The Arizona Diamondbacks generously granted SI access to their war room at the Arizona Civic Center in Phoenix on Nov. 18 as the expansion draft was being conducted in a ballroom down the hall. Here is a look behind the scenes on the day a team was built.
Buck Showalter, Arizona's manager and the key decision maker on personnel, sits at a square table next to general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. and draft coordinator Ralph Nelson, who will keep a tally of salaries on his laptop. "That's the cash register," says owner Jerry Colangelo, who is also at the table. Eighteen members of the Diamondbacks' scouting, field and medical staffs are sitting elsewhere in the room.
Arizona has already agreed to a deal that will bring third baseman Travis Fryman from the Detroit Tigers if the Diamondbacks can draft third basemen Gabe Alvarez from the San Diego Padres and Joe Randa from the Pittsburgh Pirates and send them—along with one of five other players Detroit has requested—to the Tigers. But the Cleveland Indians are offering their third baseman, Matt Williams, and with an hour to go before the draft, the front-office execs are pondering their options.
Actor Billy Crystal, a part owner of the Diamondbacks, enters the room, announcing himself as "a 49-year-old Jewish second baseman who can only go to his left. Does anybody need me?" Showalter invites Crystal, a Yankees fan, to talk about the New York players on the board. Crystal scans the names of the players who are available and then exclaims in mock surprise, "Hey, there's not one guy named Goldberg here!"
Tampa Bay has the first pick, and owner Vince Naimoli announces Florida Marlins pitcher Tony Saunders as the Devil Rays' selection. Arizona, which holds the next two picks, will choose pitchers Brian Anderson of the Cleveland Indians and Jeff Suppan of the Boston Red Sox, but in what order? "There's a certain responsibility with being our first pick," Showalter says. He takes Anderson No. 1 because he has more experience and pitched in the World Series.
After Tampa Bay picks Colorado Rockies outfielder Quinton McCracken and the Diamondbacks take Alvarez as the first step in the Fryman deal, Showalter and his staff have their first nervous moment. They want White Sox catcher Jorge Fabregas, a four-year veteran who bats lefthanded, speaks Spanish and English and is solid defensively. They can only hope the Devil Rays don't take him with the next pick. As interim commissioner Bud Selig announces, "From the Houston Astros...," the room fills with cheers. Tampa Bay takes Houston outfielder Bobby Abreu and later trades him to the Philadelphia Phillies for shortstop Kevin Stocker. Arizona snatches Fabregas.
The Devil Rays select Chicago Cubs second baseman Miguel Cairo. The Diamondbacks cannot believe their good fortune: Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Karim Garcia is still available. Team president Rich Dozer is particularly happy because Garcia is from Mexico, a market Arizona wants to appeal to. "Don't do it because of me," Dozer says. "Take the best player." Showalter makes the call: Garcia is too good to let slide.
The Diamondbacks want pitcher Omar Daal from Toronto with their next pick. But Tampa Bay quashes that hope by taking Blue Jays outfielder Rich Butler. (Each team can lose only one player per round.) Arizona takes Texas Rangers second baseman Edwin Diaz.
The Diamondbacks pick New York Mets pitcher Cory Lidle, who happens to be in town to watch a friend in the Arizona Fall League and is watching the draft on a large-screen television in a public square outside the Civic Center. Before the second round starts, Lidle will be inside the Arizona war room advising Showalter on the remaining unprotected Mets.