Category:MLB
Posted on: August 13, 2009 12:42 pm
 

Diamondbacks Fun Again

Watching the Diamondbacks is starting to get good again.  It appears that players taking the field actually care and are playing at full speed.  Even though the Dbacks have no shot of winning the division or making the playoffs the games are at least exciting to watch, thanks in large part to a group of young and not so young recent call ups.

 

Trent Oeltjen has been a man possessed since he was called up last week.  He has 12 hits in 29 at bats, he is stretching singles into double, doubles into triples, and has already appeared in the Web Gems segment of Baseball Tonight for his play in the outfield.  It appears that playing in the minors for nine years will motivate someone to hustle once they make it to the majors.  Alex Romero has also been making the most of his recent call up, hitting .393 in the last seven days.   

 

Due to injuries, trades, released players, and players sent to the minors a lot of guys are getting an opportunity that they normally would not have, and they join a team that is now looking like they are not that far away from being competitive.  During the lean months of April, May, and June not only was the team losing but they were playing sloppy uninspired baseball.  They were getting booed nightly at Chase Field and becoming one of the worst teams in baseball. 

 

July 3 was the crescendo of their ineptitude, sparking the Mark Reynolds diatribe, and July 4 was their independence day.  They were declaring themselves free of the losing ways and attitudes that had been so prevalent the previous two months.  Since July 4 the team is 21-14, a .600 winning percentage.  Not too shabby for a six week period.  No one expects them to keep that pace up for the rest of the season by any means, but at least it shows that they have it in them.

 

Trent Oeltjen and Alex Romero will cool off and come back down to Earth, but it sure is fun watching them tear it up right now.  Finally, it is good to be a Dbacks fan again.

Posted on: August 6, 2009 12:22 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2009 12:22 pm
 

The Ryan Roberts Experiment

Is Ryan Roberts the future starting 2B of the Arizona Diamondbacks?  It’s looking more likely.  Ryan Roberts has been on an offensive surge the last seven days, batting .417.  Since July 20, the day Felipe Lopez was traded to the Brewers, he has raised his average from .257 to .288.  He’s had at least one hit in 9 of the past 13 games. His recent performance has brought about murmurs that Roberts may be the Diamondbacks every day second baseman for the 2010 season, but there are also questions of whether or not Roberts can be an every day player.

Roberts has never played more than 10 games in a season until this year and was the last man added to the Diamondbacks roster coming out of spring training.  There is not a lot of prior history to judge Roberts on.  He’s not a six year veteran who has hit .260 on his career and then suddenly hits .300 and parlays that into a $30 million dollar, three year contract extension.

Any decision made on Ryan Roberts will be made somewhat blindly due to the lack of past history, but looking at the free agent second baseman available next season Roberts may be the best option.  If he finishes the year batting around .270 and continues to play solid defensively (he has a fielding percentage of .989) he most likely will be the starting second baseman on opening day.

Below is the list of 2010 free agent second baseman, minus players who have previously played for the Diamondbacks, i.e. Hudson, Lopez, Eckstein, and Counsell.  When comparing Roberts’s $400,000 salary and his season stats to this list it will be hard for the front office not to at least take a chance on him.

Ronnie Belliard (35) salary $1.9 million, season BA .206
Jamey Carroll (36) salary, $2.5 million, season BA .287
Alex Cora (34) salary $2 million, season BA .256
Mark DeRosa (35) salary $4.75 million, season BA .251
 Jerry Hairston Jr. (34) salary $2 million, season BA .257 
Adam Kennedy (34) salary $400k, season BA .289
Mark Loretta (38) salary $1.25, season BA .234
 Placido Polanco (34) salary $4.6 million, season BA .263
 Juan Uribe (31) salary $1 million, season BA .279

