Search

4 Arizona Diamondbacks They have a healthy new attitude, but can their old guys avoid injuries?

March 26, 2001
March 26, 2001

Table of Contents
March 26, 2001

Baseball 2001 Preview

4 Arizona Diamondbacks They have a healthy new attitude, but can their old guys avoid injuries?

To open his first training camp meeting as Arizona's manager,
Bob Brenly strode into the clubhouse carrying The Diamondback
Way, the 100-plus-page opus of former skipper Buck Showalter.
Lest his players get any funny ideas--such as, say, his
endorsement of any of the myriad regulations in Showalter's
tome--Brenly wasted little time with pleasantries. "These were
the rules," he said to the gathering, raising the book in his
hand and, after a moment, letting it fall to the floor with a
resounding thud. A moment of stunned silence followed, as all
eyes shot from the book to Brenly. "I only have two rules," he
continued, pulling from his pocket a cocktail napkin, which he
also let fall to the ground. On it were scrawled these sage
tenets: BE ON TIME and GET IT DONE.

This is an article from the March 26, 2001 issue Original Layout

No, these aren't your daddy's Diamondbacks, a team that since its
1998 debut toiled under the micromanagement of Showalter. His
manual was the organization's philosophical centerpiece,
promulgating everything from the correct way to hit a cutoff man
to the proper way to wear one's socks. But in a clubhouse crowded
with thirtysomethings who grew increasingly tired of their roles
as organization men, Showalter's masterwork became Brenly's prop.
No matter that the Diamondbacks are just two years removed from a
100-win season and a National League West title. With an Opening
Day starting lineup that will likely feature nine players older
than 30, Brenly is less concerned with sartorial minutiae than
with his regulars' health. "When I interviewed for the job,
[owner Jerry Colangelo] asked me what I would do differently,"
says Brenly, who was the team's TV color commentator for their
first three seasons. "I focused on two things: giving the
regulars more days off during the year and limiting the pitch
counts of the starters."

Indeed, Arizona's two best batters last year, outfielders Luis
Gonzalez, 33, and Steve Finley, 36, played 162 and 152 games,
respectively, while Randy Johnson, 37, threw 4,026 pitches, tops
in the majors. That Gonzalez and Finley had stellar years at the
plate and Johnson won his second consecutive Cy Young isn't, to
Brenly, necessarily the point. "I thought the team wore down
last year, and that's something that can be solved," says the
47-year-old Brenly, who played nine years in the majors. "See,
guys like Matt Williams and Randy Johnson and [former Cubs first
baseman and free-agent signee] Mark Grace eliminate the need for
babysitting. They know what they need to do to be ready. They
may be older, but it's not like there's a ticking clock on these
players."

The health of the 35-year-old Williams's feet could go a long way
toward determining Arizona's fate in 2001. After his 35-homer,
142-RBI season in 1999, his totals plunged to 12 and 47 last
season. He'd broken his right foot on the last day of spring
training, and that injury and chronic plantar fasciitis in his
left foot limited him to just 96 games. He was also worn down by
ankylosing spondylitis, a connective-tissue disease characterized
by inflammation of the spine and large joints, resulting in
stiffness and pain. Williams decided to combat the malady without
medication, which he believes could harm his liver and kidneys,
and instead embraced a stretching program and low-fat diet that
he feels will lessen the disease's effects. "The off-season
wasn't fun--a lot of the stretching and deep-tissue massage in the
feet really hurts," he says, "but I feel good."

With Arizona aging, a key to the Diamondbacks' fortunes this year
will be flexibility (be it in Williams's back or on Brenly's
roster). Colangelo procured more of it in the off-season when he
negotiated salary deferments with 10 regulars that lopped nearly
$16 million off the cash-strapped club's $82 million payroll.
Arizona spun the agreements into a springtime feel-good story, an
example of players selflessly giving so that the team could
improve its cash flow.

Maybe so, but the reality remains that numerous Diamondbacks
will be drawing millions in salary long after their productive
years have past. Brenly can only hope that such years don't
begin with this one, for a most crucial directive--STAY
HEALTHY--wasn't to be found on that cocktail napkin.

--J.E.

COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA Despite a more laid-back manager in Brenly, veterans such as Grace, who signed as a free agent, should keep the fire burning in Arizona.COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA SANDERS

[ENEMY LINES]
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Diamondbacks

"Key injuries could change Arizona's whole year. If the
Diamondbacks are in the race in August, they'll have to somehow
survive the dog days with an older team and nothing behind it.
They are very, very thin. Their minor league system is less than
impressive....These guys are on a mission, though. They know
they have one more shot. This is it. They'll have to tear it
down after this year--or sooner if they drop out before
July....Offensively they have speed at the top with Tony Womack
and a great blend of lefties and righties....Mark Grace will
help a lot. In Chicago people would get on him for not providing
power; now he can bat out of the two hole and he doesn't have
to. He'll be perfect there. I expect good things from him this
year.... Reggie Sanders came to camp in great shape. He's coming
off a down year, but he did pick it up at the end. I think he's
ready to produce 25 home runs and 30 to 40 stolen
bases....Erubiel Durazo has been very hot this spring. He could
be in a platoon with Sanders, but his defense in the outfield
has to be a question. They'll listen to trade offers for
him....Matt Williams has looked just O.K. The Diamondbacks must
be holding their breath a little bit. He came into camp in great
shape, but he's just not putting the same swing on the ball that
he did a couple of years ago....A couple of young kids stand
out: Brad Cresse has been impressive behind the plate. This
kid's ready to split time with Damian Miller. He's professional
beyond his years. Outfielder Jack Cust swings the bat well, but
when he makes it in the big leagues, it'll probably be in the AL
because he's not a good defender."

[THE LINEUP]
projected roster with 2000 statistics

2000 record: 85-77 (third in NL West)
Manager: Bob Brenly (first season with Arizona)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

SS Tony Womack L-R 66 .271 7 57 45
1B Mark Grace[1] L 142 .280 11 82 1
LF Luis Gonzalez L-R 48 .311 31 114 2
3B Matt Williams R 111 .275 12 47 1
CF Steve Finley L 81 .280 35 96 12
RF Reggie Sanders[1] R 127 .232 11 37 21
2B Jay Bell R 173 .267 18 68 7
C Damian Miller R 212 .275 10 44 2

BENCH

OF Erubiel Durazo L 248 .265 8 33 1
IF Greg Colbrunn R 261 .313 15 57 0
OF Danny Bautista R 308 .285 11 59 6
C Rod Barajas* (R) R 356 .226 13 75 4
IF Craig Counsell L-R 395 .316 2 11 3

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

LH Randy Johnson 2 19 7 7.1 1.12 2.64
RH Curt Schilling 24 11 12 7.3 1.18 3.81
LH Brian Anderson 45 11 7 6.5 1.24 4.05
RH Todd Stottlemyre 135 9 6 5.3 1.41 4.91
RH Armando Reynoso 191 11 12 5.7 1.35 5.27

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Matt Mantei 40 1 1 17 1.46 4.57
RH Byung-Hyun Kim 116 6 6 14 1.39 4.46
LH Greg Swindell 180 2 6 1 1.20 3.20
RH Mike Morgan 251 5 5 5 1.60 4.87
RH Russ Springer 306 2 4 0 1.56 5.08
LH Jason Jacome[1][2] 351 8 6 0 1.25 3.35
RH Miguel Batista[1][3] 361 2 7 0 1.87 8.54

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 156)
*Triple A stats
[2]Japanese Central League stats
[3]Combined AL and NL stats

"These guys are on a mission. They know they have one more shot.
This is it."