Fact Or Fiction: The 2011 Diamondbacks
If The Arizona Diamondbacks Look To Baseball's Historical Lessons, They May Just Contend
The time has almost come for the roof at Chase Field to open for regular season baseball.
By Bob Goodwood
Special For Modern Times Magazine
March 28, 2011 — As the time nears to open up the roof at Chase Field for the Arizona Diamondbacks to play at least nine innings, no one really knows what to expect for the upcoming season.
But that is also the beauty of baseball. A month-long exhibition season gets fans energized, skeptical or doubtful. But always creeping in the back of their minds is the fact that these games matter little and many of the players that have determined the outcome of these games will not see a major league park this season. The sliver of hope grows over the course of March until every fan believes just a bit. Baseball is for eternal optimists.
"Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again. That's the way life is, with a new game every day, and that's the way baseball is," said Bob Feller.
That is also the way of each new baseball season. Last year’s winners are always expected to repeat because it is the safe bet. Prognosticators, experts and ‘baseball people’ have no magic looking glass and they are often wrong. Once the real games start, it won’t take long to see who has a chance and who doesn’t, regardless of who was a preseason favorite (Yankees and Red Sox excepted).
Each team still has a chance because the margin for error in finding success is very slim. Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin towers and Manager Kirk Gibson have been preaching that the players need to believe they can win. Sure, that is true to a certain extent, but it does little good if your closer goes down for the season. If that happens, you might ‘believe’ there are angels in the outfield but that wouldn’t necessarily make it so.
The new Diamondbacks leadership also talks a lot about mentors, being true to the game and learning from the past. Gibson, specifically, talks about things Sparky Anderson did, or said and pearls of wisdom that he had passed down. While those are entertaining and loaded with innuendo and mysticism that would make any swami proud, Sparky Anderson was just one of hundreds of unique baseball minds that have worn the uniform in year’s past.
There are timeless lessons of baseball that are as applicable today as when they were first uttered by the myriad of great players and mind that made baseball the national past-time.
“Baseball is the only thing beside the paper clip that hasn’t changed,” said Bill Veeck.
Justin Upton, for example, might benefit greatly from the words of Lou Gehrig, who said, “The ballplayer who loses his head, who can't keep his cool, is worse than no ballplayer at all."
Honus Wagner once said, “I don't make speeches. I just let my bat speak for me in the summertime." It might be nice if the organization and fans would heed that advice and allow shortstop Stephen Drew to be a quiet leader.
Every man on the pitching staff would greatly improve if they could remember this nugget from the great Bob Gibson, “Believe me, I would much rather get three outs on three pitches than three outs on nine pitches, because that's going to make me that much stronger at the end of the game. My pitching philosophy is simple. I believe in getting the ball over the plate and not walking a lot of men.”
As far as the future of the season for the Diamondbacks is concerned, a quote from baseball and Valley legend Joe Garagiola might be the most telling, “It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”
Then why can’t every team figure it out every year and MLB is a bunch of ‘super teams’ going to extra innings every night?
Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, azcentral.com and every other Gannett property on the face of the earth, has been the most high profile reporter/prognosticator predicting failure. Last week in his blog he casually mentioned, to paraphrase, that everyone knew the Diamondbacks wouldn't be contending.
Oh really. Maybe he should change his name to Nostradamus.
To accurately predict what is going to happen in any shape or form before the end of the first week is ludicrous. Even after the first month, injuries, trades, and performance can take a .500 team and either rocket them to the top or throw them back down to reality.
Virtually no one predicted the Padres to contend last year. Enough said.
The early schedule does the Arizona Diamondbacks no favors. Fifteen of their first 18 games are against winning teams from last year. But the onus is on “last year.”
If pitching, hitting and defense wins games, the view from the spring is if the diamondbacks are mediocre at all three, the season will be a success.
Put in a way that might make Yogi Berra proud, ‘no matter what happens, the fun part is seeing what happens.’
Triumphing with the hometown boys when they win and despairing with them when they lose is the drama of sport, what provides the excitement.
There might be only a few weeks where many fans believe that this year might be THE year. Why must some reporters/prognosticators spoil it for them? If the team loses many games early, it will be obvious. If the season goes south in a hurry, there will be plenty of time to remind everyone how much they suck.
But, if they can surprise, well, it just might be the baseball gods reminding everyone that in baseball, any team can win the World Series on April 1.