I’ll admit, I’m an optimist. The world can be crumbling down around me but I always try to find the humor and the positive side of things. I think it is just my way to try and cope with the stress that this world seems to put on each of our shoulders. It also helps to remind me that things could always be worse at least in my imagination.
There have been times where it has been a challenge to stay positive. The 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks season immediately jumps to mind. There were stretches during that long, long, long season that I had to dig deep to find the silver lining that was a 111-game loss storm. But even then there was Randy Johnson’s perfect game, the opportunity that a lot of young players from the Triple-A squad made their Major League debut, and the 2005 number one overall draft pick that netted the Arizona Diamondbacks Justin Upton.
We’ll just ignore the fact that Upton was traded before reaching his prime due to his lack of True Grit. By the way, I think what Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson meant by that was Justin Upton had not seen the movie True Grit and had no idea that Glen Campbell could act or that the Academy Awards would actually recognize John Wayne for his amazing portrayal of a one-eyed marshal. Or maybe Justin suggested that Jeff Bridges made a better Rooster Cogburn than John Wayne. That alone would be grounds for dismissal and I say that as a Jeff Bridges fan but I digress.
The 2014 Diamondbacks season was another of those where optimism was harder to find than the remains of a pigeon after a Randy Johnson fastball. Each time you would try to grasp onto something positive it would immediately become a negative. The Diamondbacks crush the immortal Clayton Kershaw at Chase Field only to see them get demolished by the Dodgers for the remainder of the season.
In the end the two positives to come out of last season was, at least the team didn’t lose 100 games. They tried really hard but they couldn’t even accomplish that. The second positive was for the second time in franchise history the Diamondbacks will have the first overall draft choice in the 2015 amateur draft.
In May 2014 the Diamondbacks hired Hall of Fame Manager Tony La Russa as President of Baseball Operations. He took the remainder of the season evaluating the various levels of the organization’s baseball operations department. As the off-season began, the Diamondbacks found themselves at a crossroads. They fired manager Kirk Gibson and general manager Kevin Towers. Scouting Director Ray Montgomery left the team to join the Atlanta Braves. There would be wholesale changes to the front office.
La Russa hired former player Dave Stewart as the new General Manager and added former Dodgers Director of Player Development De Jon Watson as Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations. Deric Ladnier who most recently was an assistant to Washington Nationals GM and former Diamondbacks Director of Scouting Mike Rizzo replaced Montgomery.
Arizona was more active in the off-season than many people anticipated. They really had no choice. The fan base would have revolted if the team had stood pat following a 98-loss season. Looking over the moves it’s hard to tell if the 2015 Diamondbacks are going to be vastly improved over last year’s version.
There is optimism in the power potential of Yasmany Tomas but that has to be tempered by the fact that he has not faced Major League pitching and he is being asked to play third base, which is not his natural position.
The pitching staff looks like it may be improved from last year but Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo will not be back until mid-season and newly acquired Jeremy Hellickson is coming off a down year with the Tampa Bay Rays. Even if the pitching staff is much improved, who will they be throwing to? Long-time Diamondback Miguel Montero is now in Chicago and Arizona will open camp with Tuffy Gosewisch as the starter with Rule-5 catcher Oscar Hernandez as his back-up. Hernandez has never played above A-ball so making the leap to the major leagues may be a stretch.
With Spring Training less than a month away I find this team with more questions than answers making even the optimist in me nervous. I’d love to be filled with glowing superlatives about how this team has all the makings of a sleeper who could sneak up on teams and challenge for a wild-card spot. As of right now I am just hoping they have enough weapons and luck to overtake the Colorado Rockies and move up the standings.
I guess on the positive side, we have 162-games to get to know this team and even bad baseball is better than no baseball at all.