The Diamondbacks Win a Tony

A year ago shortly after the 2007 season ended there were questions whether the Arizona Diamondbacks would retain the services of first baseman and clubhouse sage Tony Clark. All signs pointed to him returning for the 2008 season. There was an offer rumored to be on the table and Clark was contemplating whether to accept it. In the meantime the Diamondbacks went about their business and pulled off a couple of blockbuster trades with the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros. It was the Astros trade that had the most impact. When Arizona sent Jose Valverde to Houston it received closer Chad Qualls but also received Chris Burke. Burke was a utility player and on paper appeared to be equivalent in job function to what Tony Clark offered. The contract to Tony Clark was pulled from the table and Tony ended up signing a one-year deal with the San Diego Padres.

By mid-season it was clear that Chris Burke had fallen out of grace with the Diamondbacks front office and before the trade deadline Arizona made a rare in-division trade with the Padres reuniting Tony Clark with his Diamondbacks teammates. Clark saw limited action on the field but did have a few meaningful at-bats during his tenure last year. When the 2008 season ended Clark once again found himself a free agent. Both Arizona and Clark wanted to make a deal that would keep Tony in a Diamondbacks jersey.

This was especially important this season since Arizona was already losing clubhouse leader Orlando Hudson. With such a young group of core players it was important that they have a strong member in the clubhouse that could help mentor these young players so that they learn to play the game the way it should be played.

Today’s announcement that Clark had resigned probably did not come as a surprise. I for one welcomed this news. I’ve been a little nervous about the leadership and character of this team. I was around for the 2004 debacle when the “baby backs” invaded then Bank One Ballpark thinking they were bigger than the game. There was a lot of grumbling during that season. Part of it was a result of being in the process of losing 111 games but part of it was a lack of strong clubhouse leadership. I have no doubts that Clark will not allow history to repeat itself. He is like having an additional coach and will be especially helpful to the bench players as he mentors them in how to approach pinch hitting. This may be the last year we see Tony Clark as a player and his statistics may not be the same as we have seen in years past but a player’s value cannot always be measured by his statistics. When Tony finally decides his playing days are behind him I can see him being offered an opportunity to begin a coaching career within the Diamondbacks organization. His knowledge, temperament, and willingness to teach would make him a natural for helping young players as they begin their professional careers.

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