Tag: Arizona Sports

Tony La Russa Changes Everything for the Arizona Diamondbacks

In a move that was surprising and seemingly came out of left field, the Arizona Diamondbacks announced last Saturday that the organization hired Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa to become the team’s newly created chief of baseball operations. La Russa will report directly to team CEO Derrick Hall.

This move is a game changer for the D-backs. La Russa changes everything moving forward in the immediate future. The D-backs had seemingly been handcuffed during the team’s terrible start to the season by having limited in-house options to replace general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson.

La Russa brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, but the biggest thing he will bring to the desert is credibility and a history of success. La Russa is a known quantity, someone most baseball fans will know from his track record with the Oakland A’s and most recently the St. Louis Cardinals. In short, he can inspire confidence with the fans as the D-backs try to dig out of this hole.

As Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi points out in this tweet, La Russa has been involved in one losing season since 1999. One. Compare that to the D-backs’ six losing seasons and two .500 seasons since 1998 and you can see why La Russa will be empowered to bring consistency to the organization.

If the 69-year-old La Russa can bring a semblance of his success from the Cardinals to Arizona, this might turn out to be a franchise-changing decision. La Russa has won three World Series, six pennants and has 2,728 victories to his credit over his 33 years of managing in the game.

Just as impressive is that the Cardinals have hardly missed a beat since La Russa left the organization after the 2011 season. He set up the Cardinals to have long-term sustained success, something the D-backs have struggled to find since their inception in 1998.

It would seem fairly obvious that this move will eventually spell the end for Towers and maybe even Gibson in the desert. It is to the credit of Hall and managing general partner Ken Kendrick that Arizona seemed reluctant to make changes just for the sake of making a change. Firing Gibson after the team started 4-14 would have likely endeared the organization to the fans, even if it wasn’t the right move.

I am still not convinced that Gibson needs to go. I believe he was given a poor roster and a below-average pitching staff this season and asked to create magic. Towers is far more culpable for the poor trades and bad decisions that the organization has made since making the playoffs in 2011.

La Russa is likely to want to bring in more of his own people. He already has his longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan on board as the Diamondbacks pitching guru, former coach Dave McKay as the team’s first base coach and Roland Hemond involved in the team’s front office. It provides a level of comfort as La Russa learns the Arizona organization.

Outside of Arizona, La Russa might be tempted to raid the Cardinals for front-office help in the form of Cards director of player development Gary LaRocque, as Peter Gammons speculates here. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal mentions bigger names such as Walt Jocketty and Al Avila in this article. If the D’Backs look for a new manager, USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale mentions St. Louis bench coach Mike Aldrete as an option, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tabs Joe McEwing as a name to keep an eye on.

All of these names would figure to be in the mix for the D-backs given their ties to La Russa.

To his credit, La Russa made it very clear that he has no interest in managing again. Perfect. Find the next John Mozeliak or Jocketty to be general manager. See if Gibson can morph into Mike Matheny if given a better team and pitching staff.

This is a coup for Arizona. While this season looks like it is going to be remembered for wasted opportunities, it might ultimately be remembered for bringing about the necessary and needed changes to get the D-backs back on track.

Information used via Arizona Diamondbacks/TwitterBaseball-ReferenceJon Morosi/Fox Sports, Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal/Fox Sports, Bob Nightengale/USA Today Sports, Jerry Crasnick/ESPN and MLB.com.

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Arizona Diamondbacks’ Organization Is at a Crossroads in 2014

In 2007, the Arizona Diamondbacks made a surprising run toward the playoffs and reached the National League Championship Series before finally falling short against the Colorado Rockies. Three years later, the architect for that surprising run, general manager Josh Byrnes, was fired in July 2010.

After starting this season by winning only nine of their first 31 games, the D’Backs look doomed to repeat that cycle. General manager Kevin Towers is likely to pay the price for Arizona’s struggles this season due to his questionable moves and the poor performance of the team’s core players and pitching staff.

Towers enjoyed early success in his tenure with the D’Backs, building the 2011 squad into a group that advanced to the 2011 National League Division Series before falling to the Milwaukee Brewers. Arizona looked to be a force in the NL West, primed for a strong three- to five-year stretch based on the depth of the team’s farm system, promising young core players and the improved financial flexibility.

Now, just three years later, almost all of the optimism around the organization has vanished. Much of the fault falls at the feet of Towers for building a poorly constructed team that has failed to capitalized on the window of opportunity that the franchise seemingly had.

