We Need a Break

Never has a team needed a break from baseball as much as the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks. During the month of July the Diamondbacks have only been able to secure a win once in the past 8 days. You cannot just point to one area where the team is struggling. It appears to be something different each night. When Arizona gets good pitching from the starters then the offense struggles and gives them no run support. When the bats come alive and the Diamondbacks score runs then their defense falters and they give up costly errors. When the defense is stellar then the relievers come in and give up late inning runs. On this road trip nothing seemed to go as planned. To his credit Bob Melvin tried shaking up the line-up, adjust days of rest for pitchers and position players, and modify everyone’s routine just to see if that might light a spark. None of these had the kind of effect that the organization was looking for. Now the team has the next 4 days off to try and regroup and see if they can find the keys to the success they enjoyed earlier in the season.

The year began well for the Diamondbacks when they started with a 16-11 record. Included in this record were two 6-game winning streaks that gave the young players a little confidence. May saw the Diamondbacks continue their winning ways with a 16-12 record despite a 5-game losing streak. There was a lot of positive energy as the team was 9 games over .500 after a third of a season. While the weather heated up during June the Diamondbacks cooled off but only slightly posting a record of 14-13. Being over .500 for this month was definitely an accomplishment considering the Diamondbacks would face some of their toughest opponents including the New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers. These teams represented the strongest teams in baseball and the Diamondbacks were able to amass a record of only 4-9 so there is plenty of work that still needs to be done. Looking at the final road trip before the All-Star break the hopes were high that the Diamondbacks could beat up on some weaker teams. That did not materialize as the road trip ended with a 2-8 record against teams that have struggled so far this season including being swept by the team with the worst record in the National League. Perhaps it is the inconsistency of youth; maybe it is the grind of a full major league season which for some is their first full season. Regardless of the reason, the Diamondbacks front office has their work cut out for them as they assess the performances of the first half of the season and devise a plan for the second half. With the trade deadline only a couple of weeks after the All-Star break it will be interesting to see how things play out. Despite the poor showing during this road trip the Diamondbacks still find themselves in third place only 3.5 games behind the division leaders. It would only take a short string of victories to catapult them back a top the National League West or at worst in contention for the wild card where they currently trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by two games and are tied with the Atlanta Braves whom they face in the latter half of July.

It is by no means time to panic. The roster and players have the talent to compete in this division. The team has remained relatively healthy and should have injured starter Randy Johnson back hopefully before month end. Hopefully outfielder Carlos Quentin will find his stroke at the Triple-A level and return to the Major League level and give the team a needed power boost. Maybe 4 days away from baseball for most of these players will be all that it takes to re-energize them and get ready for a second half push.

Today was the beginning of the All-Star festivities as they played the Futures game at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The Arizona Diamondbacks had two representatives at this game. Outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Upton were invited to play. Gonzalez played for the World team while Upton saw action for the USA team. Upton continued to show why he was the number one pick in the draft two years ago when he hit a monster home run to give the USA squad their first run of the game. Both of these players show a lot of promise and are going to make it difficult on the Diamondbacks as they try to plan for the future. With a fairly young outfield already in place the decisions will be painful to try and determine who will be a part of this franchise in the future and which players will be transitory pieces to bridge the gap to the next generation of baseball stars. After watching Upton and Gonzalez today and given Quentin’s potential if he can put the pieces together I can see an outfield of Upton, Young, and Gonzalez from left to right with Quentin being the fourth outfielder off the bench. This means fan favorite and current team leader Eric Byrnes could be gone along with Scott Hairston, Jeff DaVanon, and Jeff Salazar. Personally I am glad I don’t have to make these decisions.

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