Roberts is 29, and assuming he keeps his batting average up he will be younger, cheaper, and just as good as or better than anyone on this list.  He also has a very respectable SLG % for a 2B, .458.  Among NL 2B only Chase Utley has a higher SLG.  There are still two months of baseball to be played, and Roberts only has 153 at bats on the season, about 40% of what an everyday player would have, so his stats fluctuate more easily.  He should get about 200 more at bats through the end of the season, so there will be a decent base to judge his stats on.  For a team fighting to keep salary low, Roberts is looking like a very attractive option.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 5, 2009 12:28 pm
 

The Steroid Band Aid

Hank Aaron has stated that all the names on the 2003 steroid list need to be released for baseball to move forward and I completely agree with him.  To have another name come out every six weeks or so only brings the issue to the forefront of people’s minds just as it was starting to subside.  We are at the point where everyone probably has a good idea of who will be on the list and short of a few names there will be little surprise.

There was an unconfirmed list floating around the internet a few weeks back.  Not only was every player on that list not a surprise, but there were connections between most of the players, such as confirmed names Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.  Most players had at least one or two teammates on the list.  There were a few Giants, a few Cubs, a few Blue Jays, a few Dodgers, etc.

With the exception of a handful of players everyone on the unconfirmed list was a notable or recognizable name.  Not necessarily all super stars like Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, but players that most fans who follow the game somewhat closely would know. 

While that list may be unconfirmed, in my opinion it is probably pretty accurate.  When I read the list about a month ago both Manny and Ortiz were on it.  Now they are confirmed. There was also one player on the list who is an Arizona product that was a known user among Arizona community college players. The information is out there.  Baseball would behoove itself by taking care of the problem with one big blow.  There are no real surprises and only people benefiting from the gradual release of the names are the people who are selling that information piece mail to the media.  Just like in a twelve step program the first step to baseball’s rehabilitation is admitting they had a problem and condemning the guilty players.

If baseball was smart they would recognize that they have a great group of exciting and talented players who have come up in the last three years and can bring baseball out of the steroid era.  These players deserve to compete in an environment that is devoid of steroid suspicion.  Players like Ryan Braun, Jason Bay, and Tim Lincecum can give baseball the fresh start that they need.  Releasing the list could also relieve suspicion that is now surrounding its best hitter, Albert Pujols, who was not on the unconfirmed list, and allow him to pursue the Triple Crown with the genuine support of fans.

Posted on: August 3, 2009 11:09 am
 

The Real Moneyball

The trade deadline has passed, effectively ending the hopes of many teams for another year as they come to the realization that they are better off dumping their players than trying to compete.  The Pirates, as usual, traded anyone of any value.  The Orioles, Indians, and A’s were also again on the seller’s side of the ledger.  The rich continued to get richer, with the Dodgers acquiring George Sherill, the Phillies dealing for Cliff Lee, and the White Sox getting Jake Peavy.

It is obviously frustrating for fans of teams like the Pirates, who continually give away their players year after year, but it is also frustrating for fans of teams competing with the trade deadline gluttons.  If you are a fan of a mid or small market team that is in the division race but not necessarily a buyer, and a rival team gets an impact player at the deadline, it is very deflating.  Especially when they seem to do it every year, as is the case for the Red Sox and Dodgers.

In the AL Central the Twins are only two games behind the Tigers, who just obtained Jarrod Washburn, a great addition to their rotation.  Meanwhile teams like the Rockies, Rangers, and Twins are forced to stand pat and try and wedge their way into the playoffs with what they have.  They compete every night and battle all season only to have the teams around them get a giant shot in the arm with two months to go.

It is fortuitous that baseball has the wild card though, because it does give teams in secondary markets an opportunity to make the playoffs.  Right now there are no division leaders that are in mid or small markets, and no division leaders with a payroll below $100 million.  In 2008 there was only one smaller market team that won their division, the Tampa Rays; the other division winners were representing Chicago, Philadelphia, and LA. 

In addition to every division being led by a $100 million team, there is only one $100 million dollar that is even under .500, the Mets.  The $100 million dollar teams include the Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Tigers, Mariners, Angels, Phillies, Astros, White Sox, and Dodgers.  The statement the rich got richer definitely rings true, as six of those teams made major acquisitions

If you don’t think that money equates to winning consider this.  Four of the past five World Series have been won by teams in the $100 million club.  It doesn’t mean that the team who has the highest payroll always wins, but it does mean that to win you do have to pay.

