October 7 was the final day of the Arizona Diamondbacks' 2011 season. On that day, when the team was eliminated from the playoffs by the Milwaukee Brewers by a score of 3-2 in 10 innings, its lineup looked like this:
Willie Bloomquist, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Justin Upton, RF
Miguel Montero, C
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Chris Young, CF
Ryan Roberts, 3B
Gerardo Parra, LF
That lineup featured a resurgent Hill, budding stars in Montero, Parra and Goldschmidt, and an MVP candidate in Upton. Sure, it was not elite, as there was no way Roberts should ever be a starter on a playoff team and Bloomquist was not an ideal shortstop. However, it was a good group and it had a future.
Things were only supposed to get better.
Monday, as the D-backs fell to the Miami Marlins by a score of 3-2 at Chase Field, their lineup looked like this:
Gerardo Parra, CF
Willie Bloomquist, 2B
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Miguel Montero, C
Cody Ross, RF
Jason Kubel, LF
Martin Prado, 3B
Didi Gregorius, SS
Parra is now an established everyday player, Goldschmidt is a star, Montero is a good player who has been in a funk, and Gregorius appears to have a bright future in the league. Outside of them, though, there seem to veteran players on bad contracts. As for the future? Yeah, about that…
Now, one bad game does not a bad lineup make. However, it should be apparent to anyone who has watched the 2013 Diamondbacks that outside of Goldschmidt and Parra, they have very little in the way of offensive production.
So, what happened to the once-promising D-backs' lineup?
A combination of injuries and Kevin Towers, mostly.
Since the loss to the Brewers roughly two years ago, the D-backs have traded Upton and Young, added Kubel and Ross via free agency, and acquired Gregorius and Prado via separate deals. In between were trades for pitchers (some worked out, others didn't), along with moves to acquire lesser-known position players who didn't quite work out. It happens.
To expect a general manager to win every trade would simply be unfair. And really, if you go through Towers' track record in the Valley, he's made some excellent deals. But since the 2011 season, when the D-backs had a good team along with a much-envied farm system, Towers has had his share of struggles.
Outside of the three-team trade that netted the team Gregorius for pitcher Trevor Bauer and the contract extensions signed by Goldschmidt and Hill, very little has seemed to work out for the GM.
Neither the Kubel nor Ross signings have really worked out, and the Upton for Prado trade looks like a pretty solid bust at the moment. Granted, Prado has been a better player than this throughout his career, but his tenure in Arizona has resulted in a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of -0.5, which means the team would be better off with someone -- anyone -- else in the lineup.
And on the pitching side of things, the Trevor Cahill trade appears to be a wash, at best, and the organization has shipped out quality relievers Craig Breslow, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw over the last year or so.
Again, no general manager is perfect, and to expect Towers to be is simply unreasonable. You win some and you lose some, and all you can do is hope the wins are more good than the losses are bad.
The disappointing part of Towers' misfires, though, is that most of them didn't have to happen.
No one forced him into signing Kubel and Ross to expensive deals, especially when the team's outfield was already set. He was not mandated to unload prospect Jarrod Parker in exchange for Cahill, especially when it meant parting with reliever Ryan Cook, too. And there's little need to rehash what happened with Upton, but suffice to say a deal only became necessary because Towers and the D-backs made it so.
Of course, even with all of that said, the D-backs are not in terrible shape. The farm system is hardly in dire straits, and the big league club is in contention to win the NL West.
And who knows, perhaps the return of a Silver Slugger at second base along with the addition of a prototypical leadoff hitter may be just what this team needs. After all, a little good health could easily go a long way for the team's chances.
On October 7, 2011, I wrote a blog titled "Weep not for the Diamondbacks, they'll be back."
And it is a time like this where we must remember just how far the Diamondbacks have come in such a short period of time. Just last season they lost 97 games, and now we're upset they lost in Game 5, on the road, in the NLDS?
Shows just how far the Diamondbacks as a team - and we, as fans - have come. But the key, especially right now, is to think of not where the team has come from, but instead where they are going.
Yeah, about that.
Truth is, you just can't predict what will happen with a team, no matter how certain their future may appear. There are no guarantees in sports or life, and because of that there will always be an exciting level of uncertainty in anything that goes on.
However, there are things one can do to increase the odds of certain outcomes coming to fruition, and as far as the D-backs are concerned, they've done a pretty good job of lessening theirs.