Lobby of Numbers: Arizona Diamondbacks

Sunday, January 08 2006 @ 12:00 PM EST

Contributed by: Magpie

At last, at long last, the Lobby of Numbers is back. We're changing leagues, we're changing coasts. Yes, it's time for the NL West. That means we have a couple of quick, light appetizers to get us back up to speed.

The Diamondbacks hired Buck Showalter in November 1995, more than two years before they began to actually play any games. It helped them hit the ground running; in just their second season, they won 100 games and a division title. Two years later, they were World Series champions. Generations of Cubs fans can only shake their heads in dismay.

But still... the Diamondbacks have only been around since 1998, and while they have a World Series championship and two other post-season appearances in their brief history, the fact remains that they've only played eight seasons. Not a lot of players have passed through town. We will therefore invoke our Tampa Bay rule - when necessary, we will take the opportunity to acknowledge someone on the basis of career achievement, even if the bulk of that career was spent elsewhere.

1 - Not exactly a rousing start. Andy Green, who's played 63 games as a utility guy over the last two years, is the only candidate. But if they give this number to Orlando, everything will work out fine.

2 - He didn't build his Hall of Fame resume in the desert, but Roberto Alomar actually played quite well during his brief tenure with the D'Backs, although an early season injury shelved him for much of the time. He was wearing this number because Steve Finley already had #12; Robbie switched to 12 when Finley was traded, but then Alomar himself was almost immediately moved to Chicago

3 - What's this? Another switch-hitting second-baseman from Puerto Rico, born in 1968, who started out with the Padres, established himself as an outstanding player after being traded to the American League, and instantly went into irreversible decline after being traded to the Mets? Were they separated at birth? What are the odds, anyway? This one, of course, was Carlos Baerga, who was an outstanding player in the early 90s. And then he went to Queens...

4 - The man with the funny batting stance, Craig Counsell, has contributed to a pair of World Series winners, in Florida and Phoenix. He's not much of a hitter, but his plate discipline allows him to help out offensively and he still plays a good second base. Of course, in 2006 he's going to be a shortstop. Not sure that's the wisest policy.

5 - He's a Yankee now, but Tony Womack's ninth inning double against Rivera tied the game and set the stage for Luis Gonzalez. Womack holds the franchise record for stolen bases.

6 - Quinton McCracken - sure. He's played 427 games in the desert, and has been a useful player on occasion. It's him or Andy Fox

7 - On the other hand, maybe they should give Orlando this number, because right now we're stuck with Robby Hammock.

8 - When Felix Jose was coming up with Oakland in the late 1980s, he was supposed to be a star. It didn't happen. After the Royals turned him loose in 1995, he passed through several organizations without ever returning to the majors. He spent some time in Mexico before finally resurfacing with the Yankees. He served some time with the Diamondbacks as a bat off the bench in 2002-03.

9 - He was almost an immortal - Matt Williams is best remembered for having hit 43 homers in 112 games when the 1994 strike put an end to his chance to make a run at Roger Maris' HR record. Williams was an outstanding defender and power hitter - he was basically Mike Schmidt-lite and as such a very fine player indeed. He was an original Diamondback, and part of the 2001 champs.

10 - I don't care if Royce Clayton was the starting shortstop last year. He's still Royce Clayton, and Alex Cintron has played more than 400 games in the desert.

11 - Jose Guillen and Richie Sexson are much more famous, but neither actually did much in the desert. Neither did Matt Kata, I suppose, but he offers a little bit more quantity.

12 - It may be coming to the usual end, but it's been an interesting run for Steve Finley. He came up with the Orioles as a speedy slap hitting outfielder, and went to Houston as part of one of the more lopsided deals in recent history (Finley and Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling for Glenn Davis.) By the end of 1994, Finley had been a regular for five years and had 37 career homers. He would be a different player after he turned 30, hitting 248 homers over the next decade. He did much of this damage in the desert, where he arrived in 1999. He generally stands second (behind Luis Gonzalez) in almost every one of the team' all-time hitting records.

13 - As often happens here, there is little to choose from - we'll go with Midre Cummings, who went 6-20 (hey, he hit .300!) in 2001. Beats the single appearance by Jeff Fassero three years later.

14 - Or maybe Orlando can wear this number. As it is, we're stuck with a backup infielder who hit .186 in 48 games. That's what happens with these new teams. Say hello to Tim Olson.

