At Inside the ‘Zona, we routinely write about ways to improve the Arizona Diamondbacks. To improve the team means that we’re forced to find areas of weakness. That can lead to us sounding routinely critical of our favorite baseball team, but that’s surely not the intent. As 5th Century Greek tragedian Euripides wrote, “question everything, learn something, answer nothing.” In a way, that’s kind of what we do here; we’re always seeking to learn new and meaningful ways to improve the Diamondbacks. As “the most tragic of poets” noted, the seeking of knowledge will never stop, and while we often introduce potential solutions to baseball-oriented problems, there’s always more to learn and that’s our mission: keep pushing forward.

What the above doesn’t mean, however, is that there aren’t things that we’re thankful for. Arizona Diamondback baseball has fallen on hard times of late, but there’s clearly some reasons to be happy about this team, organization and fan base. Today being Thanksgiving, it’s only right that we acknowledge ten things that we’re thankful for. In last year’s tradition, we’ll use this space in time to share some areas of particular positive thankfulness. Without further ado, here’s our list of ten, and of course, a bonus:

Dr. James Andrews (Jeff Wiser): the Diamondbacks are without impact pitching at the moment. In fact, they were without it for the entire 2014 season and it was more than noticeable. The best hope for impact in the rotation for 2014 season was a continued dominance from Patrick Corbin. Of course, there were hopes that Archie Bradley could have cracked the Opening Day rotation, but that was slim from the outset. Instead, Bradley wasn’t ready and Corbin was lost in the spring to a damaged UCL. Thank goodness for Dr. James Andrews, the man who’s put Corbin back together again. Hopefully a repaired left elbow will see the lefty back to stymieing opposing lineups come early summer 2015.

Front-Office-By-Committee (Ryan P. Morrison): I was skeptical at first when Tony La Russa was installed as Chief Baseball Officer, and in the last six months, a few of his comments about analytics had me uneasy. But all La Russa has done has impress with his moves thus far, hiring not one but two great GM candidates for one front office, and hiring a man he already knows and respects to run an analytics department. The new FO-by-committee may not end up being as progressive as we might like, but it seems smart and capable, and it has given us all an impression that there’s a real plan in place, and a pretty good one at that. TLR fills in a gap that Ken Kendrick and the eminently capable Derrick Hall couldn’t quite fill; Ed Lewis does the same thing for TLR on analytics. It’s all built around communication, and for that, I’m thankful.

An Expiring TV Deal (Jeff): as has been discussed around the interwebs, the Diamondbacks have a TV deal that expires at the end of the 2015 season. And if you haven’t been following the market trends of local television contracts lately, they’ve seen their collective values rise exponentially in recent years. What does that mean? It means a ton of surplus cash to the organization in the form of television revenues. How the team wishes to spend those additional revenues is left to the imagination for now, but it’s likely that we’ll see payroll start to rise next season with increased financial flexibility for the foreseeable future. That means the ability to spend on free agents, internationally on prospects and/or in the draft. The D-backs could look to add attractions to Chase, which is already a fantastic game venue. The options are abundant and we won’t have to wait much longer to see how it all plays out.

Venezuelan Rookie Outfielders (RPM): I miss Gerardo Parra as much as the next guy, but once we knew that 2014 was going to be about information gathering for future seasons, we couldn’t ask for better surprises than David Peralta and Ender Inciarte. Peralta has such an amazing story, fizzling out as a pitcher at least partly because of shoulder trouble, getting low, dominating in a totally different role in independent ball, getting plucked by the D-backs, aggressively promoted, and installed by midseason this year. Given his relative inexperience with hitting, he may always struggle against lefties; but all that means is that we get a young Daniel Nava to scorch righties. And fast becoming one of my favorite players is Ender Inciarte, who became damned useful as a hitter as the season wore on, developing quickly in the window given him and showing skills that might make him one of the best fielders in the majors (sounds like A.J. Pollock, one year later). They probably shouldn’t (can’t) platoon in left field, but hey. Too many helpful outfielders is a great problem.

Young Pitching (Jeff): there’s a acronym among scouts about young pitchers: TINSTAAP. If you’re unfamiliar, it stands for There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, mostly because young pitchers are volatile and injuries bite pitchers at a rate that far exceeds that of position players. Still, you have to like the Diamondbacks’ odds of cashing in with three of the top pitching prospects in the minors. Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley and Aaron Blair have the talent to put 2014’s pitching struggles in the rear view mirror in short order. Bradley should arrive next season, Blair has a chance to and Shipley should don Sedona Red in 2016. Oh, and don’t forget 2014 top picks Touki Toussaint and Cody Reed are in the pipeline, too.

Brad Ziegler (RPM): imagine a world in which every pitcher threw only fastballs, used the same arm angle, and was right handed. The battle between pitcher and batter — with some help from a catcher — is about 90% of the game as we watch it, and nothing makes watching more pleasurable than seeing someone with unique skills. There are few truly unique players in the game, but Ziegler is one of them. Watching an endless parade of hapless batters contend with that uniqueness, usually unsuccessfully, is one of my favorite things about the D-backs. We will have a lot more to be thankful for if Ziegler makes a full recovery from knee surgery, but for now, let’s be grateful for and celebrate a wildly entertaining pitcher with a quintessentially American story.

