Down (In Flames) Go the Diamondbacks
Was anyone surprised? Did any of us fans who observed their performance on the field during the tail end of the regular season anticipate any other outcome? Did the revelation in the press that the D’backs clubhouse resembled a slumber party of high school boys come as a shock? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, congratulations on having spent the last year successfully living as a troglodyte. For those of us paying even the least bit of attention, let alone devoting much our free time to following the home team through every game during the end of the regular season and the post-season, this was the only end we could foresee.
This is a young team, one that obviously has tremendous potential. But with youth comes also a lack of maturity and a need for boundaries, guidance, and motivation. Bob Melvin, for all the praise heaped upon him and for all the calls to name him “manager of the year”, for the National League if not all of Major League Baseball, does not appear to be the man best suited to do this. I do not know what Melvin’s agenda for the team was after the end of the Division Championship games against the Cubs. It appears obvious from the quality of team play, however, that lengthy strategy sessions with the players to focus their strategy against the Colorado Rockies, a team with which they should have been by now intimately familiar, did not take place. Indeed, it would seem that the D’backs had Melvin’s blessing to sleep in, booze it up, and generally lay about during the five-day rest period. The
What disappoints me most of all is the attitude permeating the D’backs clubhouse that says “We don’t care if we win or lose, we just want to have fun.” Well, young sluggers, your fans expect you to both have fun AND play to win. While it’s true that you’re not commanding, among other things, the high salaries of some of your peers on other teams, your fan base expects nothing less than one thousand percent performance effort from you, including the dedication to winning as many games as possible, most certainly once you make it to the post-season. Anything less is unworthy of a professional baseball player.
So what to do? Well, for starters, Josh Byrnes, Jeff Moorad, and company need to kick BoMel in the ass and in the midsection and let him know that this “whatever” attitude permeating the club will not be tolerated and that if it takes “bedchecking” of his team to get them to play baseball like adults, then amen, so be it. (For my money they could also give him some pointers on managing his pitching staff. Leaving starters in the game after the fifth inning just ensure that they “get the win” has, in several key situations, led exactly to the opposite. The situations with Livan Hernandez and Micah Owings during the last two games of the NLCS are prime examples of what happens when starters show fatigue and start missing the strike zone and giving up runs. Having starters tough it out through six-plus innings during the regular season is one thing, but if you’re looking to win a championship or a World Series, you do what you have to do and go to the next available arm appropriate for the situation before runs are allowed and leads lost. Under such circumstances “get’em outta there!” needs to be any manager’s post-season motto where starters are concerned during the middle of the game, especially in the National League. Bullpens are there for a reason. That said, keeping closer Jose Valverde on the mound for extra innings and having him pitch thirty-five-plus balls is a common-sense no-no. What on earth were you thinking, BoMel?)
Second, send a few of the younger guys back down to
In closing, I expect better from the D’backs in 2008. Discipline and focus are what’s needed. Let’s hope that BoMel and coaching staff will step up to the plate and see it happen.
A Sad Side Note in Closing: Next season is scheduled to be the last for the Tucson Sidewinders, the D’backs AAA farm team. After thirty-eight seasons here in