After all the drama yesterday I was really hoping for a nice and quiet day. I survived a day without Diamondbacks baseball and I even managed not to get myself killed so that’s a good thing. The San Diego Padres make their 2008 debut at Chase Field tonight in a continuation of NL West Month for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Padres are always tough. Their pitching staff is amazing and I am always worried that a game with San Diego will result in a no-hitter and not necessarily for the good guys. My heart was warmed when the Padres locked up with the Colorado Rockies for a 22-inning marathon that ended with the Rockies winning. The only think that tempered my joy was the fact that it was the “great Troy Tulowitzki” who won the game. That’s like applauding global warming because it helps you get a great tan. At some point global warming and the “great Troy Tulowitzki” will cause all life on the planet to become extinct unless we do something about it. After a day without baseball even the “great Troy Tulowitzki” could not dampen my spirits. Before you think everything is perfect, there is one subject that we probably need to broach.
I have hesitated bringing this up. I kept telling myself it is a long season and that you really can’t put a lot of credence on the statistics of just a couple of weeks. I understand some players start out very hot while others don’t heat up until the weather starts to get a little warmer. I’ve been to every home game this season so far and I have noticed a trend in 2008 that makes me very worried. If this trend continues it may very well stand in the way of this team being competitive over the course of an entire season. I’m talking of course about the Circle K Condiment Races. Last season I brought up my concerns in particular around Ketchup. I took a lot of grief about my views. I was told that my analysis was dubious and some even questioned whether I had a personal vendetta against Ketchup. I knew that just my opinion alone would not be enough, I needed hard data. During the off-season I worked long and hard to gather details around the various condiments to see if I could somehow find statistics that would show the skill deterioration of condiments who are playing beyond their prime. I went to Baseball Reference to see if I could find historical data about previous major league condiments. Strangely enough that web site does not have information about prior generations of condiments. I sent email to Bill James and other noted Sabermatricians to see if perhaps they could shed light on what we could expect from Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish for the 2008 season. My inquiries went largely ignored except for the one “Please quit bothering us!” email I received. It looked like I was going to be on my own if I wanted any resolution. Last season Relish staked himself to a sizable lead before falling back to earth towards the end of the season allowing Mustard to get back into the contest. Ketchup was never a factor although he did make a late summer run he finished well back in the standings. Oddly enough the Diamondbacks chose not to bring up Onion at all during 2007. In 2006 Onion made 3 surprise starts and in each one he was victorious. I am not sure what to make of the Onion slight. Rumors are that management is not as high on Onion as they once were. I can personally say that the times I have seen General Manager Josh Byrnes that he seems to be ok with Onion. Maybe there are others in the organization that have soured on this once promising condiment. I have heard rumors that Onion was now being represented by agent Scott Boras so perhaps there have been demands made that the Diamondbacks are not comfortable with. Looking over the Spring Training roster and the non-roster invitees I did not see Onion even listed. It is as if he didn’t even exist. Rather than dwell on the “lost condiment”, let me focus on those that are on the roster. Relish and Mustard have once again locked up in a heated battle for condiment supremacy. Each of them has won three races to date making it a dead heat. What I find most interesting is how the victories have come. The three races where Relish has won have been by a fairly good margin showing that he came to Spring Training ready to defend his title. Mustard on the other hand has won one race by a significant amount but the other two victories came as a result of poor base running decisions by Relish. In those two cases Relish was leading coming in to home but began his slide prematurely allowing Mustard to slip in. We could very easily be talking about an insurmountable 5-1 lead by Relish if he had paid more attention to base running drills during the spring. Relish has been so domination over the past two seasons that there has begun to be a contingent of fans who are calling for stepped up drug testing of the condiments. This was bound to happen. With the distrust of the fans as a result of so many being implicated for using performance enhancing substances; many will question whether a condiment is earning the victories by themselves or if they have been chemically helped. I think it is important to recognize that when the Mitchell Report was released late last year no condiments were mentioned within the report. I read it cover to cover and could not find anything about Ketchup, Mustard, or Relish. Now that Jose Canseco’s books are in the clearance bin at Barnes & Noble I plan on picking those up too just to see if he mentions injecting any condiments during his steroids binge. I think at this point we just have to recognize that Relish is on a hot roll and looks to remain that way. What is even more disconcerting to me though is the complete lack of competitiveness of Ketchup. He has been a non-issue through the first six games of the season. I questioned why he was with the team last year so to see him still trying to complete and fail this year is very frustrating. He was such a great condiment; it is hard to watch him this season. I had to wonder whether there was something else that was factoring into the Ketchup slowdown. It has been bothering me the latter half of the 2007 season and so far in all of 2008. Then yesterday I had an epiphany. I sat listening to Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada as he first told a reporter that he was 32 years old while he was listed in the Astros media guide as being 31. The reporter countered with a Dominican Republic birth certificate showing that Tejada was actually 33. I began to wonder, has anyone checked Ketchup’s birth certificate? Perhaps he misled team officials and the fans and is actually much older than he had previously stated. I think we have all experienced what happens to a condiment if they are left in the refrigerator too long. That would be a valid explanation to what we are seeing. The deterioration of skills, the lack of competitive desire, the inability to finish; these are all the classic signs of age taking over. I challenge the Arizona Diamondbacks to work with the Commissioner’s office and condiment representatives to establish accurate freshness dates for these condiments. I think the fans deserve to see their favorite condiment but only if they are playing within the rules. If a condiment is not being honest they should be uncovered and there must needs be an investigation and if warranted a suspension. We must bring integrity back to the condiment races to restore confidence back with the fans. I encourage all baseball fans everywhere to contact the commissioner’s office and request a task force begin investigations into these allegations. Baseball needs to understand they have a problem. We can’t just turn a blind eye to corrupt condiment races. It is not good for baseball and it is not good for the condiments. You can bet I’ll be watching the condiment races closely to make sure things are on the up-and-up.