15 - Obviously, Shawn Green gave the best years of his baseball life to the Blue Jays and the Dodgers. He's still a decent player, and the best option here.

16 - There were doubtless some moments last summer when Miguel Batista was wishing Travis Lee had never left Arizona. Lee made his ML debut with the first edition of the D'Backs, hitting 22 HRs (still his career best) as a rookie. Even better, in 2000 he was part of the package that went to Philadelphia in exchange for Curt Schilling.

17 - He's probably not quite as good as his outstanding rookie year in 2003 suggested, but Brandon Webb is still a very fine pitcher. He strikes out people, he keeps the ball in the park, his control took a big step forward in 2005 - which is how you go 14-12 for a lousy team. Mark Grace also wore this number during his time in Arizona, but Mark Grace is a Cub. Who, like all Cubs since time immemorial, had to go somewhere else to win a championship.

18 - One of the big winners in the Troy Glaus deal is Chad Tracy, who will now move back to third base, after playing first base and the outfield in 2005. Tracy had never hit more than 10 HRs in a season at any level until last year, when he teed off on NL pitching for 27 of them (along with a .308 BAVG and .553 slugging). If that's his real level of ability, he's going to be one of the best bargains in the game.

19 - The Blue Jays traded Dan Plesac to Arizona for Tony Batista and John Frascatore in mid-1999. It was a deal that worked out very well for Toronto, especially when Plesac returned as a free agent before the 2001 season. Which meant, of course, that he missed out on Arizona' championship season.

20 - The man who holds pretty well every team hitting record, Luis Gonzalez, is also the man who delivered the biggest hit in team history, a broken bat flare off Mariano Rivera to score the winning run in the 2001 World Series. Like Steve Finley, Gonzalez is a player who found his power switch the year he turned 30. Until then, he had never hit more than 15 HRs in his seven full seasons, mostly spent in Houston. But he hit 23 for the 1998 Tigers, who then traded him to Arizona in a straight swap for... Karim Garcia? The Karim Garcia? Only eight men in the history of the game have had more total bases in a season than the 419 that Gonzalez piled up in 2001 - one of them, Sammy Sosa, did it that very same season, so Gonzalez didn't even lead his own league in his historic season. The others, by the way, are Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Chuck Klein (twice), Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial, and Hack Wilson. We call that "a fast crowd."

21 - This is not such a fast crowd. You can tell because Randy Choate is the star of the show.

22 - Cleveland made Greg Swindell the second overall pick in the 1986 amateur draft, and he was in their starting rotation before the season was over. Two years later, at the age of 23, he went 18-14, 3.20 for a typically lousy Cleveland team, and in 1989 he made his first All-Star appearance. That was as good as it would get for Swindell. By 1997, he had become a somewhat portly lefty reliever, but a rather good one, and was part of the 2001 champs.

23 - Bernard Gilkey earned a lot of money in Arizona - unfortunately, by the time he got there he was a pretty bad ball player. Whereas Javier Vazquez was a pretty decent pitcher for the 2005 D'Backs.

24 - In Year One, Karim Garcia hit .222 with 9 HR and 43 RBI in 113 games. This was enough to obtain Luis Gonzalez from the Tigers, and we'll honour him for that reason alone.

25 - This number belonged to David Dellucci from 1998 to 2003, and while Dellucci is a nice player, Troy Glaus hit more HRs for the Diamondbacks in one season than Dellucci did in more than 500 games. And besides... the man has been a World Series hero and we all want to see him do it again, and soon.

26 - The Minnesota Twins drafted Damian Miller in the 20th round of the 1990 draft. He was almost 28 years old before he finally got a late season look from the Twins in 1997. The D'Backs selected him in the expansion draft that winter. He eventually emerged as the regular and spent five years in the desert before being traded to the Cubs.

27 - 1993 was the first year major league baseball was played in Denver, and had we known then what we know, we all would have been much more impressed by the work done by Armando Reynoso, who went 12-11, 4.00 with the first year Rockies. Perhaps it was the strain of this remarkable performance that limited him to 145 IP over the next two years. He eventually came to the Southwest and gave the D'Backs a couple of useful seasons in the rotation.

28 - Far be it from me to diss Shea Hillenbrand, who gave the Snakes a solid season in 2004. But Greg Colbrunn was in Arizona from 1999 through 2002, and during that time he hit better than .300 and slugged better than .500 three times - and the year he missed, he hit .289 and slugged .495. Alas, only once could they see fit to give him more than 200 at bats. Too bad.

