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D-backs Need Next Year

To Be Lucky 2013

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Tyler Skaggs will likely be counted upon heavily in 2013.
With Little To No Mojo At Work In A Disappointment Filled 2012 Season, Franchise Looks Ahead To A 2013 That Will Again Be Dependent On Luck

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By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine

Oct. 19, 2012 — Thank goodness its finally over.

Weeks after the end of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 2012 season, there is still a bad taste in the mouth of most fans.

So much promise, so little execution.

When a season is a disappointment to fans and the organization alike, the first knee-jerk reaction is to blame. And, if one wants to play the blame game, there is plenty finger pointing targets to go around.

Perhaps the easiest focal point for a wagging ‘blame finger’ would be General Manager Kevin Towers. A year ago, many were singing his praises after he made all the right moves in a playoff run. Now, he is beginning to find out that the Arizona fan base can turn on a GM, too. Some of the decisions he made — trading Jarrod Parker to the Oakland Athletics for Trevor Cahill, for example — are easily debatable.

But as usual, a wagging ‘blame finger’ usually settles longest on the boys in the field and no matter how one looks at the stats, the team didn’t perform. If they would have had average years — basically what stats guru Bill James creates — they would have been a playoff team. But both on the mound and at the plate, most of the D-backs performed below preseason expectations.

The hitters are the clearest example. Of the players on the opening day roster, only Miguel Montero, Willie Bloomquist, Aaron Hill, Jason Kubel and John McDonald had positive OPS (on-base-plus slugging) from Bill James’ pre-season predictions. Everybody else saw their predicted statistics drop. But only Bloomquist and Hill had the kind of ‘career year’ that could have made up for drain some out on the lineup for most of the season.

And unfortunately, Bloomquist didn’t make it through a full season.

The biggest drop in OPS? Is it really a surprise that ‘honor’ falls upon the shoulders of Justin Upton. James had him at projected at .910 and he actually came in at .785. He had 13 less home runs than expected and nearly 30 less RBIs.

The same happened on the mound.

Wade Miley, David Hernandez, Trevor Cahill, JJ Putz and Bryan Shaw met or exceeded expectations, but the loss of Daniel Hudson after nine starts and a 7.35 ERA combined with a non effective when present Takashi Saito and a regressing Ian Kennedy spelled doom. When Josh Collmenter struggled and suffered from ulcers when they needed him most, the team’s path down the road of doom truly began.

The biggest factor on the mound, though, was that from before July 4, they started to look at some of the young pitching for solutions. Expectations ran high that Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin and Trevor Bauer could deliver big, but they learned more than they taught in 2012.

Of course, the front office is not immune from having a wagging finger of blame pointed at them. They have created an atmosphere in the ballpark that exceeds family and borders on creepy. Don’t yell too loud, don’t put your kids on your shoulders, don’t criticize fans of other teams. The atmosphere stinks, basically.

But beyond the puritanical nature of the ballpark atmosphere, the curious case of Daron Sutton and Mark Grace might just be the most indicative example of a front office gone too corporate. No one I know can remember the last time the two main announcers got canned in mid-season. Sure, Grace’s deal was more about the drinking, but the Sutton thing is just odd. Why would a franchise care so much about uniforms for their on-air personnel? It looks weird.

Is this professional baseball or Dairy Queen. Would Ernie Harwell or Vin Scully ever gone along with a uniform code?

And before anyone says anything about how the announcers don’t win ballgames, that point is conceded. They don’t get hits or throw strikes.

But they are as close to actually being members of the team than anyone outside of the the front office and coaching staff. They fly on the team plane. They are at the ballpark as much as anyone.

Anyone who thinks what happened in the broadcast booth didn’t impact the guys on the field is naive.

And the D-backs front office — led by el Presidente Derrick Hall — deserves the blame for at least that bungled move. Whatever issue they had with Sutton should have been glossed over until the end of the year.

Firing him in the midst of a struggle of a season is bad karma, bad luck, or bad mojo — whatever you want to call it — is just plain and simple bad management.

And beyond all of the down statistics and talk of bad personnel moves, it was just an unlucky year for the Diamondbacks.

They lost their No. 2 starter (Hudson) to injury and their No. 4 starter (Collmenter)  to early-season struggles. The ace of the staff had a down year (Kennedy) and the No. 3 guy (Cahill) had what was an average year for him.  To top that mess off, none of the the rookies that they brought in could display any consistency.

Offensively, the bad luck was nearly as bad. Chris Young came out hot, only be be a shell of himself for the rest of the season after hurting his right shoulder when he collided with a wall in April.

Justin Upton was nearly put on the disabled list the same week but that was shelved when Young got hurt. He was not nearly the player he was in 2011 until September — when it was too late.

The old adage, “It’s better to be lucky than good,” is jut as true in baseball as anywhere else.

An unfortunately for the 2012 D-backs, they were as unlucky as a horseshoe with its ends pointing down.

There’s always next year for recapturing that luck.

Maybe there’s some good mojo waiting in lucky 2013.

Bob Goodwood can be reached at bob.goodwood@yahoo.com.
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