The header on the calendar clearly says what baseball fans all over, love: “February.” Pitchers and catchers soon report, marking the start of Spring Training.
As Florida and Arizona prepare for this annual event, fans start to dust off their baseball caps, as the sun shines evenly on all 30 MLB clubs, as they’re all tied for 1st.
Enter the skeptics. Well, in this case, enter the singular skeptic. Enter … well … me.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are, like all other teams, tied for 1st in their division. That won’t last long. I’m not being a pessimist, so don’t jump down my throat. I am, however, being a realist.
There are two things I nearly understand in entirety in this world – commercial aviation and baseball. I’m making a very safe bet you’re not here to read about commercial aviation, so cut me some slack while I explain the “realist” in me.
First off, I feel obligated to say Dave Stewart is my hero. He’s not up there with Jerry Colangelo…not yet, anyway, but he made one helluva impression this offseason. Stewart, unlike Colangelo, has to work with what he has, and seems to be pretty good at doing just that. While that’s fresh on your brain, remember Dave is a rookie GM, and had to start with a team that finished dead last in MLB last year. Mr. Stewart immediately had to start cleaning up a mess left by the previous (sacrilege to mention his name) regime, and made some incredibly wise moves, managing to please a nearly unappeasable fan base.
- Plays in arguably most talented division in baseball (Dodgers, Giants, Padres)
- Finished last season with a meager 64 wins, worst in MLB
- Replaced next to everyone in the front office in the last 6 months
- Staff “ace” has never thrown more than 180 innings (Collmenter)
- GM is a rookie, as is manager (Stewart, Hale)
- Traded away Montero, only experienced catcher on roster
- 3 of last 5 World Series titles came out of NL West (Giants)
- Second baseman is on a rapid decline
- Shortstop has played a total of 111 games at big league level
- Third baseman is a Cuban defector, no MLB experience
- Ridiculous contracts on two “star” outfielders (Ross/Trumbo)
- Two starting pitchers not due back until after ASG (Arroyo/Corbin)
- Paul Goldschmidt
- 5 tool scouting reports on Tomas
- Bullpen is well above average (Ziegler/Reed/Marshall/Stites/Hernandez)
- New GM is a very wise baseball man (Dave Stewart)
- Dave Duncan and Tony LaRussa are in front office
Things that could happen:
- Archie Bradley could make his debut
- Braden Shipley could make his debut
- Jake Lamb has the potential to be something special
- Trumbo could perform at decent level, allowing for trade midseason (fingers crossed)
- Daniel Hudson could return to starting rotation
- Collmenter could throw over 200 innings and win 16 (or so) games
- Pete O’Brien could turn into something special
Arizona needs a lot to go right in ’15 to even finish at .500. The unbalanced schedule (another Bud Selig invention) allows for each team to play division rivals 17 times per season, with either 8 or 9 of those games at the beginning of the season, and the remaining games at the end. This makes for very entertaining Pennant Races, but in the case of a mediocre, rebuilding team like Arizona, it means they have to play San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco 17 times a piece – 51 games against 3 teams with playoff potential.
San Diego went balls to the wall (the hyperlink is a history of the phrase, off topic, but interesting) this offseason – making trades and acquiring talent, clearly ready to compete.
Los Angeles – well, every Arizona fan knows the story of the Los Angeles Dodgers. With a rotation second in the NL to only the Washington Nationals, we know what we’re up against there.
The Giants. What can I say here that 3 rings in 5 years hasn’t already said for me? On paper, they didn’t get any worse this offseason, even with the departure of Kung-Fu Panda.
I’d say Arizona goes 81-81 in 2015, finishing just ahead of the also rebuilding Rockies in the NL West. In ’15, the record isn’t what’s important, though. What is important is what we can learn as a franchise, as a front office, as a fan base. One year from now, when I’m writing predictions for 2016, we’ll all know what AJ Pollock offers in a full season, how big Yasmany Tomas’ bat actually is, if Chris Owings is, indeed, a Major League shortstop. We’ll also know what Bradley and most likely Shipley look like in Sedona Red.
For 2015, Dbacks fans, enjoy watching your team learn under their new manager. Enjoy watching them come together as a team. Enjoy watching what could be a prolific offense. Try to enjoy watching a pitching staff that most likely struggles mightily against the powerful bats of the NL West. No matter what, enjoy the smell of fresh cut grass, the cracking of the bat, the sound of fans cheering, and the warm air of another beautiful spring and summer full of Major League Baseball in Phoenix.
Questions? You can reach me on Twitter @dbackcjack or on my Venom Strikes e-mail at email@example.com