Friday, June 11, 2004

.400... The Dilemma Begins 

The D-Backs beat the Orioles last night 3-0 thanks to one good inning.
After throwing a perfect game for six innings, Daniel Cabrera either a) was
affected by the rain, or b) was affected by my fifth inning jinxing (see
yesterday's entry), and gave up four hits and a walk to the D-Backs in the
7th inning. That was it, the three runs were all that the D-Backs needed.
Casey Fossum, Mike Koplove, and Jose Valverde all struggled slightly, but,
unlike many other times this season, all pitched themselves out of trouble.

I gather ESPN's SportsCenter ragged on Brenly for asking Finley to bunt in
the 7th inning after Hairston led off with a walk, putting up a quotation of
Brenly's for when Ben Davis did the same with Curt Schilling a few years
back. First off, let me say I think it's fair game to do anything you would
do were it not a perfect game or no-hitter. So, yes, I thought Brenly was
wrong then. But why exactly would Finley bunting be wrong? It was a 0-0
game, with a runner on first. Standard baseball operating procedure (not
saying it's right, but they still pass out the handbook to new managers, I'm
sure) says you bunt the runner over in that situation. Let's see... 7th
inning... Finley's been on a cold streak recently... Hairston's not a slow
runner... tell me that any other manager wouldn't have done the same thing.
Of course, Finley put the whole debate to rest by ruining Cabrera's
no-hitter, shutout, and victory by hitting his 17th home run.

Now the internal debate begins as the D-Backs' record is 24-36, or exactly
.400. When the D-Backs were below .400, it was easier to dismiss the season
and start planning for next year. Now that they've climbed to Ted
Williams-ian heights and hit .400, D-Back fans are presented with the
dilemma of cheering for their team and investing their time and allegiance
or writing off a team that could, given the unwillingness of any NL West
team to play decently, stay within striking distance of the lead into
September. They've gone 6-4 over their past ten games -- should they
contain their .600 pace here on out, they'd win 85 games. For the season as
a whole, the Dodgers and Padres are on pace to 88 games.

I'm not saying that the D-Backs are going to play .600 ball the rest of the
way. Heck, even with Delgado on the DL through at least Sunday, the D-Backs
could easily lose 2 of 3 at Toronto. But now that they've climbed back to
.400, the easy choice of writing off the season isn't quite there anymore.

In another sign of normalcy returning to the D-Backs, in lieu of writing
stories about possible trades or Brenly's future, "Diamondbacks Extra" in
the Republic this morning has a puff piece on fan letters to players. The
piece contains the following amusing quote from Matt Mantei, who still
receives letters saying, in effect, "You're my favorite pitcher":

"You wonder, though, have they seen my ERA lately?"

We have, Matt, if it makes you feel any better.

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