World Series Dreams
Defending NL West Champs Have Added Even More Pitching, Another Outfield Bat In An Effort To Repeat
Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers.
By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine
Jan. 11, 2012 — Coming into last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks were an after thought. Experts everywhere were predicting that they would have no chance at the National League West or the playoffs.
The experts reasoned they had no proven pitching, a rightfielder who might not develop into a superstar after all — Justin Upton — and question marks all over the diamond. But a funny thing happened on the way to the cellar — the attitude and atmosphere infused into the club by General Manager Kevin Towers, Manager Kirk Gibson and the rest of the baseball staff rubbed off on the players. The ragtag squad snatched the division crown from the defending World Series champs.
Hell, they were a base hit away from the NLCS.
The list of heroes was a long one: Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Josh Collmenter, David Hernandez, J.J. Putz, Justin Upton, Gerardo Parra, Willie Bloomquist and many others performed at the highest levels of their careers.
After accomplishing so much in 2011, the Arizona Diamondbacks won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2012. Less than a year later, a trip to the World Series in 2012 is seen as achievable by experts, fans and of course, the organization.
Towers knows this team is very close, but unlike in 2008 when Josh Byrnes was at the the helm, he will not sell the farm to buy a piece. Instead, Towers sought to make the 2012 squad deeper. In 2011, the Dbacks were lucky that they had only one major injury — Stephen Drew. If they had lost other portions of their core — Miguel Montero, Upton, Chris Young, Hudson, Kennedy, Hernandez or Putz — it would have been tough to overcome because they were not as deep in pitching or the outfield as they were on the infield. After Drew’s injury, the depth Bloomquist provided as the fourth outfielder and infield utility guy evaporated and they had no one else to turn to but Colin Cowgill.
The best squads conceived and built in the off season can easily be undone by injuries when the season reaches the dog days.
With Bloomquist probably starting the year as the starting shortstop, the signing of Jason Kubel was necessary to provide outfield depth. Basically, he is an insurance policy. He has a big-time bat with a weak glove but he can spell Upton — or even slot into the heart of the order if J-Up has any injury issues during the season. He also provides more options for Gibson to spell Upton or Chris Young if they need to take a break from the 162-game marathon that is Major League Baseball.
Some have said Kubel’s signing is the death knell for Gerardo Parra’s tenure in Arizona, but those statements come mainly from the same experts who thought the Diamondbacks would end up in the cellar in 2011. He is an integral part of the team who fills a completely different role with than Kubel will. He can play all three outfield positions — although he is not Chris Young in centerfield — and won a Gold Glove last year as the primary rightfielder. Kubel’s signing might have also been a message to make sure Parra was not just partying the winter away in Venezuela. It also gives the team more pieces to make a trade for an injury caused hole in August.
The biggest move of the off-season, the trade that sent Cowgill, Ryan Cook and Jarrod Parker to the Oakland Athletics for Trevor Cahill not only makes the starting five of Kennedy, Hudson, Collmenter, Cahill and either Trevor Bauer or Tyler Skaggs as potentially one of the strongest in baseball, but it also gives them some margin for error. Injury or ineffectiveness is much easier to deal with when the pitching staff is strong — although not the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s — one through five.
Towers did a great job rebuilding the bullpen for 2011 when he brought in David Hernandez and J.J. Putz. But the additions of Craig Breslow and Takashi Saito to go along with the nonth and eight inning guys as well as holdovers Joe Paterson, Bryan Shaw and Brad Ziegler make the pen extremely imposing.
There were also a handful of other deals just as important to building a solid squad that can compete for a World Series title that went under the radar but were just as important as the signing of Kubel and the trade of Cahill. Namely, the re-signing of John McDonald, Aaron Hill and Lyle Overbay.
Even though only Hill will be penciled into the lineup every day, McDonald’s glove work and Overbay’s left handed bat will also be instrumental to a winning season.
All-in-all, the 2012 Arizona Diamondbacks are going to be a solid squad that will have the potential to do some big things.
Kirk Gibson, Kevin Towers and the entire organization from ownership to the ticket taker will be expecting at least the division title and more likely, a trip to the World Series. So do most fans.
Commentators and prognosticators will surely heap loads of praise and expectations upon the organization.
Let’s just hope the experts — and especially fans — are right this year. There is nothing like November baseball in Arizona.
Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer from Scottsdale, Ariz.
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