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Posted on: September 14, 2009 1:07 pm

Quiet Sweep

If a team gets swept at home over the weekend and no one’s around to hear it does it make a sound.  Nope.  No one heard the Diamondbacks lose over the weekend, and probably not many people have noticed that they went 2-10 in their past twelve games.  With a full weekend of college and pro football games a team that has not been competitive since day one is merely a footnote on the local sports scene.  Friday night’s game didn’t even draw 20,000 fans, Sunday’s was only slightly better with 21,000.


I suppose fans have decided that they have seen all that the Diamondbacks have to offer this season, and that every game is a mere sequel to one that has already been played.  Yesterday it was the game where the starting pitcher gives up one run in six innings only to hand it over to the bullpen which promptly gives up four runs and the offense manages only seven hits.  Saturday night it was the game where the starter goes four innings and gives up six runs and the offense manages only seven hits, somewhat of a repeat of Friday’s game where the starter went three innings and gave up five runs.


There have been story lines that we have clung to this season, such as the pre All Star hype about Dan Haren being a Cy Young candidate, Mark Reynolds challenging Albert Pujols for the home run title, or the Diamondbacks playing the role of spoiler, but those discussions have now faded.  There have been exciting debuts of players such as Brandon Allen, who a few weeks ago looked like he may be the answer to the Diamondbacks seven year drought at first base.  Allen has hit .188 over the past week and is now batting .200 for the season.  Eric Byrnes has returned to the lineup and Diamondbacks have returned to being one of the worst hitting teams in baseball, batting an embarrassing .234 in September.


The only thing that Diamondbacks have to look forward to is that there are only 12 more games in what will be the third worst season in their history, a year that they were supposed to contend for the division.  I guess there is one more thing to watch for though.  The Dbacks have 62 wins at this point.  If they cannot win 3 of their next 12 they will have a worse record than they did in their expansion season of 1998, when their record was 65-97.  That is something that Josh Byrnes and AJ Hinch could really hang their hat on.

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 9, 2009 1:36 pm

A Thank You to the Bullpen

It happened again.  The Diamondbacks held a lead into the eighth inning and an inept bullpen surrendered it without a second thought, wasting the previous seven innings of work by the starting pitcher and the offense. Blaine Boyer, Daniel Schlereth, and Esmerling Vasquez failed to do their jobs and retire three batters before giving up a three run lead.


The Diamondbacks, who had been somewhat consistent since the All Star break, are now on a six game slide and find themselves once again in the basement of the NL West.  During those six games the bullpen has blown the lead twice.  This has been an issue the entire season, and I would be willing to say that had the bullpen performed the team would be close to a .500 record. 


Almost every facet of the team has gone through highs and lows this season, starting pitching, offense, and defense, but the least capable area of the 09 Dbacks has clearly been the bullpen.  In a way it is a fortunate thing to have this slide at this point in the season.  A late season collapse will be more easily remembered than if they had blown a game here and there during the final six weeks. 


This should serve as notice that the bullpen is in need of real change, and without adjustment the Diamondbacks will not be competitive in 2010.  With the exception of first base and an outfield spot the position players mostly in place for next season.  This leaves the front office free to focus a large part of their off season activity around the bullpen.


I would like to thank Blaine Boyer and company for sending a firm reminder that they are not ready to handle their responsibilities.    

Category: MLB
Tags: Diamondbacks
Posted on: September 1, 2009 12:46 pm

Jon Garland and Dbacks money to the Dodgers

Jon Garland was traded last night mid-game to the opposing Dodgers.  Depending on who you believe this was either a good move or a senseless once.  Garland was approached by the Dbacks a few weeks ago about his 2010 option and apparently the meeting did not go well.  It was looking like this would be Garland’s first and only season with the team.  He was a number four starter who was very inconsistent, didn’t pitch well at Chase Field, and often gave up four or more runs a game.  The team certainly should not have gone to any great expense in keeping him. reports that the Dbacks will pay the remainder of Garland’s 2009 salary, approximately $1 million, and his 2010 buyout which would be between $1 to 2.5 million. However, Josh Byrnes indicated in an interview this morning that the team would save around $1 million for the rest of the season with the move.  I’m all for the team saving money anyway they can, Garland only had six more starts this season and if they were able to move him it was smart to do so, but to pay someone to play for the Dodgers is unthinkable.


