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SnakePit Round Table: Ups and Downs

Well, it could certainly have been worse... In 48 hours, Corbin Carroll went from season’s end to walk-off hero!

Pittsburgh Pirates v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Was the Mets series the low-point of the season so far? Why or why not?

Sam: First game getting shut out, first series getting swept, first four-game losing streak. Falling back to 12 games over .500 and just a half-game up on the Dodgers for the first time since June 8 and June 5, respectively. An injury scare for the franchise cornerstone. That certainly gives us a lot of reasons to call it the low point!

You could make a case that the Trayce Thompson 3 HR game in Bumgarner’s first start was a lower point – after all, they were actually below .500 after that game, but it was just 1-2 in the first series of the season. I’d probably have put the first game of the next Dodgers series slightly lower – after all, they had the bottom of the rotation going in the rest of the series, before they somehow won games started by Bumgarner, Davies and Nelson to ambush the Dodgers. But apart from that first week or so, the team has been remarkably steady – that’s how their first four-game losing streak didn’t come until July.

Justin: After reading Sam’s first paragraph, I have nothing to add and will say x100.

James: On a multi-game basis, I would agree that the series was the low point so far this season. I also think that the Braves, Rays, and MEts series all demonstrated just how much work Arizona still needs to get done in order to be more than a fringe playoff contender.

Makakilo: The Mets series was far from the low point for my optimism about this season’s Diamondbacks.

With a focus on the hard-to-solve issue of starting pitching, the low point was 15 April:

  • On 9 April, starter Zach Davies was placed on the injured list with an oblique injury.
  • On 14 April, Bumgarner allowed 5 ERs in 5 IP, with a season ERA of 7.9 (suspecting that his ERA would get worse and it did).
  • The D-backs had lost 3 of the last 4 games (the lone win was a bullpen game).
  • Tommy Henry (who was better than expected) would not be promoted into the rotation until 24 April.

ISH95: I think it was for sure. Any time you cross off all those negative benchmarks like first shutout, sweep, etc is a low point for any team. Add in that it was against a team that their record would suggest the opposite outcome, that just makes it worse. Plus the fan base getting ripped apart by Corbin Carroll’s shoulder. Was not a great series at all.

Dano: Yes, for all the reasons articulated above. The only thing I’d add was that the Mets’ series was really the first time I felt like I was watching last year’s Diamondbacks, or the 2020 team, or the 2019 team. We seemed to have lost the up-and-down-the-order competence at the plate that we had become used to. Every game there were kind of dead weight right handed batters clogging up our lineup, and the bottom half of the lineup was basically a dead zone. I actually stopped watching the Thursday game within the first two innings or so, which I pretty much never do this year.

Ben: It was probably the low point in terms of combined performance, but that’s more a testament to how strong and consistent a first half this D-Backs’ team has put together. It was only their fourth three-game losing streak of the season and could just as easily have been a series win were it not for two bullpen meltdowns. I think it also speaks to my confidence in the team that even after the sweep, I knew they would immediately bounce back.

Talk us through your reaction to Shouldergate.

Sam: Tons of alarm bells going off when I saw the swing and him coming out, then obsessively refreshing websites and unread comments on this site as I waited to hear updates. Then surprised to see him in the lineup the next day, albeit mostly in a bunting capacity. Now generally relieved but fearful, and I had a bit of trepidation after that walk-off, fearing that his teammates would re-injure it, a la Diaz in the WBC.

Justin: I actually have a bad shoulder (that doesn’t bother me enough to get looked at), my first thought on how he was holding his arm made me think about some of my “bad” days. I am glad it was looked at and apparently there was nothing structural, but it is concerning that this has happened twice in 2 or 3 weeks.

James: They already put him in the very next game to play in actual competition. Having done that, I say let him get his one or two plate appearances in the ASG. Then, shut the young man down for 7-10 days. Sure, the tests came up negative, but there is clearly something not 100% there. Maybe it is partially in his head. Maybe it only flares up when he is overworking things. He needs to keep both hands on the bat in his follow through to generate his power. That means this is something that will need to be watched closely for some time still, possibly even 2-3 years.

Makakilo: Baseball is often an amazing learning opportunity. Because of shouldergate, I learned about “stinger” injuries.

ISH95: It seems like much ado about nothing. Obviously, there was room for concern based off his initial reaction and getting taken out of the game, but for the second time now, the tests that the medical professionals have done on him have come back negative. I haven’t seen an MRI or gotten a chance to see him take swings in the cage yet, so for now I have no choice but to believe the people who are paid to do this.

