Amid concerns for the future, the Arizona Diamondbacks head into the off-season
The season ended on the bright side for the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday, but not without concerns for the future.
In this baseball marathon commencing with high hopes and dashed by poor execution, the Diamondbacks head into the off-season amid a series of important decisions.
Despite a 3-2, walk-off victory over the San Diego Padres before 31,385 Sunday afternoon in Chase Field, the road ahead appears long and ominous. To a man in the clubhouse and throughout the coaching staff, the attitude, work ethic and disposition was commendable. Despite losses piling at an alarming rate, the players’ outlook and positive attitude became the cornerstone of their personality.
When a team say they seek “identity,” that term would be meaningless or fateful. In the case of the Diamondbacks, that characterization could be a strong purpose and will. That may be admirable, but execution on the field clearly did not equate success.
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If anything, the final three games may hold a glimpse of what could have been and what can be in the future. After Phil Gosselin’s two-out single drove in pinch-runner Socrates Brito with the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth Sunday, the Diamondbacks avoided the embarrassing reality of finishing in last place in the National league West. Instead, they earned their sixth sweep of the season, and left a bright memory for the off-season.
“We wanted to make the best of the final three games,” Gosselin said after his second, career walk-off. “If you get the walk-off hit, you expect to get the water Gatorade and all that stuff. It’s all worth it and a good way to win.”
If Arizona decision-makers look to the future, starter Matt Koch could surprise in spring training. Turning in six solid innings and limiting the Padres to one run on an economy of 73 pitches, Koch could emerge as a rotation candidate.
Perhaps an advantage he has over others is his command of the strike zone. In seven appearances and two starts, Koch walked four hitters in 18 innings and record a 2.00 ERA.
“I hate to walk hitters,” he said after his Sunday effort. “I’m not going to strike out hitters, so I like to the keep the ball down. That way, I hope I’m in control of the strike zone.”
So effective was Koch’s command of the strike zone that the native of Strom Lake, Iowa recorded six, first-pitch strikes to the first seven hitters he faced Sunday.
If Koch was effective in a starting role, Daniel Hudson proved valuable out of the bullpen. Working in his fourth consecutive game, Hudson gained with win with a perfect ninth inning, including two strikeouts.
That was nearly not the case. With one out, second baseman Ryan Schimpf lifted a fly near the right field foul pole. First base umpire Ron Kulpa waved a home run circle, but Hudson, and manager Chip Hale thought the ball was foul. Hale asked for an umpire review and the Kulpa’s call was overturned.
Afterward, Hudson grew emotional talking the possibility of pitching in Chase Field for the final time. Now, he becomes a free agent, and the Diamondbacks have not indicated whether he is in their 2017 plans.
So the Diamondbacks close the season with a sweep, but that does not address the major issue of underachievement. For the year, the club finished 69-93, and that’s a regress from the 79-83 season of a year ago.
In the coming weeks and through the off-season, don’t be surprised to see a sign outside of Chase Field, “under construction.” Every year, changes are inevitable and in the case of the Diamondbacks, the question is, how many and where.
Manager Chip Hale will meet with the media Monday afternoon to review the season. The clubhouse is open Monday and Tuesday for players to gather personal belongings and exchange phone numbers.
Around the Foghorn
Because the World Baseball Classic is scheduled for next March, reporting dates for spring training should be ahead of the February 18 reporting date of this past spring.