While the Diamondbacks were major players in pre-season conversations, they prefer to fly under the radar screen. To coaches and players, nothing has been accomplished to date, and given the season is just beginning, talk around any expectation is regarded as foolish and thoughtless.
To be fair, the Diamondbacks have improved their starting rotation, and pundits point to pitching and defense as the key elements to winning. At the same, the loss of A. J. Pollock, due to a fractured right elbow sustained last Friday night, cannot be miscalculated. Pollock, who could be lost for the season, leaves big numbers on the table. Manager Chip Hale admitted before Monday’s season opener at Chase Field, that replacements will not match Pollock’s numbers. If players he uses can at least provide adequate production, Hale pointed out, Pollock’s loss would be mitigated.
Still, the Diamondbacks find themselves right in the middle of the one of most competitive divisions in baseball. Though they improved by 15 games over the 2014 season, other National League West Division teams seemed to improved.
“Look, this is major league baseball, and everyone is good,” said pitcher Shelby Miller before Monday’s opener. “I would say the NL West is one of the toughest divisions, and all five teams are solid.”
The term “expectation” floated around the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse all spring like an ominous cloud. Because management signed high-profile Zach Greinke from the clutches of the Dodgers and Giants, the level of play, many argued, immediately rose. Then again, all teams begin with that 0-0 slate, and things subsequently fall into place.
“The expectations we have for ourselves is the way we expect the play game each night,” Hale said. “Sure, it’s exciting around here, but we also recognize that the first month of the season will be challenging.”
That’s because the Diamondbacks engage the top three teams in the NL Central, the Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates, and take on the division-rivals Dodgers and Giants on the road. At this point, players are ready to exchange their spring address at Salt River for their summer residence in Chase Field.
“It’s a long spring, and guys are ready to start,” said first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. “Now, it’s time for us to go and play and see how good we are. There’s excitement around Opening Day, but it’s really just one of 162 games. You go out, give it your all, and come back to play the next day.”
WHAT THEY ARE MAKING
On Monday, the USA TODAY published a list of all major league salaries, and there is something terrible wrong with these numbers. Each player on each team’s 25-man roster was cited, and a quick look helps to tell a compelling story.
In most polls prior to the season, Diamondbacks’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is listed in the top five players in the game. While this placement is justified, Goldschmidt’s salary for the 2016 is grossly low for a player of his caliber and worth.
While Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw is listed as the highest paid player in baseball with $33 million for the coming season, Goldschmidt is listed at number 221, and will make $5,833,333 this season. In 2014, Goldschmidt signed a five-year deal worth $32 million, and his current contract expires in 2018. At that time, he will be 31 years old, and right in the middle of his prime years.
Other Diamondbacks’ top salaries for 2016 disclosed include pitcher Zack Greinke at number two ($31,799,030), outfielder Yasmany Tomas at 170 ($7.5 million), pitcher Tyler Clippard at 212 ($6.1 million), and closer Brad Ziegler at 228 ($5.5 million).