June 15, 2007
Over the last few years the Arizona Diamondbacks have begun to reap the benefits of building a strong farm system. Their amateur drafts have been receiving accolades as they selected the best available athlete regardless of sign-ability concerns. As these young ball players have matured it became evident that they were ready for the next step in proving that they could play at the major league level. This left the Diamondbacks in a situation where they had to decide if they would remain committed to a veteran ball club or go with a youth movement and allow the youngsters to earn their way in the Major Leagues. The Diamondbacks choose the latter and executed a plan whereby they would become one of the youngest teams in the National League West. This decision did not come without some angst. It would mean that the team would have to part ways with some of its more popular players. The epitome of this example was when the Arizona Diamondbacks met with long-time outfielder and fan favorite Luis Gonzalez. Gonzalez expected to discuss whether the team planned to pick up his option and if not they could begin discussions of contract parameters for a new deal. Instead the team came to the meeting to express their gratitude for his service but it would not be needed after the 2006 season. While the decision was warranted and the team handled it in a very professional manner it did not go over well with the fans who felt betrayed that their favorite player was being shown the door. I believe the team made the right decision in this case as Gonzo’s skills had begun to deteriorate and the young outfielders in Tucson had nothing else to prove at the minor league level. This whole experience made me begin to think about when do you give up on a player who may be past his prime?