Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gonzo and Me, Media Stars 

To begin with, congratulations to Luis Gonzalez becoming the 21st player in major league history to hit 300 homeruns and 500 doubles. Gonzo is and has been my favorite Diamondbacks player, and so I'm happy he's reached a milestone which he himself indicated meant a lot to him.

But enough about him. What about me? Where the heck have I been?

As you probably know, I have a second blog, called Zooglobble, in which I review children's and family music and make comments (sometimes of a gently sarcastic nature) on children's music news. It was intended as a diversion from this blog, which I'd burnt myself a bit out on.

What you may not know is that I was interviewed by Melissa Block on NPR's All Things Considered a couple weeks ago about the other blog. For a radio audience of 11 million.

As you might imagine, that increased traffic to my site a wee bit.

I don't have free time to maintain two blogs. (To paraphrase They Might Be Giants, "I've just one blog in me, and I just wrote the second.") Add to that two kids and a wife I want to spend time with, and I barely have time to read the morning paper's game summary, let alone watch the game or run statistical analyses.

So this blog is, once more, going on hiatus. I'll pop by the AZSnakepit occasionally (speaking of media stars...). If you have young kids, young grandkids, nieces, nephews, and like music, or have some strange fascination with my writing style, do stop by the other place.

Thanks as always for reading and Go Diamondbacks!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

World's Shortest Diamondbacks Preview, In Limerick Form 

Rotation OK, bullpen's just alive
Not many runs the offense will drive
The youngsters will be no disgrace
In their division, third place
They'll lose 87, win 75

(Yeah, it doesn't scan so well. Who are you, Robert Frost?)

Play ball!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Review: The Last Nine Innings - Charles Euchner 

For a Diamondbacks fan, Game Seven of the 2001 World Series is unquestionably the greatest game in the comparatively short history of the franchise. A come-from-behind victory against the most storied franchise in all of professional sports to bring the state of Arizona its first major professional sports championship, the game was both exciting in isolation as well as important in context.

So it took me a while to get into the rhythm of Charles Euchner's new book, The Last Nine Innings. I was reading it from the perspective of a Diamondbacks fan who was actually at the game. (Yeah, I know probably a quarter million people say that, but I really was, and I have the ticket stub, pictures, and homemade DVD to prove it.)

Euchner's approach is much broader than that. Unlike The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty, The Last Nine Innings covers both teams in equal measure. But Euchner uses the minutiae of the game (and he does get into the minutiae) as a jumping-off point to explore larger themes -- "scientific analysis, exotic statistics and globalization," as the dust jacket puts it.

I initially assumed that the title implied that Game Seven was the last game of "old-school" baseball, but very quickly Euchner makes clear that the game of baseball has been in transition for a while (it's always been in transition). Euchner talks about globalization, for example, and how the Yankees are able to use their superior financial advantages to sign pretty much whichever foreign player they want, such as Mariano Rivera.

There is something in this book for both sides of the statistical analysis debate. Early in the book, Euchner seems to place himself firmly in the camp of the sabermetricians when discussing Derek Jeter's defensive abilities. (In other words, color Euchner less than impressed.) But even though Euchner uses other statistical debates throughout (e.g., the effect of pitchers on batted balls), elsewhere in the book, he seems to at least condone "gut" moves that would seem to go against statistical probabilities.

The strongest part of the book for me was Euchner's discussion of the physical aspects of the game -- 10 pages (or more) on the mechanics of a batter's swing, 8 pages (and more) on a pitcher's mechanics. It was the one part of the book that was mostly new to me, and I found it very interesting. For all the focus by many baseball analysts on the Web (and I count myself in that very broad category) on statistics and how to better analyze what a player has done, the focus on how to make a player do better is an area most people like myself are wholly unqualified to tackle and least likely to understand. Reading the book, I got a better appreciation of how every baseball game (or even at-bat) adds a series of data points to a player's experience that the good players incorporate into their skill sets that allow them to excel long after they've hit their physical peak. (Of course, the focus on experienced players like Clemens, Johnson, Schilling, and Luis Gonzalez indicates that perhaps that point of "physical peak" is slowly getting later.)

The book is not perfect. It could have used one more run-through by a copy editor ("Colangelo" spelled as "Colengelo" in the next-to-last line of the book, for example). And Euchner only takes a few steps down other paths that are also important to baseball today -- financial disparities, the steroid controversy. But that latter criticism is only one that suggests that Euchner could have expanded his 300-page into a 400-page book and I'd've gladly read it.