It is hard to understand how things have gotten to this point.

Arizona has good ownership, led by Ken Kendrick. Kendrick has been surprisingly approachable while running the team and has seemed to grow into the role as managing general partner. The D’Backs are completely involved and invested in all of the communities of Arizona, operating as great ambassadors of MLB.

The man who Kendrick has picked to run the day-to-day operations of the franchise, Derek Hall, is one of the most genuine and engaged executives in the game.

Hall should find himself on the short list of candidates to replace outgoing commissioner Bud Selig when Selig finally steps down. Hall has the experience of working in a large market with the Los Angeles Dodgers and a mid-market like Arizona. His background in media, communications and business only add to his resume as MLB looks to embrace the new age of social media and lure back younger fans.

Towers has a lengthy resume built in the game among his time with the San Diego Padres and now the D’Backs. Towers has been very accountable with the media concerning the D’Backs‘ struggles and has a strong reputation within the game. But in his 17 years as a general manager, his teams have only made it to the playoffs five times and have only had a winning season in seven of those 17 seasons.

Manager Kirk Gibson is in a tough spot.

He is tied at the hip with Towers, and both men seem to genuinely like and support each other. But the D’Backs, as currently constructed, are not winning anything. And much of the blame goes back to the construction of the pitching staff and the poor player evaluations that the team has made over the past three seasons.

While Gibson might appease his critics by throwing things and calling out his players, he has continued to operate like a professional who has been placed in a no-win situation.

If Gibson is sacrificed, it won’t be because he is to blame for this mess. It is simply because it is the easiest thing to do before blowing up this roster. Arizona talked about being a playoff team this season, not scouting for next season’s draft. It’s not fair, but the D’Backs cannot afford to go through an entire summer with an empty building.

With all of this executive talent, it is hard to understand how this organization has drifted so off track again so quickly. When the D’Backs fired Byrnes, they were undertaking a culture change within the organization. The man they finally picked to replace him, Towers, was basically the polar opposite of Byrnes in terms of building an organization and establishing the organization’s philosophy.

Where Byrnes favored the new-age analytics of the sport, Towers was much more of an old-school executive. Byrnes was viewed as a young, paper-pushing bureaucrat, while Towers was viewed as a wily, seasoned veteran.

Many of the moves that Towers has made during his tenure in the desert fly in the face of the information that is readily available to all of the team’s in MLB and have left the organization open to much criticism. Continually trading away prospects while trying to build a successful mid-market team is virtually impossible to do.

The numbers don’t lie. Arizona features the worst pitching staff ERA (5.20) in the major leagues and an offense that is in the middle of the majors in runs. All of this coming with a franchise-high payroll of almost $113 million to start the season.

Barring a miraculous turnaround, the D’Backs will likely be forced to make changes with Towers and Gibson during the month of May if things continue to trend in a negative direction.

Towers is likely to leave the D’Backs in worse condition then when he was hired, leaving a below-average farm system, high payroll, bad contracts and very little quality starting pitching outside of Wade Miley, an injured Patrick Corbin and top prospect Archie Bradley.

The next general manager and manager of the D’Backs will need to be people who can combine the old-school mentality of Towers with the new-school analytics of Byrnes. They will need to be able to build a consensus and adhere to a three-year plan while developing a blueprint for this team to become a perennial contender.

Change is coming for the D’Backs, and it’s incredibly important that Kendrick and Hall hit a home run with their next moves in order to get the franchise back on track.  


Information used from FanGraphs, Cot’s Baseball Contracts/Baseball Prospectus.

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Elbow Injury Is Terrible News for Arizona Diamondbacks and Patrick Corbin

The season for the Arizona Diamondbacks might be over before it begins with the news, first reported by AZCentral’s Nick Piecoro, that the D’Backs’ young ace Patrick Corbin has a UCL tear in his elbow that might require Tommy John surgery. 

It’s the worst thing that could have happened to the D’Backs this spring outside of an injury to Archie Bradley or Paul Goldschmidt. Losing Corbin effectively takes Arizona out of the NL West picture. 

Piecoro reports that Corbin will likely get a second opinion this week, but more than likely this means Corbin will be heading toward surgery that will likely cost him the entire 2014 and part of the 2015 season as he rehabs from injury. 

