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Q and A with Jim of 

azsnakepitWith the Padres in Arizona this weekend, I hit up Jim of to find out the latest with the leaders in the NL West.

Going into the series with the Padres the DBacks hold a three game lead over the Giants.  At what point will DBacks fans start to buy in?

Not yet: we mentioned ‘magic numbers’ on the ‘Pit for the first time on Thursday, and that felt incredibly daring! I was just, writing earlier tonight, that I still keep expecting to wake up from this season – probably to find our record reversed. The past couple of years have seen all our hopes and aspirations cruelly shattered by hard reality, which is why it’s hard not to be waiting for the wheels to fall off. While there’s any chance it can be blown [and I’m sure I don’t have to draw Padres’ fans a picture of how late that can happen…], part of me will remain detached and pessimistic. Only if/when we clinch, then I go full-bore into enthusiasm, because anything beyond that would completely be icing on an already tasty, if entirely unexpected, cake.

Upton has been a one man wrecking crew, who do you see stepping up down the stretch?

I’d like to see Chris Young get back to his A-game. On Independence Day, he was hitting .261, with 16 homers – over the 45 games since then, he’s at .166 with two HR. Getting him back to anything like his first-half form would help take some of the pressure off Upton. On the pitching front, Joe Saunders had struggled of late, walking more people than he struck out. Now, he had been over-achieving so some regression is to be expected, but his 7.00 ERA over the last three outings feels like a bit of an over-correction. 

Ian Kennedy is quietly putting together a Cy Young type season.  What do you feel he needs to do in order to receive some national recognition?

Go out with Derek Jeter? 🙂 Really, I suspect he’s not too bothered about that, and neither are Arizona fans. Sure, a CY would be nice, but it would just drive up the cost of any contract extension! I’d be quite happy for him to drift through the regular season un-noticed, then explode against the Phillies, taking them out like a Stealth fighter.

What are your concerns about this DBacks team down the stretch?

Mostly that they’ll regress to who we thought they were coming in to this season – a 75-win team. However, the way the Giants have imploded, even that over the remaining 30 games could well be enough to take the division. The back of the rotation remains a potential weakness: we’ve tried any number of pitchers there: Barry Enright, Armando Galarraga, Zach Duke, and the results have been problematic. 1B has also been a revolving door, with neither Xavier Nady, Brandon Allen or Juan Miranda able to hold it down. Will Paul Goldschmidt be able to make a successful transition from Double-A, where he hit 30 homers before being called up?

What are your thoughts on new general manager Kevin Towers?

Well, given what the team has done this year, compared to what most fans expected, “adoration” is likely top of the pile. The work he has done with the bullpen certainly lived up to his reputation; not just the off-season work, but strengthening it as the season went on. I think he is a little too fond of ‘veteran presence’. He signed players like Melvin Mora, Geoff Blum and Russell Branyan, who have contributed little or nothing to the team this year, but to his credit, he has not hung on to them when their ineffectiveness has been clear. The same goes for the rotation: when Galarraga and Duke were ineffective, they were demoted and moved to mop-up work in the bullpen respectively, no matter how many millions they were paid. A large part of the team’s success has been this willingness to cut line on those not producing.