"With Matt we're playing eight-inning games now," says lefty reliever Dan Plesac, one of those would-be saviors. "Only a few teams can do that. The other thing he's done is make everybody in the pen better. It's no coincidence we're all pitching better since he came here."
Mantei has been such a godsend that his bullpen mates gladly endure his annoying daily rituals, such as his protocol for eating sunflower seeds. Every day he vigorously shakes the seed bag so the salt filters to the bottom, then squeezes it so that it opens from the bottom with a loud popping sound and dumps the salt before commencing his snack. "We ask him, 'Why not just get unsalted?' " Plesac says. "He says he likes the flavor of salt but not the salt itself. Irritates the hell out of us."
If that's irritating, it's nothing compared with watching the Diamondbacks build a winner in two years, as Arizona's foes have had to do. The cold truth is right there in your morning-newspaper. No need for gerrymandered standings in a back room. The Diamondbacks are for real.