Is It Time For a Clark Bar?

Today the Arizona Diamondbacks announced that they had completed a trade with the San Diego Padres that will bring first baseman Tony Clark back to Arizona in exchange for minor league pitcher Evan Scribner. This is an interesting transaction on many levels. Clark became a free agent after the 2007 season and all indications made it seem probable that he would resign with Arizona. Clark’s agent though thought the Diamondbacks were undervaluing his client and suggested to Tony that he wait before signing. That wait ended up costing Clark as the Diamondbacks moved on and after the Jose Valverde trade that brought Chris Burke to the desert there was no room for Clark and the offer was rescinded. Subsequently Clark signed a one-year contract with NL West rival San Diego.

A lot was made of the loss of Tony Clark. Although his production had decreased during his tenure with Arizona, he was credited with being a calming force in the clubhouse. He was almost a player coach to the young Diamondbacks who helped them to understand how to go about preparing for a game and the long grueling season. With his loss, everyone assumed that the clubhouse leadership would falter and the Diamondbacks would take a step backwards. The quick start in April had everyone forgetting that prediction and it seemed as though Josh Byrnes had made the right move despite Chris Burke struggling mightily. With the swoon of May, June, and now half of July there was more and more conversations about how much the team missed its clubhouse leader. The Diamondbacks front office decided perhaps they were wrong and initiated a trade with the Padres to bring Clark back.

Tony’s return brings with it some interesting questions. When the year started first baseman Conor Jackson changed his number from 16 to 34. When asked why he made that change Conor explained that he did so to honor his former teammate Tony Clark. Now that Clark is back does that mean that Conor Jackson will relinquish his number and go back to 16? When Tony was here before he occupied the corner locker in the clubhouse normally reserved for the team leader. That locker has now been taken over by Orlando Hudson. Will he now move in deference to Clark or will the lockers remain the same?

Even though there have not been a lot of roster moves; a lot of things have changed since Tony was with the ballclub. It will be akin to returning home after going to college. Although you are still technically part of the family, it just doesn’t feel the same. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Hopefully Clark will return to the form he had during his earlier stint with the Diamondbacks and provide them with some switch-hitting power off the bench and also give them a defensive replacement for late in the game at first base. Still I am not sure this is the answer to the Diamondbacks problems. They still have their starting first baseman playing left field. They have a below-average third baseman playing first and they have the league leader in errors who is also in the top-5 in strikeouts playing third. The team also has a rather large leak in the bullpen who has shown a tendency to blow late leads. It is hard to imagine all of these woes are a result of a lack of leadership in the clubhouse but hopefully I am wrong.

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