As I begin this journey covering the baseball team I have loved for the last 14 years of my life, the Diamondbacks, I can not help but think back on the events leading me to this point. I remember in 2001 watching Randy Johnson stroll out of the bullpen to close out the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series thinking to myself this was the best shot we had at winning. I remember watching Luis Gonzalez‘s little bloop hit single land on the green grass at then Bank One Ballpark and realizing they had won. The elation I felt when Jay Bell crossed home plate is indescribable, my team had won! Never had a team I followed through the entire season won a championship. The Diamondbacks gave me the opportunity to say my team was World Champions. This is the kind of emotion I hope to bring to Venom Strikes as the Diamondbacks look to a new and promising season with a solid and stable pitching staff, talented young offensive players, and a great defense.
Before 2000 the team was always the lovable losers, until the GM decided enough was enough and brought in Johnson and Curt Schilling to stabilize the pitching rotation. In my estimation the acquisition of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson could have the same effect. Sure both pitchers are younger and have much to prove, but went a combined 37-16 with a 3.18 combined ERA. With as young as these two players are 28 and 24 respectively, they will be the anchors of this rotation for a long time to come. The bullpen is the best it has been in recent years with J.J. Putz closing out games and Daniel Hernandez holding down the eighth inning.
Justin Upton provides the same kind of lineup presence Luis Gonzalez had during the 2001 year. He is poised for another stellar season as long as he can stay healthy. The team did better with strikeouts, having 1249 strikeouts in 2011 compared to 1529 in 2010. Part of the reason was getting rid of Mark Reynolds at third base, but the team overall seems to be selecting its pitches to hit much better.
As long as the team can stay motivated all year to repeat as NL West Champions, which I don’t think will be a problem with a manager like Kirk Gibson, they will be a force and the favorites to win the division again. They have to face some stiff competition as every other team will not be overlooking the team in the desert this year, no more flying under the radar. Only time will tell if they will be able to make it through the season with the target on their backs and the weight of the expectations. Cellar dwellers will no longer be acceptable as the team builds a winning personality and attitude under the tutelage of Gibson.
So here’s to another great season, a shot at the NL West division, playoffs, and maybe, just maybe we can recapture the magic of the 2001 Diamondbacks who captured the franchise’s first World Series crown and bring another trophy to Arizona. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I know I will.
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