Arizona Diamondbacks’ rebuild will require change from franchise
The Diamondbacks are among the have-nots in Major League Baseball.
They have not been good since August 2018. They have not been relevant slash riveting since Archie Bradley’s audacious triple in a one-game playoff against the Rockies. They haven’t won their division in over a decade, and in the ensuing 11 years, they have finished a combined 224 and-a-half games out of first place.
They have been spectacularly uncompetitive slash uninteresting.
The Diamondbacks are also swallowing slash wallowing in one spoonful of medicine after another. They are tanking with lipstick, discretion and a manager who can make it sound so sincere and competitive. Internally, they have finally committed to an extensive rebuild, attempting to create the kind of farm system necessary for long-term sustainability in the National League West.
After 24 years of erratic baseball in a doomed, domed stadium in the middle of the inhospitable Sonoran Desert, it is the only plan that makes sense.
But over the weekend, World Series hero Luis Gonzalez threw a wrench into the fog of apathy slash patience settling over our baseball team. Gonzalez said he sees very little urgency from the youthful homegrowns who have inherited souped-up roles on the 2022 Diamondbacks, and that he is clearly not a fan of the implications.
“For me, watching from the outside, I don’t know a lot (of) what’s going on in the clubhouse,” Gonzalez said. “I just don’t see the sense of urgency from a lot of these players. The comfort factor for me … everybody feels really comfortable. There’s not, like, ‘Somebody may take my job behind me.’
“A lot of times when you’re not playing well, you may lose that opportunity, you may lose your job. I just don’t see that sense of urgency from guys.”
It’s easy for casual fans to misinterpret the body language of bad baseball teams. It’s easy to look dispassionate during a hitting slump and impossible to flex when you know you’re overmatched on a baseball field. But Gonzalez is the only Big Four slash major professional championship hero we’ve ever had in this cursed sports town. His opinion matters more than most.
His words are a reminder that total rebuilds don’t always work, even with great civic patience, even when you stockpile elite draft picks and highly rated amateurs for years and years. Look at “The Process” in Philadelphia and how poorly that worked out for the designers. Look at “The Timeline” in Phoenix, where the Suns were once younger than some college basketball teams, where giving starting jobs to the unqualified proved to be a terrible idea.
Keep your fingers crossed if you’re a diehard baseball fan. From their inception in 1998, the Diamondbacks were built on a series of false premises. They erected a cavernous stadium that misjudged the summertime market in Arizona. They learned that peak ticket demand occurs during the Cactus League, when retractable roofs and air conditioning are not required.
Meanwhile, attempts to seize the moment with splashy free-agent acquisitions only revealed the Diamondbacks’ naivete and inexperience. The failed haymakers (Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner) mocked the homegrown stars they refused to pay on their way up (Max Scherzer, Paul Goldschmidt).
To be fair, the Diamondbacks are profoundly better than they were in 2021. They are also miles and miles away from being good. Their only All-Star representative in Los Angeles is an anonymous middle reliever.
They are a franchise that needs a firmer slash frugal path. They need to become league leaders in player development slash homegrown stars slash alternative paths to a championship.
The Diamondbacks are putting in the time and the losses. Let’s hope they’re choosing the right people.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6-10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.