Let there be Life!
When the Diamondbacks dropped game one of their series with the Rockies, not many of us were surprised. After all, they’re the current champion for the ‘most inconsistent ball club’ right now. Could we really expect them to win an opener of a series and put together a win streak? They are 1-7 in their last eight series openers getting outscored 41-13. In six of those eight games the offense was held to one or fewer runs. I repeat: Six of Eight times. It’s been a bit of an anomaly as of late with these openers and it just seems like the players are coming to the park unprepared and with no energy.
Following their 4-0 loss on Monday night to the Rockies, their first time being shutout this year, there was much of the same frustration going on. The storyline was the same: a Dbacks starting pitcher got tagged early for runs and the offense pressed all game trying to battle back but couldn’t. There was no energy about the team, no cohesiveness.
And then general managing partner Ken Kendrick went on the air with XTRA 910 AM radio the following day and was very candid-even annoyed- with his Diamondbacks. He referenced their struggling right fielder Justin Upton, calling him an enigma, stating he needs to be more consistent and productive. He sounded off on Stephen Drew’s recovery from his ankle surgery stating he believed “Stephen and his representatives are more focused on where Stephen is going to be a year from now than on going out and supporting the team that’s paying his salary.” Strong words from an owner of a professional ballclub when talking about your starting shortstop.
Really, the timing of this interview couldn’t have come at a better time. Kendrick is a passionate owner, something all of us as fans should be excited about. For him to state these things on the air leads me to believe that his sources on the Drew factor must be at least somewhat accurate. A scary thought to think that a major league player would choose to sit out games instead of help the team he plays for in hopes for a bigger contract in free agency. I won’t go down that road mentioning names and instead I’ll just state that Drew HAS played in at least 150 games for the Dbacks in three of the last four seasons. Let’s take Drew’s side in this one for now.
Some believe it’s wrong to call out players as he did. I saw this as an eye-opening moment in the season. Either way you look at it, these statements put a big target on the struggling club and all of a sudden there was drama within the clubhouse- something this team has avoided for the last year and a half. When Upton was benched by Gibson later that afternoon- the buzz was as loud as it’s been all year around the team. This interview was a sign from Kendrick that he was fed up and it was a sign from Gibson that things needed to change and their star right fielder was no exception.
So, we were looking for a spark, right? Something that may set this team on fire and remind them of the energy and talent that this team had all of last year. Coming off their lousy showing on Monday, many fans and media were saying the team just looked flat, no energy, no urgency. Well if this isn’t the spark that sends these guys on a tear and brings them back to their winning ways-well, nothing will.
Kirk Gibson called a team meeting Wednesday afternoon- canceling batting practice- to address these issues with the team. Now with two impressive wins outscoring the Rockies 16-1 following Monday’s loss, there’s reason to believe this team is set to go on a run.
We would be remiss to not embrace this time of turmoil in the organization. For a club that hasn’t put a winning streak together in over a month, maybe a star player getting called out publicly is all this team needs to give them their drive back. Upton had this to say after sitting out Wednesday’s finale against the Rockies, “I don’t expect any more [days off] the rest of the season,” he said. “I expect to be in the lineup every day and give my teammates everything I’ve got.”
The last part of that statement is one to cling to: “give my teammates everything I’ve got.” Let’s hope these days off gave Upton a chance to look in the mirror and will turn his season-as well as the entire Diamondbacks team- around.
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