Why Not The Arizona Diamondbacks?
Towers and Gibson Deserve The Credit, But Winning Baseball In 2011 Is An Indictment On The Ineptitude Of Jeffrey Moorad and Josh Byrnes
Blue skies appear to be the norm for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011, after years of dark clouds.
By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine .com
May 31, 2011 — Two months ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks were being prepared for a long season in the cellar of the National League’s Western Division.
The organization’s reputation was so sullied by any one who follows baseball that most newspapers, magazines, rival teams’ scouts and even the snot-nosed kid down the street seemed to be predicting that the “Diamondchumps” would finish no better than fourth in the division.
After the collapse of 2008 and the horror shows of 2009 and 2010, who could blame them?
The Diamondbacks had found new ways to lose for more than two years. It seemed no one believed. No one, it seems, but the Diamondbacks themselves.
Much has been made about the team meeting held in February at the beginning of Spring Training when owner Ken Kendrick, CEO Derick Hall, General Manager Kevin Towers and Manager Kirk Gibson said in an enthusiastic chorus, “Why not us?”
Most of the baseball world, and all of it in Arizona chuckled a bit.
But now, at the cusp of June, they are 30-24 and leading the National League West. They have gone 15-2 over their last 17 games — tying a franchise record.
So, why not the Arizona Diamondbacks?
No real reason at all. This team is fully capable of winning the division with the current roster and might even be a candidate for a World Series berth if Towers can manage to get a veteran, dominating big league arm for the rotation and another quality setup man. Although Ian Kennedy has been the ace, Daniel Hudson has been great and mediocre, perhaps he most widely inconsistent player on the team. Joe Saunders remains a riddle and Zach Duke has had one great start. It would be nice to have a veteran, big-time starter when making a playoff run. The staff of the Diamondbacks have virtually no pitchers with major league playoff experience. It would also be nice to get J.J. Putz and David Hernandez a bit more help.
But the team’s 3.90 ERA is ninth in the league — smack dab in the middle of the middle. That might be good enough for the NL West crown because the offense is above average.
The Diamondbacks’ bats are more than capable of leading a team into the playoffs — they are currently third in the National League with 258 runs scored. They have learned how to manufacture runs and hit home runs. That is a deadly offensive combination. If there was a Hitting Coach of the Year Award, Don Baylor would surely be the leading candidate.
What might be the worst news for the rest of the division is that Justin Upton hadn’t really been hot all year until his 5 for 5 performance Monday night against the Florida Marlins. If he gets hot, the Dbacks might just run away with the division.
So, sure, why not the Arizona Diamondbacks? Two years removed from a playoff run, it is pretty clear now that the failures of 2009 and 2010 past were all the fault of former General Manager Josh Byrnes and were aided by former CEO Jeffrey Moorad.
Byrnes was selected by Moorad over Kevin Towers in late 2005, and the then 35-year-old inherited a team that had future All-Stars Brandon Webb and Jose Valverde already on the roster. He brought in Chris Young, which turned out to be a good move, but he also blew up the bullpen after reaching the National League Championship Series in 2007. It was all downhill from there, as his aloof nature and inability to see past the numbers ate the team’s heart.
Remember Eric Byrnes?
Just look what a couple of pitchers and a positive attitude can bring. Ball players are more than a compilation of their statistics, and major league teams cannot win championships when run by a general manager than should just stick to fantasy leagues. Baseball is mystical and based on faith. That comes with the territory in a game where failing seven out of ten times over the course of 20 seasons will get a player in the hall of fame.
Now, Moorad and Josh Byrnes — and Byrnes’ boy A.J. Hinch, don’t forget — are in San Diego and the Padres are in last place.
Sorry, San Diego, and thanks for the beach — at least you’ll always have that in the summer time.
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