The 24-year-old Corbin was one of Arizona’s bright stars last season, turning in a 14-8 record with a 3.41 ERA in 208.1 innings. It was good enough to land Corbin in the All-Star Game last year and allowed Arizona to project a rotation headed by Corbin and top prospect Bradley going into the future.

It’s hard to fault the D’Backs for anything that has happened to Corbin. His innings have increased at a normal pace over the past five seasons. Corbin pitched 144.2 innings in 2010 followed by 160.1 innings in 2011 and a 186.1 innings in 2012. It’s a gradual increase that led to Corbin passing the 200-innings barrier last season. 

The surgery and rehab alone isn’t a guarantee that Corbin will return to form. The D’Backs have to only look at Daniel Hudson‘s recovery from Tommy John surgery to know that nothing is guaranteed. Hudson was an extremely promising young pitcher who underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2012. While making a rehab start in June 2013, Hudson injured the elbow again, causing him to undergo a second Tommy John surgery that month. 

Outside of nine starts made in 2012, the 27-year-old Hudson may effectively lose almost three full seasons in the prime of his career. If the D’Backs are out of contention this summer, it makes very little sense to push Hudson at all in his recovery this season. 

In trying to look at the D’Backs 2014 campaign in a positive light, the hope was that a rotation built around Corbin and Bradley coupled with free agent Bronson Arroyo and the improved performance of veterans Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy would allow the D’Backs to contend for a playoff spot in 2014. 

Instead, the rotation stands in shambles before the season has even started. Arroyo has been dealing with a disk issue in his back for much of the spring, Cahill left Wednesday’s game after having a minor issue with his knee, and now Corbin is potentially lost for the season before even the first game is played. 

Randall Delgado should be the obvious answer to fill Corbin’s shoes. Delgado was a central piece in last winter’s Justin Upton deal, and now the D’Backs will get a chance to fully evaluate him this season. Delgado was 5-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts for Arizona in 2013. 

While it was hard to imagine the D’Backs contending for the NL West or a wild-card spot with Corbin, it is virtually impossible to see this pitching staff replacing Corbin and matching up with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants this season. Arizona simply doesn’t have the starting pitching to match up head-to-head. 

If Corbin has surgery this month, it effectively means he will be coming back next season after a 12-month absence with the hope of impacting the rotation by the middle of next season. That rotation figures to look very different then the one that takes the field this season. 

Unfortunately for the D’Backs, they continue to be snake-bit while attempting to get back into playoff contention. 

Information used from Nick Piecoro/AZCentral, Baseball-ReferenceWikipedia

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Injury Concerns for Bronson Arroyo and the Arizona Diamondbacks

Bronson Arroyo is having trouble with a slightly bulging disk in his back and was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The news first came from MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. 

In the overall scheme of things, it might turn out to be a minor issue. But, right now, it can’t be seen as anything other than a red flag for Arroyo and the 2014 D-backs. 

The 37-year-old Arroyo was signed late in the offseason to a two-year deal worth $23.5 million. Although I liked the signing of Arroyo, it seemed like the D-backs paid well above market value for a player who had few options at that point of the winter. 

Part of the attraction to Arroyo was his durability and the fact that the D-backs wouldn’t have to surrender a draft pick for signing him. The ability to pencil in Arroyo for 200 innings, double-digit wins and the knowledge that he would take the ball every fifth day was a very valuable thing for the D-backs to bank on.

If Arroyo comes to the desert and immediately starts having health issues, then this deal will lead to a lot of questions for D-backs general manager Kevin Towers. Towers doesn’t sound too concerned yet in this article from AZ Central’s Zach Buchanan. There still is time in the spring and Arroyo has a history of overcoming injuries and illness as Towers points out. 

Towers had to bring in a veteran arm like Arroyo due to the inconsistency and struggles of Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill. The D-backs are giving both pitchers plenty of opportunity to gain spots in the starting rotation this spring, but have no idea what to expect from either. The early returns show that McCarthy has been very good while Cahill has continued to struggle. Both pitchers will need to give the D-backs more this year. 

Which is why the signing of Arroyo was so important for Arizona. He has been nothing but consistent in his major league career, giving the D-backs some stability in the rotation to go along with young lefties Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley. Arroyo also allows the D-backs to take their time with talented prospect Archie Bradley, although he has been very impressive this spring. 

