Yesterday marked the end of the second home stand of the 2007 season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. As I previously promised I will try to provide a synopsis of each home stand. This will act as my own personal barometer of how the stadium, team, and season are going. Before we begin let me again reiterate the standard warning/disclaimer that the views expressed in this blog are my own personal views and do not represent the views of any factual person living or dead. Based on normal driving conditions your mileage may vary. Any rebroadcast of these thoughts and views without the express written consent of Major League Baseball and the Arizona Diamondbacks is ok because if you read this paragraph carefully you would have seen that these views don’t represent anyone’s thoughts but my own. See I knew you guys were not paying attention! Without further delay let me present the State of the Fan address for the home stand ending April 29.
The second home stand of the 2007 season was a brief six game set against National League Western Divisional rivals. It began with the San Diego Padres coming to town for three games. The Diamondbacks had just finished a brutal road trip that saw the Diamondbacks lose 4 of 5 including a sweep by the San Francisco Giants. With a young team these streaks should be anticipated. Many of the Diamondbacks players have limited Major League experience and hence may have been pressing a bit more than they should.
The home stand began with Randy Johnson returning as a starting pitcher after a 2 year absence. The game featured one of the oldest left-handed match-up in MLB history as Johnson faced off against the Padres David Wells. The Diamondbacks hitters posted a lead for the Big Unit but that quickly evaporated. Johnson struggled as the game went on and it ultimately cost him in his last inning when he allowed 4 runs in the fifth inning. While many fans immediately wanted to condemn the Johnson trade due to this one outing; I came away impressed. For much of the game Randy had spot on location and good movement of both his fast ball and his breaking ball. When he began to tire the ball stayed up in the zone and fairly flat which is when hitters had their way. Considering that this was his first outing after off-season surgery I don’t know how much we should have expected. The Diamondbacks lost that game bringing the losing streak to 5 games.
The second game of the series looked much like the first. The Diamondbacks hitters were frustrated for most of the game. Jake Peavy tied a franchise record striking out 16 including 9 in a row. It was brutal to watch and I heard lots of negative comments in the stands about the make-up of this team. Its funny how quickly the fans turned when faced with a little adversity. Maybe we’re becoming a baseball town since the fans are starting to sound like Yankees fans (quick to boo with a short span of attention). Once the Diamondbacks got the starting pitchers out of the games, they had much greater success. Wednesday’s game was especially gratifying as Stephen Drew broke out of his mini-slump and hammered a home run for a walk-off win against Trevor Hoffman. Given the excitement surrounding home plate you would have thought the Diamondbacks had won another world championship. This may give us a glimpse that this team could be rather streaky all season. Everyone always says to maintain an even keel and never get too high or too low since the season is a marathon. That’s easy to say when you aren’t in the middle of a 5 game losing streak. This victory had a tremendous impact on this young team. They took that victory and never looked back beating the Padres in the series final before welcoming a hot San Francisco Giants club who had won 8 straight.
The Giants along with the anti-hero Barry Bonds arrived in town as the hottest team in the National League. Their winning streak had begun when they swept the Diamondbacks. Arizona had other plans in mind. The bats that had been quiet during the losing streak came to life and the Diamondbacks rode strong pitching performances to beat the Giants in three straight games. The contests were not without drama as Barry Bonds continued to make the Diamondbacks pay for pitching mistakes. He added to his home run total while at Chase Field but instead of cheers he was met mostly with boos every time he entered the field of play or touched the ball. Fans in Arizona don’t seem to appreciate Bonds and his pursuit of Hank Aaron’s record. It seems that the closer he gets to the record the more animosity there is towards him. I hope for his sake that he breaks the record in San Francisco as that appears to be the only place that may appreciate his accomplishment.
As the home stand closed the Diamondbacks were in the midst of a 5 game winning streak heading to Los Angeles for a brief 3 game road trip against the division leading Dodgers. The hitters and pitchers seem to be gaining more confidence which could be a frightening thing as the season moves on.
Work continues at the ballpark. The Diamondbacks have added several new signs to the concession stands making it easier to see who is who. Attendance continues to be a problem with most of the games drawing crowds that fill less than half of the stadium. I think 2007 is going to be a challenge as many casual fans appear to be taking a wait and see attitude about this team. The overall fan experience at the ballpark continues to be more favorable. There are still areas of concern. The team shop in particular needs some work on their customer service. They are still inconsistent on how they determine what merchandise receives the season ticket discount and which is exempt. It was especially disheartening when Trina attempted to buy Dakota’s birthday present there and was charged twice for personalization on a jersey (at full cost) and the woman working with her gave the attitude that it was really quite an inconvenience to have to get someone to reverse the charges. I am hoping that this type of attitude becomes more of an exception as the season progresses.