When the D-Backs made this signing, I thought it was a terrible idea for a few reasons:
Reason One: We finally had cleared our roster of overpaid and old players—Finley, Gonzo, Schilling, and Randy. Then we go and take on a Yankee contract we can't afford, just to get Johnson back!
Reason Two: He was getting paid way too much for the amount that most people expected him to produce. He got HAMMERED in New York and just looked over the hill and in his last years in the Bronx. Yes, he was playing injured most of 2006—I'll give you that. But is that really someone you want to sign? A 43-year-old pitcher who was playing hurt most of the prior season?
He came back to the Valley he loves so much (Randy we love you too and thanks for being the best pitcher we will EVER see here in the PHX) He started out pretty bad—13 ERs in his first 18 IP, 6.50 ERA-and boy, was I pissed. I was saying things like, "I knew this was a huge mistake and we still owe him around $30 million over the next two years!"
He then came STORMING back and pitched very well over his next six starts (8 ERs in 36 IP, 2.00 ERA). Then he got hurt in his next start and missed the rest of the year.
Around the same time, the D-Backs also lost their starting third baseman and one of their top hitters: Chad Tracy. Tracy is a fantastic defender (although hr does have a weak arm for a third baseman), hits for average, and is a consistent double and RBI man. The man can hit and field, and is a veteran leader for the young D-Backs.
So we lost our No. 2 pitcher and one of our five most important fielders/hitters. In addition, three of our best four prospects— Stephen Drew, Carlos Quentin, and Alberto Callaspo—upon whose shoulders rested the burden on their shoulders for last year’s success, had worse than imaginable seasons offensively.
Quentin just couldn’t lay off a pitch all year (.213 BA, .299 OBP). Stephen bat .229 after hitting .315 the year before, and had an OBP of .306—as a No. 2 hitter. He had a ton of great at-bats but they just didn't produce hits.
Orlando Hudson WAS having a career year. He is by far the best defender the Diamondbacks have ever had—and that is a statement with Steve Finley in CF for a few years. O-Dog was on pace for career highs in BA, HRs, 2Bs, 3Bs, RBI, Walks, SBs, AVG, OBP, and OPS—before getting injured sliding head first into third base and tearing a ligament in his thumb; and has season ending surgery.
We had two rookie SPs in the rotation after Randy went down to injury. We platooned players at 1B, 2B, 3B, RF, and C all year long.
And after all that, so many great things came to fruition last year. Eric Byrnes had the best year of his career. He had 45 SBs (up from 25 the year before) and went 30 straight attempts without being thrown out—the longest streak in MLB that year. He had career highs in RBI, walks, SBs, BA, hits, runs, OBP, and OPS.
Tony Clark stepped up offensively and defensively, and definitely became the clubhouse leader. All these young guys (15 rookies, eight starters) have looked up to him and Orlando for guidance on how to act, play, and deal with this head game called baseball. He had two walk-off HRs and was clutch all year.
Chris Young had a great chance at being the first rookie ever to have 30 SBs and 30 HRs, falling short by only three bags. Not to mention, Young is a fantastic center fielder by any standards, let alone for a rookie.
Three of Arizona’s starters began 2007 in Double A—the most notable being Mark Reynolds. After starting off the year batting .400 in his first month, the following two months Reynolds hit .150. But he turned it all around and consistently got hits and on base for the rest of the season. So after hitting .150 for two straight months, his BA was still .279, which is incredible.
We had the worst BA of any team in the majors, the worst runs-scored/runs-allowed ratio of any playoff team, the worst ERA for our No. 4 and 5 starters in the MLB playoff hunt, and the worst BA with runners in scoring position of anyone in the chase.
Despite all this turmoil and adversity, the D-Backs are won their division and posted the BEST record in the National League.
If you told ANYONE in April the scenario laid out above would play out over the course of the season, they would have laughed, and said the D-backs are probably going to be one of the 10 worst teams in baseball this year. And I, a huge D-backs supporter, would have HAD to agree.
There seemed be just too much to overcome in order to make the playoffs. But, in this end, this team wins. That's it, they just win games. Orlando Hudson, Eric Byrnes, and Tony Clark have shown these young guys how to win. Unless you have watched them all year you wouldn't know how. They are the example of how very little stats can mean in sports. Sometimes they do paint the right picture...but not every time.
Only the Angles, Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees had a better record than the D-Backs. We swept the Cubs in the first round of the playoffs. And then we ran into the hottest team in baseball—the Rockies—and were swept 4-0.
Colorado proved to have that slight edge on us when it came to desire. Look at the D-Backs’ poor performance in clutch situations at the plate. We had 36 hits in those games, but managed just eight runs in four games—with four of those runs coming in one game.
But the bright lights of the season would not be dimmed so easily. Although Chris Young barely missed his attempt at being the first 30/30 rookie ever, if he can improve on his Avg. and OBP—.237 and .295, respectively—he could have 35/35 this year, no problem. He proved he can be a gold glove in center field as well.
Micah Owings emerged as the best pure-hitting pitcher I have ever seen, by a long shot. Livan Hernandez and Greg Maddux can hit, but Micah can SMASH! In 60 ABs he had 20 hits— seven 2Bs, one 3B, and four HRs. That's amazing: 12 extra-base hits out of 20, with 15 RBI. He’s a pitcher with a .683 slugging percentage—and he was also a rookie.
Our bullpen was fantastic all year long. We had five RPs with an ERA of 3.27 or less. Jose Valverde finished with 47 saves.
Chris Snyder earned the majority role behind the plate by the end of the year. He calls a great game and proved he can hit for power and average.
And last but not least, Webby did his normal thing (3.01 ERA, 236.6 IP, 18 W, 194 K, 4 CG ,3 SHO). Not bad, right? Well he did do something kinda cool: 42 straight IP without giving up a run. No biggie. But he had 3 CG shutouts IN A ROW during that streak. You don't have to pitch every inning to keep that streak going—but he did, for three straight games!
That's unheard of. The fact that Bob Melvin even allowed this is incredible. He easily could have taken Webb out in the seventh in either game. Amazing.