Another New Era Begins?

With every passing game the 2009 Arizona Diamondbacks season is beginning to look more and more like the dreaded 2004 season where the team lost 111 games. It began with a long list of injuries followed by a freefall in the standings which led to a firing of a manager then a complete dismantling of the roster. This was the year of the “Baby Backs” when the Diamondbacks threw up the white flag and began calling up young players from their farm system to give them playing time and to fill the roster spots vacated when players went on the disabled list. The clubhouse was in disarray as well with a dichotomy of personalities between the veterans and the rookies. The younger players felt empowered to run the team however they felt since it was clear that the veterans were having little success. The veterans were frustrated with their performance and with the lack of respect that the younger players were showing. After that season many of the young players that were brought up that year were traded away or sent back to the minor leagues with very few of them ever having an impact at the major league level. Likewise many of the veterans left the team frustrated with the way they were treated and the lack of direction they felt this organization had. There were many valuable lessons learned during that disastrous season and I think everyone hoped that would never happen again.


Since that time team ownership has changed and a completely new front office is now in place. Coaches and players have also changed several times and it appeared as though 2004 would be a distant memory with the only bright spot being that the Diamondbacks had the first overall selection in the 2005 amateur draft and were able to select right fielder Justin Upton.

Going into this season there were high expectations. After barely missing the playoffs last year the Diamondbacks had retooled and their young core of players was a year older with more experience under their belt. Then in the first week of the season the Diamondbacks suffered a tremendous loss when staff ace Brandon Webb went on the disabled list with shoulder problems. He was followed by a string of players who likewise were shelved for a period of time including Stephen Drew, Tom Gordon, Tony Clark, Yusmeiro Petit, and now Conor Jackson. The lack of consistency and struggles continued resulting in a change of managers with Bob Melvin being let go and replaced by AJ Hinch who had no previous coaching experience.

Now we are beginning to see an influx of new players coming to the major league roster and with them new expectations that perhaps the young players can make a difference where the current starters have not. In the past day the Diamondbacks have added three players to the roster each of whom are coming up not from Triple-A Reno but from Double-A Mobile. These players have been putting up very good numbers at Double-A and are now going to get their shot at the major leagues. The Diamondbacks are pointing to Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton as examples of players who made an immediate impact from such a leap. No one of course is talking about the struggles that Reynolds and Upton have had or their history of high strikeout totals due in part to a lack of minor league seasoning.

I find it interesting that the Diamondbacks have also brought up two pitchers from Double-A including today’s starting pitcher. In the past Arizona has been nothing if not diligent in protecting their young arms. A prime example of this is Max Scherzer who is on a specific pitch count for every outing to make sure he is not overworked. Now all of a sudden they are pulling up starting pitchers and using them as needed. Is this a sign of desperation? Should we read anything more into this other than that the team needed short term help until players can come back from injury? Only time will tell whether these moves were the catalyst to salvaging a season or just another step in a new beginning when the Diamondbacks make wholesale changes to their roster in an effort to retool and start another new era.


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