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1 Arizona Diamondbacks An aging squad insists last year's magic was no last hurrah. They might be right

March 25, 2002
March 25, 2002

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March 25, 2002

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1 Arizona Diamondbacks An aging squad insists last year's magic was no last hurrah. They might be right

It was a simple pop-up drill, but most high school teams could
have run it more efficiently than the World Series champion
Diamondbacks did on this March morning. Balls fell to the grass
like raindrops as infielders and outfielders repeatedly got
their signals crossed, each thinking the other was going to make
the play. "Somebody asked me when I wanted to end it," said
Arizona manager Bob Brenly. "I said, 'How about as soon as we
catch one?'"

This is an article from the March 25, 2002 issue Original Layout

One botched spring training drill isn't exactly a signal that
the D-Backs have a World Series hangover, but opposing teams
need something to pin their hopes on, don't they? The first task
for Arizona will be to not allow the lingering euphoria from its
dramatic Game 7 win over the Yankees to rob the team of its
hunger. "Most of us older guys have been waiting a long time to
be able to call ourselves world champions," says Mark Grace, 37.
"Now that we have the title, it's important to us to live up to
it. We're not going to go out and stink up the joint. Whatever
we do or don't do this year, it won't be because we've relaxed."

With the intensity and intelligence of leaders like Grace and
Curt Schilling, it's unlikely that the D-Backs will have any
trouble keeping the fire burning. But even if they keep their
edge, there's always the possibility that they'll succumb to old
age. Seven of the key players from last year's club--Grace,
Schilling, outfielders Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley,
infielders Matt Williams and Jay Bell, and lefty Randy
Johnson--are 34 or older. Arizona has more veterans than a
Memorial Day parade, and there are already signs that some of
those well-worn bodies will have a hard time surviving the
rigors of another year.

The Diamondbacks had barely unpacked their bags at the start of
spring training when Williams, the 36-year-old third baseman who
missed nearly two months of last season with hamstring and
quadriceps injuries, went down again, with a fractured left leg
and dislocated left ankle that are expected to sideline him until
after the All-Star break. Righthander Todd Stottlemyre, 36, whom
Arizona is hoping will help bolster a starting rotation that gets
shaky after Schilling and Johnson, is trying to come back from
elbow surgery and a dead nerve in his right shoulder that have
kept him from throwing in a regular-season game for almost two
years. Even Gonzalez, 34, who contributed 57 home runs and the
game-winning hit in Game 7 of the Series, struggled through a
late-season slump that hitting coach Dwayne Murphy believes was
partly due to fatigue.

If Gonzalez breaks the 50-homer mark again and Grace hits his
customary .300 or better, the D-Backs' offense still won't be
overwhelming, particularly without Williams's righthanded power
in the cleanup spot, and the candidates for the last three spots
in the starting rotation--Stottlemyre, Brian Anderson, Miguel
Batista and Rick Helling--won't strike fear into the hearts of
opposing hitters. That means Arizona will need Schilling, 35,
and Johnson, 38, who were a combined 43-12 last season and
shared the Series MVP award, to be every bit as dominant as they
were a year ago.

That's a heavy burden to place on two arms with so much mileage
on them, especially after they were pushed to the limit last
fall. Schilling pitched twice on three days' rest in the
postseason, and Johnson came out of the bullpen to pitch 1 1/3
innings of Game 7 after pitching seven innings the night before.
Both pitchers insist they feel no ill effects. "If anything,
last October will help me," says Schilling. "I learned that
there's a higher level of concentration and focus that I can
reach, and that's something I can carry over into this season."
With age often comes wisdom and toughness, and the Diamondbacks
have those in abundance. --P.T.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Devoid of young guns, Arizona will again depend on the 38-year-old Unit and his 35-year-old pal, Schilling.COLOR PHOTO: TODD WARSHAW/GETTY IMAGES WOMACK

IN FACT
The Diamondbacks will attempt to join the 1907-08 Cubs, 1921-22
Giants and 1975-76 Reds as the only National League teams to
repeat as World Series champs.

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

"I think Byung-Hyun Kim can come back [from his disastrous World
Series performance]. He didn't lose any of his stuff, and if you
look at what he was throwing before the playoffs last year, it
was like a hot knife going through butter.... Randy Johnson was
unbelievable his first couple of times out this spring. He's
dominating like your best kid in Little League, except he's
doing it against major league hitters.... Curt Schilling is
driven to repeat last year.... Todd Stottlemyre is throwing
well. It's not easy for him; he really has to reach back and
grind every pitch, but if he holds up healthwise, he'll help in
the No. 3 spot.... I think Brian Anderson will have a comeback
year. He picked up a nice split-finger pitch working with
[pitching consultant] Roger Craig, and it'll really help him on
both sides of the plate.... Tony Womack still has a low on-base
percentage, but he's getting a little better at the top of the
order. He's their only basestealing threat.... Damian Miller is
coming off a shoulder injury and isn't throwing like he's
capable of. Teams will take some liberties if that shoulder
doesn't rebound.... Mark Grace hasn't been driving the ball like
he needs to. He's a down-arrow guy who will stand in the way of
Erubiel Durazo.... Craig Counsell is a gamer, but he's a very
average player over 162 games. He has no power, doesn't steal
bases and is average defensively.... Jay Bell is on the decline.
He has a slow trigger and still chases breaking balls. They'll
have to make a deal for a third baseman."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2001 statistics

PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
BATTING ORDER

SS Tony Womack L-R 98 .266 3 30 28
2B Craig Counsell L-R 255 .275 4 38 6
LF Luis Gonzalez L-R 5 .325 57 142 1
1B Mark Grace L 137 .298 15 78 1
CF Steve Finley L 113 .275 14 73 11
RF Danny Bautista R 184 .302 5 26 3
3B Jay Bell R 233 .248 13 46 0
C Damian Miller R 190 .271 13 47 0

BENCH

OF Erubiel Durazo L 209 .269 12 38 0
OF David Dellucci L 246 .276 10 40 2
IF Greg Colbrunn R 306 .289 4 18 0

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA
STARTERS

LH Randy Johnson 2 21 6 7.1 1.01 2.49
RH Curt Schilling 3 22 6 7.3 1.08 2.98
RH Todd Stottlemyre* 134 9 6 5.3 1.41 4.91
RH Rick Helling[1] 97 12 11 6.3 1.48 5.17
LH Brian Anderson 211 4 9 5.6 1.40 5.20

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA
BULLPEN

RH Byung-Hyun Kim 68 5 6 19 1.04 2.94
LH Mike Myers[1] 187 2 3 0 1.40 3.60
RH Bret Prinz 161 4 1 9 1.27 2.63

[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 154)

*2000 stats

Manager
Bob Brenly
second season with Arizona

2001 record
92-70
first in NL West

IN THE FIELD
with defensive ratings

Golden Glover

Finley
Grace
Miller

Good Leather

Gonzalez
Bautista
Counsell
Womack
Bell

Iron Hands

Johnson