Thinking About the Future

Almost as soon as the Arizona Diamondbacks had clinched a play-off spot people began talking about how the team was ahead of schedule with the development of their young players and that this would be the first of many years when the Diamondbacks would be competing for a spot to represent the National League in the World Series. Even I have been guilty of looking blissfully into the future imagining a run similar to that of the Atlanta Braves where the Diamondbacks make the play-offs every season and expectations are similar to those of the New York Yankees where anything less than a World Championship would be considered a failure for the season. But now that I have had an opportunity to stop and reflect upon this season I am starting to question the wisdom in looking too far into the future.

Every year we hear players and managers stating that the Major League Baseball season is not a race as much as it is a death march. Over the course of 162 games a lot of things can happen some expected but most quite unexpectedly. Just like 2007 proved, a team such as the Arizona Diamondbacks can defy the odds where they are outscored and yet still can emerge with the best record in the National League.

Just because a team has success one season that does not necessarily equate to continued success in years to come even if the core of players remain the same from year to year. Take this season for example. The Diamondbacks had the youngest roster in the Major Leagues. There was not a lot of information available about how these young Diamondbacks players would react in a Major League situation. As a result they were able to sometimes take advantage of that and squeak by winning a lot of close games. This is a tribute to Arizona but also points to the fact that the Diamondbacks’ opponents might not have been as prepared as they would have liked given the lack of information available to them.

Everyone points to next season and how the team can build upon the success they had this year. Playing devil’s advocate I would say that the experience everyone is applauding will also work against the Diamondbacks. Next season this team will not be able to sneak up on their opponent as much as they did this year. Other teams in the National League Western Division will be gunning for the Diamondbacks who will enter 2008 as the National League Western Champion. And while the team will return the majority of their young roster they will potentially lose some important parts from the current players. Starter Livan Hernandez will be a free-agent and it doesn’t appear that he will be brought back. The Diamondbacks will still have a log jam in the outfield and at the corner infield positions. Next season they will possibly have 6 players vying for 3 outfield positions. Eric Byrnes and Chris Young will return to play left and center. That will leave Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Quentin, Justin Upton, and Jeff Salazar to battle for right field or potentially a spot on the bench. Likewise the Diamondbacks have similar problems in the infield with Chad Tracy, Mark Reynolds, Conor Jackson, and potential free-agent Tony Clark all wanting to be considered a starter for a corner infield position. In addition you have 4 potential players wanting a piece of second base playing time. Orlando Hudson will return hopefully healed from his surgery and will be joined by replacement Augie Ojeda, Alberto Callaspo, and speedster Emilio Bonifacio. A lot went right for the Diamondbacks in 2007. The question becomes will things continue to go right or will this team fall back and settle into the middle of the pack of a very competitive National League Western Division? Only time and luck will tell for sure.

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