Posted on: August 3, 2009 11:08 am
 

Breaking News from Ashland, Ky re: Brandon Webb

Everyone knows what a media hub Ashland Kentucky is right?  You know, Ashland, KY, population 22,000, 12 square miles, the city that never wakes up.  No surprise that the local paper there was the one to break the story on Brandon Webb having surgery.  They were the first to know, the reporter probably had talked to Webb’s dad at the coffee hour after church on Sunday.  But who was the last?  None other than Webb’s “former” team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.  After all, why do they need to know, it’s none of their business.

Josh Byrnes and co. got the news the same way the rest of the general public does, via the general media. Not firsthand from a call from Brandon Webb or his agent as one might expect, prior to everyone else.  If this is not the writing on the wall that Brandon Webb now considers himself a free agent I don’t know what is.

I think everyone was doubtful that Webb would remain a Dback after last week’s news on his progress, but now it seems an almost certainty.  It is very, very, unfortunate that this is the way it ends.  A homegrown pitcher who dominated the past three years is now cast aside, his usefulness for the team now expired.  But in all reality the Diamondbacks have little choice but to not pick up his option.  A cash stapped team struggling to compete paying $11 million to a useless outfielder cannot afford to pay another $8 million to a pitcher who wouldn’t even be able to pitch again until next August.  It just isn’t feasible.   

I think that every Diamondback fan wishes Webb the best of luck, and just prays that he doesn’t follow the footsteps of other scorned players and sign with the Dodgers.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 31, 2009 1:54 pm
 

Bad News for Brandon Webb

The Diamondbacks received more bad news in an already miserable season as it was discovered that Brandon Webb is not making progress with his rehabilitation.  He is going for another consultation today to determine if surgery is needed, which is looking more and more inevitable for the Cy Young winner.

The Diamondbacks have Brandon Webb’s option for next season and are faced with a decision, pick it up for $8 million or buy it out for $2 million.  The decision would have been much easier had Brandon Webb been able to pitch in September like he was hoping to.  That would have given the team some indication of how he would perform, either giving them confidence to offer an extension or giving them the marketability to trade him.

Now the Diamondbacks will most likely have to make a decision sight unseen.  There are primarily two schools of thought.  First, Webb is done as a pitcher for the Diamondbacks; the team can’t afford to pay $8 million to a pitcher that they don’t know can still pitch or what his recovery timetable might be.  Dwindling attendance revenues and lack of success on the field make it crucial to utilize every dollar of payroll to the fullest.

The second opinion is that the Diamondbacks owe it to Brandon Webb to pick up his option for his years of service to the team.  He has been one of the best pitchers in the game the past three years and has become a fan favorite. He’s been here during a few bad years and the team would not have won the division in 2007 without him.

However, to say that a team owes a player anything may be a little overreaching.  The team pays, he plays.  Brandon Webb was drafted by the Diamondbacks and played under a contract.  He’s never had the opportunity to play anywhere else, to assume that he has an unyielding loyalty for the Diamondbacks is somewhat misguided.  If he was offered a contract by the Yankees that was more than what the Dbacks were offering he may very well take it.

All the Diamondbacks can do at this point is speculate.  Will Webb be healthy, and if so will he be as effective as he used to be.  The first scenario is that they do pick up his option, he’s not able to come back next year and play at the level he used to, and the team wastes $6 million that they could have used elsewhere.  The second scenario is that he comes back, once again is the Brandon Webb we all know and love, he signs an extension with the Diamondbacks, and he and Dan Haren are the 1-2 punch that leads the team to many future division titles. The third scenario is that he comes back, is the Brandon Webb of old, but the team is unable to resign him and he plays somewhere else in 2011.