But, a bulging-disk issue for a 37-year-old starting pitcher has to be a concern, especially when Arroyo just passed a team-administered physical in order to be signed. Which means that this injury, even if it is minor, is something that has come about since Arroyo signed with Arizona.

Arroyo will be shut down for seven to 10 days in order to give his back time to heal. Arroyo was already behind the rest of the pitching staff after signing right before the D-Backs reported for spring training. This might raise the question of his ability to be on the 2014 Opening Day roster.

This delay could allow the D-backs to take it very easy with Arroyo. By having him start the season on the disabled list, it would allow the D-backs to target the first week of April without having Arroyo rush back to meet an arbitrary deadline. The team could also get Bradley’s feet wet at the major league level. 

If the D-backs are to contend for a playoff spot this year, they will need Arroyo to be healthy and in the starting rotation. 


Information used from Steve Gilbert/MLB.com, Baseball-Reference, Zach Buchanan/AZ Central,

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Report: Arizona Diamondbacks Acquire Mark Trumbo Amid More Questions

The Arizona Diamondbacks finally acquired the slugger that the team coveted, completing a deal for Mark Trumbo, a rumor that Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal had first reported yesterday.

The completed deal for Trumbo involves the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago White Sox. It was first reported and then confirmed as complete by The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro. ESPN’s Keith Law was the first to report the D’Backs talks with the Angels had expanded to include a third team.

The D’Backs gave up a lot to make the deal happen. Tyler Skaggs was supposed to be a key component of the D’Backs rotation moving forward but hit a bump last year in his road to the major leagues. Instead of giving newly installed pitching guru Dave Duncan an opportunity to work with the 22-year-old lefty this spring, the team included him as part of the package for Trumbo.

The other part of the team’s package was traded to the White Sox in the form of Adam Eaton. It has to raise eyebrows that the organization soured so quickly on Eaton after making him sound like he was the spark-plug that the team had been missing going into last spring training. Only an injury kept Eaton from making he big club out of spring training, something that was lamented as part of the D’Backs struggles last season. Eaton struggled in his 250 at-bats last season, posting only a .314 OBP, but has shown great ability in the minors to get on base.

Getting back Trumbo will provide the D’Backs with home runs, runs batted in and a young, cost-controlled player. But, the D’Backs will be playing him out of position in the outfield where he has struggled in his career. Arizona has also traded much of their depth for a 27-year-old player with a .299 career OBP and a player who has shown that he might be the second coming of Mark Reynolds. The power will be there, but can Trumbo develop into a better hitter?

Now, two more young players have been dealt, continuing an alarming trend where the D’Backs seem to be displaying very little patience with struggling prospects, but they seem to continually give the benefit of the doubt to veterans like Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and Miguel Montero. Arizona has already dealt lefty prospect David Holmberg last week in order to facilitate moving Heath Bell and his contract out of town. MLB‘s Steve Gilbert reports that the D’Backs will be getting two prospects back in the deal.

Skaggs and Holmberg can be added to pitching prospects Jarrod Parker and Trevor Bauer as players the organization has given up on very quickly and dealt. The D’Backs seem to be struggling to develop young pitchers to be ready at the major league level immediately.

Top prospect Archie Bradley will have a tremendous amount of pressure on him to reverse this trend with the franchise. Bradley will need to be good from the start in order to live up to the hype and expectations that are likely to be added to him. It’s a tough spot to put the young hurler in.    

D’Backs general manager Kevin Towers clearly looks to be operating like a man trying to save his job while living up to his gunslinger reputation as someone who is constantly looking to make trades. This trade feels forced, like something that you do when you want to show that you are doing something. While having an open-minded general manager is good, having one that continues to display very little patience might not be the best thing for the long-term continuity of the franchise.

Trumbo might help the D’Backs in the immediate short-term, but it will likely be a minor improvement. The question now becomes: Will Towers be around long enough to see the deal payoff?

Information used from Ken Rosenthal/Fox Sports, Nick Piecoro/Arizona Republic, Nick Piecoro/Arizona Republic, Keith Law/ESPN, Baseball Reference, Steve Gilbert/MLB.com


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Arizona Diamondbacks Should Avoid Trading for David Price

David Price thinks he has thrown his last pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays, according to a report by Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune, and the early rumors, as discussed by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, have the Arizona Diamondbacks listed as one of the potential suitors for the talented Price.