Byrnes also indicated that both the player to be named in the Garland deal and the player to be named in the Rauch deal would be expected to compete for roster spots for the 2010 Diamondbacks.  There is speculation that the player to be named in the Garland deal is Tony Abreu, a 25 year old infielder who has played in 6 games this season.  He has had a good season so far in AAA, batting .351.  With the Diamondbacks infield largely set for next season it appears that the only place that they would be able to use Abreu would be 2B, where Ryan Roberts has been making a case to be the full time starter next season with his .299 average.


I certainly hope that the Diamondbacks are not paying the Dodgers $2 million to help them in the postseason and only getting in return a player for a position where they have someone batting .299.  I know that the jury is still out on Roberts but there are other areas that really need to be addressed.  If the reports are inaccurate and the Dodgers are paying the $2 million then it takes away some of the sting, but I still don’t like trading with the Dodgers.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 31, 2009 5:00 pm

Jon Rauch to Twins

The Diamondbacks traded Jon Rauch to the Minnesota Twins for a player to be named, effectively ending Rauch’s tumultuous tenure with the team.  When the Diamondbacks acquired Rauch in late July 2008 for highly touted prospect Emilio Bonafacio, the expectations were high.  Rauch had been a dominant reliever with the last place Nationals and was to fill an eighth inning void and solidify the bullpen for a playoff hopeful team.  When Rauch came to the Diamondbacks he had a 2.98 ERA in 48 games for the Nationals.  He finished the season posting a 6.56 in 26 games for Arizona.  The Diamondbacks, subsequently, missed the playoffs by two games.


The 2009 season started the same way the 2008 one finished for Rauch, disastrous.  He had a 9.31 ERA through 12 games pitched in April.  Opposing batters had a .333 average, and Rauch had given up more hits than he had innings pitched. The Diamondbacks record fell to 9-13 and their season seemed to be lost already. 


Even though it was only May the Diamondbacks had lost Brandon Webb for the season, Conor Jackson was out with a mysterious illness, Stephen Drew had just been added to the DL, the Dodgers had the best record in baseball, and the Diamondbacks offense could barely muster a run a game.  Hope for a postseason had faded very quickly.  A funny thing happened though, starting in May Jon Rauch progressively improved each month, until August, as the team’s playoff hopes became more and more distant.


Now Rauch finds himself with the Twins, who are in the midst of a playoff run.  They are only 4 games behind the Tigers for the division and only 1.5 games ahead of the third place White Sox.  The division has been very close all season, and now there will be more pressure than ever to finish strong.  I am looking forward to seeing which Jon Rauch shows up for them, the Rauch who is guaranteed to give up a run every time he take the mound or the Rauch that will shut down the opposition to give his team three crucial outs.  Despite his recent success I think that Diamondback fans will always see him as the former. 


Whatever happens to Rauch in Minnesota the most important thing is that he’s gone, and with him a $3 million contract.  That gives the Diamondbacks another $3 million of flexibility for next season.  $3 million on a $70 million payroll is a very big deal, even bigger than a 6’11” reliever with neck tattoos.

Posted on: August 27, 2009 6:29 pm

Diamondbacks in the Power Rankings

“It's apples and oranges, given who they've pitched against and how deep they went into games. All the same, Dan Haren's ERA since the All-Star break is 4.91 and Barry Zito's is 2.06, and the strikeout numbers are roughly even. ... The D-Backs went 153 straight at-bats without drawing a walk last week, which is tough to do even if you're trying. ... Nothing we've seen this year suggests that any of the prospects (with the very notable exception of Justin Upton) are on the star track. This is a moribund franchise about now.”


