One of the benefits in playing in a smallish media market is when you’re bad nobody tends to pay much attention, unless you completely implode in spectacular fashion. That’s about the only silver lining I could come up for the Arizona Diamonbacks’ disastrous 5-18 start to the season that is likely going to cost either GM Kevin Towers or manager Kirk Gibson his job. Before you start arguing, yes, Phoenix is the sixth-largest city in America but even so the Diamondbacks have become one of the more anonymous teams in all of sports ever since Randy Johnson packed up his purple & teal cap and mullet to become a photographer (and cool dad).
The D’backs lost Tuesday night to the lowly Cubs, falling eight games behind the Dodgers in the National League West. Right now Arizona is bad and looks on the verge of cracking completely, although in a fashion that isn’t exactly New York tabloid back page fodder, nor “lovable”.
Fox Sports Jon Paul Morosi talked to Arizona veterans Brandon McCarthy and Eric Chavez following Tuesday night’s loss and it doesn’t sound like morale is going to improve any time soon inside the locker room. These quotes from Chavez are fairly damning:
“I’ve never seen anything like it, to be honest with you,” Chavez said. “I’ve been on teams that weren’t very good, but at least I felt like we were competitive. So, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.”
“I can feel it in here tonight. It’s something I haven’t felt before. It’s getting tougher. It really is.”
2014 Arizona Diamondbacks baseball — come for the pool, stay for the veteran soul-searching!!!
On the field, the D’backs problems are relatively straightforward, the starting pitching is historically awful. Starters Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Bronson Arroyo, and McCarthy, along with Randall Delgado and Josh Collmenter have combined for an ERA of 7.46 as of Wednesday morning, which is the fourth-highest starting pitcher ERA for the first month of the season since 1914. (Stat via @nickpiecoro.) Sure this number might be lower if assumed ace Patrick Corbin wasn’t out for the season, but he can only pitch once every five days when healthy.
Arizona also dealt starter Tyler Skaggs, off to a promising start with the Angels, and Adam Eaton (now with the White Sox) to land Mark Trumbo during the Winter Meetings. It’s too early to judge the trade (especially with all the parts involved) and Trumbo does lead the National League with seven home runs, but it’ll likely be scrutinized by Diamondbacks fans for the next couple of years if Skaggs and or Eaton develop.
Unless things turn around quickly in Arizona — judging by Chavez’s quotes it sounds like the team is already ready to throw in the towel — Towers and Gibson are probably done. Towers, at least, should probably be canned by owner Ken Kendrick regardless.
Remember last October when Towers complained on Arizona radio that his team wasn’t tough enough and should have employed an “eye for an eye” mentality when opponents threw inside on Paul Goldschmidt? It’s an odd assessment from a team that supposedly valued qualities such as “grit” in assessing players and was part of the justification for trading away Justin Upton. Sure the D’backs got into that brawl with the Dodgers last year, but it didn’t exactly help them in the standings, did it?
Meanwhile this week the Arizona Republic’s Dan Bickley conducted a long interview with Kendrick, who bemoaned the team’s lack of data-driven analysis under Towers compared to previous GM Josh Byrnes.
Add it up and it looks like the Diamondbacks have assembled a team that:
- Isn’t “tough” enough.
- Can’t pitch.
- Is failing to use data to its advantage.
- Has run out of answers or things to say in team meetings.
On the plus side, a guy dressed in a Neptune costume has ensured opposing teams haven’t violated the sanctity of the Chase Field pool in 2014. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.
Non-snarky postscript, Arizona rallied for five runs in the ninth to beat the Cubs on Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary. Sounds like a marker for a change in the narrative script, right?