Watch out for the construction zone.
Up-Town has been razed.
Justin Upton, Stephen Drew and Trevor Bauer - all, at one time or another, hailed at the future of the Arizona Diamondbacks – were all sent packing in the offseason. Drew and Upton were a big part of division title winners in 2007 and 2011. When they were injured or when their play slipped they were a big reason why the Diamondbacks sagged in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
Upton was a lot like Amare Stoudemire. The tools overwhelm you. The moments on the field take your breath away. For every great game, there was the promise of even more. The best player on a good team, the player the team hoped to follow to the Promised Land.
But in the end, both players fell short of the ultimate promise here, mishandled by management, and, in the end, left town in their prime and for far less than market value.
Martin Prado is a good guy and a very good baseball player. But you’re not going to stop in the aisle with your bucket of popcorn and giant cookie so you don’t miss his at-bat. Upton had that – even if you felt like throwing all your goodies on the field after he waved at three pitches out of the zone.
Drew’s hot streaks were something to watch, but he priced himself out of Arizona. Enough said.
Moving Chris Young out of town? All for it. Putting Gerardo Parra and Aaron Eaton on the field works for me. Young and Upton were good friends and if his buddy hadn’t been such a lightning rod for criticism over the years, Young would have received more of the heat his hitting often deserved.
Bauer is an interesting case, kind of a 2010 version of Bill Lee. You don’t just get a pitcher, you get the whole floor show. I still think he will be a very good major leaguer, but he and Kirk Gibson were kind of like Sammy Hagar fronting Van Halen – just didn’t work.
Bob Brenly put up with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Bauer would have been a walk in the park. You don’t like being shaken off Miguel Montero? Steer clear of those guys in their prime. They would rather have thrown to a pitchback.
So now we have Prado, Cody Ross, Eric Chavez and Cliff Pennington on a team which won 81 games, and has to deal with a team that has won two of the last three championships in San Francisco and a team whose spending habits would make Mark Cuban blush in the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Anytime Bud Selig wants to add a few more playoff spots …
The lack of a dominant starter still sticks out, and the lack of Daniel Hudson, before and after his season ended, was huge. The 2011 team doesn’t win the West without him.
The Diamondbacks have to hit home runs to win at Chase Field, and Prado and Ross should combine with Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel, Aaron Hill and Montero for plenty of power. The defense should be better especially at third and right field – where Upton was one of the league’s worst despite his shiny toolbox.
I think the Diamondbacks can be a winning team. I do think that unlike the Suns and Cardinals, there is a good organizational plan – even if it could be a little less buttoned-up. A lot of flash and sparkle are gone, and that’s by design.
But in a town full of sports fans that love pop and sizzle and follow the bright light, the D-Backs will have to win a lot of games to keep their attention through the long, hot summer.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.