29 - For the most part, Danny Bautista has put together a somewhat undistinguished career - he's a singles-hitting outfielder whose only skill is hitting for average and even that comes and goes. But in the 2001 World Series, Bautista went 7-12 (.583) against the Yankees, and tied for the series lead with 7 RBI. Good timing.

30 - Former Jay Todd Stottlemyre turned 34 soon after arriving in Arizona. Arm miseries limited him to 35 starts over his first two years and caused him to miss the entire 2001 championship run. He tried to grit his way through a comeback in 2002, but his arm was all used up. He made an enormously positive impression while in the desert, on fans, management, and teammates. Todd was always a gamer, and he pitched well for the D'Backs on those too few occasions when he was actually able to take the mound.

31 - Despite some memorable moments, Matt Mantei has had a career that mostly amounts to being dogged by injuries and bad timing. He made the Marlins Opening Day roster in 1996 at age 22, but by the end of May was back in the minors, and by June he was on the DL. He missed all of Florida's championship run in 1997 after rotator cuff surgery, but came back strong in 1998. He was traded to Arizona in 1999 and immediately established himself as a closer with saves in 22 of his first 30 games. He made two more trips to the DL in 2000, and in 2001 missed another championship because of major surgery. This time it was his elbow, and Tommy John surgery cost him most of the next two seasons. He fought his way back again, reclaimed his closer's job in 2003, and fashioned another fine season (2.62 with 29 saves), but in 2004 shoulder problems led to another season ending surgery. Last year he went to Boston, the year after their championship season. This time the season ending surgery was needed in July to repair an ankle. His last appearance on a major league mound was simply grotesque. It came against the Blue Jays, in the 15-2 game. Mantei issued four walks, allowed five earned runs and recorded just one out. But he will be back - nothing short of a stake through the heart will stop this guy from trying to get on with his career.

32 - We must go with Rick Helling, who at least contributed one league average season in the rotation. This made him quite a bit more useful than Albie Lopez who went 4-7 down the stretch in 2001, and followed that up by going 0-2 in three post-season appearances.

33 - The Twins drafted Jay Bell out of high school in the first round way back in 1984. They soon packaged him to Cleveland in exchange for Bert Blyleven, who helped Minnesota win the World Series in 1987. Bell made his Cleveland debut at age 20, but was shipped off to Pittsburgh for Felix Fermin in the spring of 1989. Bell established himself as a major league shortstop with the Pirates - he drew some walks, hit some doubles, and dropped down enormous numbers of sacrifice bunts. The D'Backs signed him as a free agent for their first season. In 1999, at age 33, he exploded for 38 HR and 112 RBIs, numbers far beyond anything he had ever achieved before in his career, and would never approach again. Injuries restricted him to limited duty in the 2001 post-season, but he was the man who scored the winning run on the Gonzalez single. Of course, he shouldn't have been on base at all. Bell, pinch-hitting, had attempted a sacrifice bunt, but Rivera retired the lead runner (and game-tying run) at third base instead.

34 - This is a bit of a tough one. Tony Clark just gave Arizona a very productive year (30 HR, 87 RBI, .304 in just 349 AB). But I'm going to go with the LH Brian Anderson. Partially because he was actually in Arizona for four years, which has some meaning - he went 29-29 in his time there - but mostly because of his fine performance in the 2001 post-season.

35 - Ugh. Kelly Stinnett spent three seasons caddying for Damian Miller. While Mike Myers didn't pitch very well in Arizona, he's had a more substantial career. And he has the same name as a Canadian movie star...

36 - Hard as this may be for some of you to believe, Kerry Ligtenberg pitched much, much better for Toronto than he did for Arizona. Scott Service was also slightly better in Toronto than he had been in Arizona - but the Blue Jays quickly released him soon after they had picked him up on waivers. From Arizona. Which leaves us with Mike Morgan. Morgan made his ML debut in 1978, an 18 year old out of high school in the middle of a Charlie Finley stunt. He had a brief tour of duty with the Blue Jays in 1983, and then had a lengthy career as a starter in both leagues. By the time he got to Phoenix, he was 40 years and pitching for his 13th major league team. He finally made it to a World Series in 2001 and contributed three scoreless outings in relief, which was surely a nice cap to his career.

37 - Omar Daal has had a strange career, one moment looking like a fine starting pitcher (16-9 for the 1999 Diamondbacks) and the next moment looking like... something completely different (like that 2-10 mark for the 2000 Diamondbacks, and 4-19 overall.) Omar's high points give him the nod over Brad Halsey. Besides, the Phillies were willing to take Daal as part of the package for Curt Schilling.

