25 September 2008

End of the Road

Finished. Caput. Done. Finite. Washed up. Ended. Stick a fork in 'em. Pushing up daisies. Wait... that last one was for "dead," right? Anyway, the Arizona Diamondbacks' hopes of going back to the playoffs this year and winning the NL West came to a halt this afternoon as they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, giving the Dodgers the title. I can't say I blame the Dodgers for our predicament, though, what with all the Arizona injuries (Hudson, Byrnes, Jackson for a bit, Upton for a bit, Young, etc) and the extremely poor condition of the bullpen staff (Lyon couldn't close effectively, Rouch and Qualls' problems, Cruz being injured), it's not a surprise that we slid so far. So, thus ends the 2008 bid for the DBacks. Things to watch as the final three games are played: 1. Brandon Webb getting victory 23 on Saturday to hopefully solidify his place as NL Cy Young Award winner. 2. Dan Haren's 200th single-season strikeout, which could come on Friday if can can punch out three batters. Also, a Haren win on Friday would net him his career-high 17th single-season win. 3. Mark Reynolds already has set the mark as the first ever player to strike out 200 times in a season, and he will retain his title as the player with the most Ks provided Ryan Howard (5 behind) or Jack Cust (9 behind) don't overtake him in the final three games. 4. Mark Reynolds could also get his 30th homer of this season with 2 more and his 100th RBI of this season with 4 more. 5. With just one more double, Adam Dunn will claim 200 career 2Bs. Things to look for in 2009: 1. The return of Orlando Hudson (2B) and Eric Byrnes (LF) tops this list. Had these two been healthy, we might have been looking forward to some October baseball. Instead, Byrnes' hamstring injury and Hudson's broken hand really cost the DBacks big time. Their return and hopefully healthy 2009 season should be a big pick-me-up for the slumping youngsters from the farm system. 2. Big changes in the bullpen pitching staff. The Diamondbacks need a closer, and they need one badly. Why they ever got rid of Jose Valverde in favor of making one of their setup men close out the games is beyond me, and frankly goes down as one of their most boneheaded moves in my book. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Brandon Lyon (not just for the roar from the scoreboard that accompanies every Lyon strikeout), but he is a reliever, not a closer. They need to pick up (in the best case scenario) someone like Francisco Rodriguez, Eric Gagne, or Jason Isringhausen, all of whom will be free agents after this year. 3. The return of the Big Unit. Seeking his 300th career victory, Randy Johnson will hopefully be back next year provided his health holds up. He deserves 300 wins, given his storied career. Then he can retire as a Diamondback! 4. Defensive changes? I still like our main outfielders of Byrnes (LF), Young (CF), and Upton (RF). Conor Jackson should move back to 1B once Adam Dunn leaves (he'll be a free agent after this year, and I don't imagine he'll stick around, though you never know). 2B will go back to Hudson, Drew at SS, and Reynolds at 3B. Chris Snyder behind the plate caps it all off. However, the Diamondbacks could try to capitalize on some of their young talent, trading off maybe Upton or Byrnes to try to gain some other big name outfielders who would boost both the hitting prowess of the DBacks and act as veteran anchors of the team. I like Ibanez, Burrell, or Carl Crawford. 5. Getting back to baseball season in 2009! For now, I guess I will root for the Chicago Cubs in the postseason. I have plenty of Cubs fan friends, and I think it's time the Curse of the Billy Goat was broken. This year, the 100th anniversary of the Cubs' last World Series victory, it's their year now (now that the DBacks are out, anyway)!

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