Upon arriving at Bank One Ballpark for a game last week, Arizona
lefthander Brian Anderson, the Diamondbacks' first pick in the
expansion draft and one of their most popular players, was
shooed away by stadium security guards who failed to recognize
him and denied him access to the players' entrance. "Third time
that's happened," says Anderson. "Guys are freakin' clueless."
Annoyed but undeterred, Anderson walked halfway around the
complex to Friday's Front Row Sports Grill, which overlooks
leftfield. He cut through the restaurant, worked his way down
through the stands, jumped a fence or two andfinallysnuck
into the clubhouse. "I'm not the only guy this happens to," says
Anderson. "Guess when your team's new at this, you should expect
a few problems."
Little has gone right for high-priced free-agent
bust Bellor his teammates.
A few, maybe. But nearly a third of the way through their
inaugural season, the Diamondbacks, touted as the Expansion Team
Most Likely to Dominate the Free World two months ago, are
stumbling through a lot worse than the occasional clubhouse
lockout. At week's end Arizona was 15-34 and, despite winning
six of seven recently, a threat to break the '62 Mets' record
for futility (40-120). "It's disappointing," says Anderson,
himself a disappointing 1-6. "I'm not going to lieI expected
this group to do a lot more."
So did manager Buck Showalter, whom managing general partner
Jerry Colangelo hired nearly 2 1/2 years before Opening Day to
build the Diamondbacks. Yet despite meticulous planning and an
oft-obsessive attention to detail (name another team with a
300-page guide to baseball fundamentals and player behavior),
Showalter's personnel decisions have, for the most part, turned
out poorly. Of the team's 14 first-round expansion draft picks,
five are in the minors, two are injured, one was traded and zero
have provided any sort of consistent production.
Veterans picked up through trade and free agency have had mixed
success. While third baseman Matt Williams (nine home runs, 27
RBIs, $9.5 million salary this year) and righthander Andy Benes
(3-4, 4.29 ERA, $6 million) have been solid acquisitions,
shortstop Jay Bell (.219, five homers, $6.8 million) and
righthander Willie Blair (2-7, 5.30, $3.3 million) have been
Arizona is worst in the National League in doubles, stolen
bases, home runs allowed and strikeouts (most by the hitters and
fewest by the pitchers) and second-worst in batting average and
grounding into double plays. The bullpen has already blown six
saves in 14 opportunities. In search of a winning combination,
Showalter used 30 different lineups in the first 43 games.
"We're extremely young, and when you're young, you're supposed
to learn from tough times," says utilityman Andy Fox. "We've
been learning a lot."
Perhaps the toughest lesson has been humility. Before the season
started, general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. predicted that
Arizona could finish with a .500 record. That bravado, combined
with Colangelo's wide-open wallet and Showalter's imperiousness,
didn't sit well with many owners and general managers, who now
love to refer to Arizona mockingly as, "the team that invented
"Those guys make me sick," says one rival G.M. "You talk about
the Dodgers organization being arrogant. They've got nothing on
these guys. I already told my manager that if he has a chance to
run it up, do it."
"It's hard to forget some of the things they said," adds Reds
manager Jack McKeon. "About how they're doing it the right way,
and how they're the most prepared group ever."
Colangelo's latest embarrassment came last week, when HBO's Real
Sports with Bryant Gumbel aired a harsh segment on the funding
of Bank One Ballpark, much of which came from a sales tax
increase that cost Maricopa County taxpayers an average of $62
each. The piece ended with Colangelo storming off the set in a
huff, saying, "You know this is bulls---."
He meant the interview. The subject could have been his team's
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Issue date: June 1, 1998