Showalter took the heat in 1998 during spring training when the Colorado Rockies caught his video coordinator surreptitiously taping a game from behind the center-field fence at the Rockies' camp. Showalter said he had no knowledge the employee was there. "Our video guy was new," says former Arizona catcher Jorge Fabregas, now with the Braves. "He came over from the NBA. He didn't know any better."
This year Mets reliever Turk Wendell wondered aloud if Arizona was stealing and relaying catchers' signs from somewhere in centerfield at Bank One Ballpark. On June 25 Showalter angered the Cardinals by launching a protracted argument with the umpires when St. Lotus pitcher Jose Jimenez was one out from completing a no-hitter. The Cardinals saw the maneuver as gamesmanship. Showalter also peeved San Francisco manager Dusty Baker last month by describing as "comical" the Giants' image as scrappy overachievers. "Our guys have been playing with bumps and bruises all year, and quite frankly, to hear this stuff about other people's problems, I don't want to hear it," Showalter said then.
Baker snapped back, "Quite frankly, I'm tired of him talking. The best thing for him to do is to leave us alone and leave me alone. I'll be the one doing the talking about my club. If he ain't got the guts to say it to me, the best thing for him to do is be quiet." Baker and Showalter later healed the breach.
"I'm surprised to hear some people still look at us that way," Showalter says of the Diamondbacks' notoriety. "A lot of things were blown out of proportion. Like the supposed manual. We had people who worked for all organizations. We sat down and asked people, 'O.K., how did you do this cutoff play in the Florida organization? In the Atlanta organization?' And so on. It was an exchange of ideas. We wrote some things down. That's all."
Colangelo, who's also president of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, has provided Arizona's enemies with another bull's-eye. He overpaid Williams (five years, $475 million) and second baseman Jay Bell (five years, $34 million), given their performances last year, but each has rebounded with an outstanding 1999. Through Sunday, Bell had career highs in home runs (32), RBIs (94) and runs (110). In the series finale in Atlanta, Williams, a leading MVP candidate, reached a personal best in RBIs (123) with a three-run homer—his 32nd—off Glavine.
This winter the Greenbacks infuriated executives at some other teams by spending $118.9 million (with large deferred payments) on six free agents: pitchers Randy Johnson, Todd Stottlemyre, Armando Reynoso and Greg Swindell, centerfielder Steve Finley and first baseman Greg Colbrunn. All of them have proved to be prudent signings, none more so than ace lefty Johnson, who through Sunday needed 56 strikeouts in his final five starts to break Nolan Ryan's record of 383 punch-outs in a season. In wise trades Arizona added Gonzalez, who at week's end was third in the league with a .343 average, and Womack, who was first in stolen bases with 64.
Says one general manager, "The biggest problem in baseball the past few years has been cross-ownership. We have people like [former Florida Marlins owner] Wayne Huizenga and the guy in Arizona. Their NBA team doesn't have a farm team, their NFL team doesn't have a farm team, and their hockey teams have VA farm teams. They can't understand why each team in baseball has six farm teams. They're looking for ready-made prospects."
"Jerry's philosophy," says one Diamondbacks insider, "is, We'll worry about the future when it gets here. Not now."
"He wants to win," Showalter says of Colangelo. "He's as competitive a person as I've been around. He once told me that in his second year as general manager of the Suns, he made it to the NBA Finals, and he thought it was something that could happen every year. Well, it didn't. So he believes that if you have a shot at winning, you take it with everything you've got because you don't know how many chances you'll get."
That philosophy is what persuaded the Diamondbacks to trade two of their three best pitching prospects, Vladimir Nueñez and Brad Penny, to Florida on July 9 to obtain Mantei, a 26-year-old righthander who was only two years removed from rotator-cuff surgery and, in parts of four seasons as a Marlin, had never saved a meaningful game in the big leagues. Mantei has turned out to be only the most significant in-season acquisition in all of baseball. Through Sunday the Diamondbacks were 34-16 since the trade, including 32 wins in their last 43 games. Armed with a 98-mph fastball, Mantei converted all but two of his first 19 save chances with Arizona, including both wins last weekend, in which the Braves couldn't sniff his stuff. He whiffed all six batters he faced. In 21 innings for the Diamondbacks he had struck out 38 batters and allowed only 14 hits, none of them home runs.