The Arizona Diamondbacks generously granted SI access to their
war room at the Arizona Civic Center in Phoenix on Nov. 18 as
the expansion draft was being conducted in a ballroom down the
hall. Here is a look behind the scenes on the day a team was
1:05 p.m. Buck Showalter, Arizona's manager and the key decision
maker on personnel, sits at a square table next to general
manager Joe Garagiola Jr. and draft coordinator Ralph Nelson,
who will keep a tally of salaries on his laptop. "That's the
cash register," says owner Jerry Colangelo, who is also at the
table. Eighteen members of the Diamondbacks' scouting, field and
medical staffs are sitting elsewhere in the room.
Arizona has already agreed to a deal that will bring third
baseman Travis Fryman from the Detroit Tigers if the
Diamondbacks can draft third basemen Gabe Alvarez from the San
Diego Padres and Joe Randa from the Pittsburgh Pirates and send
them--along with one of five other players Detroit has
requested--to the Tigers. But the Cleveland Indians are offering
their third baseman, Matt Williams, and with an hour to go
before the draft, the front-office execs are pondering their
1:20 p.m. Actor Billy Crystal, a part owner of the Diamondbacks,
enters the room, announcing himself as "a 49-year-old Jewish
second baseman who can only go to his left. Does anybody need
me?" Showalter invites Crystal, a Yankees fan, to talk about the
New York players on the board. Crystal scans the names of the
players who are available and then exclaims in mock surprise,
"Hey, there's not one guy named Goldberg here!"
December 1, 1997
2:08 p.m. Tampa Bay has the first pick, and owner Vince Naimoli
announces Florida Marlins pitcher Tony Saunders as the Devil
Rays' selection. Arizona, which holds the next two picks, will
choose pitchers Brian Anderson of the Cleveland Indians and Jeff
Suppan of the Boston Red Sox, but in what order? "There's a
certain responsibility with being our first pick," Showalter
says. He takes Anderson No. 1 because he has more experience and
pitched in the World Series.
2:34 p.m. After Tampa Bay picks Colorado Rockies outfielder
Quinton McCracken and the Diamondbacks take Alvarez as the first
step in the Fryman deal, Showalter and his staff have their
first nervous moment. They want White Sox catcher Jorge
Fabregas, a four-year veteran who bats lefthanded, speaks
Spanish and English and is solid defensively. They can only hope
the Devil Rays don't take him with the next pick. As interim
commissioner Bud Selig announces, "From the Houston Astros...,"
the room fills with cheers. Tampa Bay takes Houston outfielder
Bobby Abreu and later trades him to the Philadelphia Phillies
for shortstop Kevin Stocker. Arizona snatches Fabregas.
2:44 p.m. The Devil Rays select Chicago Cubs second baseman
Miguel Cairo. The Diamondbacks cannot believe their good
fortune: Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Karim Garcia is still
available. Team president Rich Dozer is particularly happy
because Garcia is from Mexico, a market Arizona wants to appeal
to. "Don't do it because of me," Dozer says. "Take the best
player." Showalter makes the call: Garcia is too good to let
2:50 p.m. The Diamondbacks want pitcher Omar Daal from Toronto
with their next pick. But Tampa Bay quashes that hope by taking
Blue Jays outfielder Rich Butler. (Each team can lose only one
player per round.) Arizona takes Texas Rangers second baseman
2:58 p.m. The Diamondbacks pick New York Mets pitcher Cory
Lidle, who happens to be in town to watch a friend in the
Arizona Fall League and is watching the draft on a large-screen
television in a public square outside the Civic Center. Before
the second round starts, Lidle will be inside the Arizona war
room advising Showalter on the remaining unprotected Mets.
3:50 p.m. Five clubs still have not lost a player in the first
round. Addressing the television, Showalter says, "Take Seattle,
take Seattle." The Devil Rays take Mariners shortstop Andy
Sheets, enabling Showalter to grab the player he really covets,
Minnesota Twins outfielder Brent Brede.
3:55 p.m. Three teams remain on the board, with the Diamondbacks
hoping to use their last pick on Oakland A's infielder Tony
Batista. "Worst-case scenario: If they take Oakland, where are
we going?" Showalter says. The question is moot. Tampa Bay
drafts Anaheim pitcher Dennis Springer, a 32-year-old
knuckleballer not even on Arizona's wish list. The Diamondbacks
4:20 p.m. Cleveland general manager John Hart and his assistant,
Dan O'Dowd, enter the room between rounds to try again on the
Williams deal. Their conversation with Garagiola continues for
an hour and moves to an adjacent room after the second round
5:20 p.m. Arizona had promised to select Cincinnati pitcher
Scott Winchester with a second-round pick and then return him to
the Reds to settle an earlier trade for pitcher Felix Rodriguez.
