And So It Ends

After the Diamondbacks made the play-offs in 2007 reaching the National League Championship Series ahead of anyone’s schedule; the expectations for the core of young players rose to the point of the ridiculous. There was talk of years of domination in the division and numerous trips to the play-offs. When the 2008 season started Arizona once again opened up white hot in the month of April and by the end of the month they had established themselves as an elite team in the National League. Over the remainder of the season from May through September the team went into a slow tailspin that culminated in a season ending with the Diamondbacks finishing 3.5 games out of first place. The offense went from extremely hot to extremely cold in what seemed like a matter of days. Just when you began to give up hope the team would rally and put together a ridiculous game that would give you faith and you would catch yourself uttering the words, “this is just the catalyst they need to jump start their season.” The worse the team was playing the more you wanted to believe that statement. Almost always the team would revert back to a consistent lack of offense and the struggles continued.

At the end of the season we were told that the team was hungry and that the young players were now on a mission. For the first time in many of their careers they had faced failure and it wasn’t something they liked. Stories abounded from players, coaches, and the media that told how the Diamondbacks were a team on the rise; one that was looking at the failure of 2008 as an aberration that would not be tolerated. When Spring Training arrived we were told that the rest of the National League better be careful because the Diamondbacks were planning to reign terror upon them to return to the post season. Everyone touted the pitching staff as its strength and added to that was the fact that the young core of players now had a season of experience under their belt and that adjustments had been made to make sure that the events of the final months of last season would not repeat themselves.

A funny thing happened though; the Diamondbacks found themselves with the same problems in Spring Training that they suffered from during the season; namely no consistent offense. Fans and those around baseball began to murmur and openly express concern over this team. The response was that Spring Training didn’t mean anything and that once the season started this team would be a factor in the National League. On Opening Day the Diamondbacks scored 9 runs and it looked as though the team was right; everything would be ok. Arizona then promptly dropped the next two games against the Rockies and began a month that would see them win only 2 series and the longest winning streak they could muster would be two games. We were again assured that the season was still young and it was not time to panic. With all of the home games so early in the season what the players really needed was an extended road trip to clear their heads and get things going in the right direction.

In Milwaukee they started off dropping the first game of the series then taking the next two then losing the finale to maintain their streak of not winning more than two games in a row. From there they went to Los Angeles and were promptly swept by the division leading Dodgers looking flat and lifeless against their rivals. Now riding a 3-game losing streak the Diamondbacks limped into San Diego to face the Padres top two pitchers. In the first game it was the Justin Upton show with Upton providing all of the offense and some strong defense to beat the Padres. With the dominating Dan Haren on the mound today you had to like the Diamondbacks chances of coming away with a win and salvaging a 4-4 road trip. Besides even Justin Upton himself said that perhaps last night would act as a springboard to get the Diamondbacks started offensively.

Early on Upton looked prophetic with the Diamondbacks taking a 2-run lead on Dan Haren’s arm and his bat. But like so many times before the Diamondbacks offense suddenly went very cold and completely stopped functioning. In the end it was the Padres that manufactured a series of hits and walks to win in the 10th inning and sent the Diamondbacks back to Arizona with a 3-5 road trip.

At this point the team looks incapable of stringing together a consistent approach at the plate. Add to this an upswing of errors and missed defensive plays and it is beginning to look a lot like 2004. The rumors are heating up locally and on a national level stating that change is imminent in the Diamondbacks future. It is unclear whether these changes are to the coaching staff or to the roster. Most assume it will be manager Bob Melvin but I’m not so sure. Over the past week the Diamondbacks have quietly made a few roster changes that has freed up at least two spots on the 40-man roster so that the team could either sign a free agent or perhaps bring up one of their rising stars from the minor leagues. I’ve become more convinced as I watch the team daily that the talent is there but the approach is somewhat lacking. These young players do not seem prepared to make the necessary adjustments to be successful. They come up and have initial success but after the opposing team adjusts the Diamondbacks players do not or at least not fast enough. That is more of a player development issue than anything and that’s just not something that gets fixed overnight. So for the foreseeable future it looks as though Diamondbacks fans can expect to see inconsistent results from the team where there will be days that they look like the team that were within 1 series of the World Series and the next day they will look like a set of players that are not quite ready for the major leagues. It’s like two trains speeding towards each other on the same track. You know there is going to be a massive wreck you just can’t seem to pull yourself away and not watch it happen.

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