As baseball fans from around the nation and, indeed, the world, trickle into the Valley of the Sauna for the All-Star festivities, we thought this would be a fine time to shout out a few lists.
We've literally been on hand since the first pitch (by right-hander Andy Benes, March 31, 1998), and have celebrated the highs (see 2001 World Series) and shook our collective heads at the lows (see Byung-Hyun Kim, same event).
Overall, it's been fun -- and the damned stadium is so close to our office!
First, our favorite ten D-Backs, in no particular order (no current team members allowed):
1. ROBBY HAMMOCK--Little catcher with a big heart who squatted for Randy Johnson's perfect game on May 18, 2004. We wrote about him here. Great guy.
2. MIGUEL BATISTA--Journeyman pitcher and aspiring crime novelist who rather would be Elmore Leonard than Roy Halladay. We talked murder more than once.
3. CRAIG COUNSELL--He of the odd stance, the big hits and the old-school approach of getting the most out of his game. Played for ex-ASU coach Pat Murphy at Notre Dame.
4. ORLANDO HUDSON--Until he took the big money and ran, O-Dog brightened Chase Field with his obvious love for the game and, oh yeah, his superior skills.
5. STEVE FINLEY--Underrated for much of his solid career, Fins could really track `em down in center and had tremendous pop from the left side. Epitome of a solid major-leaguer.
6. LUIS GONZALEZ--A nicer guy in the clubhouse you'll never find. Was truly happy to be a big-league ballplayer, and an excellent one at that. Here's hoping he wasn't on PEDs when he hit all those homers in the 2001 championship season, but WTF.
7. AUGIE OJEDA--Ultimate overachiever who played 502 games in the majors, exactly 502 more than most would have predicted. Scrappy utility guy who even pitched an inning for the D-Backs in August 2007--and didn't give up a hit. Gamer.
8. BRANDON WEBB--Best in the business in the mid-2000s until his right shoulder gave out. Un-hittable sinker baffled the best. Sad news a few days ago from the Texas Rangers that his rotator cuff has acted up again, and he's done for the season--maybe for good.
9. MARK GRACE--Classic corner clubhouse rig-up with ashtray, a bunch of beer and a lot of good times. Gracey got that big hit off Mariano Rivera to lead off the fateful ninth inning in Game Seven, for which we'll always be eternally grateful.
10. CASEY DAIGLE--Won just two games for Arizona during his two years here, but the big right-hander came with a bigger bonus--wife Jennie Finch, the world-class (in every way) fastball pitcher who regularly attended games during Casey's otherwise-forgettable stint.