Restoring the rosters: No. 11 – Arizona

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reynoldsupton.jpgThis is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
No. 12 – Minnesota
The Diamondbacks took an odd road initially, making the playoffs in their second year of existence and winning a World Series just two years later, but even though they spent big at the start, they’ve developed talent consistently throughout. Despite having had less time to accumulate players besides any team other than the Rays, they rank 11th here.
Brandon Webb
Max Scherzer
Jorge De La Rosa
Brad Penny
Brett Anderson
Jose Valverde
Vicente Padilla
Brian Bruney
Ross Ohlendorf
Jason Bulger
Tony Pena
Clay Zavada
That’s seven legitimate starting pitchers between the five in the rotation, Padilla and Ohlendorf. I think Padilla and Ohlendorf would be the most useful out of the pen, though there’s always been talk about trying Penny and Scherzer as closers. The Diamondbacks, though, don’t need a closer with Valverde in the role, and they have other nice power arms in Bruney and Bulger.
De La Rosa’s presence here will surprise some. The Diamondbacks signed him out of Mexico in 1998, only to sell him back to a Mexican team in 2000. He later signed with the Red Sox. That wasn’t his only stint with Arizona, though. On Nov. 28, 2003, he was sent to the Diamondbacks in the Curt Schilling deal. Three days later, Arizona moved him to Milwaukee in the Richie Sexson trade.
Micah Owings would have made some teams as a pitcher and others as a bench player. The Diamondbacks, though, seemed to have better options all around, at least if everyone were healthy. He’d still be one of the first additions to the team.
SS Stephen Drew
RF Justin Upton
3B Mark Reynolds
LF Carlos Quentin
1B Lyle Overbay
2B Dan Uggla
C Miguel Montero
CF Carlos Gonzalez
OF Scott Hairston
OF Jack Cust
1B/OF Conor Jackson
C Chris Snyder
INF Emilio Bonifacio
How’s that for depth? Not cracking the roster were Rod Barajas, Chad Tracy and Gerardo Parra. As little need as there will be for pinch-hitters, there’s a good argument for carrying Brian Barden as a second utilityman. Still, I just couldn’t bring myself to drop Cust or Jackson.
Overbay, Montero and Gonzalez would all sit against lefties, with Jackson, Snyder and Hairston entering the lineup. The Diamondbacks should be plenty strong against both lefties and righties, and given that all of the key players are still fairly young, that’s not going to change for years.
The Diamondbacks have one of the game’s top pitching prospects in Jarrod Parker, but trades, particularly the one for Dan Haren, and budget concerns have taken a toll on the farm system recently. Fortunately, most of the team’s key players still have youth working for them, and with all of the old deferred money payouts finally starting to come off the books, the Diamondbacks should be able to keep much of what they have now. The future doesn’t look as promising as it did a couple of years ago, but if they catch some breaks, there’s no reason they can’t contend annually in the NL West.

Jessica Mendoza and Chris Archer were great in the booth

Jessica Mendoza
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Not news: Jessica Mendoza, who has been excellent on all of the ESPN broadcasts she has done since taking over for Curt Schilling, was excellent last night too.

She was great on the nuts and bolts, continued to show that she can describe hitting mechanics better than most color commentators — way more of them seem to be more comfortable talking about pitching — and was a seamless presence in the booth in terms of flow, timbre and all of the aesthetic aspects of broadcasting. If she has a fault thus far it’s that she leans on some cliches about hitters’ mindsets and desire to win sometimes. This puts her in with approximately 100% of all other color commentators in baseball now and throughout the history of baseball, of course, so it’s not really a demerit.

Ultimately, the true test of a good commentator is whether they (a) add insight; and (b) do so without distracting or upstaging the game. In this Mendoza is superior to most commentators in baseball and clearly superior to the “stop and listen to me” brand of analysts the major networks have employed on national broadcasts in recent years.

Indeed, the best compliment I think I can give Mendoza is that she was — in the literal sense, not the judgmental sense — unremarkable. Meaning: during the game and after there was nothing she said or did that was worthy of the highly-critical remarks almost every broadcaster gets, going back through Schilling, Kruk, Harold Reynolds Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and everyone else ESPN and Fox have forced upon us in their history doing playoff baseball. I’m on Twitter during most playoff games and sometimes the broadcaster bashing is more interesting than the game. Mendoza gives the would-be bashers very little material.

At least those who would bash on the actual merits. There remains a group of deadenders who are irked by her very presence in the booth because she is a woman. The New York times rounds up some of the less mouth-breathery types today, but God knows there are many, many worse. Some of them even in professional media. At least for now. Whether you choose to ignore those people or choose to engage them — which, their dead end opinions notwithstanding can be a useful exercise in my view — know that they are out there being miserable and sexist as God and the First Amendment intended them to be.

While there are many who slam Mendoza on the faulty premise that she lacks credentials and experience in the booth, there was one person in the ESPN booth last night, at least for a while, who was a total TV noob. His name was Chris Archer. He pitches a bit for the Tampa Bay Rays. And lo and behold, he was pretty damn good himself.

Archer needs some polish for style — he has a lot of “ummms” and “uhhhs” about him — but his analysis is both sharp and quick. Meaning he was RIGHT ON the points when he needed to be without any of the usual prompting guests in the booth need from the play-by-play guy. At one point he even flowed into play-by-play and did a pretty good job of it.  Chris: if that pitching stuff doesn’t work out, you have a bright, bright future in television.

So, on the first night of the playoffs, there were no complaints about the broadcast. Mostly because the broadcasters weren’t the stars of the show. The game was. And it was complemented nicely by a couple of good voices.

And John Kruk.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.