11 March 2010

Everything Counts

Spring ball's never been about the score, but as St Patrick's Day approaches, we note the Dbacks have won a single nine inning exhibition. It's worth mentioning, since manager trainee Hinch suddenly declared everything counts a few weeks back - in an apparent effort to inspire associates, sound leaderish and coyly discount his own farcical dugout debut.

By declaring "everything counts" ten months into the job, can we be forgiven for assuming that less than everything counted before then? Indeed, after Cap'n AJ's "mutineers" brooded and bungled away most of last summer, one might assume nothing counted, beyond making the bosses look bad.

Our flailing franchise went to considerable lengths, tangibly and rhetorically, to distance itself from 2009, ditching three starters - Davis, Scherzer & Garland (late last season) - for Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. They acquired Bob Howry, Aaron Heilman and half a new infield (Kelly Johnson, Adam Laroche). Beyond the overarching hypocrisy of dumping Bob Melvin for resisting an unpracticed "build from within" philosophy, the individual moves have a certain integrity.

The team will hit, by Diamondback standards. Not because the players, aside from Upton, are all that great, but because after five years, Ken Kendrick finally "splurged" on a major league first baseman. That, and Josh Byrnes has artfully aggregated an entire starting eight on the cusps of projected individual primes. Well, Upton's too young and LaRoche ( he of three consecutive 122 ops+ campaigns) is thirty, but it's an impressive mix of demonstrably (if sporadically) accomplished hitters, who are twenty six, twenty seven and twenty eight years old.

These guys' careers might not match the career outputs of Dodger or Rockie counterparts, but baseball is contested in distinct seasons, not careers, and LA tentatively starts three men 35 or older. Furcal is 32. Prudence dictates some declines there. Colorado's not so ancient, but Helton is 36 and Hawpe and Barmes will be 31 by June. The Dodgers and Rockies boast more career talent, but Arizona's positional collection is uniquely poised to peak offensively in 2010.

The countervailing dirt, aside from nagging rotational, defensive and managerial concerns, is that B Webb's not progressing as hoped or expected. Piecoro ominously characterized Brandon's mph as "way down", even after eight bullpen sessions, which at the very least translates to missed starts in April. That wont snuff out Arizona's chances in a weak and declining division, but without a minimum of 100 or so quality innings from Webb, the Diamondbacks as currently constructed should yield too many runs to be a formidable squad.

Everything counts.

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