With the new year comes hope along with, for some, change.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are counting on both as they ramp up to the 2014 season which starts in a matter of weeks.
The 2013 version was defined by enough subplots to script a movie. A hot start. A terrible bullpen. A brawl. A pool party. The only consistency was inconsistency, coupled with injuries and overpaid veterans underperforming like the ghost of Russ Ortiz.
So, again, in many ways it was back to the drawing board for Ken Kendrick, Derrick Hall, Kevin Towers, Kirk Gibson and the gang this past winter.
“There is no off-season,” Hall told Sports360AZ.com. “We call it our season without games.”
To some Dbacks’ fans there were plenty of games.
In professional sports there’s a slippery slope between evolving and identity crisis. As the past two winters have proven, it appeared like the latter for Arizona. The more traditional 2012 everyday lineup was replaced by “grinders” with the hope of playing small ball at the plate and better defense between the lines. Both seasons resulted in 81-81 records.
Clearly Paul Goldschmidt needed protection and the lineup more pop heading into the spring but why part ways with more young, cost-controlled players like Adam Eaton who the franchise lauded a year ago for a power bat like Mark Trumbo? So they’re addressing a weakness and essentially adding the same type of offensive production they traded away a year ago in Justin Upton.
Internally, some believed Eaton’s baseball instincts never caught up to his skill. A flare for the dramatic, like diving for uncatchable balls turning singles into triples. Not Gibby’s style. Worse, his stubborn approach never changed. Mistakes weren’t corrected, they were duplicated. One constant with this team is “me guys” don’t stick around long. Eaton, by many accounts, was one. His “act” grew tired and he was shown the door just like J-Up, Trevor Bauer and others who the organization soured on. One played with too much energy, the other two apparently didn’t.
As for young lefty Tyler Skaggs (also shipped out in the deal), a drop in velocity was a big factor coupled with the fact Towers prefers power arms and the realization Skaggs would never turn into the frontline starter many projected when he was acquired from the Angels in the Dan Haren deal.
History has proven Towers isn’t afraid of any move at any time and reports say highly coveted Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka could be wearing Sedona Red this season.
Only time will tell if this talent blend will work, both on the field and in the clubhouse.
For Towers’ and Gibson’s sake, it better.