I explained to my mother recently that all baseball fans are inherently religious. We spend 162 days a year in worship and then spend the 203 remaining days praying for summer - and that's assuming your team didn't make the playoffs. Now with glorious summer returning at last after what turned out to be a very wet winter out here in the desert - ruining a variety of perfectly good cliches; it would be much better if I could write about how the onslaught of summer cleared away the tumbleweeds of joyless winter or something not that's it's not going to be fucking hot this summer too - it's finally time to start looking to the season ahead.
(That sentence officially got away from me the way public support of ticket surchages for a Cubs stadium got away from the Mayor of Mesa.)
Going into my third year as a baseball fan, I feel much better prepared for the season this year. I feel like I have more of a handle on who the Diamondbacks are, what kind of team they are and how they play. We're familiar with each other now, the team and I. It's like getting to the point in a relationship where you don't have to pretend you wear sexy lingerie to bed anymore and can finally kick back in an old T-shirt you got for free in college for signing up for a credit card and a pair of pajama pants with a hole in the leg.
Here's what I feel like are the biggest issues going into the season.
(Feel free to disagree with me cause hey, what do I know? I've only been watching this sport two years now and also I'm a girl.)
1. Starting pitching.
Name a Diamondbacks starting pitcher. Okay, now name one who isn't Dan Haren.
A lot is riding on when and even whether Brandon Webb comes back. And like a slumlord who's been promised the check is in the mail, I'm skeptical. He hasn't pitched from the mound yet and the team's been quiet about his progress. What info out there is pretty general. Webby feels "good," Webby feels "stagnant," Webby feels "that it's going to rain on Thursday because of the way his trick knee is acting up." Basically, nobody knows what's going on with Brandon Webb, including, I'm beginning to believe, Brandon Webb. But it's true the team needs him, if only so he can get his trade value up before we let go of him at the deadline.
2. The bullpen.
Remember the eight inning last year? No, I don't mean the eighth inning of any particular game - I mean the eigth inning of every single last year. All 162 of them. The eighth inning is the reason I have to buy Tums in bulk (can you buy ant-acids in a 10 lb bucket? Anybody know?). Expecting your starter to throw a complete game every time he's on the mound to avoid giving up four runs in the eighth is an inefficient way to win a ball game. It also gets you on Dan Haren's shit list. And believe me, you don't want to be there. An improvement in this area will be needed if we want to have a shot to contend.
3. Offensive production.
Basically, this boils down to "be more better." Chris Young is coming off a horrible year and if he wants to keep his job, he'll need to start producing at even a modest level. It's also important Stephen Drew returns to the potential hinted at in 2008. This is very important to make feel better because while I talk about Baby Drew, I fear he's going to wind up like his brother: overpaid and under producing.
I know, that's pretty much every aspect of the game to be concerned about, right? But there are upsides. Conor Jackson is back from Valley Fever and if his numbers from winter ball and spring training are any indication, he should be back to form and getting on base like a machine. Missed you, Gravity! Justin Upton has nothing but supsides and if he can stay healthy this year, he's a superstar in the making with a contract that delays his inevitable pinstripes just a little bit longer. Mark Reynold looks to continue to be a leader both in the clubhouse and on the field, driving in runs like we pay him to do. If he maintains what he did last year the man is going to be a dirty dirty beast, and I love it.
In all, this year should turn out to be much much better that last and now that it's started, it's time to pray. Somebody pass the Tums.
1 week ago