Freely Available Baseball Data (Jeff): the work on this site is greatly aided by the work of others. Sites like FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, ESPN and Baseball Savant give us tremendous access to incredible data free of charge. Without it, we couldn’t bring you the content that we do. So do our friends a favor and visit their pages when you’re done here. They’re good people who do it all for the love of the game, just like us and, presumably, just like you. Cheers on Thanksgiving to the people behind these amazing resources!

ESPN SweetSpot (RPM): we’re fortunate to be in ESPN’s network of team-specific sites. It means some great exposure, it’s meant meeting some great people who have a different perspective in addition to having a different focus, and it also means support. Jeff mentioned ESPN because they do offer some great free statistics on their site, everything from Hittracker to park factors to proprietary yardsticks like the Cy Young Predictor. But being in the Network means we also get access to some other great things that we really treasure, including ESPN’s Hard Hit Average statistics and TruMedia heatmaps. As Jeff noted, we couldn’t do what we do without outside resources; having a huge toolkit means we tend to have the right tool for the job. Thank you, ESPN!

The First Overall Draft Pick in 2015 (Jeff): yeah, 2014 was a rough ride in the desert. The silver lining is the first overall pick in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft next June, accompanied by the largest draft signing pool of all 30 teams. This means that the D-backs get the top pick but also that they have the most financial resources (under MLB’s new draft signing rules) available to sign their top ten picks of any franchise. It won’t turn back the clock on 2014’s disaster, but it’s a start in the right direction and for a franchise that isn’t actually as bad as their record showed, a savy pick or two could pay dividends in the relatively new future. How the first pick is spent is still anyone’s guess (Brady Aiken, Brendan Rogers, Michael Matuella?), but we’ll be watching closely next June.

Chip Hale (RPM): speaking almost exclusively as a fan, I don’t think the D-backs could have made a better selection for their next manager than Hale. Learning more about Hale, there seem to be only good things. He’s got the experience that will demand players’ respect, and the demeanor to match. He’s already got the communication thing going with the complicated front office, and he’s seen some progressive baseball strategies work in Oakland, like better shifting and great use of platoons. Thanks to the D-backs for this smart hire, and thanks to Hale in advance for moving things in the right direction.

Bonus item: Yasmany Tomas! We’re floored by yesterday’s news that Tomas has signed a 6 year, $68.5 million deal. The opt-out clause means he’ll probably either be with Arizona for just four years, or he’ll not be that great — but it’s still an excellent contract that foreshadows more changes. Not two days ago, on Tuesday night, we were talking about the Red Sox, and how different it was for us to not have their kind of news. We also upgraded our internal evaluation of our chances of landing Tomas, but let’s just say they still weren’t high. It’s a really fun thing for us to have news like this, and it feels really good to get news like this and feel like the D-backs got a great deal. We’re looking forward to more Tomas news and a lot of Tomas playing time.

Of all the things that Inside the ‘Zona is thankful for, we sincerely thank our loyal readers, podcast listeners and twitter friends! The website has gone from a little-known resource to a community of people in just over a year. We continue to be grateful to everyone who reads us, and we are floored and oh-so-thankful for your support for The Pool Shot — we know the only way we’ve gotten thousands of listens per episode is through word of mouth. The comments here are intelligent, the dialogues on twitter are thoughtful and we’re all simultaneously enriched because of you! Thank you so much, we are humbled and couldn’t be more grateful. Now close this window and get back to the turkey!


5 Responses to Ten Things We’re Thankful For: 2014

  1. OJ says:

    This was nice. It is helpful to be reminded of the positive direction for the team, as too often I focus on the negative impact of past moves.
    You guys do great work here.

  2. Puneet says:

    Thanks for the great work on the blog! It’s nice to have a haven for insightful analysis and relief from the humdrum ESPN articles.

  3. Anonymous says:

    1. Goldschimdt 2 Collmenter 3 aj 4 miley 5 shipley 6 chase the pitcher 7 chase the park 8 zigler 9 marshall 10 a healthy corbin

    Ill get it in right post this time and help the theme. Good post.

  4. Jeff says:

    Plenty of things to be thankful for and to look forward to! What do you think the odds will be of the dbacks getting in on samardizja? After the tomas deal there is an abundance of offense to trade from and throw in a shortstop might get the job done. Just wondering why the dbacks name hasn’t been tossed around in the lists of potential suitors.

  5. Anonymous says:

    lets hope not. odds would be much higher if kt came back snort snort…Not that I would be bummed out to him, but geez it would be a one year rental, you’d probably have to give more up now than you’d get back in july if things went South. the contracts are insane again, so resigning him to anything reasonable isn’t in the cards even if he goes down. I like your ideas right now, go get Morrow Kingmen and Billingsley. Overpay for them, if your going to overpay for anything. Now that said, if kt were here, Bradley/Shipley and one or two more of Owings, Lamb, Blair, a probably gets it down. snort.

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