Last season, the Diamondbacks maintained a remarkable reign over the National League West. Shortly after the All-Star break, it was as if the gas simply leaked out of the bus and things came to a halt. Actually, it’s more like the gas was siphoned out of the Arizona bus and put in the Dodgers bus. So for five long months, Arizona fans waited with great anticipation to see what would happen in the off-season to tweak the system and yield a post-season appearance in 2014. We were told that the Diamondbacks leadership knew what was wrong. We were told that they knew how to fix it. We were told they had the resources to fix it. We were told it was fixed.
Prepare to be disappointed.
Fans went from the frustration of watching back to back 81-81 seasons, to hoping that the team will get to 81 wins this year. As the 2014 season opened, the faithfully devoted watched in anguish as the Diamondbacks rolled into a 2-7 record. I heard a couple of fans comment that we might become the new Cubs. At this rate, Arizona looks more like the Washington Generals. The team is off to their worst start since their first start, back in 1998.
Granted, we've seen injuries impact the starting rotation. Officiating has, debatably, not gone our way on a number of occasions. But are these not issues that plague all teams sooner or later? The Diamondbacks started their season with a disorienting visit to Australia which had the team playing at 1 a.m. according to their body clocks. Then back to the States for the intensity of opening day at home. Then last Friday was the intensity of playing away during the opposing teams home opener. They’ll do that again tomorrow in San Francisco. I don’t blame the team for feeling a bit unsettled, but aren’t athletes at this level supposed to be somewhat immune to these distractions? To his credit, General Manager Kevin Towers doesn’t want to hear excuses.
“As a group, we need to probably stop making excuses and just go on out and get the job done,” Towers said. “That can become contagious, it’s too good a group of guys to be maybe using excuses this early in the season.”
That being said, it was ultimately Towers and his scouts that helped put many of these players in place. Along with Manager Kirk Gibson, the two are slowly losing support, especially as their contracts were both due to expire at the end of this season. Their fate was originally questionable, but just before the season began, the head office offered them extensions, the details of which are not disclosed. However, fans are hungry for change.
While run support is clearly an issue to be addressed, pitching is the hemorrhage that needs to be contained first. Losing Patrick Corbin this Spring to an injury was a huge loss, but shouldn’t by itself be the end of the team’s season. With the exception of Wade Miley, who has handed Arizona both of their lonely victories, every other starter has failed to launch. Getting more than five innings out of that group appears to be much harder than anyone would have imagined it could. Bronson Arroyo, the highly touted acquisition this Spring, seems to have fallen flat from the start. Randall Delgado watched as Colorado drained 10 hits and 6 runs out of him in just over four innings. Brandon McCarthy looks to remain in obscurity. Waiting for the starters to find their rhythm, build their momentum, or whatever other sound bite you want to hang out there for the reporters, is just not an option. Unfortunately, it’s slim pickins at this point, and while the farm system is a highly probable next step, and they have some talent with guys like Archie Bradley and Mike Bolsinger, do you really want to pin your hopes on players who haven’t really been exposed to this level of play? Will those young men be able to pitch a 7 inning game consistently? Towers et al have spent the off-season trading young talent for more seasoned veterans that were supposed to win and win soon, rather than waiting for the development cycle of rookie players. That doesn’t seem to be working, but how long do you wait to see if your current strategy is going to work before abandoning it?
Offensively, there is indeed more work to be done. More needs to be seen from the leadoff position of the lineup to support deeper players. Mark Trumbo is hot right now. He’s hit his 100th career home run. He’s gone deep in each of his last four games. He leads both leagues in home runs and RBI. I think a lot of us get worried when management goes looking for a strong bat but doesn’t have the money or team record to really entice the best of the best to come over to Sedona Red. To my surprise, Trumbo has really produced and helped to create a double threat, along with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt himself is hot, finishing a streak of hitting safely in 26 games and looking strong as ever. However, you can’t win games with one or two bats, and frankly, Trumbo struggles in the second half of his seasons
What about the rest of the lineup? Chris Owings is holding his own. A.J. Pollock is really struggling at .167 and doesn’t belong atop the lineup. Miguel Montero comes off as sluggish and distracted these days. Martin Prado is still not producing at the levels everyone expected him to since the time he was acquired. Eric Chavez has yet to get a hit in his pinch hitting role. And are we prepared to watch another season ripe with men left on base?
Yes, it is early in the season and I do hate people that write off a team this early on. Just look at the Dodgers in the second half of last season. However, the team has begun to dig itself a hole that, with existing talent, they have little hope of climbing out of. It’s been said that the team has all the right parts, but they struggle getting them to work properly at the same time. I disagree. I think we’ve got a machine held together with bailing wire and duct tape. And I am not the only one that grows weary of the eternal optimists running the show.
That’s all for now from the press box…