Dano: I’m not sure it qualifies as a “-gate” situation. Seems like there’s some underlying problem or fragility there, and Carroll did lose a season of minor league time to issues with that shoulder, so it seems reasonable to worry when it bothers him. Dunno if it’s something that will need further surgical repair at some point. I hope it doesn’t.

Ben: It seems like a classic nagging baseball injury. I won’t try to pretend like I didn’t panic a little bit when I got the update about him exiting the game, but his throwing arm has seemed fine since then and I haven’t seen it affect his swing much either. At the same time, I don’t want the team taking any chances with the inarguable team MVP to this point. If he needs to take time off or anything, that’s absolutely worth the short-term hit to the team’s performance.

Geraldo Perdomo is an All-Star. Ketel Marte is not. Discuss.

Sam: Just the vagaries of who happens to be injured and needs replacing. He plays shortstop, and so does Dansby Swanson, who just went on the IL. If it was Ozzie Albies who got injured instead, I expect Ketel would be the replacement. Not much to read into it, but I’m certainly happy for Perdomo!

Justin: Yeah, Joe pointed out when I asked somewhere or other it is because Swanson is a SS. I am happy for Perdomo. I wish Ketel had gotten in, but at the end of the day allstar game selections are, “Ok. Cool.‘ in my book. I have no idea the last time I watched an allstar game in MLB or NHL.

James: It’s fine. Perdomo is an injury replacement. Those injury replacements come from the pre-existing list of candidates for the position. While I think Ketel Marte is deserving of being an all-star this season, it is no secret that previous season performances can influence current season results when it comes to awards and to the all-star selection. Marte was terrible for more than a full year before finding his groove again this season. That certainly did him no favours.

Makakilo: Regarding Ketel Marte’s apparent snub - life is not always fair. Accepting that fact allows me to celebrate whatever opportunities happen. I am thrilled with Geraldo Perdomo’s All-Star opportunity. I hope he makes the most of it!

ISH95: I think it’s kind of funny, tbh. Just one of those quirks in how the All Star Game works that reminds us not to take it too seriously. There isn’t any issue making a case that Marte should being going to Seattle, but to some extent, it’s just up to random chance who gets backfilled to replace injured stars. The dice just haven’t/didn’t come up right for Marte.

Dano: Good for Geraldo. Too bad for Ketel.

Ben: Yeah, I feel a little bad for Ketel, but it’s clearly not affecting his performance on the field. I’m of the opinion he deserves to be an all-star, but there’s an impressively deep roster of infielders in the NL.

As we head into the All-Star break, sum up the first half of the 2023 campaign.

Sam: A strong start. The offense was surprisingly potent, with a combination of rookies raking, steps up for Gurriel, Marte and Perdomo, and their speed taking advantage of the new rules. In the rotation, Gallen and Kelly pitched like aces, and the rookies made big strides forward. The bullpen is less infuriating than in the last two years but still leaves winnable games on the table. There’s an opening in the division this year with the Padres’ underperformance and the Dodgers’ injury woes, but the foundation is strong for this team to be more than a one-year wonder.

Makakilo: The first half of the season shattered any doubts about whether the Diamondbacks could compete in the NL West. Possible reasons:

  • Rule changes gave advantages to the young, speedy, and athletic Diamondbacks.
  • The highly ranked Diamondbacks farm system started spilling talent into the Majors.
  • The Dodgers and the Padres experienced problems.

Whatever the reasons, clearly the Diamondbacks are contending to win the NL West – and the competition is fierce!

The importance of the first half success cannot be understated. First half success has the Diamondbacks leaning towards buying at the trade deadline, which adds to my natural optimism.

“We are in a good spot because we have earned it.” – Torey Lovullo, 9 July postgame.

ISH95: I think by any conceivable metric it’s been a success. No matter the outcome of Sunday’s game, the Diamondbacks will go into the All Star Break with at least a share of first place and on pace for 93 wins. For a team that was expected to be a contender for the final wild card spot at best,and for a team with the flaws that the Diamondbacks do have, to be where they are is pretty amazing.

Dano: An absolutely wonderful surprise. It has also become much clearer where our weak points are, but even with those weak points, we’re a damn good ball club in 2023, and we’re still in the process of improving. It’s been a whole lot of fun.

Ben: This has been a dream scenario for the D-Backs. The lineup is deep and nearly any part of it can change a game around with their speed and dynamism. It’s a flawed roster, but that’s true of basically every roster. This is a good, deep ball club that seems to have genuine chemistry with one another that’s being led by one of the most exciting rookies in the game. How is that not every fan’s dream?

Would you change anything about All-Star festivities?

