I was recently approached by Tom Reese from HotStove.com who asked if I would be interested in a series he was doing. Each week he would ask one question to bloggers who cover a team. We would respond with a four or five sentence response. Tom would consolidate all of the answers and post them to his site.
It is an interesting concept and one I have had a lot of fun with over the past few weeks. The questions are usually thought provoking and make you stop to think. This week’s question was a prime example.
“With less than two weeks remaining until Opening Day, what do you feel is the biggest question facing the Diamondbacks for 2010?”
Having followed the Diamondbacks since their inception, Spring Training is always a roller coaster ride for me. On the one hand I am excited for baseball to finally get restarted. After a long dark winter, any baseball is a thrill.
On the other hand, Spring Training is such an odd experience. It is five weeks of drills, preparation, and exhibition games spread across February and March. Pitchers use the time to work on pitches and gain arm strength. Hitters use the time to get repetitions in and hone in on their timing.
Coaches and front office staff use the time to evaluate players and try to assess where to place each player throughout the minor league system. In none of these scenarios do you hear the words, “be competitive” or “win”. If you questioned most teams they would classify Spring Training as successful if all players were injury free by the time Opening Day arrived.
This is an odd situation for fans. For 162 games we sit and root for our teams praying for a win and lamenting every loss. From April to October we live and breath baseball and our emotions track closely to the wins and losses columns.
So to ask what the biggest question would be for a team is a little unfair. The fans are outsiders looking into the window of the candy store. They see the popular bars of chocolate in the distance, but there really is no way for us to tell if the insides of the colorful packages contain the perfect candy or if it is hollow and disappointing after the first few bites.
Regardless, I felt obligated to weigh in on this subject and did so with the most obvious answer. After the disastrous 2009 season where starting pitcher Brandon Webb pitched just four innings all year, the biggest question has to be whether he will be able to rebound and come back from surgery to solidify the starting rotation.
If the answer to that is no, this looks to be another long season in the desert. The addition of Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy was to add depth to the starting pitching but neither of them has exactly been overpowering this spring.
Again, we must remind ourselves that Spring Training is not about wins, losses, or earned run averages. That being said it is hard to get excited when your team gives up 24 runs to the Kansas City Royals.
It has gotten to the point where I am becoming a lot more religious as Opening Day approaches. I now find myself desperately reaching out to any and all deities begging them for help with the Diamondbacks' pitchers.
Even if my prayers are somehow answered and the Diamondbacks not only find an adequate fifth starter, but also someone who can step into the number two or number three spot until Webb can return, I’m still lying awake at night worrying about this team.
For the past three years there have been question marks surrounding the offense. As Mark Reynolds, Justin Upton, Chris Young, and Stephen Drew mature, there are hopes that they will become an offensive force to be reckoned with.
Instead of blooming into great hitters, we are seeing players who have shown some power but have a tendency to strike out a lot. The Diamondbacks regularly place players in the top five in strikeouts in the National League, led of course by Mark Reynolds who whiffs at an alarming rate.
Each year we are told not to worry about the strikeouts and how it is going to be better. Then of course we sit and watch as the strikeouts mount faster than a Bud Selig comb over. Now we are hearing that strikeouts are just part of the game and it is a trade-off the team is willing to accept.
As Spring Training begins winding down, I find myself with more questions than answers. This is supposed to be the time when we are most excited about the upcoming season and how this may be the year they go all the way. Instead I’m sitting in the stands wondering exactly what I should expect starting April 5th.