This was CBS’s most recent assessment of the Diamondbacks in their MLB power rankings.  I’m not sure which prospects he is referring to, as most of the players on the team are in at least their third season.  Brandon Allen?  He’s only played in a few games, nothing to really judge him on yet. Perhaps he is talking about Gerardo Parra who is among the leaders in batting average for NL rookies. Parra is not really on a star track, but he’s having a pretty decent rookie season.  Is he referring to Miguel Montero, who is among one of the better hitting catchers in the NL?  Montero probably isn’t on the so called star track, but I think most teams would gladly take a catcher who hits .290, and I do think that he has the potential to be one of the better catchers in the league.  Is he referring to Mark Reyonlds who is second in MLB in home runs and tenth in OPS?  


I guess I’m just not sure of which prospects they are talking about.  I’m also not sure how many teams have a plethora of prospects that are on the star track.  I think just having one potential super star on a team is pretty good.  The last time I checked guys with Justin Upton’s talent were in short supply.


As the power rankings state the team may be moribund about now, thanks to a season filled with injuries and an unreliable bullpen, but there is no reason to believe they will remain moribund next season.  How many teams can lose their ace pitcher and a .300 hitter at the start of the season and remain competitive?  Is a team’s future really that bleak when they have three players who can hit 30 home runs a season, when they have five of their eight starting position players batting over .280? The Dodgers only have six, the Red Sox only have five, are they moribund and well?


And yes, the streak without a walk was absurd, they went four straight games without getting one, but for the season the Diamondbacks are eighth in the NL in walks and have more walks than both the Cardinals and Giants, who are both potentially playoff bound teams.  It’s good that the baseball season is longer than five games.  If the season was only five games Barry Zito might actually be a more valuable pitcher than Dan Haren.  One of the five bad games that Haren has had over the past four months might have landed in that short time.  For now, I think I’ll just stick with Haren.

Category: MLB
Tags: Diamondbacks
Posted on: August 26, 2009 6:50 pm
Edited on: August 26, 2009 6:52 pm

Dear Hockey Fans in "Traditional" Markets

Dear Hockey Fans in traditional makets,

I am writing to request that you discontinue your aspersions against the Coyotes and the hockey fans of Arizona.  There have been many unpropitious decisions and circumstances that have led the team to their current situation. I feel that when you state that Phoenix is not a viable hockey market it is inaccurate. 

The team was fourth in operating expenses despite having one of the lowest payrolls in the league.  The average NHL coach makes about $1 million a year while Wayne Gretzky makes seven times that amount, all for having a sub .500 coaching record and no playoff appearances. It is a poorly run franchise, both on and off the ice.  The financial situation they are in cannot be summed up simply by saying Phoenix does not support hockey. 

Please see the below examples of teams that are in traditional hockey markets and have also had financial problems.  These teams have all been in their markets much longer than the 12 years the Coyotes have been in Phoenix, and have all had much more success than the Coyotes’ handful of playoff appearances and no advances past the first round.

The Pittsburgh Penguins entered the league in 1967 and had won two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992 prior to filing bankruptcy in 1998.  They also had previously filed bankruptcy in 1975.

The Ottawa Senators entered the league in 1992 and filed for bankruptcy in 2003 despite having success on the ice.

The Buffalo Sabres entered the league in 1970 and also filed for bankruptcy in 2003.  The Sabres had made the playoffs every year from 1995 to 2000.  Their average home attendance in 2003 was 13,776.

The New York Islanders came into the league in 1972 and have had one of hockey’s greatest dynasties winning four Stanly cups between 1980-83.  They have made the playoffs 21 times, with their most recent appearance being 2007.  Although they have a proud history they have lost $208.8 million in nine years, including $33.5 million last year.  They also ranked last in attendance for the 2008-09 season.

I will admit that the Coyotes’ attendance has been exiguous recently; however they are not alone in having empty seats. Poor attendance does not discriminate between hot and cold climates.

Below are teams that are based in traditional markets, or in the case of the St. Louis Blues have been in the league over 40 years, and have ranked in the bottom 10 teams in attendance during recent years.

