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Stephen Cannella
September 25, 2000
D-BackslidingIf Arizona misses the playoffs, Showalter could be shown the door
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September 25, 2000

Baseball

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Which Guy for the Cy?

At the All-Star break the Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson was 14-2 with a 1.80 ERA and cruising toward his second straight National League Cy Young Award. However, a second-half swoon (4-4, 3.35 ERA), mirroring that of his team, has brought renewed drama to the race. Here's how the contenders stack up (all stats through Sunday).

PITCHER, TEAM

RECORD, ERA

LIKELY REMAINING OPPONENTS

Tom Glavinc (left), BRAVES

19-8, 3.58

Mets, Expos, Rockies

SKINNY: Clutch victories—10-3 since All-Star break, 9-2 after Atlanta losses—give Glavine edge over Big Unit.

Randy Johnson, DIAMONDBACKS

18-6, 2.38

Dodgers, Rockies, Giants

SKINNY: Gaudy stats—leading the league in ERA and strikeouts (326), third in batting average against (.217)—but a mere 8-5 against teams with winning records.

Greg Maddux, BRAVES

17-8, 3.09

Mets, Rockies, Mets

SKINNY: Tied for the league lead in shutouts with three but surrendered at least four earned runs in nine starts.

Darryl Kile, CARDINALS

19-9, 3.75

Cubs, Padres

SKINNY: Tied for the league lead in victories but has counted on solid offensive support (4.9 runs per start) to compensate for highest ERA among the leading candidates.

D-Backsliding
If Arizona misses the playoffs, Showalter could be shown the door

Even after losing two of three games to the Braves last weekend, the Diamondbacks boasted the 10th-best record in baseball and, with 15 games to play, had a shot at winning at least 90 games in back-to-back seasons, something only eight organizations did in the past decade. As one Arizona veteran says, "How many clubs would love to be in that position?"

Most, but, as owner Jerry Colangelo has made clear, the Diamondbacks are not most clubs. Most clubs don't win 100 games and a division title in their second year, as Arizona did last season. Most don't jack up their payroll as the Diamondbacks have—from $30 million at the start of 1998 to $81 million this season—despite a 16% drop in attendance. Finally, most clubs don't trot out the likes of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling two out of every five games. "We created our own expectations with the year we had last year and the players we have," says Arizona third baseman Matt Williams. "We know we don't have as many wins as we should."

The failure to meet those expectations—the Diamondbacks, 91/2 games behind the Giants through Sunday, were essentially out of the National League West race and trailed the Mets by five in the wild-card race—and sluggish play down the stretch (23-23 since acquiring Schilling on July 26) may well cost manager Buck Showalter his job. Speculation continues in Phoenix that Showalter, who has two years left on his contract, will be canned if Arizona misses the playoffs, and Colangelo's less-than-forceful refutation of that talk has done little to turn down the heat "We're all hired to win championships, not to be competitive," says Showalter, who insists there's no animosity between him and Colangelo. "I don't understand anyone who thinks he shouldn't be held accountable."

There are several reasons for the Diamondbacks' failure to repeat their 1999 run. Williams broke his right foot in spring training and has hobbled through the season with foot and leg ailments; through Sunday he had played only 82 games, hit seven home runs, knocked in 29 runs and batted .146 with runners in scoring position. Righthander Todd Stottlemyre has been effective when healthy, but he has spent more than two months on the disabled list with elbow pain and was only 9-6 with a 4.73 ERA First baseman Erubiel Durazo had season-ending wrist surgery last month. Closer Matt Mantei has endured two stints on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis and shoulder pain and had just 15 saves. Second baseman Jay Bell, after setting career highs with 38 homers and 112 RBIs in 1999, had come back to earth: He had only 16 homers and 62 RBIs.

The Diamondbacks will face the Giants eight times in the final two weeks, but, without any head-to-head chances to make up ground on the Mets, Arizona's postseason prospects are dim. "In a lot of parks the out-of-town scores are right behind me, and every time I hear a click, I turn around," leftfielder Luis Gonzalez said before the Diamondbacks' win over Atlanta last Friday. "This isn't the scenario we pictured when spring training started."

The Real Crash Davis
Better Late Than Never

There are two types of September call-ups: topflight prospects getting their feet wet in the majors and minor league lifers granted a few weeks of big league meal money in recognition of their toil on the farm. It's safe to say that Adam Hyzdu (pronounced HIGHS-doo), a former first-round pick of the Giants, falls into the latter category. On Sept 8, Hyzdu, a 28-year-old outfielder, made his major league debut, with the Pirates—he singled in his first plate appearance—after 1,208 games and more than 4,200 at bats in the minors.

A moment of joy, right? Try relief. "You have to understand how many times over the years people have asked me why I'd never played in the majors," says Hyzdu, who after being drafted in 1990 spent time in the Giants', Reds', Red Sox' and Diamondbacks' systems as well as with the Monterrey Sultans of the Mexican League. "I know their intentions were good, but it was tough to have that question asked over and over"

Of course, many players would kill for the success Hyzdu has had. Batting .253 with only 12.8 home runs a year in his first five full seasons kept him in the minors, but in the past two years with the Altoona Curve, the Pirates' Double A affiliate, Hyzdu had 55 homers and 184 RBIs. On Sept. 4 the Curve even retired his number, 16. " Altoona fans were E-mailing the Pirates and telling them I should be in Pittsburgh," says Hyzdu, a graduate of Cincinnati's Moeller High, where he broke Ken Griffey Jr's career home run record. "I wondered why I was still in Double A. I didn't feel I had anything left to prove."

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