The Arizona Diamondbacks are in last place – 12 ½ games out of first place and 13 games under .500 – and everyone from the owner to the fans want answers.
First though, before we solve the problems – which are many – we have to figure out what the questions are.
So I’ll start this off with some of the major questions that need to be addressed.
First and foremost, who is to blame for this season getting away from the team so quickly?
That answer is simple – everyone!
From the owner to the general manager to the manager to the coaches to the players everyone is to blame. Not one person in particular, but everyone needs to shoulder some of the blame for this season never getting on track.
1) Ken Kendrick is the owner and has the final say on every major contract so he needs to take the blame for ultimately agreeing to pay Eric Byrnes $30 million dollars and having $11 million in wasted money on him this year while still paying $16 million in deferred money from the Jerry Colangelo era. Factor in the $8 million so far wasted on Brandon Webb plus the $2 plus million they wasted on Bobby Howry and this team has a mind boggling $37 million dollars this season going to players who aren’t even playing for them right now.
2) General Manager Josh Byrnes needs to take the blame for an organizational philosophy that has allowed so many players to be rewarded with big contracts after one good year – see Byrnes, Chris Young, Chris Snyder, Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton. In a sport where players are under your control for at least five years a team doesn’t need to throw out big money to players after just one good season – they should have to prove themselves for a few years before earning that right. The current philosophy has given players a sense of entitlement that they shouldn’t have and taken away the hunger and desire they should have at a young age. Not spending money wisely on the bullpen has also been a huge mistake that has cost the team dearly.
3) Manager A.J. Hinch and the coaching staff can easily say that you can only play the hand your dealt. But it is ultimately the responsibility of the manager to win games and of his coaching staff to develop players. Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds are two key pieces for the Diamondbacks and they are not playing well this year. Upton is looking at too many called third strikes, Reynolds has done nothing to cut down on his strikeouts. The Diamondbacks strike out too many times on offense and their pitchers walk too many hitters. Not a good combination. I understand Hinch wants to protect his players but in all honesty enough of the babying of these guys – if they aren’t getting the job done find someone else who will or who will at least give a better effort.
4) The players – ultimately it is their responsibility to play the game the right way, play with heart and passion and get the job done. They have failed miserably and most of the blame needs to fall on them. The bullpen is the worst I have ever seen in my lifetime and the major culprit of a season gone wrong. Too many of them that have taken the mound this year — see Boyer, Rivera, Gutierrez, Valdez, Rosa, Stange and Mulvey — aren’t good enough to pitch in the major leagues. Bottom line, end of story. They just aren’t good enough, so let’s face facts and deal with it accordingly.
Chad Qualls is the worst closer in baseball and the next time he takes the blame for one of his miserable outings will be the first. I’ve never heard a guy make more excuses for failing then Qualls.
Yes, Chad it was a ground ball, but it was hit like a rocket right into left field for a two-run single. It doesn’t matter that you got him to hit it on the ground because he hit it where they weren’t. Stop making excuses and learn a lesson from your new teammate Dontrelle Willis – when you suck just say you suck.
Reynolds is hitting a pathetic .212 but the good news is that he doesn’t lead the major league in strikeouts with his 81. He is second. The bad news is that Upton leads with 83 and fresh off his new contract J-Up is batting a whopping .246.
Conor Jackson is hitting .246 as well and Chris Snyder has become the easiest out on the team with a .205 average and appears to have no approach to any of his at bats.
So yes, each and every one of those players mentioned and a few more need to look themselves in the mirror and take the blame for failing to do their job.
Now the million dollar question – can it be fixed, do changes need to be made, should someone lose their job?
Let’s start with the latter. No the manager shouldn’t be fired. The team didn’t need to fire Bob Melvin last year and they don’t need to fire Hinch this year. Notice I say this year.
Same goes for Byrnes. Clearly we can question the way this team was built. You can’t have six guys in the top 28 in strikeouts in the National League. They don’t have enough contact hitters; they lack gritty players who battle each and every at bat.
It’s too late for this group – too many of them are spoiled from the big contracts at the young age therefore they aren’t tough enough from having had to earn their job each and every year.
So changes need to be made.
I would give Byrnes the opportunity to do an overhaul of the team; despite the current situation he has made some good moves over the years. I would give Hinch a chance to coach the overhauled team, his lack of managerial experience has nothing to do with the team being in last place.
Joe Torre and Bobby Cox could co-manage this team and they still would be in last place. Let’s see how a new look Diamondbacks team performs after the trade deadline. Let’s see how they perform in spring training and let’s see what kind of start they get off to next year. And if for some reason we are in a similar spot again next year at this time, then by all means bring down the hammer.
So this is no time for anyone in management to preach patience – you have lost the right to ask for that.
Moves need to be made to make this team competitive for next season, not 2012. Trades need to be made for players who are either major league ready now or will be next season, not three years from now. Byrnes’ $11 million comes off the books after this season so does Webb’s $8.5 and Howry’s $2 million.
And next year is the last year of paying out what will end up being a whopping 250 million that Colangelo deferred from the good old days. So management please change the roster now and in the off-season and be ready to compete in 2011. And if you aren’t competing next year then start looking for a new job.