At least internally, the Arizona Diamondbacks entered the 2016 season with playoff aspirations.
Coming off a 79-win 2015, the free agent addition of Zack Greinke and the big trade to land Shelby Miller were moves designed to get the team back to the postseason for the first time since 2011, and from there, if things bounced the right way, perhaps win a playoff series or two, as well.
Yeah, about that…
Entering play Thursday the D-backs are 12-17, and while they are just three games out of first in the NL West, their five-game losing streak as well as their 5-12 mark at Chase Field have some wondering if this might end up being another losing season.
Given the preseason expectations and money spent on the roster, an idea that if things do not turn around soon, manager Chip Hale’s job might be in jeopardy.
“There has no been conversation whatsoever within the organization about that,” D-backs president Derrick Hall told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday. “We are in support of Chip and his coaching staff.
“As tough as our record was, for us to have been where we were — just a half-game back after that first month — that’s wonderful.”
Hall cited the fact that the team is as close to the top of the division as it is even with this recent losing as a positive.
“It’s remarkable that the whole division hasn’t run away from us, but the fact is they have not,” he said. “And so now we have to win this game tonight and then we go to Atlanta, then we go into Colorado and hopefully pay them back a little bit, in a ballpark that we play well in, and it’s turned around.”
Indeed, a trip to Atlanta to face the MLB-worst Braves would seem to be just what the doctor ordered for the scuffling D-backs, though the Rockies have already taken five of six games between the teams this season. A sweep in either series, or at least a pair of series wins, would go a long way toward restoring a bit of order and perhaps righting Arizona’s ship.
However, what if the team continues to struggle even against some less-than-stellar opponents? If the season continues to spiral downward, the heat on Hale — perceived or legitimate — would only intensify.
But is he even responsible?
The skipper is in his second season with the team and was praised for his work last season, but thus far few of the buttons he has pressed seem to be working. The starting rotation has continued to struggle, the bullpen is inconsistent and the offense comes and goes.
“I wouldn’t put any focus or blame on Chip,” Hall added. “Everybody’s scratching their heads, they’re all working hard.
“We’re all in this together when it comes to Tony (La Russa), and [Dave Stewart] and Chip — this is all of us trying to figure this out, and we will. We’ve provided the talent — there’s a very talented team — not everybody is pulling their weight yet, but they will. And I think they’re not because they’re pressing too hard.”
So if Hale’s job is safe, what about other people within the organization? Changes are often made with struggling teams, if not to make things better than to give the impression that everything that can be done is. Sometimes that means a person loses their job, but that could also mean a player is benched or demoted to the minor leagues, or even a trade is made.
Hall, though, said ownership is not at the point where it wants to make a move just for the sake of making a move and shaking this up.
“The great thing about our ownership, and Ken (Kendrick) in particular, is he really allows everybody to do their jobs,” he said. “Since I’ve known him, I’ve never know him to pick up the phone and call me and say, ‘Hey, tell them to shake it up,’ so that’s not something you have to worry about here.”
Hall went on to say it’s been strange how the D-backs have played poorly thus far, but there is a confidence players such as Greinke, Miller and Paul Goldschmidt will get things together and be the players everyone was expecting them to be.
“It’s obviously true that we miss A.J. (Pollock) right now, but there’s a lot of guys that are contributing, and when it all clicks it’s going to be beautiful,” he said. “You could see (David) Peralta starting to hit the ball; (Brandon) Drury has been hitting the ball all along; we need (Jean) Segura back in that lineup, and that may happen tonight.
“There’s great depth in this organization, so I think one thing we have to question is what’s the right mix? Because everything was working in Spring Training. Do we have guys right now at Triple-A and Double-A who really contributed well in spring, and maybe that blend might work a little better? That I don’t know, that’s a question that we can ask our baseball staff. But they have the confidence in the 25 guys that are here now and they’ve had to shake it up a little bit — you talk about shake it up — with pitching, because we’ve needed fresh arms.”
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