I would recommend the book particularly to Diamondbacks fans, but also to the general public, particularly those who are casual fans of the game. It's a quick, entertaining read. You can buy the book from Amazon at this link.


One other note: Charles Euchner will be in Phoenix at a couple Barnes & Noble stores to sign copies of The Last Nine Innings today (Thursday, March 30) and Saturday, April 1. (I know Jim had more details in his review of the book, which I swear I didn't read except to notice that he had specific addresses.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Why I Haven't Posted In A Week Or So... 

Appreciate the shout-out, Jim. I haven't posted because I haven't felt like I could give a perspective that fans couldn't already get from your shop. (Really, if you're a Diamondbacks fan, and you're reading me and not Jim... I shudder to think...)

However, if we're being snarky, I'd point out that if you search on "Diamondbacks suck" on Google, only one Diamondbacks blog appears on the 1st page. And it ain't me... ;-)

At any rate, I haven't posted much because even more than last year, the issues seem mostly resolved at this point. News that Jeff DaVanon was/is going to be the 4th outfielder put Terrero on the outs, thereby putting the Diamondbacks into a corner whereupon they might be able to trade he and Koyie Hill for, oh, me if they're lucky. (Did you know I'm in the Royals system?) Now the decision basically comes down to which middle infielder they want to ride the pine -- Andy Green or Alberto Callapso. (I'm assuming Stephen Drew stays in Tucson to start the season.)

I think I prefer keeping Terrero on the 25-man squad to either of those two for awhile, allowing him to get some exposure in front of other major league teams, thereby increasing his trade value. But the spinner arrow seems to have landed on Terrero, and management has decided it's time for him to move on.

But in the end, we're talking about the 25th-man (or 13th-man) here... this doesn't seem like a terribly weighty decision.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hey, Why Don't We Trade Alex Cintron? 

All set to write about Craig Counsell's shoulder today and the Diamondbacks' options, when news comes across the wires that Arizona traded Cintron today to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Jeff Bajenaru.
So there goes that post.

OK, not really. My basic argument was, even if Counsell was out for the season for surgery (an event the club does not expect to occur, though we've yet to hear from Counsell himself), that the team should be putting Easley or Drew at shortstop in his place, not Cintron.

Easley is a utility infielder with almost as much time at shortstop as at second. Last year, he had both more Win Shares as well as Win Shares Above Baseline than Cintron. They were both projected to have about the same year, VORP and WARP-wise, and neither of them were projected to be as valuable as Stephen Drew.

Maybe Easley will turn out to be this year's Tony Clark, with a contract that's essentially untradeable (even at $750,000) at the beginning of the season that suddenly becomes tradeable, but why expect lightening to strike twice? So Cintron became the much more tradeable player, with still some upside and with a lower salary.

My one caveat was that should Counsell be out for the season, that if they were going to keep Cintron, then they should play him. Start him. That would be the only way to showcase his talents in hope of making a mid-season trade and letting Drew take over then. It would have been much worse to keep Cintron and not to use him.

As for the trade itself, Bajenaru's a right-hander who'll turn 28 in a couple weeks and has been used as a reliever. His upside doesn't appear very high. He'll fit right in with this bullpen. (OK, that was flippant, but the underlying point, that 1) he doesn't appear to be a tremendous find, and 2) he could still make this bullpen, still remains.)

It's not a super trade, but since the Diamondbacks did everything except put Cintron up for trade on eBay, I wasn't expecting much in any trade. Maybe we'll hit it lucky with Bajenaru. Maybe not. In any case, best of luck to Alex in Chicago...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kirrrrrrbbbbyyyy Puckkkketttt!!!!! 

For a recently-revived Diamondbacks blog, I had been writing comparatively little about the Diamondbacks. I had intended to tip the scales a bit today, writing about Counsell's shoulder or perhaps Chad Tracy's All-Star chances.

But then I picked up the paper this morning, read the headline(s) about Kirby Puckett's death from stroke-related complications, and decided that could wait another day or two.