2001, Bruins, Blackhawks, Islanders
2002, Calgary Flames, Penguins, Blackhawks, Bruins, Islanders
2003, Bruins, Islanders, Devils, Blackhawks, Penguins, Sabres
2004, Bruins, Devils, Capitals, Islanders, Blackhawks, Penguins (last place, average 11,877)
2006, Devils, Blues, Capitals, Blackhawks, Islanders (last place, average 12,609)
2007, Boston, Devils, Capitals, Islanders, Blackhawks, Blues
2008, Devils, Capitals, Bruins, Islanders
2009, Devils, Avalanche, Islanders

I hope that you will realize that poor attendance and finacial failure cannot be directly attibuted the the weather outside.  Bankruptcies and empty seats have plagued teams throughout the continent regardless of the teams time in existence, country, or past success. 


Arizona Hockey Fans.

Posted on: August 24, 2009 12:15 pm

Eric Being Eric, Sorry Reno

Eric Byrnes is picking up in Reno where he left off in Arizona.  Currently he’s got a .222 batting average, a .370 SLG, and has one error in seven games for the Reno Aces.  So far he’s showed no improvement from his .216 MLB batting average.  Is it time to pull the plug on Byrnes?  He’s got one year left on his contract, but is the cost of his $10 million worth having him stew on the bench all year, not producing when he is called upon, and taking up a valuable roster spot from a more deserving player?


Byrnes is a square peg in a round hole.  He is something that does not belong on this team.  The team has brought up a number of minor league players this season that have played hard and earned a spot on the roster.  Gerardo Parra (.283 in 350 AB) and Alex Romero (.272 in 114 AB) have both showed that they can play at the major league level thus far.  Chris Young may or may not be back, and both Conor Jackson and Justin Upton will both be back next season.  That’s already five outfielders on the roster; no room for what will be a then 34 year old injury prone player who has failed to reach a .220 batting average in the past two seasons.


I know that the team is hesitant to eat another contract after eating a few in the past, but they are a better team without Byrnes than with him.  It is a sunk cost and they need to move forward.  They made a mistake with his extension and it possibly set them back a few years by costing them valuable payroll, but it’s time to move forward.  The Diamondbacks are not that far off from being a competitive team.  Coming off a disastrous seven game slide that featured 152 at bats between walks it may not look like it, but the truth is they are.  A few more pieces added and an inept outfielder subtracted they can make it back to the playoffs.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 19, 2009 1:28 pm

Jamie Moyer Lights Out

The Diamondbacks were again dominated by a 46 year old pitcher who tops out in the low eighties. In 2009 Jamie Moyer has a 0.00 ERA, 2 wins in two games, and a total of 8 hits and 10 strike outs in the 12.2 innings he’s pitched against the Diamondbacks.  This utter and complete domination is juxtaposed to his 5.22 ERA against the rest of the league.  He pitched one game against the Diamondbacks in 2008, 7 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs, and no walks.  With his complete and utter domination of the Dbacks the past two years it was no surprise that Moyer was called upon in the fourth inning to relieve Pedro Martinez. 

If not for a lead off homerun by Stephen Drew the Dbacks would have been shutout and managed only 3 hits.  Not that 1 run and 4 hits are much better.  This was the team’s third disappointing game in as many days, who also featured lackluster performances in their games against the Dodgers, Sunday, and Braves, Monday.  The post game press conference again showed a subdued AJ Hinch reclining in his chair casually dismissing the team’s poor play.

Maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised though.  Sunday’s loss against the Dodgers happened after they had won the first two games of the series.  For the past two years the Diamondbacks have consistently mailed in the third game of a series after winning the first two.  Monday’s game was a makeup game that took them across the country for a day game less than 24 hours after they finished their previous one.  Last nights game was picked up after an hour rain delay, and traditionally the Dbacks lose almost every game after a rain delay.  Or it could be the team is just wearing down, they’ve only had one day off since July 31. 

What ever it is, they’ll need to get over it.  Their remaining schedule doesn’t get any easier and includes multiple series against the Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies, all teams that will surely be making a post season push in the coming weeks.

Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or