Winning isn't everything. In fact, it's nothing.
"You wanna know how you field a team? Here's how. They pull off a trade for potential; you sign a clubhouse guy. They send one of their untried young guys to the majors for a test; you sign one of Your Guys to a major-league deal despite the distinct odor of toast wafting off his swing. That's the Diamondback Way and that's how you get 70 wins this year while doing nothing to prepare for next year! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?"
Seth Pollack came back Sunday from media availability for the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields and Mixed-Use Development to Create a Destination for People Who Find Glendale Too Challenging at Talking Stick. Like a magi with an audio recorder, he brought us a description of The Diamondback Way as defined by skipper Kirk Gibson:
"The Diamondback Way. We want to make sure when we come in to see somebody they know that they're in for a very intense competition. We can do that all right and not win the game, but we're not going to roll over. We're going to fight right to the end."
That is what we call redefining the rules of combat. We know we can't fulfill goals like wins or youth development, but we can stare really hard at you after striking out. This passes for entertainment in the summer in Arizona, where furrowing a brow causes most people to break a sweat.
A fan wrote me to say that he saw Derrick Hall on the local PBS affiliate Monday night and heard Hall describe his excitement for a team that apparently isn't the one actually signed to the 40-man roster or otherwise attending spring training. Oh, the roster has the same names, but this fan couldn't understand why Geoff Blum, Willie Bloomquist, Melvin Mora, etc. would warrant such optimism.
That's because the game isn't baseball anymore. At least, it's not the one you've grown familiar with. This team hates statistics so much that they've decided to stop counting wins as well. This is wise as Baseball Prospectus predicts the Diamondbacks will repeat their 67-95 effort this season despite the acquisition of such vaunted talent. When you might still be able to track the win total on your fingers and toes just before the All-Star break, it's probably better to ditch that metric.
The Diamondbacks could have swapped it for a Hope Meter, tallying up positive performances from unproven youth like Barry Enright and Brandon Allen either in their system or from the Rule 5 draft or any number of other places. Of course, you have to actually sign your picks for them to show up. That's something MLB will need to fix in the next collective bargaining agreement, obviously, but them's the rules for now.
Apparently, "hope" is a despised word across the state for multiple reasons. Gibson listed five other people who will challenge Brandon Allen at first base, including Micah Owings. Who is a pitcher. Who can hit. But is a pitcher. In other news, your boss just called; Jimmy from the mail room's going to try out for your job this week. He is an excellent speller. It's not clear how that helps him do your job, but it's early in the fiscal year and you weren't hired by your current boss so no love lost there.
Therefore, the D-Backs have installed a Grit Meter. Bunting, hit and runs, "slashing" (guesses? anyone?)... all of those will join glares and rollovers avoided as the statistics of choice. Indeed, we may have to look into posting a Grit Meter at SBN Arizona to reflect The Diamondback Way.
Did you see Willie's six-game bunting streak? Did you know the Diamondbacks have had 12 multi-dirty uniform games at home since Opening Day? Their Adjusted Effort Index is 104% through 38 games. It's not quite at the goal of 110%, but Nick Swisher's available for a song.
Derrick Hall's excited about the team that's playing for the title as measured on the Grit Meter because he thinks that's what you're excited about. Derrick Hall thinks you're more likely to attend a game or three this year if the grounds crew is scraping intensity off the infield between half-innings. (And what do you use to clean up intensity? Does it require a hazmat suit? Will permits be needed before Opening Day? Hopefully, someone's on this already.)
Maybe he's right. Maybe Arizona fans lack the sophistication required to support a youth movement. If so, Minnie Minoso's available, though he lacks a certain amount of "grit". Or maybe the Diamondbacks' front office don't feel they have remotely enough talent in the minors to start one. In that case, they'd better spend like crazy in next season's draft and trade every piece of grit not nailed down for anything under the age of 26.
The success of the 2011 Diamondbacks as defined by Derrick Hall and Kirk Gibson is a myth, like the Untouchables. Elliot Ness didn't bring in Al Capone. Capone went down for tax evasion in a case meticulously built by bean counters over years. Apparently, it's hard to sell tickets to that unless perhaps you can fit it all into a montage. Did they make a movie about the tax evasion case or about Ness? The Diamondbacks organization has determined that Phoenix is a montage town.
That's The Real Diamondback Way. Now do you want to see that?