I feel like a big Twins fan, but I realized today that I probably lived in Minnesota for only a month or two during Puckett's heyday, having moved in the summer of 1994, just after he made it to the Show. I lived in Minnesota during the twilight of his career as well (if one can call it a "twilight" -- it was pretty quick), but it was what he did while I was nowhere near the state that made him one of my favorite players. (It was in that twilight that I knew someone whose first name was Kirby and whose last name had two syllables. The person was constantly referred to in deep tones as "Kirrrrbbbyyyyy {bum-bum}." OK, it was funnier if you were there.)

I remember the excitement I felt over the 1987 World Series victory. I remember the excitement of the 1991 World Series, which for sheer excitement and tension was barely matched in my lifetime before or since. And all that time I remember Kirby's infectious smile and enthusiasm.

There are very few people who gave (or give) off the impression that their employment or vocation is what they were meant to do and that there was nothing else they'd rather be doing. Kirby Puckett gave everyone that impression.

I've long since given up any illusions I may have held about athletes' larger-than-life (or better-than-life) abilities. Even so, Puckett's off-the-field issues, especially after his retirement, were unpleasant for me to read about, if only because they so contradicted his demeanor on the field. But in the end, I'm gonna remember the stuff on the field.

Reading the obituary on the StarTribune's website today, I was struck by the comment he made at his 1996 press conference at which he announced his retirement -- "Tomorrow is not promised to any of us." As I think about my own role as father and fan and about other events in my life that I'm not going to get into here, those words are a timely reminder.

Enjoy the games of baseball today, regardless of whether they're in downtown Phoenix or in your front yard.

My sympathies to Puckett's family and friends.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Now With Extra Bite! 

Even though I didn't post for four months, I still got a small stream of traffic, primarily the result of web searches. Nothing particularly weird or obscene, I suppose.

Yesterday I got one of the weirdest searches -- somebody reached me using the phrase "alex cintron teeth".

Yeah, I don't get it either. Is this some sort of advancement in sabermetric analysis that I missed out in my sabbatical -- percentage of cavities? Molar retention strategies?

In any case, Cintron has joined the Puerto Rican team for the World Baseball Classic. We should be rooting for him to do well, because it is long past time for the Diamondbacks to trade him and a strong performance might in that regard. It's not necessarily because he's a bad player (his usefulness is debatable), but because the Diamondbacks now have approximately 4,392 middle infielders on the 40-man squad, and it's clear that Cintron is much closer to #4,392 than to #1. Trade him already (Counsell's shoulder notwithstanding), give him a fair chance at making another squad, and move on. I have no reason to believe that the Diamondbacks aren't trying their best to do so, but I just want the process to end. It's like a bad visit to the dentist.

In other news, it was reported today that Miguel Batista has rid himself of the "u" in his last name after his trade from the Toronto Blue Jays back to the Diamondbacks. Batista was required to call himself "Bautista" while living in Canada.

(Admit it, you've sort of missed my bad jokes.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Exclusive: Interview with Reclusive Random Fandom Proprietor 

Now that Random Fandom is back (sort of), we here at Random Fandom thought it was a good time for an exclusive interview with the uni-monikered proprietor of Random Fandom, Stefan. We sat down with Stefan recently and chatted with him about his time off, his return, and his future.

Random Fandom: Stefan, thanks for sitting down with us today:
Stefan: Sure, no problem. Happy to be here.
RF: First off, how did you spend your time away?
S: Working on my golf game, har har. [Chuckles in self-satisfied manner.] No, really, I just needed to take some time for myself.
RF: So what did you do?
S: Well, I took some time away from the [makes two cutesy little curvy motions with fingers] blogosphere [stops cutesy motions]. Didn't really read any blogs at all. For awhile I was obsessed with Photoshopping competitions at Woot, but that passed when I realized that I didn't actually own Photoshop. Then I was inspired by my fellow UNC alum, Michael Jordan.
RF: You, uh, tried out in the minor leagues?
S: No, but you've got the right idea. He wanted to apply his competitive instincts to another related field. I wanted to apply my blogging instincts to another field, so I worked on my other blog, Zooglobble. Children's music reviews and news.
RF: You gave up blogging about the Diamondbacks during another incredibly interesting offseason so you could write silly reviews about Barney and the Wiggles and Raffi? Whew. At least Michael Jordan had a few hits in his minor league stint.
S: Hey, the early Raffi work is highly underrated.
RF: Whatever. [Huffy breath] So what made you think about giving Diamondback blogging another shot?
S: Well, you know, it's why Roger Clemens is thinking about coming back again -- he's just a super competitor. He just has to weigh his desire to win and compete with his desire to spend time with his family. Just like I'm trying to do.
RF: Did you just compare yourself with Roger Clemens?
S: Yes.
RF: Are you completely deranged? You're a blogger, and an inconsistent and analytically challenged one to boot, not some freakin' future first-ballot All-Star.
S: I know what you are, but what am I.
RF: Good luck, fool.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Daft Punk Is Playing At My House 