As much as I like Brandon Webb, it seems less and less realistic that he will be a part of the Diamondbacks future going forward.  He had a contract extension worked out and then the team pulled it off the table after he failed the insurance company’s physical.  If he did have some feelings of loyalty toward the team they have most likely eroded at this point.  The team is probably looking at a lose-lose situation with Webb.  He’s good, he’s gone next year, he’s bad, and then they are out a pitcher.  The happy, happy, joy, joy scenario probably isn’t going to happen.

There are a lot of quality free agent pitchers that will be on the market this off season that will probably be in or under the $10 million price range;  Jarrod Washburn, Erik Bedard, Rich Harden, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro, John Lackey, and Brad Penny to name a few.  These players aren’t the quality that a healthy Brandon Webb was but they are definitely serviceable in a rotation that carries Dan Haren as the ace.  The Diamondbacks cannot afford to make decisions on emotion any longer, they just don’t have the payroll to waste.  Eric Byrnes anyone?

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 30, 2009 4:02 pm
 

The Defense of Josh Byrnes

Josh Byrnes, Diamondbacks GM, has been much maligned for the moves he’s made of the past four years.  Many fans would rather see a chimp on meth sitting in the GM seat than Byrnes.   Some of the criticism is deserved, but much of it is not.  When some of his major trades are reviewed it turns out they are not as bad as we might think or would like to believe. Here is a breakdown of some of the larger and more memorable moves that JB has made.

Trades

12/05 Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos for Miguel Batista and Orlando Hudson
Good trade. Since the trade Glaus averaged .260 and 28 home runs per year, decent power hitter numbers.  He was traded by the Blue Jays after the 2007 season and has not played in 2009.  Hudson was a team leader and offensively productive while he was here and saved the team a lot of money compared to Glaus’s 12 million dollar contract.

11/06 Johnny Estrada, Claudio Vargas and Greg Aquino for Doug Davis, Dana Eveland and Dave Krynzel
Good trade.  Estrada and Aquino are no longer in baseball and Vargas has been either hurt or ineffective most of the time. Davis has had relative success in a Diamondbacks uniform and Dana Eveland was used to acquire Dan Haren.

12/07 Carlos Quentin for Chris Carter
Still to be determined.  This is the one that everybody talks about and considers the largest black mark on Byrnes’s resume. Quentin was a high draft pick with seemingly unlimited potential, however he struggled during his games with the Diamondbacks despite dominating AAA.  He also had problems staying healthy while he was here.  He had a great 2008 season and was in line for MVP consideration until he broke his wrist in September.   

However in the 2009 season he has not recaptured the previous season’s success.  He has missed much of the season due to injury and has only hit .217 while healthy.  He is still, in my opinion, unproven.  Five healthy, productive months do not make him a great baseball player.

While Chris Carter is just another prospect the Diamondbacks had collected he was used in the Dan Haren trade.  Even if Quentin was having the type of season this year that he had last year getting Haren does not make this trade as bad as it appears on the surface.

12/07 Dana Eveland, Carlos Gonzalez, Aaron Cunningham, Chris Carter, Brett Anderson and Greg Smith for Dan Haren and Connor Robertson
Great trade.  The Diamondbacks gave up a lot of prospects, none of which have produced up to this point, and in return they received an ace quality pitcher in the running for the Cy Young award this year.

12/07 Traded Jose Valverde for Chris Burke, Chad Qualls and Juan Gutierrez
Equal trade.  This is another one that received heavy criticism, but when you look at the production of the players involved it is not really that one sided.  Jose Valverde led the league in saves in 2007 and had similar success in 2008 with the Astros.  This year he has 11 saves and 4 blown saves pitched in 28 games 27.1 innings. Qualls had 2.81 ERA in 2008 and has a 3.38 this year.  He has pitched 42.2 innings with 18 saves and 4 blown saves.  A fairly equal trade, especially considering that Qualls makes about five million less than Valverde.  I guess people were more disappointed that Qualls didn’t have a nickname like Papa Grande.  I don’t know why Qualls couldn’t be Papa Grade Dos, he’s just as fat as Valverde.

