As promised I took my back and forth with Jeff Wiser to a part two. Jeff is a writer for FanSided’s Diamondback’s site Venom Strikes, however I also found out that Jeff is a Mariners fan! This made me want to ask some deeper questions. Not only about the recent D’Backs/Padres series, but also about the “natural rivals” pitch MLB tries to shove down Padres and Mariners fans throats.
DM: What do you think we learned from the Diamondbacks/Padres series? Specifically what weaknesses and strengths came through?
Jeff Wiser: In terms of the Diamondbacks, I think we saw something that has been pretty familiar all year long, and that’s the hot and cold nature of the offense. It’s nice that they have the ability to hang crooked numbers, but we’ve seen some lengthy dry spells, too. The team seems to fall into these spells where getting anything on the board is painfully difficult. Fortunately, the team’s offense can offset that with big innings, but it sure feels lonely when you’re struggling to score. I love five-run innings, but can you really bank on those?
DM: Since you’re also a Mariners fan, what parallels do you see between the D’Backs and Mariners organizationally?
JW: I love that you asked this question! I grew up in Oregon and lived in Seattle for several years before moving to the desert last fall. The M’s are a part of me and I can’t deny that. When I think about parallels, I think the Diamondbacks represent what the Mariners hope to become. By that I mean Arizona has developed a lot of homegrown talent, especially pitching, that is paying dividends at the big league level. The Mariners have tried to take a similar approach over the last few years, this season excluded, but just haven’t seen the results. Many of their prospects and young trade targets have simply disappointed whereas the Diamondbacks have been able to translate those moves into production on the field.
DM: Also as a Mariners fan, what are your feelings on the so-called “Natural Rivalry” that Major League Baseball is desperately trying to sell between the Padres and the Mariners?
JW: It’s a joke, plain and simple. I mean, when you go to spring training games, they share the same facility and the two organizations have absolutely no bad blood between them. They’re in different leagues and over 1000 miles apart geographically. I suppose they are both marine cities, with San Diego on the coast and Seattle on the Puget Sound. That’s about all I can think of in terms of similarities. It’s hard to not have a more natural rival since Seattle is so isolated. My ultimate dream is to see Portland, OR get a major league team but I suppose that’s still a ways off. The Sounders and Timbers are bitter rivals in MLS, so maybe one day we can have the same in MLB.
DM: Consequently, I feel like the D’Backs are actually the Padres natural rival in the NL. Given both our teams relevancy in Baseball, small market mindset and constant rebuilding themes. I think it’s peaked it’s head many times, but most notably when Ben Davis got a bunt single against Curt Schilling in the 9th inning of a no-hitter. Is that something you agree with?
JW: There are definitely some parallels between San Diego and Arizona. With the Dodgers and Giants in the division, we’re sort of the forgotten children of the NL West. Even the Rockies get more publicity than we do! Because of our second-class standing in baseball, I think it’s hard to create a rivalry, as successful rivalries are built on power teams competing for division crowns with one another. We haven’t run head-to-head all that often in situations where a division title is on the line. Should that occur, the intensity should pick up quickly, but there just hasn’t been a lot of high-leverage situations to create a full-blown rivalry.
In regards to the Ben Davis/Curt Schilling thing, I’m all about challenging conventional wisdom and I think the whole “unwritten code” of baseball is way overblown. Does is suck to lose a no-hitter on a bunt? Sure, but if you really earn the no-hitter, you should be able to throw out the runner at first. I mean, what percentage of guys trying to bunt for a hit are successful? It’s really low, so throwing out a bunter should be almost routine. In the Padres’ defense, if Schilling was to get the no-hitter, he was going to have to earn it.
DM: If not the Padres, who do you see as the D’Backs natural rival, and the same question for the Mariners?
JW: Given that the Diamondbacks have had to really battle with the Giants over the last few years, I would say that they are the team we currently despise most. We play each other tough every time out and it seems like our games often come down to a battle of the bullpens. They’re exciting games and San Francisco has been our toughest competition for the last three seasons.
The Mariners’ biggest rival might be the Oakland A’s. They have similar budget constraints and market size issues as do the Mariners. They also seem to construct similar teams that tend to pitch better than they hit. The A’s are the closest team to the Mariners, too, which helps. Both teams are sort of afterthoughts year in and year out, no matter what they achieve.
DM: This may seem like a dumb question, but here in San Diego we have few legends. Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Randy Jones, and that’s about it. Seattle has kind of the same thing, so what are your feelings on Ken Griffey, Jr and Edgar Martinez?
JW: Those guys are like saints in Seattle. The Kid took baseball by storm and really helped hype northwest baseball. You see, the lack of pro sports in the NW really puts the bullseye on teams like the Mariners, Blazers and Seahawks. In California, you have five hundred pro teams to split people’s attention but up north, the Mariners are a focal point and every kid I grew up with idolized Griffey. Edgar was amazing and was probably the best spokesperson ever to grace the franchise with perhaps the exception of the late Dave Niehaus. Griffey and Edgar were always the two guys you wanted to be when playing Nintendo or homerun derby in the park. Love those guys!
DM: Lastly, where do you see the Mariners and D’Backs finishing this year? Do you see hope for long term success? Are you happy with how both teams are being run?
JW: I think the Diamondbacks have a very legitimate shot at winning the NL West. The Giants are banged up and Lincecum is not even close to the guy that led them to those titles in the past. The farm system for Arizona is promising and they are in a good position going forward with pitching depth that can be flipped for position players if need be. Also, most of the current lineup is under team control for the next two or three years, so there’s a lot of stability there and they’ve successfully avoided any albatross contracts. I like the future and think they’ll be a contender in the NL West for the foreseeable future.
The Mariners are a hot mess. Two years ago, I was so stoked and thought that guys like Smoak, Ackley and Montero would turn the corner. Instead, it’s been one disappointment after another. Danny Hutlzen’s stock has fallen some and James Paxton is looking more and more like a reliever long term. Taijuan Walker is still legit and Mike Zunino is the catcher of the future, but the team needs so much more. The fact that so many players have not progressed under the current staff suggests that there may be a very serious player development problem and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the slate get wiped clean in the next year or two. Being a Mariners fan is not easy!
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