The thought of acquiring Price is tempting. As good as Price has been in his career and as desperately as the D’Backs need an ace to front the rotation, Arizona should avoid any trade for Price this winter.

If the D’Backs have shown anything over the past two seasons, it is that they are more than just one player away from serious contention. Last season Arizona finished with an 81-81 record again, leaving the franchise at exactly .500 over the past two seasons. It doesn’t get more average than that.

While the 28-year-old Price is exactly the type of elite starter whom Arizona needs to have at the front of the rotation in order to compete in the NL West, the cost is too steep between prospects and a contract extension. Any trade with the Rays would likely have to start with either top pitching prospect Archie Bradley or promising lefty Patrick Corbin fronting a package of prospects.

Prospects are only just part of the deal, the other piece would be working out an extension with Price before he hits free agency. Price will likely command a deal somewhere between last winter’s deal signed by Zack Greinke and the anticipated monster deal coming to Clayton Kershaw. The D’Backs would have two years of control with Price before he becomes a free agent in 2016 if no new deal is reached.

Are the D’Backs really willing to trade four prospects including Bradley or Corbin and spend roughly $150 million on one player? I would have a hard time justifying that type of move given the need for additional talent that needs to be added throughout the entire roster.

In order to compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers moving forward, the D’Backs will have to use brains instead of brawn to even the playing field.

The Rays are a model of a team competing against teams with far more money to spend. The St. Louis Cardinals are a model of having your franchise produce young, effective pitching. The D’Backs need to be emulating these two teams in order to change the dynamics of the division.

Arizona would need more than Price and Corbin at the front of the rotation. The only other dependable starter was lefty Wade Miley, meaning the rotation would still be a weakness without adding further arms. This is a team that needs to add two strong starters to the rotation and also address the bullpen, outfield and catcher position without subtracting Bradley.

Acquiring Price would be a flashy move that would get the fanbase excited in November. But, if it only leads to the team winning 82 or 83 games next season due to an overall lack of depth and talent, then the move will be viewed as a failure, no matter how well Price might pitch for the D’Backs.

The pressure is on D’Backs general manager Kevin Towers. It will be interesting to see how Towers operates this winter.


Stats and relevant player information obtained from Baseball-Reference.com, unless noted otherwise.


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Will the Arizona Diamondbacks Keep Manager Kirk Gibson?

The Arizona Diamondbacks have been saying all of the right things lately in regards to the end of this disappointing season, but as the last month plays out, I am beginning to wonder if manager Kirk Gibson will be back in 2014.

When recently speaking with Dan Bickley of AZCentral about the state of the D-Backs, majority owner Ken Kendrick mentioned that Gibson was “relatively new as a big-league manager.” It seemed like an odd comment to make about a manager who is currently in his fourth season with the team.

When speaking with Nick Piecoro of AZCentral, general manager Kevin Towers talked about assigning blame to the entire organization, but he said that he wouldn’t discuss changes with Gibson until the end of the season. Towers also mentions that he would like to see the team play with more emotion.

This is where I wonder if the organization might look to make a change. As a player, Gibson was one of the most fiery and emotional players in the league as he very much wore his emotions on his sleeve. As a manager, Gibson has been decidedly more laid back in the dugout, maybe to the point where the players aren’t responding with any urgency.

It’s not that Gibson has done a bad job managing the D-Backs, he hasn’t. It is just that the D-Backs roster that you see right now will likely comprise most of the roster that you will see in 2014 unless Arizona plans on significantly increasing their payroll. Arizona’s payroll this season in $86 million and they already have $80 million committed to 12 players next season.

So if you bring Gibson back with the same roster, how will the D-Backs improve? It is a question that fans and management should be asking themselves right now.

This season has been a struggle for Gibson and the D-Backs this season, especially with the poor performance of the team’s pitching staff, something that team president Derrick Hall acknowledges in this interview on radio station KTAR 620. Former ace Ian Kennedy now pitches for the San Diego Padres, traded at the low point of his value. Starters Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy have been terrible for most of the season. The bullpen has been simply awful. If not for the performance of Patrick Corbin, the D-Backs would have been out of contention very early in this season.

The 56-year-old Gibson is in his fourth season managing Arizona. His resume already includes winning 94 games and the NL West in 2011 and being named manager of the year. In light of the recent PED suspension of Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona’s loss to the Brewers in the 2011 NLDS is a disappointing “what if.” Braun almost single-handedly defeated Arizona in that series.

