Déjà vu all over again? Can the Yankees surprise?

Déjà vu all over again?

By Chris Saunders
 It’s starting to become a trend in baseball.  The team that made the biggest splash the previous season gets deemed “WS” contender.  In 2015 it was the Padres, who exchanged future assets — prospects, draft picks, salary commitments, or a combination of the three — in order to boost their chances of winning in 2015.  The end result was not pleasant for San Diego, who finished with seventy-four and eighty-eight; eighteen games out of first place and once again trying to figure themselves out as a club.
The same can be said for the White Sox (2015), the Red Sox (2014), the Miami Marlins (2013),  and even the Yankees (2014) who signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka and Carlos Beltran last winter.  Those signings won the men in pinstripes the coveted “Winter World Series” title, mostly due to having brought in such high-profile talent.  While the Yankees seemed vastly improved on paper, the club actually finished with one fewer win than in the previous season. While those signings had a positive impact on the Yankees, the Bronx Bombers failed to reach the postseason due to other key weaknesses that the club’s front office failed to address.
One would think that the 2016 season would bring about change to this “spending spree”.  Sadly, it hasn’t.  The Arizona Diamondbacks are the new “WS” contender after having a big offseason.  While no one should panic right now, it shouldn’t be ignored, either.  Great pitchers like Zack Greinke get shelled all the time.  It’s just how major league baseball goes.
Three starts will be irrelevant by the end of the season if you assume Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, and Patrick Corbin will have good to great seasons in 2016.  Even now, the D-backs are three games below .500 after Patrick Corbin’s 6 innings, 1 run effort against the dodgers on Tuesday. Although the game ended in a no decision, the team did win!
It’s completely fair to look at the starts of the first three pitchers in the Diamondbacks’ rotation and wonder what in the world is going on?  At this rate, every relief pitcher in the D-backs’ organization will pitch an inning by Mother’s Day.  The age old phrase, “You can’t win the division in April, but you can lose it.” seems to loom large with the Arizona’s starting pitching is performing.
Even though no one wants to hear it, staying slightly above .500 is a solid start because the D-backs only need to survive their April schedule.
Let’s take a closer look at that schedule.  The team began their season with a divisional opponent that they could play three times in a week during the Spring.  Next for the  “projected” National League Champs is a 10-game intra-division road trip that includes both of  the two teams predicted to be in your way for a divisional crown.  The D-backs return home to play against two 2015 playoff teams (the Pirates and the Cardinals) and then finish April with the same Rockies team they couldn’t handle at the beginning of the month.
Josh Collmenter’s value is at its highest in April when he can save a bullpen from an underperforming  starting rotation that’s not stretched out for long outings.  The problem is, Collmenter is on the disabled list.  A.J. Pollock was one of the best players in the National League in 2015.  He is also on the disabled list and no one has a time table for his return in 2016.
After winning the “Cactus League Championship,” it sounds like a cop-out to hope for a .500 record in April.  If the Diamondbacks are truly the playoff team some predicted, they should be able to handle the adversity of injuries and their playing schedule.  Every April loss can easily be overcome, but each loss puts more pressure on their games against the Padres, the Brewers, the Reds and the Phillies. If Arizona struggles to break even against the upper-level teams on their early schedule, they must sweep the weaker teams.
Although we joke about everyone jumping off the bandwagon, at the end of the day it is too early to sound the alarms and call the season a loss. Arizona, however, based on the history of other so called deemed “Winner of the Off-season” teams,  doesn’t bold well for the 2016 season.
Their early season struggles will only bring out the nay- Sayers. We all want to assume everything will be okay, but, truthfully, no one knows.

Comment:  Twitter @C_Broadcaster; Facebook Chris Saunders; Email: Chrisweather16@yahoo.com

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