This year's Arizona Diamondbacks and last year's Milwaukee Brewers share
significant similarities, and not just because each team is run in part by a man
Both clubs came in with high expectations entering the season, as they each
had a young nucleus that only figured to improve. They did not disappoint
in the early going, as each squad began the season with a 28-17 record through
their first 45 contests, leading their respective divisions by a significant
margin. Both teams were playing in particularly weak divisions, however,
which padded both the teams' win totals and the players' stats, giving both
organizations a false sense of superiority.
Both teams began to falter. Those Brewers went just 21-22 between their
fast start and the All-Star break. These Diamondbacks have performed even
worse, going 19-31 in games 46 thru 95. They were each in for a rude
awakening once they began playing some stronger American League teams in
Interleague Play, and even some of the stronger teams in the NL. The '07
Brew Crew went 40-43 outside of the NL Central, while this year's Diamondbacks
are a deplorable 26-38 so far when not battling an NL West rival.
There is a clear explanation for the Diamondbacks even-more-precipitous
decline. Key players like Eric Byrnes, Chris Snyder, and Doug Davis have each missed significant time for the D-backs, while
last year's Brewers were reasonably healthy aside from the requisite month or
two that Ben Sheets spends on the DL every year. Like Randy Johnson with
the Diamondbacks, you simply have to pencil in some missed time for certain
players. Max Scherzer (who like Ryan Braun last year, joined his team just as it
began to falter, their exceptional performances going for naught) has also spent
the past month or so on the DL, but that is more likely a play to save his arm
for the second half rather than an actual shoulder ailment.
But despite the lack of injuries, the Brewers finished nine games under .500
in the second half of 2007. The league simply adjusts to young players as
they get more detailed scouting reports about their tendencies and weaknesses.
A sophomore slump does not necessarily happen in a player's second season; it
can come after his first 50, 100, or 150 major league games, depending upon the
type of player that he is. If these young D-backs can't adjust back to the
league and finish nine under the rest of the way, they can expect some serious personnel changes before they watch the playoffs from home.
The 2007 Milwaukee Brewers still won 83 games, marking the first time a
Brewers team had finished over .500 since 1992. If the Arizona
Diamondbacks pull out 83 wins, that could well be enough to take the weak NL West.
Moreover, the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers look fantastic, overcoming injuries (Rickie Weeks, Eric Gagne, Yovani Gallardo) and disappointing performances (Weeks,
Gagne, Bill Hall, Prince Fielder) to
mount a 52-43 record at the break. Their gung-ho acquisition of C.C. Sabathia has made
them the favorites to win the NL Wild Card, at the very least. So even if
the 2008 Arizona Diamondbacks do not continue playing into October, recent
history shows us that they are a good bet to rebound as a strong contender in
The Diamondbacks organization is at a critical juncture right now, however.
The injuries that they have sustained have presented youngsters like Emilio Bonifacio, Leo Rosales, Alexander Romero, and Connor Robertson with the
opportunity to showcase their abilities. As the team gets healthier, Josh
Byrnes, Bob Melvin, and A.J. Hinch are going to need to make some tough
decisions on who should continue to receive playing time and whether a
late-season acquisition needs to occur. The 2007 Brewers neglected to make
an impact deal at the deadline, and they narrowly missed a postseason berth
because of it.
Will history keep repeating itself? Two weeks remain before the July
31st trading deadline, and the money-stacked Los Angeles Dodgers - just a game
behind the Snakes - are bound to make some noise. If the Diamondbacks
don't respond, we will also be able to make a comparison between the 2007
Chicago Cubs and the 2008 Los Angeles Dodgers.
Should the Diamondbacks mortgage more of their future and trade for a veteran
at the deadline? Sound off in the
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