It is a talent issue with the D-Backs; they simply do not have enough talent to compete for the front of the division without making major changes. It is something that falls directly at the feet of Towers. He constructed this team. He missed on his evaluations. He has tied the team down to bad contracts. Gibson needs more to work with.

Gibson certainly has areas that he will need to improve on next season; constructing a better lineup, holding the players accountable and sitting veteran players when they are not playing well. Next season, Arizona will need to reflect Gibson the player as well as Gibson the manager.

Towers and Gibson will likely be given another season to turn things around in the desert, but they will face an uphill challenge in trying to displace the Los Angeles Dodgers. It will be David versus Goliath for the foreseeable future.

The most likely outcome will be changing the team’s coaching staff, whether it is firing pitching coach Charles Nagy or hitting coach Don Baylor or both. Matt Williams needs to be moved off of coaching third base. Gibson may not agree to go along with those moves, but this situation needs to be watched closely. 

Information used from Baseball Reference.

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Arizona Diamondbacks Adam Eaton Activated from Disabled List

According to Jody Jackson of Fox Sports Arizona, Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Adam Eaton has been activated from the disabled list and will be in the starting lineup tonight versus the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Adam Eaton suffered a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow during spring training and has been on the disabled list ever since. Eaton was set to open up the season as Arizona’s starting center fielder and leadoff man. Tonight he will finally fill that role. It may be three months late, but Eaton will be batting leadoff for Arizona as the starting center fielder when the Diamondbacks take on the Dodgers at Chase Field.

Eaton’s return brings up an interesting situation for the Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson. The roster currently has a logjam in the outfield, with Gerardo Parra, Jason Kubel, Cody Ross and A.J. Pollock all playing significant time this season. Who will be the odd man (or men) out is the question the organization will need to face soon. With only Parra locked in as a starter, one or more of the remaining three may find themselves as trade bait in the very near future.

This is a good problem to have for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been mentioned in many trade rumors as the trade deadline nears. It is believed by many that they may be looking to bolster the pitching staff to help strengthen the team for a playoff run.

Getting Eaton back in the lineup could provide a much needed spark for the offense. Eaton is a max effort player that provides energy for his teammates to feed off of. It will be great for Diamondback fans to see him on the field tonight.

Game Info:

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Arizona Diamondbacks

Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona

9:40 ET

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Starting Pitcher Joe Saunders Will Return to the Arizona Diamondbacks

After several months of speculation leading to the assumption that starting pitcher Joe Saunders and the Arizona Diamondbacks had parted ways, the two sides have agreed on a one-year contract, much to everyone’s surprise.

Under the terms of the unlikely deal, Saunders will earn $6 million for his services in 2012, rejoining a Diamondbacks team that had reshuffled their pitching staff in the wake of what initially appeared to be Saunders’ departure.

Instead, Saunders joins returning cast members Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter, while welcoming Wade Miley and Trevor Bauer from the minor leagues and Trevor Cahill from the Oakland Athletics.

The unlikely reunion of Arizona and Saunders is likely due to both parties’ collective inability to secure greater deals with others than they were able to with one another.

When the Diamondbacks offered Saunders a two-year, $12 million contract in December, he rejected the offer, wishing to explore the free agent market.

Saunders looked from Baltimore to Boston, but was unable to find a team willing to offer him significantly more than two years for $12 million.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks traded prospects Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill and Ryan Cook to the Athletics for starter Cahill and veteran reliever Craig Breslow.

At the time, Cahill was seen as Plan B, the best option to replace Saunders, and join several rookies and prospects in the Diamondbacks starting rotation.

Instead, with Saunders back on the roster in 2012, GM Kevin Towers is hopeful the move will “allow our [prospects] more time in the minor leagues to develop. We don’t think it’s going to be too long before they’re ready, and if there’s an injury we’ve created more depth.”

Now that Saunders is back in town, the Diamondbacks look to come out ahead—Cahill will become their No. 3 or No. 4 starter, and there is plenty of flexibility with Miley, Bauer and other D-Backs prospects.

In the end, both parties will come out as winners.

Saunders, who made $5.5 million in 2011, will still receive a pay raise of $500,000 and will enjoy remaining in Arizona.

For the Diamondbacks, this signing is a best-case scenario: Saunders’ return maintains the gel of the starting rotation, while the club retains Saunders for practically what they offered him in December.

