, if they would just expand by two more teams already so that they can eliminate regular season interleague, things would be great.

DBacksEurope: Awesome. Less games on the west coast means European friendlier broadcast times, so that means more opportunities for me to watch the Diamondbacks in live games.

Steven: I’m tired of the NL West. I don’t want to see the Dodgers any more than I have to.

Makakilo: The balanced schedule will add games against teams that the Diamondbacks may have rarely played. That means competing against players rarely seen, and perhaps competing against strategies rarely encountered. It will be interesting in ways that are hard to predict, but will likely be noteworthy or even remarkable.

Another point is that too many games as underdogs against the Dodgers and Padres can be tiresome. And I aspire that the Diamondbacks play less games against California teams because for me they are blacked out.

What is the all time greatest driving song?

Spencer: 500 Miles by The Proclaimers. Much like Ted and Marshall, I can listen to it on repeat while in the car!

Justin: Honestly, when I have had cars, I have had a tendency to not listen to music while driving. Being hearing impaired, maybe it is a subconscious safety thing? I don’t know.

James: It’s been a while since I have given it any thought, so I will go with what I thought of this question back in my youth - “Red Barchetta” by Rush.

DBacksEurope: This Christmas and New Year I drove 36 hours between Spain and The Netherlands and I hardly listened to the radio or music. I sometimes put on some music on short drives at night and a sing-along karaoke type of song always works well then. Ed Sheeran does the trick at the moment.

Makakilo: Perhaps a medley of songs would be greater than any one song. A few songs that come to mind are Blue Skies, Turn the Beat Around, Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing, and Take Me Home Country Road.