In-season trades made a big difference for Diamonds so far. Future looks good.


Daniel Valois


As I write this, the Diamonds have compiled a 63-44 record (all July games concluded) and haven opened up a 6 game lead on second-place Virginia (54-47, 6 games left in July; thanks to Mike for the latest update). This, to say the least, was quite unexpected, at least at the beginning of the year. While the team was built mostly with an eye to be a contender next year and beyond, the idea in the start-up draft was to still try to make the team competitive this year, with an eye on possibly making the playoffs. The draft provided the nucleus for a competitive team, but there were two problems before the season began: (i) the lineup was heavily slanted to the right; (ii) the bullpen was weak.


The team tried to remedy this with in-season trades, all the while trying to keep the cost of such improvements as affordable as possible, that is, with players who did not have outrageous contracts, even if it meant making concessions on quality. The idea was not to jeopardize the team’s future with costly financial additions.


Before the season began, the Diamonds acquired a much needed lefthanded utility bat in Brian Daubach from Buckeye. A month into the season, the Diamonds acquired Rodrigo Lopez (aka The One Year Wonder) from Silver, and later on, traded for two more lefthanded bats, Geoff Blum and Damon Minor.


Lopez has been very useful both as a starter and out of the bullpen, while Looper has done a very good job in late innings. Daubach, Minor, and Blum provided the needed LH punch that the team could use as pinch hitters, against tough righthanded pitchers, or to spare some of the regulars.


Those five players have so far contributed significantly to the team’s success. Here are the numbers they have put up with the team (Blum, Minor, and Looper over one month, Lopez over three, and Daubach over four):


                           AVG.      AB          HR       RBI            OBP          SLG         OPS

Blum                   .339          56            3           6            .439           .571        1.100           

Daubach              .333        153            8         38            .405           .588          .993

Minor                  .224          40            2           8            .373           .425          .798           


                          ERA        W-L          SV            IP

Lopez                 2.91          2-1             2        21.2

Looper               3.32          8-2             0      105.2


The performance of these five players is comforting now that the Diamonds embark in their most difficult part of their schedule in August. The question now is whether or not the team can keep this up for the rest of the year.


Next year should also be interesting. Apart from Ellis Burks, David Justice, and Al Leiter (who, if nothing else, will free up a considerable amount of money), all the regulars will be back, thus creating logjams with up-and-coming young guys at three infield positions (Blalock/Lowell at 3B, Vidro/Roberts at 2B, and Lee/Choi/LeCroy/Wilson at 1B); in other words, there will be trades in order to fill holes in the OF and perhaps behind the plate. The pitching staff looks fine for now with Wade Miller, Kip Wells, Kaz Ishii, and Carl Pavano as starters, and Braden Looper and Jamie Walker in the ‘pen, although we may want to  upgrade some here. With a healthy bank account and a projected payroll that looks reasonable and, as far as I can tell, won’t be higher than this year’s, the team is in a good position to make a run at the Aaron Division pennant..


The team also has some promising payers who should help in the near future in SS Bobby Crosby, who will take over for Tejada when his Miguel’s contract runs out two years from now (when he’s more likely to be 32 rather than his the alleged 29), OFers Xavier Nady and Chris Snelling, C Justin Huber, 3B Brendan Harris, and Ps Joel Hanrahan and Ben Kozlowski (who’s undergone TJ and is out for the year), with the anticipated return to form of Tony Armas (damned labrum tears, partial though they may be … ) and Dewon Brazelton (praying for Roy Halladay II) somewhere down the line, and the re-emergence of once highly touted Matt Riley, another TJ survivor. Now, if only the Florida Marlins could free C Ramon Castro …


Given all this, I think this team should be fine for at least the next couple of years. That is, of course, if Lady Luck collaborates.