Sam: I honestly don’t usually watch much of it, usually just catching highlights later. Goldy would go 1-for-2 in the game and that’s all I cared about in recent years. Maybe with more Dbacks to see I’ll want to catch more of it this year. But it’s not like I would want every team represented in the Home Run Derby, so that isn’t really an actionable suggestion. Maybe my general comment is that I’d like to see less of the media focus on the selection process itself, but we all know baseball fans love to complain about their favorite team’s snubs, so that sadly isn’t going away any time soon.

Justin: Did Blake suggest this one? Very PYW-ey. Hmmmm. :P

In all seriousness, as I said above, I cant tell you the last time I watched an All-Star game.

ISH95: I may or may not actually answer this question later, but yes, most years this would have been the prompt for PYW’s this weekend lol

James: Move the entire spectacle to after the season. Still leave 7-10 days in July where there are no games, a simple mid-season break to allow healing and recovery, but move the ASG and related events to after the World Series. If there are concerns about it being too cold by then, set the ASG for the weekend prior to OPening Day.

Makakilo: The internet showed a wide variety of festivities. Two events I would want to attend are the All-Star game and the All-Star futures game. Two of my meals would be DimSum at the Jade Garden and the fish-shaped stuffed waffles at BeanFish.

One thing I would add (if it’s not already on the list): On Oahu, I love to see dancing lions and dancing dragons with drums (they are part of Chinese New Year celebrations).

ISH95 Effective coverage and promotion. Presumably, this is one day a year when the biggest stars in baseball all are on network TV. Make it fun, make it interesting. Convince the injured players to show up anyway and provide commentary/cheering/mockery from sections above the dugout. Quit having the futures game and draft on days where games are being played. Just promote the sport for the love of God.

Dano: I honestly don’t care about the All-Star Game, and I basically never watch it. I might make an exception this year and watch the first few innings if Gallen starts for the NL. But I suppose I’d agree with ISH: make it fun. Because as it exists now, it’s kinda not.

Ben: This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think returning to the time when the game’s result was meaningful would make a genuine difference. I’m not suggesting that we return to the whackadoodle time when the result determined home field advantage for the World Series, but maybe it determines who hosts the next available All-Star Game or something similar. My other suggestion: tweak the Home-Run Derby so the contestants get “points” for results other than a homer a la Top Golf. It would provide some spontaneity and could even tie into the inevitable AR/VR features MLB will introduce over the next decade or so.

What’s the biggest difference between you now and 10 years ago?

Sam: I’m now a husband and father!

Justin: Congrats Sam.

For me, those were past the days of Justin1985, at the start of my hiatus from the Snakepit. I was not doing well financially, like poverty basically. I was early on in my Frys job and a bagger making minimum wage (then 8.50$) I’d have just a packet of ramen for dinner or once I made spaghetti but I was out of sauce so I just ate it plain because I was hungry. I was on food stamps for a couple of years, and that helped tremendously. I will admit I wasn’t always making sound purchase decisions, though. At one point my best friend sat me down and hammered out a monthly budget with me and I kept to it.

I am much more well off financially and maturity wise than I was then. I think I have grown as a person.

James: I am a homeowner now and no longer living in the valley. I’m also only half as energetic as I used to be (which sort of sucks since I no longer have the energy to improve the aforementioned new home), having contracted COVID-19 three times and suffering from long-COVID since my second bout with the monster, despite all the precautions I took.

Makakilo: Ten years ago, several developments had aligned perfectly for me to move to Hawaii. It was clearly a dream come true. The biggest difference compared to 10 years ago is that I am a different (likely better) person because I live in Hawaii.

If I had not moved to Hawaii, I likely would not have discovered the AZ Snake Pit. That discovery led to Jim McLennan giving me the opportunity to write about baseball – one of the joys in my life.

ISH95: I’ve done a lot of growing. 10 years ago, I was a punk-ass 17 year old who thought very highly of himself and not very highly of most of the people around him. Since then, I started dating my now wife, moved out on my own, had to take a lot more responsibility for everything in my life, and then I had to learn how to ask for and accept help. I like to think that I’m a lot more balanced, respectful, and just generally a better person, but I know I still have room to grow.

Dano: Good lord, what a question. I suppose I’ve fully realized that my life is more than half over, and that has altered my relationship with the world around me and the other people in it, profoundly and comprehensively. I have a much better understanding of what I value and what doesn’t really matter so much to me, and I have developed a keen sense of what hills, for me, are actually worth dying on. That’s useful.

Ben: Well, ten years ago I was a single, awkward 21-year-old who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life besides make a difference. Now, I’m a married, awkward 31-year-old who knows what he wants to do, but hasn’t figured out how to make it happen. Along the way, there were a lot of bumps, mistakes, and regrets, but I’d like to think I’m a better, more fulfilled person than I was then. Oh, and I lost all my hair in the interim too. That was less than ideal.