And if Arizona happens to consider a trade at some point in 2012, Saunders’ presence affords the club more flexibility when it comes to starting pitching, whether Saunders is the one traded or not.

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Mariners Introduce Eric Wedge To Skeptical Seattle Fan Base

This week, the Seattle Mariners rebuffed fan demands and shunned fan favorite Bobby Valentine in favor of former Cleveland manager Eric Wedge.    

Perhaps it’s not the end of the world, because the last time the fans had a favorite, it was for the bench-riding, manager-in-waiting Joey Cora of the Chicago White Sox. Not exactly a household name known for multiple pennants, and not someone other teams have jumped to hire, Cora is known more for cute pins on his baseball cap than his management prowess. 

In Seattle, most fans feel they know more about hiring baseball managers than the Mariners‘ team management does.  

Long-suffering Seattle fans have been very patient with their sports teams, but that patience seems to be wearing thin if initial reactions to the hiring of Eric Wedge is any indication.  Most were aghast with worry, with some older fans still gnashing their teeth at the bad-luck loss of the beloved and cherished Lou Piniella nearly a decade ago.  Nobody seemed to be in a mood for parades or celebrations.   

Yes, we all giggled at the press conference yesterday, with all the witty comments made by kiss-up pundits.  

Yes, we patted Chuck and Howard on the back and thanked them for saving baseball in Seattle and their wonderful two decades of stellar leadership.  

Yes, we acknowledged the seven years of Cleveland bliss under Eric Wedge.  

Yes, we heard all of the futuristic comments of what winning will be like. 

But nevertheless, fans clearly are not buying the sales pitch like they have in years past.

Now I gotta admit, neither was I, which is very odd because normally I’m such a positive guy budding with optimism.  When a used car salesman tells me “this car was driven by an old lady to church”  in spite of the clearly tampered-with odometer on the dented 1973 Dodge Dart, I celebrate!   

When Bill Clinton said he “did not have sexual relations with that woman” and that he used the cigar for smoking and not for—well, you know—I believed Bubba. 

When George W said the “Mission was Accomplished” and the troops would soon be home soon and the world was saved from unsavory terrorists with WMDs, I believed that too! 

When Obama promised the new health care bill would cover everyone in this country and possibly others for “not a dime more than we’re now spending,” I was so very happy!    

Why? Because I am an optimist. That’s just how I am. I believe what most people tell me.

But with this new managerial change for the Mariners, like most fans, I’m finding myself just a tad bit skeptical.   Perhaps it’s because I’ve heard this so many times before? 

Half a dozen times since Lou, we Seattle fans have been told the same thing: that the losing days of old are gone, that the culture will be changed, that this is the guy who will lead us out of the wilderness and into the promised land of milk and honey and World Series rings.

Yesterday, the mystified Mariner management seemed dumbfounded over public skepticism. “Why would they not trust us, we of incredible baseball wisdom long since demonstrated?” And as radio hosts and newspaper columnists danced on tables and were downright giddy over the Eric Wedge hiring, we fans…not so much. There was a muted suspicion of being conned once again, with most fans saying they would wait to pop the corks until they saw what this guy actually did. No, they were not pronouncing judgment of impending doom, but they weren’t caught up in yesterday’s hoopla either.  

Now why would fans be skeptical?  Well, let’s take a look at the press conferences of the last seven managers hired and you might see a pattern:

On November 16, 2002, the Mariners hired 41-year-old Bob Melvin, saying “We think we’ve got a real gem in Bob, as you’ll all learn when you get to know and respect him. He’s going to bring us a winning team and a championship.” 

The local press speculated that Melvin was more even-tempered than the fiery Piniella. Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln said, “He brings to this position not only baseball expertise but high energy, good judgment, intelligence, leadership and communication skills.” Others noted that since he was a catcher and was so much younger than Lou, he would communicate better with the players.  

Less than two years later they fired him.

On October 20, 2004, the Mariners announced the signing of Mike Hargrove, who had led the Cleveland Indians past the Mariners in the 1995 ALCS. 

Mariner management said, “We went for an impact manager, one who can have immediate success on the field.” Others wrote that Hargrove “is saltier, a more savvy figure than Melvin, more along the lines of Lou Piniella, who will be the gold standard for all subsequent Mariners managers.” Still others penned, “As with Piniella, he sees season-long clubhouse management as his top priority.” 