But Showalter cannot believe that Houston reliever Tom Martin is
still available. He selects Martin, gambling that the Devil Rays
won't ruin the Cincinnati deal by picking Winchester. As it
turns out, Tampa Bay has to satisfy a trade of its own, with San
Diego; the Devil Rays use their first pick of the second round
on Yankees pitcher Brian Boehringer, whom they ship to the Padres.
Garagiola is getting nervous. "Winchester now?" he asks. Not
yet. Daal, the fourth-highest-rated starting pitcher on the
Diamondbacks' list, is still available. Showalter grabs him.
After Tampa Bay takes Florida outfielder Mike Duvall, Garagiola
asks again, "Cincinnati?" Someone else says, "We've rolled the
dice enough." Showalter agrees and takes Winchester.
5:35 p.m. After checking again with Hart, Garagiola reenters the
war room, quietly says, "Indians," and executes an imaginary
slash across his throat with his index finger.
5:50 p.m. Arizona stuns the Milwaukee Brewers by taking
22-year-old shortstop Danny Klassen, an exceptional hitting
prospect who was made less attractive by his 50 errors at Double
A El Paso. Showalter and Arizona's director of player
development, Mel Didier, happened to be seated near an injured
El Paso pitcher when they watched Klassen play last season. When
they asked the pitcher about the field conditions, he said the
infield was the worst he had ever seen. After the game Showalter
and Didier walked around the infield. "Mel, that guy's right,"
Showalter said, kicking rocks and clods of dirt. "Mark this guy
down for half as many errors as he has. We're going to draft
him." (After the draft a Devil Rays scout tells Showalter, "We
were going to take Klassen with our next pick.")
6:06 p.m. The Diamondbacks' acquisition board is still blank in
centerfield. Garagiola, knowing Florida is dumping players, has
an idea: Trade a draft pick for the Marlins' Devon White if
Florida will agree to pay $1.5 million to $2 million of White's
$3.4 million salary in '98, the last year of his contract.
Colangelo likes the idea, and Garagiola immediately leaves to
make the proposal. He is back eight minutes later. The Marlins
have agreed to the deal and after the second round will give
Arizona the names of two players, either of whom will satisfy
6:30 p.m. Showalter is so torn about whether to take Minnesota
catcher Damian Miller or Kansas City Royals reliever Hector
Carrasco that he slams down his pen in a rare show of emotion.
He decides on Miller because he needs a righthanded bat to
6:36 p.m. To the Diamondbacks' delight, they are able to snatch
Carrasco with their next pick.
6:37 p.m. Kansas City calls, asking what it can do to get
6:50 p.m. Arizona is poised to take Mets outfield prospect
Carlos Mendoza with their penultimate pick of the second round,
but Tampa Bay grabs him. Showalter smacks his hands together in
7:40 p.m. The lists of pulled-back players are handed to
Showalter. He's relieved to see that Randa's name does not
appear on Pittsburgh's list, clinching the Fryman trade.
8:13 p.m. The Diamondbacks draft Dodgers pitching prospect Jesus
Martinez, Florida's top choice to complete the trade for White.
A Phoenix-area resident, White is across the street at America
West Arena watching a game between the Minnesota Timberwolves
and the Suns, who are also owned by Colangelo. An Arizona team
official approaches him with a cap and a jersey with his name on
it. "Are you teasing me?" White says. The trade is announced at
the arena, with White shown on the video board. The crowd gives
him a standing ovation.
9:00 p.m. Showalter uses the Diamondbacks' last pick on Toronto
pitcher Marty Janzen, about whom other clubs will call the next
day. Nelson relays the pick to senior vice president Roland
Hemond, who is in the draft ballroom officially handing over the
team's selections. As soon as Nelson hangs up, the room erupts
into applause. Showalter, who in the previous seven hours has
left the room only during two between-rounds intermissions, is
still wearing a jacket and tie. He hugs Garagiola as Nelson's
computer spits out the tab for this party: a payroll of about
CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT
When Showalter (left) and the Arizona brass were finished with
all their wheeling, dealing and drafting, the Diamondbacks were
left with this probable Opening Day lineup.
CF DEVON WHITE
SS JAY BELL
3B TRAVIS FRYMAN
1B TRAVIS LEE
RF KARIM GARCIA
LF YAMIL BENITEZ
C JORGE FABREGAS
2B TONY BATISTA
P BRIAN ANDERSON
CLOSER HECTOR CARRASCO