01 April 2011

The Future Starts Today

Our scarlet battalion takes to Coors Field in a few minutes, proverbially kicking away their 14th season. Opening Day expectations are lower than at any time in team history, which if you think about it, is remarkable for an expansion franchise.

Colangelo won, early and decisively, generating an improbable confidence. But expectations were higher even before that 1999 money push. One reason is we were dumber then. There was no internet baseball analysis in 1998, and little elsewhere to temper the eager hopes of a fledging fan base.

Expectations were even higher six springs ago, following 111 losses, because management acquired big names like Glaus, Shawn Green, Russ Ortiz and Javier Vazquez.  Fans' low water mark of spring confidence was probably 2007, on the heels of three moribund losing seasons.  Yet that turned out improbably well.

This year just feels different.  Longtime cheerleaders are uncharacteristically restrained. Baseball Prospectus projects 86 losses and MLB partner Jim McLennan, predicts 90, candidly conceding he's had "the optimism beaten out of me". 

Part of it is the Giants' resurgence, augmented by young players which was supposed to be our strength. Part of it is the salary dump and uninspiring winter acquisitions. Part is consecutive rock bottom seasons, manifested each May and 25 losses this spring - a modern Cactus League record.

A common thread seems to be a growing and cumulative disenchantment with the direction and competence of this front office.  People, from scouts to fans to pundits, have seen a lot of losing, a lot of unrealized hopes, and have decided this outfit wont win. I cant blame them, but personally, I think it's a little overdone.  A coping mechanism to not get hurt again.

Amit Lal, perhaps the most credible,least affiliated Dbacks' blogger, leans slightly more optimistic.

I agree, not because I harbor much respect for the organization, but because the team on the field has finally lost its innocent expectations. Nobody likes them anymore, and that can be a powerful motivator.  Every starter, except for Mora, is in their prime. And every one of them (except for 23 year old Parra, who had a potentially transformative spring), has a productive MLB season behind them. Pitching will still be a problem, but not necessarily an unmanageable one. The most critical staff balance isnt a rotation's weekly one through five - it's individual game balance between starters and relievers.

These are not great players, but this may be their time. Not to win the division, but to exceed unimaginative expectations.


Russell said...

I think they'll go close to .500 (and I was very pessimistic last year).

Diamondhacks said...

You WERE pessimistic, but I've overlooked that theft of my thunder and uncomfortable bit of accuracy to reinstate your commenting privileges.

(Dont be more accurate than me again!)