D-backs looking for extra degree in 2010
There is something about the 2009 season for the Arizona Diamondbacks that just doesn’t add up.
The Opening Day loss of Brandon Webb clearly hurt as did being without Conor Jackson, one of the team’s best hitters in 2008, for almost all the year.
But that still should not translate into entering the season’s final day 23 games under .500 and an embarrassing September. The talent that is on the roster should add up to better than that.
You look at the lineup the Padres ran out there against the D-backs that last weekend at Chase Field. Compare that to the one the D-backs started on that day and honestly would you take more than two or three Padres over their D-backs counterparts in that? I would not.
Yet somehow the D-backs are looking up at the Padres in the standings. Somehow the Padres managed to finish this season strong while the D-backs, well not so much.
There is something missing with this D-backs team. What that is I am not sure, but you can bet it’s a question that the Arizona front office has been pondering in a big way. Because this team has come off the rails since its 90-win year in 2007 and someway, somehow GM Josh Byrnes and his staff have to figure out exactly what it is that is missing and then how to fix it.
“It’s been a strange thing,” Byrnes said when we discussed the way things have gone since 2007. “A lot of these guys have been here for three years and on the front end had a lot of success. We know they’re talented, we know they’ve been part of a winning team before, it’s important to not lose sight of that.”
What it seems then is in addition to adding some more talent — another arm in the rotation and bullpen, picking up Brandon Webb’s option — the team needs to adjust its attitude and approach. That much at least is clear.
“There are a lot of issues that can get a team sidetracked from the issue of winning,” Byrnes told me. “And I think we need to get that mindset of everyday showing up to win a game. I can’t imagine 2009 doesn’t anger you, doesn’t frustrate you, it should. We need to go into next year and compete with some determination.”
That edge, that ability to push yourself, to be better than you are is what makes the difference at this level given the fact that the difference in talent between players is so small.
There is a book “212 the Extra Degree” that talks about this. The title is based on the fact that water is scalding at 211 degrees, but at 212 degrees it boils and it’s that one extra degree that can make the difference between being good and being great.
NBA legend Michael Jordan received some criticism for his Hall of Fame induction speech because he mocked some former adversaries in it. The speech should not have surprised anyone, because that was the way Jordan motivated himself during his career. It was that edge that kept him playing hard in meaningless games and practices even after he was recognized as one of the all-time greats.
Former D-back great Randy Johnson would often talk about “people who say I’m too old, people who think I can’t do it” even in years when he was winning 20-plus games and it was hard to find anyone who doubted him. But that was what he used to drive himself even though he had already accomplished so much in his career.
The point is different people use different methods, but the players who get the most out of their talent in sports just like the people who get the most out of their talent in whatever field or career they are in, find ways to motivate and push themselves.
Obviously not everyone does that and in that case Arizona manager A.J. Hinch has to figure out how to push his players. Some will need a kick, some will need a pat, some will need a kick followed by a pat.
The challenge then for Byrnes and his staff will need to figure how to retool the roster and Hinch’s is to get the most out of it.
Ultimately, though, the responsibility rests with the players, who come back. They have to find a way to get that extra degree to avoid another disappointing season.