Daft punk is playing at my house, my house
I’ll show you the ropes, kid, show you the ropes
Got a bus and a trailer at my house, my house
I’ll show you the ropes kid, show you the ropes
I bought fifteen cases for my house, my house
All the furniture is in the garage
Well daft punk is playing at my house, my house
You got to set them up kid, set them up

You got to set ‘em up, ooh ooh yeah (x2)
You got to set them up, set them up

You got to set ‘em up, ooh ooh yeah (x2)
You got to set them up, set them up

[Cow bell solo]

Well everybody’s lined up in my house, my house
And Sarah’s girlfriend is working the door
Got everybody’s PA in my house, my house
All the robots descend from the bus
There’s a freak out brewing in my house, my house
In the basement
‘Cause daft punk is playing at my house, my house
You got to set them up kid, set them up

You got to set ‘em up, ooh ooh yeah (x2)
You got the set them up, set them up

You got to set ‘em up, ooh ooh yeah (x2)
You got the set them up, set them up

And never, never let them go
No never, never, never let them go
Never, never, never let them go
Let them go

-- Complete lyrics to "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House," by LCD Soundsystem

A "freak out" indeed. When I'd been thinking about how to write this entry, the first in nearly 4 months, I'd originally intended to use lyrics from the Counting Crows' "A Long December," whose lyrics have personal meaning to me.

And then I read Bill Simmons' Now I Can Die in Peace, which includes a post of his that leads off with, yes, lyrics from "A Long December," whose lyrics have great personal meaning to him.

So back to the drawing board for a post that was already way overdue. And since The Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers," whose lyrics I repeated here, was appreciated so much by the fine folks at Google, I thought I'd use the lines above, penned by James Murphy, mastermind behind LCD Soundsystem and also the producer of The Rapture's CD.

And yes, Daft Punk is playing at my house. Not literally, of course, but I love the giddiness and "oh my goodness it's really happening" tone of the lyrics. My wife and I recently welcomed a second child into our home, and it's been fabulous. The older sister adores the younger brother, and we do, too.

But for those of you with more than one kid, you know how it's the second child that turns everything upside. One kid, you read the papers every morning. Two kids, you're lucky to glance at the front pages of each section. One kid, you sometimes get "work" done while the child's awake. Two kids (especially a very young one), and you can forget about doing anything on your own without explicit permission from the other spouse while the kids are awake.

And, yeah, it sort of seems like our furniture is all in the garage. Or strewn about the office.

One of the interesting things to watch is the older sister's reaction to her new brother. Thus far, it's been full of love and help and kindness. He is her new TV. With time, I suppose that could change, probably will change. James Murphy pens a gleeful 6-minute homage to one of the big electronica, club/dance bands, but he's also trying to make his own name in the scene, and there are only so many "star" slots to go around.

Which brings, finally and not a little painfully, to Your 2006 Arizona Diamondbacks.

There aren't 5 or 10 or 25 storylines with this year's squad. There's just one -- the old guys versus the young guys. From the top (will Josh Byrnes be more adept than Joe Jr.?) to the bottom (will Terry Mulholland pitch some meaningless mop-up innings, or will some guy nearly half his age?), it's whether the new guys will push out the old.

In general, this offseason was the inverse of last offseason. On an individual basis, the moves this year aren't necessarily stellar (Glaus and Santos for Batista and Hudson? Estrada for Cormier and Villarreal?), but as part of an overall worldview, they're far ahead of the deals the team has done the past couple years. They're enough to keep me intrigued in 2006 and very much looking forward to 2007.

Finally, whither this blog? Well, I'm going to give it a shot for the upcoming season. Rest assured that if you're looking for timely analysis or in-depth previews you're best served reading the usual suspects, who've plugged along in my absence. But I do hope to continue to provide you, the loyal reader, with occasional thoughts on this team and my cultural life.

Now, if you'll forgive me, it's time for my cow bell solo.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Welcome to Phoenix, Stat-Boy (or whatever your name is)! 

