The San Francisco Giants face the Arizona Diamondbacks to open the season, down in the desert at Chase Field, so I want to provide a sneak preview so you have some idea of what to expect. After last season, in which the Snakes finished with a major-league worst 64-92 win/loss record, one might be best to avoid the cliche about nowhere to go but up.
Instead, as all good things inevitably do, Arizona started at the top and hired Tony La Russa as chief baseball officer at the start of last season.
After monitoring Arizona’s third consecutive losing season, La Russa fired both Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson, and hired Dave Stewart as GM, a guy who once played for him in Oakland. La Russa then hired De Jon Watson as senior vice-president of baseball operations, and Chip Hale, former coach of both the Athletics and New York Mets, as a first-year manager.
In an offseason which saw complete dismantling of both the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, with a retooling that will have an immediate positive impact, it is not surprising that Arizona would do something extreme.
The D-backs may end up with a losing record, but as long as Paul Goldschmidt still plays for them, they are dangerous.
After losing big-time for three seasons, the logic is undoubtedly sound.
The biggest offseason move was the acquisition of Yasmany Tomas, who the team was hoping could fill the third base position, even though he had been primarily a corner outfielder in his native Cuba. Tomas never looked good at third from the very beginning, so that has created its own problems. At last word, Hale had repeated what was said last week, and that is that Tomas could very well start the season in the minor leagues, simply to allow him to get comfortable at whatever spot he is going to occupy, before being recalled to the big club.
He has brought his spring average up to .273, with an on-base percentage of .324. Of his 18 hits in 68 atbats, he has had three doubles, a triple and two home runs, raising his OPS to .763, which is more respectable than his earlier spring numbers, but it still feels as though he will not be on the D-back’s roster when they open up.
September 9, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder Ender Inciarte (5, right) is congratulated by second baseman Chris Owings (16) for hitting a solo home run against the San Francisco Giants during the fourth inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Meanwhile, the outfield consists of A.J. Pollock, David Peralta and Mark Trumbo, with Cody Ross And Ender Inciarte also on hand, with the possibility that Peralta might shift to third if Tomas is sent down. The formidable Paul Goldschmidt is at first base, with Chris Owings being tried at second base, and Nick Ahmed at short. Aaron Hill is also a possibility at third, and so is a kid named Jake Lamb.
The Diamondbacks traded catcher Miguel Montero and his hefty salary to the Cubs, because his numbers just kept going down and they felt they could improve. However, whether or not Tuffy Gosewisch is the answer remains to be seen.
With the news earlier today that Trevor Cahill had been traded to the Atlanta Braves, after having been announced Monday as the team’s number five starter, it would seem that rookie pitcher Archie Bradley has won a spot on the team. Josh Collmenter is the Opening Day starter, with Jeremy Hellickson, Chase Anderson, and Rubby De La Rosa filling out the rest of the rotation.
So things are still settling in Arizona, with final decisions to come this weekend. Though the D-backs have taken huge strides to right the ship, there is much to be done before they are likely to contend. However, with that being said, Tony La Russa is one of the most gifted baseball men in the business, as his lengthy track record in Chicago with the White Sox, in Oakland with the Athletics and St. Louis with the Cardinals, clearly indicates.
Paul Goldschmidt is always tough on the Giants. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The reality is, the Diamondbacks may not have what it takes to achieve a playoff spot, but they are a tough group, especially offensively, and will create a lot of havoc with other teams within their division. The Giants fared well against the Snakes last season, winning twelve and losing seven, but the last six times they played one another, when San Francisco took four of six, Goldschmidt was out of the lineup. Now, he’s back.
The Giants and Diamondbacks play each other tough. Those with long memories will remember Opening Night last year, when the Giants played horrible defense and let the Diamondbacks take a four-run lead, before scoring four themselves in the seventh inning, and eventually taking a lead in the ninth, on Buster Posey’s two-run homer. The final was 9-8, Giants, and prompted Bruce Bochy to turn to bench-coach, Ron Wotus, and say, “Can we just start spring training again?
Well, he got his wish a year later; now we’ll see if it makes a difference.