Are They Still Engaged?

The Arizona Diamondbacks are clearly having a season that has not met expectations. Prior to the season this team was predicted to battle the Los Angeles Dodgers for the National League West title. Instead they find themselves 17 games back of the Dodgers and scrambling to try and get back to .500.

When a team is this far removed from the post season at this juncture of the season, there can be a tendency for them to just go through the motions without any passion. After a disastrous first half of the season I wondered whether the Diamondbacks would suffer this fate.

As the trade deadline arrived the Diamondbacks embarked on a 10-game, 3-city road trip to the east coast. It would have been easy for the players to slack off knowing that they would be spending the remainder of the season playing to not be in last place in the division. Instead the team played some of their baseball during the New York and Pittsburgh legs of the trip.

The three game series with the Washington Nationals was filled with unrealized dreams and frustrating lapses of concentration. After being swept by the team with the worst record in baseball the Diamondbacks returned home to face the New York Mets.

The first two games of the Mets series looked like the Diamondbacks still had the fire and desire to try and win. Much of this enthusiasm can be attributed to the rookies the Diamondbacks have recently brought up from the minor leagues.

Outfielder Alex Romero and Trent Oeltjen along with infielder Rusty Ryal have infused excitement into the game. They are here to prove they belong and are scrapping to make a name for themselves. This enthusiasm has been contagious and other players have likewise stepped up their games.

To me the true barometer of whether this team is still engaged came during the final game of the Mets series. From the beginning of the game it was clear that both teams were struggling both on the field and with the calls of home plate umpire Mike Everitt.

In the eighth inning the Arizona Diamondbacks sent pitcher Jon Rauch out to hold the Mets after the Diamondbacks had tied the game in the seventh. During the early part of the season I was one of Jon Rauch’s biggest critics. Beginning in May though he began to turn a corner and statistically he has been the most consistent of the relievers since that time.

During the inning Rauch was clearly not getting the calls he wanted at the plate. From my vantage point he had a valid point at being frustrated. I could not tell where Everitt’s strike zone was nor could I find consistency in it.

As a result of extended at bats due to questionable calls; the Mets were able to capitalize and scored two runs to take the lead. To Rauch’s credit he held it together until the inning ended. When the final out was recorded in the eighth; Rauch walked toward home plate rather than to the dugout. He quickly got into Everitt’s face and the two argued with the end result being Rauch was ejected from the game.

Diamondbacks manager AJ Hinch attempted to come between Rauch and Everitt but there are few people that can move the 6 foot 11 inch frame of Jon Rauch including Hinch. As Rauch walked off the field Hinch took up the discussion with the home plate umpire and he too was tossed from the game.

While these arguments did not affect the game and the Diamondbacks would lose by a score of 6-4; it did show to me this team still cares and they are passionate about every game on the schedule.

From a fan’s perspective that is all we can ask; for a team to come out every night and put in their best effort and try to win. Some days they will be successful; other days they won’t but at the end of the year they can at least say they played their hearts out for 162 games and that’s good enough.

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