Arizona Diamondbacks – staying competitive down the stretch
By Mark Brown
The task ahead for the Arizona Diamondbacks is stay positive
Given the reality of this season, it is difficult to feel good about the Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite injuries to key personnel, this is still a team which grossly underachieved, and left manager Chip Hale to cloud and mask the inevitable.
There is no secret formula to winning, but pundits like to believe that several players need to have near-career years in the same season to make things happen. If one or two achieve to a certain level, the overall performance of the team is not likely elevated.
In this regard, the team’s principal closer needs to save games in the mid-40 range, two or more starters should win at least 15-20 games each, and there should be a league, offensive leader within the team.
None of that even came close with the Arizona Diamondbacks and there is still two, dreadful months remaining in this forgettable season.
Still, decision-makers of the Arizona Diamondbacks are paid to be optimistic and remain confident even through the tsunami of the current season.
At this point, Hale likes to tell reporters starting pitching remains a stabilizing factor, but concern stays with the bullpen. After a recent game, the manager said, “the bullpen needs to find way to put up zeros,” and inflated numbers drive down both a player’s credibility and value to other teams.
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“I’m a half-filled guy,” said Tony La Russa, the Diamondbacks’ Chief Baseball Officer. “There’s nothing wrong with the talent in this organization. What I’m encouraged about is the spirit. We like to tell players to approach each game as this is your last. The players here have responded to that.”
In light of the disastrous 2014 season, in which the Arizona Diamondbacks went 64-98 and finished 30 games out of first place in the National League West Division, La Russa was brought in to clean house, and restore respectability to a franchise which was over a decade removed from a world championship.
Given his track record as one of the most successful field managers in the history of the game, La Russa’s name and reputation was sought to give instant credibility. Instead, the sharp decent of the team’s fortunes, especially this season, has made La Russa’s stature uneasy and cumbersome. While his respect and aura around the game remains iconic, LaRussa’s ability to construct a team and implement executive responsibilities is far removed from game decisions he made as a manager in the dugout.
Even with the best judgment in regard to talent and motivation, there appears not much could have done with this team. The fractured elbow sustained by all-star centerfielder A. J. Pollock just before the season began set into motion a domino effect in placing players in their unnatural positions. Pollock’s .315 season, with 39 stolen bases and Gold Glove, was not close to being replaced. Plus, outfielder David Peralta, who hit .312 a year and led the National League in triples, missed most of the opening four months of the season on the disabled list.
From day one, when opening day starter Zack Greinke was hit hard and took the loss against Colorado, the starting rotation was never set with any level of comfort and sustainability. Shelby Miller, acquired from Atlanta in a high-profile trade, had not won a game at home, and became so unproductive that the right-handed was sent to the minors and continues to languish there.
While the team ERA hovers around five runs per nine innings, defensive play, stellar a year ago, became tarnished. Yasmany Tomas remains a liability in left field, and Jake Lamb is too uncertain at third base.
All of which seems to have created a perfect storm for catastrophe. While talk now centers around movement of players between now and the close to the waiver trade deadline, moving personnel may not be the answer. If La Russa is correct and, as he pointed out, the talent is here, there seems to be the need to bring out the physical and emotional abilities of players who are here.
Next: Ray falters against Nats
So far, finding that balance between the physical capabilities of each player and a corresponding emotional and mental approach seems to one possible obstacle from preventing this team to compete at a high level.