Dear Josh Byrnes,

On behalf of the Arizona Diamondbacks community of blogs -- a small, huddling mass of people crowded around the back door bumming a cigarette -- welcome to Phoenix. You have been selected to replace the only General Manager the Diamondbacks have ever known. To be honest, this isn't really like replacing Pope John Paul II or FDR, but you probably knew that.

If this were a movie, my role here would be played by Christopher Plummer or Donald Sutherland, a tossed-off glorified cameo of indiscriminate quality (could be good, could be crap). Or perhaps more like the Will Ferrell character in Wedding Crashers, retiring at the top of his game, which was sort of a bad one, when you stop to think about it. And was there a better 20 minutes of moviegoing this year than the start of that movie? Shame the rest of the movie sort of petered out from there, isn't it?

But I'm getting off track here. This isn't a movie, this is a tired trope of journalists and bloggers -- the open letter to the New Guy In Town -- and I'd better get going.

First things first.

The best Mexican food in Phoenix is at Carolina's Mexican Food, conveniently just a couple miles southeast of the ballpark. I will not brook any disagreement on this. (I personally can't avoid the Oaxaca Special, but your tastes may vary.)

Oh, this is supposed to be baseball-related?

I wouldn't presume to tell you how to do your job -- shocking, I know, for someone who writes his thoughts for free on the Internet -- but I'll make the following requests:

1. Don't trade Gonzo -- don't even try. I've said many times before that Luis Gonzalez is my favorite Diamondback. That's not why I'm asking you not to trade him. I'm asking you not to trade him because whatever you get in return won't be worth the aggravation and fan disgust. Gonzo is the tangible link to the 2001 World Championship team, very visible in the community, and generally considered to be a nice guy. His declining skills won't generate much interest from other teams, but trying to generate that interest will just irk a fan base that does not need another reason to tune out. Plan a bunch of retirement-related functions and soirees that make it clear to the fans (and to Gonzo) that the team has no intent on having him around after 2006.

2. We need pitching. You, uh, know that already. I just wanted to convey to you how desperately we need pitching. Keith Foulke in 2005? Would've remained on the Diamondbacks staff all year. We'd've been overjoyed to have him here.

3. We're not idiots. OK, you're probably a bit sensitive to the use of the word "idiots," but I'm talking about the fans. There's lots of talk about Phoenix fans are fickle. But even after a 51-win season last year and an uninspiring 77-win campaign this year, Arizona still ranked 20th in baseball in average attendance. (That would be a difference of less than 300,000 fans below the World Champion White Sox.) Over time, you can build an even greater bond with the team. It will take time, but it can be done. (Now, the press, who automatically tagged you stat-boy nerd, as if being scouting director for the Indians was just some sort of internship, is another matter.)

So, good luck finding a house and remember, any time you want more free advice, I'm happy to provide it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Insert Tower-Related Pun Here 

As I noted a couple days ago, given Jeff Moorad's apparent willingness to run the Diamondbacks, I'm not sure the selection of a GM is quite so important. (Important, but not so important. See -- no "so" in that first part. Critical analysis, eh?)

But Geoff over at Ducksnorts thinks the writing's on the wall, and that Kevin Towers will be on his way shortly. Geoff is not distressed, but I don't think he's happy about the prospect from a Padres perspective.

If true, should we be happy about it?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Streets of Fire 

(Semi-)retirement means you get to take the long view regarding things that the daily posting grind is less forgiving of.

The flurry of Royce Clayton-ish news last week is an example.

First, Moorad says he's gonna make Royce Clayton a contract offer. Horrors! Then we find out it's one year for $1.5 million. Frankly, I could live with that. It's a million that could probably be spent elsewhere (to get a front-line pitcher, for example), but maybe Brandon Webb's resurgence this year really was tied to an irrational confidence in Clayton's abilities. And then we find out that Clayton rejected the offer. Even better. I think.

And there you go, a week's worth of blog entries in about a paragraph.

Or I could've spent all week trying to figure out how to write a satirical entry combining both Doug Eddings and the Vikings cruise on Lake Minnetonka. OK, I actually did spend all week trying to figure that one out, but rather than posting something weak I just let it go.

GM search? Does it really matter? Really? 'Cause it seems like Moorad's running the show.

