Wednesday, July 07, 2004

July or September to April 

My favorite use of horns in a pop song is in Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4." The lyrics are reasonably clear, but that title -- is that supposed to be indecisiveness about the time? (Because "3:35 or 3:54" doesn't scan as nicely?)
Waiting for the break of day
Searching for something to say
Flashing lights against the sky
Giving up I close my eyes
Sitting cross-legged on the floor
25 or 6 to 4
25 or 6 to 4

What does this have to do with last night's game? Bear with me, folks.

First, I don't have a lot to say about last night's 4-1 D-Back loss to the Dodgers per se. I stopped watching at the end of the D-Backs' half of the sixth mentally preparing an entry about how Casey Fossum might be turning into an acceptable fourth or fifth starter, then turned the game on again 20 minutes later to see the 1-1 game turned into a 4-1 game, and that was the end of it. Once again, only one component of the D-Backs performed more than adequately -- it was the bullpen's turn last night. Greg Aquino and Brian Bruney (called up while Andy Green was sent down) pitched fine, though they combined to give up 3 walks in 2 1/3 innings. Aquino did a nice job getting strike three on Lo Duca (on a ball best hit with an 8-iron) to end the inning after not getting the called strike three on a pitch on the outside corner.

No, what my cryptic title means is that I enjoy a pennant race as much as anybody. I prefer my team to be in the pennant race, of course, but even the D-Backs can enjoy the NL West race as much as anybody. In fact, they can enjoy all the races. As of this morning, 20 MLB teams were at .500 or better, and 20 teams (though a different twenty teams) were 7 games or less out of first place in the division. There are only 8 teams who have a sub-.500 record and are more than 7 games out.

This means that this is a seller's market for those 8 teams sorry enough to be in a selling position. Your Arizona Diamondbacks are one of those teams.

Look, this NL West race has been great because it's kept three fair-to-good teams believing they can make the playoffs, and will probably continue to make them believe they can make the playoffs through September. That means, rather than blowing up their roster like the Giants definitely and Dodgers probably should, they'll be tempted into paying for additional roster help now rather than later. And other teams are in the same boat. Which means the D-Backs should be able to get more value for trading Finley or Bautista or Hillenbrand.

Frankly, I'm pretty optimistic about 2005 at this point, because I think the rest of the NL West will be paralyzed into trading to win now. The D-Backs need to become enablers to the rest of the league by trading some of our talent, while recognizing that we've got the upper hand here. In 2005, with Randy Johnson, Luis Gonzalez, and Steve Finley (yeah, he's coming back, too, see below) and a couple other cheap free agents, I don't think winning the NL West is an unrealistic goal come next April (ah, yes, the cryptic title allusion is finally complete). We'd definitely be underdogs compared to the Padres, but I don't think I'm crazy.

Other random thoughts:
1. On talk radio yesterday, one caller mentioned hearing Steve Finley on a (non-sports) radio show earlier yesterday seemingly resigned to a trade but, when asked about next year, said "I'll be back." This is an increasingly appealing option to me as I don't think we have good outfield depth and I would rather pay Finley $6 - $7 million than Bautista $3 - $4 million.
2. This article mentions that Anaheim had two scouts at Tuesday's game. OK, makes sense. So did Cleveland (huh?), Houston (OK...), and Seattle. Seattle? Were they just sending a message to the D-Backs after a visit with Sexson? That one befuddles me.

You might just be right about the Dodgers being in a "win now" situation. DePodesta impresses me as a pretty sharp guy, but Frank McCourt's mortgage might lean heavily on him. Thanks to injury and trades, the Dodgers' farm system has taken a beating over the last year, and so the team isn't in as good a scenario as it was even last winter. If DePo figures the talent he's going to get in trade isn't worth gutting the farm for, this could still be the Giants' division to lose.

If there were ever a team with "win now" written all over it, it's the Giants. Barry ain't gettin' any younger, and Sabean has been throwing caution to the wind to get spare parts for a pennant run. (Witness last year's debacle of Sidney Ponson, which was an absolute bust for the Giants, and a masterpiece for the O's.) They'll go for the gusto this year, and keep their fingers crossed that next year they can afford to keep payroll at around the $70-80M mark.
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