07/08 Emilio Bonifacio for Jon Rauch
Looking better every day.  Bonifacio was hailed as the second baseman of the future, and for the first few weeks of the 2009 season Diamondbacks fans were desperately wishing they had him back.  Since then he has proved to be another over hyped prospect that has fallen short of expectations, batting only .251 with 82 strikeouts and a .932 fielding percentage, second worst among NL third baseman.   

Conversely, the first six weeks of the season Jon Rauch was a guaranteed run for the opponent, but since then he has settled down considerably, posting a 2.08 ERA for the past two months.  If asked right now who would you rather have between Rauch and Bonifacio, the clear option is Rauch.  The fact that I would want Rauch over anyone is amazing; I think satan just got out the LL Bean catalog to get a new parka because suddenly it’s become unseasonably cool down there.

08/08 Dallas Buck, Micah Owings and Wilkin Castillo for Adam Dunn
Not a good trade.  I do like that the Diamondbacks got a bat to answer the Dodgers acquisition of Manny Ramirez to try and salvage the 2008 division title.  Unfortunately Dunn did not produce as much as they would have liked, and due to the free agent market turning they did not receive the compensatory draft picks that they were expecting.  It didn’t turn out the Diamondbacks way but I do give them credit for trying.

07/09 Tony Pena for Brandon Allen
So far so good, Pena has an ERA over 10 and Allen has an average over .400 since the trade.

07/09 Felipe Lopez for two minor leaguers, names irrelevant.
Good, regardless of how well Lopez plays the rest of the season.  Trading the lethargic free agent-to-be was a needed move.

Signings

Chris Young, signed to extension.  Terrible signing.  Young has got worse every year and should probably be playing in AAA if they had a viable replacement.

Eric Byrnes.  Terrible.  Like Young he has also got worse every year since the signing and he’s also had more injuries every year since the signing.  A knee jerk emotional move designed to appease fans in the absence of Luis Gonzalez.

AJ Hinch. So far so bad.  Hinch has a .438 winning percentage and his pensive approach has not won over the fans.   

Posted on: July 28, 2009 4:55 pm
 

Cautious Optimism

The Diamondbacks do not have a player batting .300, but most of the team is hitting the ball pretty well right now.  They have six everyday players who are batting above .270.  Not too shabby when you only have two players other than the pitcher on a given day batting below that level.  They are still among the bottom in terms of team batting average, but that does include a disastrous April and May.  In June their team batting average was .254, eighth in the NL for that month, and July their batting average was .267, ninth in the NL.

While they have only made two moves, and should still try to make one or two more, the moves they’ve made have been good.  Tony Pena has a 10.13 ERA in the six games he’s played for the White Sox; Brandon Allen meanwhile, is hitting .352 through 15 games in Reno.  Whether or not they both continue on those courses is anyone’s guess, but Pena was probably not going to be successful in Arizona and they filled a need at first base.  In addition two minor league players were obtained for Felipe Lopez, which is just a bonus on top of being rid of his salary and his lethargic play.

Even though there are some bright spots Diamondbacks fans are cautious about being overly optimistic.  The past three years we have heard about all the potential that this team had.  That potential has been largely unrealized.  Chad Tracy is oft injured and won’t be on the team next year, Chris Snyder will most likely not be on the team next year and outside of a few sporadic streaks throughout the year is an offensive dud, Chris Young has digressed each year, and Conor Jackson reached his plateau two years ago.  Not a bad player, but he’s doing all that he will probably ever do.

But maybe there is reason to be hopeful about this core group of players.  Maybe Gerardo Parra, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds, Stephen Drew, and Justin Upton can continue what they are doing this year and actually provide the consistent offense that has been missing the last few years.  Maybe Brandon Allen will finally be the first baseman that they haven’t had since Mark Grace.  Maybe they can have three players on the All Star team. 

There is a silver lining in this dismal season, it’s the future of this team learning how to deal with adversity and getting an opportunity to develop their skills without having any pressure of winning.  This season may be a gift in and of itself; I’d gladly take a terrible season for players to learn how to win rather than have a team that is five games under .500 every year and never really in it, but never really out of it.

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