Q1. A few years back the Diamondbacks began a youth movement in which they purged themselves of many veterans. Arizona is near first place about 10 games over .500. How come the youth movement was so successful so fast?
First of all, you have to give a lot of credit to the previous regime that was in place before Josh Byrnes & Co. took over in Nov. 2005. GM Joe Garagiola Jr. and his staff – in particular scouting director Mike Rizzo – did a fantastic job in the draft to stock the system and then held tightly to those coveted young players. Players like Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin, Stephen Drew, Micah Owings, Justin Upton (who’s tearing up Double A), et al, are all homegrown. Then Byrnes came in and kept the team moving in the same direction, making trades for affordable, younger players like Orlando Hudson and Chris Young and beefed up the pitching staff with trades for Livan Hernandez, Doug Davis and Randy Johnson. The pitching in particular is probably the biggest reason they’ve been able to stay above .500 this season.
Q2. Arizona is the hottest team in the National League and did well on their east coast swing in which they played the N.Y. Mets. However,over the weekend the D-backs have had problems with the Boston Red Sox. What did you learn about the Diamondbacks and are they ready to "play with the big boys"?
It’s hard to really tell much from three games, particularly when Brandon Webb wasn’t one of the starting pitchers – and we all know how important he is to the success of this team – but it did appear as if they were a notch below the Red Sox, who, remember, were playing without the designated hitter. The Diamondbacks lineup doesn’t have the top-to-bottom depth of the Red Sox, and their bullpen had some trouble in two of the games. I’m sure the Diamondbacks are hopeful that their players like Drew and Quentin will be bigger threats as they get more at-bats and experience.
Q3. Who are a few quality players on the team that many people on the east coast have not heard about just because they play in Arizona?
Two young pitchers come to mind: Micah Owings and Tony Pena. Neither get a whole lot of pub, but both have done quite well thus far. Owings, who was a combined 16-2 in the minor leagues last season, has a 3.76 ERA. Although he has all of 52 2/3 major league innings under his belt, looking at the way he attacks hitters and his mound comportment, you’d think he were a 10-year veteran. Nothing fazes him. And he’ll throw pretty much any pitch in any situation. Pena is a guy whom the club converted from a starter to a reliever before last season and he really took to it right away, dominating in the minor leagues before getting a second-half callup. He has been close to overpowering pitching the seventh or eighth inning for Bob Melvin this year, effectively mixing his mid-90s fastball and hard slider. I absolutely agree with the club’s long-term vision of him as a closer.
Q4. What areas must the Diamondbacks improve upon during the season? Do you think they will be active before the trade deadline? If so, who would be someone that the team covets?
Their offense has been hit or miss all season. They’ve got to get more production from guys like Quentin and Drew. They’ve got to stay healthy, too. Quentin, Tracy, Drew, Chris Young – all have had injuries of varying degrees throughout the season. They need these guys healthy and productive. It’s really tough to tell whether they’ll be active at the deadline. They could probably use another solid reliever, but they may feel they have some guys in Triple-A – Medders at the moment, if they can get him straightened out – who can help out eventually. Another bat would help, too, but I just don’t see that kind of trade happening.
Q5. Living on the east coast I have to ask, why did the organization change team colors from purple to red? What do you think of the switch?
The team listed a few different reasons, including television stations having trouble matching their graphics colors accurately to the team jerseys, but I think it had a lot to do with the club’s new ownership group wanting to kind of put their stamp on the organization. Since Jerry Colangelo was forced out in Aug. 2004 and Ken Kendrick and Jeff Moorad have been running day-to-day operations, there have been all kinds of changes, including the team president, the GM, VPs, the PR director, and I kind of lump the color change in with all that. I like the switch. Granted, they look a whole lot like some other teams in baseball, like Houston, for example, but I think they’re pretty sharp.
Q5a. One extra question, what is your opinion about Barry Bonds and "The Record"?
You know, I just sat here and wrote an answer ripping Bonds, then read it and decided I wanted to defend him, at which point I just deleted both answers and started again. I guess I don’t feel strongly about this. It’s a really tough situation, one of those where it seems like any opinion is valid. I can see both sides. A lot of guys were doing steroids and he still hit the home runs. Then again, if there’s so much evidence (granted, no known failed drug test) against him, it’s hard to consider it a clean record. I guess I’m just glad that I’ve got about seven years before I’m eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame. Plenty of time to make up my mind.....
I want to thank Nick for his time....he has been traveling across the country the last two weeks with the D-Backs playing in New York then heading home for a week then coming back to New York for a series with the Yankees....