With the halfway point of the baseball season mercifully upon us, let's sum up, shall we?
It ain't pretty.
Going into the final series of the D-Backs' miserable first half (tonight through Sunday against the Florida Marlins at Chase Field), the homeboys -- picked by many preseason prognosticators to win the National League West -- are 36-49. Forget their recent "hot" streak against the Rockies and Padres; the Diamondbacks are one of only three teams in the bigs (the Padres and Washington Nationals are the others) with no realistic shot at the playoffs in '09. They're 28th out of 30 in team batting average, next to last (to the rotten Pads) in the National League. They're also next to last (to the execrable Nats) in both the NL and the majors in team fielding percentage. If we were grading on a curve, the D-Backs would even score a failing grade in their purported strength, pitching; they're 20th out of 30 in the majors in team ERA, 11th of 16 in the National League.
The Diamondbacks have lost the services of two of their key players of recent years, Brandon Webb and Conor Jackson, for the foreseeable future.
There've been rumors (largely linked to a quote from a hacked-off Mark Reynolds) that certain D-Back players have been dogging it. Though Reynolds didn't name names, the rumor-mongers filled in the blanks: Chris Young and Felipe Lopez.
There's been widespread speculation about a possible fire sale before the July 31 trading deadline -- of dumping the likes of Lopez, Doug Davis, Jon Garland, and Chad Tracy while the dumping's good, and getting max value out of the properties while there's even a smidge of value to be had. (Though we understand the sentiment, and despite his alleged dogging, this seems something of a disservice to Lopez, who's been one of the team's most consistent players and a surprisingly serviceable replacement for the departed Orlando Hudson.)
On the bright side, the Diamondbacks have A.J. Hinch locked up tighter than a drum through 2012. Dude ain't goin' nowhere. Hinch's running buddy, GM Josh Byrnes, saw to that.
But time and tide wait for no dimwits, and Byrnes, Hinch, and the rest of the star-crossed Diamondbacks crew have little option but to play out the string and hope things don't come even more unstrung.
First stop is the four-day pre-All-Star break home stand versus the Marlins. Ironically, it was slightly more than a year ago, during an ill-fated three-day stretch of May 2008 in Miami, that this franchise's twine really started to untwist. After taking the West in 2007 and ruling the baseball landscape in April 2008 -- leading bullet-headed, bandwagon-jumping radio dweebs Gambo and Ash to talk pennant, in April -- Bob Melvin's D-Backs came out shaky in May against the Mets (dropping two of three at home) and the Cubs (a chilly Windy City sweep). But the Baby Backs truly hit the skids in a three-game sweep by the Marlins May 20 through 22, suffering their first shutout of the season to that point, scoring only three runs in the three games, and setting an anemic slugging precedent that's dogged them more or less consistently to this day. We vividly recall listening to Greg Schulte's call of that 0-4 May 22 debacle on KTAR and thinking to ourselves, "Uh-oh."
That series, and especially the May 22 loss -- Dan Haren pitched six strong and got zero run support; sound familiar? -- set an unfortunate pattern that the franchise has been unable to break out of. Since then, the team's gone 90-110 and established itself as one of the league's laughingstocks (along with those rotten Pads and execrable Nats).
After 87 games of "uh-oh" ball in '09 -- full of bum shoulders, Valley fever victims, $10 million burnouts, no-out strikeouts, dropped pop-ups, booted grounders, imploding eighth innings, doh!-inducing front-office blunders, and bush-league calls by the fresh-from-the-bush manager Hinch -- all that stands between the D-Backs and four golden (if undeserved) nights of R&R during the All-Star break are a quartet of hopelessly meaningless games against those pesky Fish from Florida.
And, hey, we're only halfway to the bitter end.
Scheduled pitching match-ups for the Arizona/Florida series are:
Tonight: The D-Backs' Yusmeiro Petit (0-3, 8.46 ERA) vs. Andrew Miller (3-4, 4.42), 6:40.
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Friday: Dan Haren (8-5, 2.16) vs. Ricky Nolasco (6-6, 5.42), 6:40 p.m.
Saturday: Jon Garland (4-8, 4.80) vs. Sean West (3-3, 4.47), 5:10 p.m.
Sunday: Doug Davis (4-8, 3.13) vs. Josh Johnson (7-2, 2.82), 1:10 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR-AM 620, KSUN-AM 1400 (Spanish). More info: www.dbacks.com.