38 - At last, an easy one. Curt Schilling spent just two complete seasons in the Arizona rotation - he arrived in mid 2000, and missed a good part of 2003 with injuries. But in those two seasons, 2001-02, he went 45-13 and struck out 609 batters. Along the way came the 2001 post-season, when he actually elevated his performace. He could get better? Yes, he could. In his six post-season starts in 2001, Schilling went 4-0, 1.12 with 56 Ks in 48.1 IPT. It was one of the greatest post-season pitching performances in the history of the game. Seriously, how much better than that can a man actually pitch, anyway? That fall, Schilling was as good as anyone has ever been. And, as we all know, he was nowhere close to finishing the work on his legend.

39 - This is not promising. Mike Fetters was barely hanging on when he ended up in Arizona. He pitched poorly for them, but he had at least had his moments of semi-stardom. About ten years earlier. For another team. In another league.

40 - Bobby Witt and Andy Benes both arrived in the major leagues surrounded by a lot of hype and excitement. Neither man's career lived up to the advance billing - Witt seemed on the verge of breaking through as a star when a 1991 injury completely derailed him, although he managed to hang around major league rotations for another ten years. Benes had a fine career, but still spent most of it regarded as something of a disappointment. He never won 20 games, he never struck out 200 men, he made but one All-Star team - he was expected to do those things regularly when he was coming up. Benes was an original Diamondback, and went 27-25 in his two years in the desert.

41 - Bret Prinz pitched well out of the Arizona pen in 2001 - it was better than Greg Aquino's fine work in 2004, and the 2001 season was just a little more significant in team lore.

42 - Property of Jackie Robinson. Never used in Arizona.

43 - There was little chance that we'd honour Raul Mondesi in this place - the Buffalo actually played very well in his brief time in Arizona, but it was just 45 games in 2003. Anyway, Miguel Batista is back just to make sure. Batista, it is fair to say, was a disappointment in Toronto. It's not that he was actually bad - Jays fans simply hoped and expected that he would be better. El Artista spent three years in Arizona, starting and relieving. He also provided a brilliant start in Game 5 of the World Series (7.2 shutout innings), and recorded a key out in relief (Derek Jeter with a runner on base) in the 8th inning of Game 7. I would think they'll be happy to see him again.

44 - Mysteries are many, and one of them is the reluctance of the Diamondbacks to give Erubiel Durazo a chance to play. He was in Arizona for four seasons - he slugged better than .500 three times, his worst on-base average was .372, and he knocked 47 home runs in 748 at bats. Yet his 222 at bats in 2002 was the only time he got as many as 200 at bats in a season.

45 - Hmmm. Vicente Padilla pitched rather well in 2002-03. Of course, Padilla did this fine work on behalf of the Philadelphia Phillies. But he earlier had pitched well enough in Arizona as a 22 year old reliever (2-1, 2.31 with 30 Ks in 35 IP) for the Phillies to take him in the Schilling trade. Which makes him a bigger part of team history than Elmer Dessens.

46 - I know, we're really reaching. In 1999, Arizona was the beneficiary of one of the occasional good seasons that Darren Holmes used to come up with every few years, in order to allow is career to keep sputtering along for a little while longer...

47 - Not that a lot of people have noticed, but Jose Valverde appears to be developing into a very good relief pitcher. He had a terrific rookie season in 2003, ran into some injury problems the next year, but bounced back very strong in 2005. He's struck out 184 batters in 146.1 innings, and he's still just 26 years old.

48 - He did very little in the desert, where he started his career as a light-hitting backup catcher. Since then, Rod Barajas has hit 36 homers in two seasons in Arlington. This is perhaps not all that surprising. He did hit 14 in about 500 Arizona at bats (spread over five seasons, mind you.) Granted, the .212 BAVG was not so good, but beggars can't be choosers....

49 - After everything that's already happened to him, consider this - Byung-Hyun Kim is still just 26 years old. Like Gabe Gross, Kim was born in 1979. There could be years and years of strange, heart-stopping drama ahead of us. What has happened so far already stretches the bounds of credulity.