And last night's homerun? Wow. At this point, I think America will cheer for whichever team wins that series in the World Series. The White Sox, even with their own troubled history, swept through the playoffs so blandly efficiently (and with every close call going their way) that America didn't get to cheer for them. Whichever National League team wins will have had to come through some serious setbacks.

October is a glorious time in Arizona, with the weather temperate and activities galore. I'm grooving right now to the New P***ographers' new album, Twin Cinema. (The drums on "Streets of Fire" near the end of that CD are just awesome.)

Good things abound. And the great thing about sports is that it helps put things into perspective and realize that good things abound.

I hope that Astros fans will be able to see that at some point, though today probably isn't the day to point it out to them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Front Office: All About the Links 

Every few months I update my links and then feel compelled to post about it.

Why? I don't know.

In any case...

CardNilly -- It's one thing to ask for a link exchange (which CardNilly's proprietor has not done) -- it's another to link to a site on a regular basis. That really won't get you anywhere with me, but having read his posts, and found them enjoyable and insightful, I figured his (St. Louis) Cardinals blog was a timely addition.
DeadSpin -- Sports roundup and gossip. Plus, they linked to me, too, without even asking.
Jack's Sports Humor -- Yeah, there are a number of SportsOnion-type sites. But none of those are run by a college friend. Who's the funniest guy I know.

West Coast Bias -- I'd been meaning to drop the site for a while now, and when I checked the other day, the site had just vanished. Best of luck to you, Ryan, in Colorado or wherever you are.
TwinsGeek -- A day or so after I "retired" from the blogging world (so to speak), John Bonnes did so with far more permanence, more class, and more humor than I. John's blog was the original inspiration for this blog, so it is with sadness I'm removing him from my links.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

All About Chemistry 

Boy, you tell people that you don't feel like writing much anymore, and what happens?
Somebody -- somebody with actual readers -- thinks you're the third-best Diamondbacks blog.

So do I respond to this bit of external validation with a newfound devotion to my craft and a ironclad promise to never again refer to the music of the band Semisonic?

Er, no.

The great thing about deciding to scale back my writing is that I can lay in wait until something so inspiring or preposterous catches my eye that I can't help but share my foolish thoughts with the rest of the world.

And then take my sweet time before actually putting those thoughts on electrons.

So, Thursday's Arizona Republic included an article noting that pitching coach Mark Davis and first-base coach Brett Butler didn't have their contracts renewed. The article contained the following paragraph:

Butler said Melvin called him Wednesday morning and told him, " 'I hate to do this, but the organization is going in a different direction,' but that everything I did was fine."

I responded to this incredible paragraph by doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I tell ya, folks, it felt great.

But eventually I got over that.

Jim already covered this in some detail last week, and I agree -- I can't think of a managing position with less authority than first-base coach. Holding batting gloves and saying "good hit" or "good walk" doesn't exactly seem like it's a position with major leverage. Saying that the "organization is going in a different direction" to a first-base coach is akin to the mailroom boss at Intel telling the weekend mail clerk upon his removal that the "organization is going in a different direction." Sure, in some (very) small way, the success of Intel requires a functioning mailroom, but it stretches credibility to assume that there are different mailroom approaches. (Or, rather, more than one correct one -- "let's sort the mail by the postage amount" seems a foolhardy approach.)

Now this is not to diminish the possibility that a first-base coach might actually have some value, both before and during the games. Working with young outfielders such as Terrero and Tracy, Butler could've had some impact there. Arizona's caught-stealing percentage dropped by 10% from 2004, from way above NL-average to just below, so in theory that could be counted in Butler's favor. The Diamondbacks had 15 more sacrifice hits (not flies) this year, but who knows how many opportunities they had, and whether Butler actually improved the team's bunting.

Which brings up my larger point, which is that we on the outside have no good idea as to what makes a good -- or bad -- member of a managerial staff. I would guess that Mark Davis worked with pitchers to improve their skills, fix problems, and gave advice to Melvin as to when a pitcher should be pulled and which pitcher should replace him. But is that all he does? And even if that's the correct list, how in the world can we evaluate his success or lack of success? (And, if pitching coaches are important, go ahead and name one whose name isn't Leo Mazzone or Mel Stottlemyre.) Likewise, first-base coaches must have some criteria upon which they could be judged, but we don't have the relevant data available to us.

I suspect that the "firings" are more about chemistry with Bob Melvin than anything else. Which is not the best basis to make a hiring decision. But it can't be the worst, either.