The Diamondbacks are just a few days into spring training so naturally the confidence level is gushing from all corners of Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. However, this year has a different feel for the club as this marks the first spring since 2008 that right fielder Justin Upton won’t be the opening day starter at his position.
As Upton was taken number one overall in the 2005 amateur draft the expectations for the now 25 year old were high from the moment he signed with the club. It was arguably ‘his’ team for each season that he was with the D’backs and he carried with him the pressure that ‘as Justin goes, so do the D’backs.’ Sure, these types of expectations for one player can seem unfair and they likely are, but this is simply the price of being drafted as the best overall player in a draft to become a major leaguer.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to delve into the disappointment that became Upton in 2012 nor will I spout off about how disappointing it is that the organization decided to part ways with him- mostly because I’m not that disappointed. What I am interested in is the dynamic of the ‘new’ Diamondbacks organization and what general manager Kevin Towers is trying to build in the Valley. “This is the kind of club when I first got here, I was hoping we’d have,” Towers said.
When you look up and down the lineup card there really isn’t one player that should feel like he has to carry his ball club through the dog days of summer. I like this. This tends to create cohesiveness within a team that sees one player pick up the next on any given night with each player seeing their fair share of the spotlight. It avoids players pressing too much on a day-to-day basis and helps them relax and enjoy the game as it is intended to be played.
“It’s obviously early, but you can tell everyone is on the same page and not really fighting to be the leader, the face. We’re a team.” ~ Outfielder Cody Ross
Sure, we’re going to see some excellent play from Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Montero, Aaron Hill and newcomer Martin Prado that will take most of this said spotlight this season but Gibson has to like the fact that 2013’s team is looking more and more like his club. He won’t have to rely on any one guy to put up MVP type numbers as he will squeeze every bit of production out of each and every one of his players instead.
The Diamondbacks have a hefty task of attempting to overtake the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants and the star powered and overpaid Los Angeles Dodgers but what Towers and Gibson are building could be a sign of some very fun baseball this summer. Much akin to the 2011 club that continuously saw someone new step up at just the right time to pull out win after win, this year’s club has been built around hard-nosed baseball that is meant to manufacture runs rather than rely on the long ball. Towers went on to say, “we’re not going to be an easy team to beat. We’re going to be pests. We’re not going to go away. We’ve got guys who’ve won before and know what it takes to win.”
The post Upton era is underway and it may not be all that bad after all. In fact, as we sit in the early parts of spring training, it seems as though there’s an awful lot to be optimistic about.
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