Let’s say a huge Arizona Diamondbacks fan spent three months completely out of touch – a stint on a space station, sealed in the Biosphere, working for the IRS in Cleveland, take your pick – and had no idea how his favorite baseball team had fared over the first two-plus months of the season.
It would be safe to say said fan would be pleasantly surprised, but a little confused, with what has transpired. Imagine the conversation you would have with him.
Me: Good news! Despite playing more road games than any team in the National League West, the Diamondbacks have a two-game lead over San Francisco and Colorado going into this weekend’s series with the Giants. Even after allowing 12 runs in St. Louis on Thursday, they have allowed the fewest runs in the division and only the oxygen-deprived Rockies have scored more runs.
D-Backs Fan: Awesome! I’m pumped. I was worried about the offense after the Justin Upton trade, but we’re scoring runs at a good clip. How has Adam Eaton done in the lead-off spot?
Me: Well, Eaton hasn’t played yet. Elbow injury in spring training. Maybe next month.
Fan: Wow. Really? Well Aaron Hill must be raking in the No. 2 hole. Has he it for the cycle yet this season?
Me: He’s out too. A pitch broke his hand 10 games into the season. Still a few weeks away at best.
Fan: Wow. Glad we held on to Willie Bloom..
Me: Bloomquist played for the first time all year last week. Oblique strain. Missed two months.
Fan: And they are in first place? I guess that Miguel Montero contract extension is really…
Me: Miggy has three home runs. He’s hitting .200 and that’s an improvement. Two weeks ago, he was hitting .180.
Fan: That puts a lot of pressure on Jason Kubel. He must be on his way to another 30-home run season, huh?
Me: Mmmm, nope. Three homers so far. He was hitting .230 before heating up in the last week. He was on the DL for awhile too.
Fan: Are you telling me that Martin Prado has blown up? Is he making the Justin Upton trade look good?
Me: He was hitting .230 two weeks ago. He’s starting to get better. But he has four home runs – Upton had more than that in the first week of the season.
Fan: Yikes! What are Upton’s stats?
Me: Never mind. Next question.
Fan: OK, the pitching must be carrying the day. I guess Ian Kennedy is back to 2010 form?
Me: Three wins. His ERA is closing in on six. He gave up 10 runs to the Cardinals on Thursday.
Fan: So Wade Miley is now the ace? Is he going back to the All-Star Game?
Me: No chance. Four wins. He just snapped a four-game losing streak on Wednesday and pushed his ERA under five.
Fan: Did Daniel Hudson …
Me: Nope. Still out. Tried to come back and suffered another tear. Maybe next year. Maybe.
Fan: Man, the bullpen must be lights out. Is J.J. Putz slamming the door?
Me: Was horrible for the first month. Injured for the last month. Probably one led to the other.
Fan: How is this team in first place?
Me: Paul Goldschmidt has 14 home runs, 54 RBI and a place at the table in the MVP conversation. Patrick Corbin, who had to win a job in spring training, is 9-0 and the Diamondbacks have won all 13 games he’s started. Gerardo Parra is being Gerardo Parra – and finally getting some respect. Eric Chavez had 25 RBI in 38 games before getting hurt himself. Didi Gregorious and A.J. Pollock were supposed to be in Reno. Instead, they have been propping up the Diamondbacks. Heath Bell has two wins and 10 saves.
Fan: How long have I been gone?
That’s what we’ve seen over the first two months of the season. The D-Backs are at the point they hoped to be in June, but the path they have traveled to get there couldn’t have been more different.
The loss of Hudson, who by all indications was on the road to being back this month, really hurts. Any talk of trading Kennedy, or moving Brandon McCarthy out of the rotation would now involve making Tyler Skaggs a permanent member of the rotation or calling on Archie Bradley, the first-round pick from 2011 who is dominating at Double-A.
The Dodgers have been given a shot of Cuban adrenaline (Yasiel Puig). The Rockies have all that offense and the Giants have two rings in the last three years. As good as the Diamondbacks have been, they might have to be better from here on.
Fan: Can they do it?
Me: Jump back in the Biosphere. It’s worked so far. We’ll letcha know in three months.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.