A slightly built RH submariner from South Korea, Kim made his ML debut in May 1999, just four months after his 20th birthday. By the next season, he was Matt Mantei's setup man, striking out a remarkable 111 hitters in just 70.2 IPT. When Mantei went down early in 2001, Kim took over the closer's role and emerged as one of the most dominating relievers in the game - he struck out 113 men in 98 IPT, and held opposing batters to a .173 BAVG. He was still just 22 years old. He was simply untouchable in the first two rounds of the playoffs, picking up saves in three of four appearances, and allowing one base hit in 6.1 innings of work. And then came the 2001 World Series.

Kim made his World Series debut in Game 4, with Arizona leading 3-1 in the game and 2-1 in the series. He struck out the side in the 8th, and got to within one out of closing out the win when Tino Martinez tied the game with a two-run homer. Bob Brenly sent him out for a third inning, and he allowed a two-out walkoff homer to Derek Jeter that tied the series. The very next night, having pitched 2.2 the previous evening - and this was November by the way - Brenly sent Kim out for the 9th to close a 2-0 Arizona lead fashioned largely by the brilliant work of Miguel Batista. Again Kim got to within one out of the win, and again he was hit by lightning. Again he allowed a two-out two-run homer, this one by Scott Brosius, that tied the game.

Will anyone who was watching ever forget the sight of an inconsolable Kim crouched down on the mound, in shock and pain and disbelief? It was heart-wrenching, a dreadful human tragedy played out in front of 60,000 screaming witnesses. The Yankees eventually scored on Albie Lopez in the 12th to win the game and take a 3-2 series lead, but the D'Backs rallied to win the series anyway.

Kim's failures, on the biggest stage imaginable, seemed a crushing burden for anyone to bear. Furthermore, this 22 year old was also saddled with the pressure of being one of the first men from his country to become an important major league player. All of Korea was watching him, hoping for him, counting on him. I can not imagine what his dark night of the soul was like, and neither can any of you.

But Kim bounced back most impressively from this disaster. He had a superb 2002 season, saving 36 games with a 2.04 ERA. Naturally, the Diamondbacks decided to make him a starter. He opened the 2004 season in the rotation, and had a 1-5 record after seven starts. He was actually pitching pretty well - his ERA was 3.56, the league was batting just .214 against him - but the D'Backs decided to trade him to Boston for Shea Hillenbrand. He eventually took over as the Red Sox closer and saved 16 games (in 19 chances), and did not allow a single earned run in September. But he pitched just once in the 2003 post-season, opened 2004 on the Disabled List, and was optioned to Pawtucket after three starts. Yes, once again, after doing a fine job as a reliever, Kim's team had decided he should become a starter. He eventually made it back to Boston in time to make four meaningless September relief appearances, and completely lost the good opinion of the Fenway hordes while he was at it.

And so this past year, just before the season started, Kim was traded to the Pitcher's Graveyard, Coors Field. Would he never do anything interesting again? Not a chance. In his first year with the Rockies he added yet another strange notch to his resume by pitching quite well in Denver - much better than he pitched on the road, in fact. Has this ever happened before? In the annals of recorded time? But it only figures, doesn't it? Who else could it be?

Byung-Hung Kim is one of a kind - I expect him to surprise and amaze me for a long time to come. The man is already a legend, as far as I'm concerned. This isn't a career - this is an epic, a melodrama, and I will always cheer for him.

50 - Nothing to see here, move along. Geraldo Guzman? Yes.

51 - There has never been anything remotely like Randy Johnson, as I'm sure you are all well aware. The Unit is definitely the tallest, and probably also the ugliest, of those who are destined to end up in the Hall of Fame. The man is so damn large, I keep expecting him to step off the mound and hand the ball to his catcher. He was an Expo, once upon a time. Remember the Mark Langston trade?

52 - Didn't Andrew Good play in Linda Ronstadt's band? Made some of those interchangeable LA soft-rock records, back in the day? That was Andrew Gold? Whatever...

53 - Not used

54 - We've already used Mike Myers, which leaves us with the immortal Casey Daigle.

55 - We've already used Brandon Webb, so we've got nothing to work with here.

Two inhabitants of the 2005 bullpen are the only men worth noting, and just barely, when it comes to D'Backs wearing unusual numbers. Oscar Villareal (56) and Mike Koplove (58). Koplove has since switched to number 76. Like I'm interested...

We've got one more of these pseudo-teams (oh, I guess they're real teams - they just don't have much history to work with) to deal with. The Colorado Rockies have been around a little longer than the Diamondbacks. That would be the good news. They haven't accomplished as much. That would be the bad news. Well, let's see what we find when we get there.