Turns out Hargrove shared one other trait with Piniella.  He was burned out, tired of managing, and thus drove out of town in a red pickup during an eight-game winning streak on July 1, 2007.

Hargrove was succeeded by 55-year-old John McLaren, who the Mariners were again very optimistic about.   Upon accepting the job, McLaren said, “I am really looking forward to the challenge of taking over this club and continuing to build on what Mike has established here. When I came back I said I wanted to be a part of taking this team to the postseason, and back to what our fans expect and deserve. That’s still the case. My focus, and the focus of every one of my coaches is to help these players achieve what they are capable of, and that’s getting this team back to the postseason.”

McLaren had managed in the Toronto minor league system for eight years prior to working as a major league coach. He made his managerial debut with Medicine Hat in the Pioneer League in 1978. He guided Kinston to the first half title in 1981 and managed Southern League Championship clubs in 1984 and 1985. He was named Co-Manager of the Year in the Southern League in 1985. 

But on June 19, 2008, he too was fired by the Seattle Mariners, replaced by Jim Riggleman. 

What did the Mariners say about Riggleman when he got the job? “Jim’s going to bring what we think is a different style than Mac had.  Just the depth and breadth of his experience and how he presents himself.  We’re happy to have Jim!” Others in the community wrote, “He’s a pretty standard-issue manager. It’ll be a huge improvement in terms of consistent lineups and bullpen usage.”  

But apparently experienced standard-issue managers were also not what the Mariners wanted, and he too was fired at the end of the same season, replaced by then 45-year-old and relative unknown Don Wakamatsu.

Wak had no major league experience as a manager.   He had spent five years as a bench coach and third-base coach in Texas, then one year as bench coach for the A’s before Seattle called.  He had never managed above Double-A prior to the Mariners hiring him.  In fact, none of the six candidates interviewed by the Mariners had big league experience as managers.

Nevertheless, pundits exclaimed how Wakamatsu was the first Asian-American manager in major league history, and how he was the first significant hire in the new era of new general manager Jack Zduriencik. The New York Times wrote a special article celebrating how his family had overcome unjust internment during World War II and noted his heritage.

Wakamatsu himself said, “I welcome the challenge here to bring a world championship to Seattle and the fans of the Mariners” and added that “communication and leadership will be key and this will carry over to the team.”

Observers, mostly quite pleased with the hire, noted that the Mariners had a league-worst offense in 2008 and that Wak “had a daunting task to reverse the culture and performance of a team that last season became the first to lose 100 games with a $100 million payroll.” 

In his first year as Mariners manager, the team put up 85 victories, of which a MLB season-high 35 were one-run triumphs, as well as 13 walk-off wins.   Everyone was optimistic and giddy. 

During the spring of this past year, general manager Jack Zduriencik gushed about his own confidence in the Mariners’ clubhouse culture.  “Don Wakamatsu lets players be themselves, and the veteran Ken Griffey Jr. keeps teammates loose with biting humor and nearly nonstop commentary on everything that crosses his line of vision.”

Don Wakamatsu was fired this past August 9th because of the clubhouse culture.  This month team philosophy apparently reversed once again, and now is focused only on experienced managers with a depth of big league experience, according to the same yet unhired Joey Cora.   The Seattle Mariners have settled on Eric Wedge in spite of wailing from the fans yearning for the four decades of experience offered by Bobby Valentine.

Yesterday at the press conference, questions were fired off by hundreds by writers and TV personalities, all skippy and happy (or at least putting on a good act). Optimism was flowing. We the fans are told we should jump for joy over this wonderful new hire for the Seattle Mariners. Things will change. You’ll see. This time it will be different!

Yes, and perhaps that flat-white, dented Dodge Dart did actually only have 10,000 miles on it.

But with a league-worst offense and a spotty pitching staff, surrounded by bad-attitude underperforming free agents with multi-year contracts, this team again looks to be in trouble, and no manager is going to change that without serious help from the front office.   Like years past, and it probably wasn’t a manager issue in the first place.  

Perhaps the team is cursed by a field built over an ancient burial site? 

Whatever the problem is with baseball in this city, I wouldn’t bet your house on the Seattle Mariners going to the World Series with Eric Wedge at the helm.  And I’m sorry if that sounds negative and pessimistic, but we’ve been down this road six times since Lou.


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