Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
So We're Playing Arizona Again
2006-07-21 16:30
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The way the National League schedule works, it's hard to excited about writing a series preview. It's all boring team, boring team, divisional "rival," divisional "rival," boring team, same two "rivals," and then twice a year, the Mets. But we do need to go over something about the Diamondbacks. Their most valuable position player this year has been Eric Byrnes. By a lot.

Shawn Green is having an OK year. He might be traded soon. You know he's only 33? He seems much older for some reason. Perhaps it's because he has always been on teams that play the Rockies often. He's a very old 33. Not quite as old as Cliff Floyd, but up there. Catcher Johnny Estrada was an astute offseason pickup from the Braves. Other than that, Arizona has had some trouble settling upon a consistent lineup and maintaining it. Part of the problem is that no one in the organization seems to know when the youth movement is set to begin. It may have happened already, while everyone was distracted by the D-Backs' various staff switcheroos. They're not out of the woods yet:

JOSH BYRNES: Hi, is this Bob? Bob the manager of the Diamondbacks?

BOB MELVIN: Yes, this is Bob. Who is this?

JB: This is Byrnes, the GM. Wait, Bob Brenly? I have your baseball card only it's spelled with an "m," "Bremly." Do you sign a lot of those?

BM: No, I'm Bob Melvin. Bob Brenly is in the broadcast booth in Chicago, where he is conducting a none-too-subtle stealth campaign for Dusty Baker's job by inserting frequent uncalled-for references to his World Series win in his color commentary. You're not Eric Byrnes, our sparkplug centerfielder and briefly last year a member of the Colorado Rockies?

JB: No, although that would be pretty cool if I was.

BM: That would be cool.

So I don't think either Byrnes or either Bob has any idea whether the D-Backs youth movement has begun. On one hand, they traded Troy Glaus so Chad Tracy could play third every day. He played better when he was blocked. Conor Jackson is playing. On the other hand Craig Counsell and Damion Easley have 400 at-bats between them and Tony Clark continues to siphon away PT from Jackson. They've called up Carlos Quentin for seemingly no reason other than to annoy Luis Gonzalez, which is silly. They didn't tie Gonzalez down and force him to sign that enormous misguided contract extension.

The big problem is the same thing I've been trumpeting for years, not that anyone listens to me. All the hitting prospects in the world are of little use if you can't season the mix with a young pitcher here and there. Arizona and young pitchers, not so much. Brandon Webb doesn't count as young anymore. He's an established star. He could win the Cy Young this year. I hope he doesn't, because if so, that makes two really dumb preseason predictions I made, Webb backsliding into middle-rotation status and Detroit winning 75 games. I should stop making predictions. 23-year-old righthander Enrique Gonzalez counts as a prospect, although not a very good one. The rest of the rotation is retreads: Miguel Batista, Claudio Vargas, and Juan Cruz, that bad penny (or whatever the currency equivalent in the D.R. would be) from Chicago, Oakland, and Atlanta. I don't know what the plan is for next year. They're going to have to get some starters and relievers from somewhere. A Coors-esque 16 guys have pitched in relief for the Diamondbacks this year, and Jason Grimsley's is only the second saddest name in the stack. That's right, Terry Mulholland. I went there.

The Rockies aren't very good. I admit it. The Diamondbacks are also not good. Their sweep of the Rockies in Denver immediately before the All-Star break might have put paid to every hope of pennant-stretch relevance Colorado ever harbored. Or maybe this is where the Rockies overcome their recent extended speed bump run and assert that they're one of the less mediocre teams in one of baseball's more mediocre divisions. The pitching matchups are highly favorable: Vargas-Aaron Cook tonight, Gonzalez-Josh Fogg Saturday, and Cruz-Byung-Hyun Kim on Sunday. Dare we hope?

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