For my first All-Decade post, I thought it would be best to write about my new hometown team (though NOT my favorite team…). The Arizona Diamondbacks started their first season in 1998, so instead of just writing about two years of baseball, I’m going to merge the 1990s and 2000s together in this post. Yes, I’m cheating right out of the gate, but you should really be pointing fingers at the Diamondbacks for starting their franchise at such an awkward time.
So here we go…
C: Miguel Montero – A 2-time All Star Venezuelan that currently plays for the Cubs, but played most of his career with Arizona. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2001, Montero showed an ability to hit for average and power in the minors, hitting .307 with 43 home runs in 2005 and 2006. He made his major league debut on September 6, 2006, against the Florida Marlins. In that same game, Aníbal Sánchez of the Marlins would throw a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks. Montero would play in a total of 6 games that year, recording a .250 batting average. In 2007 and 2008, Montero platooned with Chris Snyder at the catching position for the D-Backs and batted a .224 average with 10 home runs in 2007 and batting .255 with 5 home runs in 2008. Montero played with the Diamondbacks through the 2014 season.
1B: Orlando Hudson – In the 2006 season, his first full season with Arizona, Hudson set career-highs in batting average with a .287, in home runs with 15, in RBI with 67, and runs scored with 87. After the 2006 season, Hudson became the recipient of his second career Gold Glove Award, as announced on November 3. Hudson became only the sixth infielder in major league history to win a Gold Glove award in both the American and National Leagues. He was also honored with a Fielding Bible Award as the best fielding second baseman in MLB.
2B: Tony Womack – Womack was an important part of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ World Championship Team in 2001, especially with two key base hits that both came in the bottom of the ninth inning of deciding games in the playoffs. Womack ended thefirst-round series with a walk-off single off the Cardinals’ Steve Kline. Later, Womack set up Luis Gonzalez’ famous game-winning single in Game 7 of the World Series with a game-tying one-out hit against the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera. Womack’s game-tying double was cited by the Wall Street Journal as the most significant clutch hit in baseball history. Womack owns the Diamondbacks record for most stolen bases in a career (182).
3B: Chad Tracy – Tracy made his major league debut with Arizona in 2004. He finished his rookie season with a .285 average, eight home runs, 53 RBIs, and a .343 on-base percentage in 143 games. He led NL third basemen with 25 errors, and he had a major-league-low .935 fielding percentage at third. In 2005, Tracy had a breakout season, as he batted .308 (7th-best in the league) with 27 home runs and 72 RBIs. He also had a slugging percentage of .533, 10th-best in the NL. Tracy played for the Diamondbacks through the 2009 season.
SS: Stephen Drew – In 2007, although the Diamondbacks were division champions, Drew had a disappointing season, hitting only .238 with 12 home runs but a career-high 9 stolen bases. On September 1, 2008, he hit for the cycle against the St. Louis Cardinals, becoming the first player to do so at Chase Field. Batting leadoff, Drew singled in the first inning, tripled in the third and homered in the fifth against Cardinal starter Joel Piñeiro. He added a ground-rule double in the seventh against reliever Kyle McClellan. He was the fourth to hit for the cycle in 2008, and on the same day Adrián Beltré of the Seattle Mariners became the fifth. This was the first time that two players had hit for the cycle on the same day since 1920. He finished the season batting .291, with a career-high 21 home runs. Drew played for the Diamondbacks through most of the 2012 season, until he was traded to the A’s late in the season.
LF: Justin Upton – Upton got off to a terrible start to the 2009 season, having just one hit in his first 21 at-bats (and not getting a hit until April 14, the sixth game of the year). He finished April with a .250 batting average with just 2 home runs and 8 RBIs. It was in May, however where Upton turned his season around, putting up 7 home runs, 21 RBIs, 8 doubles, 4 triples, a league-leading .709 slugging percentage, to go along with a .373 batting average and a .444 on-base percentage. On June 2, 2009, Upton was named NL Player of the Month of May by the MLB for his great month. His brother Melvin Upton, Jr. earned AL Player of the Month of June, making Justin and B.J. the first pair of brothers to win player of the month honors in the same year. Justin played with Arizona through 2012.
CF: Steve Finley – In 2001, Finley had a disappointing regular season but had a stellar post season, leading the Diamondbacks with a .421 batting average in the National League Division Series and 5 RBI in the National League Championship Series as Arizona went on to win its first World Series. On August 30 of that year, Finley became the Diamondback’s first position player to serve as a relief pitcher, during a 13–5 loss to the San Francisco Giants. In 2003, Finley led the league in triples (10), becoming the oldest player in Major League history to lead his league in triples. In July 2004, he was traded by the Diamondbacks with Brent Mayne to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Koyie Hill, Reggie Abercrombie, and Bill Murphy
RF: Luis Gonzalez – In 1999, Gonzalez was traded to the Diamondbacks for Karim Garcia. Gonzalez began to become a star during his tenure with Arizona. He helped the Diamondbacks into title contention immediately, hitting a career-best .336 in 1999. He helped Arizona claim the 2001 World Series title and division titles in 1999, 2001, and 2002.
SP 1: Randy Johnson – For any baseball fan that knows a little bit about baseball history, Randy needs no introduction. Johnson led Arizona to the playoffs in 1999 on the strength of a 17–9 record and 2.48 ERA with 364 strikeouts, leading the majors in innings, complete games and strikeouts. Johnson won the 1999 NL Cy Young Award and Warren Spahn Award as the best left-handed pitcher in MLB. He played for the Diamondbacks starting in 1999 through 2004. Randy Johnson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame just last year in 2015.
SP 2: Brandon Webb – Webb was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 8th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball Draft. He made his first major league appearance with the Diamondbacks on April 22, 2003 against the Expos. Webb wound up finishing the season with 28 starts and a 10–9 record. He was honored with Baseball America Rookie of the Year Award and placed third in the Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award voting in the National League. Through his first 13 starts of the 2006 season, Webb had a perfect 8–0 record. Through that streak, he also had a 30 inning scoreless streak. He suffered his first losing effort of the season on June 10, in a 5–0 loss to the New York Mets. An early contender to win the National League Cy Young Award, Webb pitched in the2006 MLB All-Star Game, recording one hitless inning.
SP 3: Curt Schilling – Schilling was traded to the Diamondbacks on July 26, 2000, for first baseman Travis Lee and pitchers Vicente Padilla, Omar Daal, and Nelson Figueroa. With Arizona, he went 22–6 with a 2.98 ERA in 2001, leading the majors in wins and innings pitched. He also went 4–0 with a 1.12 ERA in the playoffs. Schilling shared the 2001 World Series MVP Award with teammate Randy Johnson. He and Johnson also shared Sports Illustrated magazine’s 2001 “Sportsmen of the Year” award. During the World Series Schilling received two other honors, as he was presented that year’s Roberto Clemente and Branch Rickey Awards, the first Arizona Diamondback so honored for either award.
Overall, the Diamondbacks has a great start to their franchise, claiming the division title three times in their first five seasons. With the type of players that Arizona has acquired over this offseason, one can only wonder if the kind of success they had early on can come back.