When the Diamondbacks fired pitching coach Charles Nagy this week, there were a lot of nodding heads that met the move. If you’ve watched Arizona pitchers for the last two years it was pretty hard to argue.
Pitchers are constantly tinkering with their craft — even those who are known for their success are constantly adjusting and tweaking what hitters see to stay one step ahead of that battle. But at least on the surface, you didn’t see much change in approach from Nagy’s pitchers. Just more of the same, and that stuff was hit pretty consistently by the opposition
Nowhere was that more evident than with “ace” Ian Kennedy, who won 21 games in 2011 and led the Diamondbacks to a division title but went downhill from there and was eventually shipped off to San Diego this summer in exchange for a specialty reliever, Joe Thatcher, who added absolutely nothing to the team.
When the Diamondbacks traded Kennedy, you had to figure they felt he was the problem. But now they’ve fired Nagy. If Nagy was the problem, why trade a pitcher that has now been installed as the ace of a division rival before giving the new pitching coach — one you are saying will be better — a chance to work with Kennedy?
It’s not like he was gangbusters when he left town — he won four of six decisions but his 4.24 ERA and season-long penchant for giving up the long ball continued. But to dump that kind of property over the side when you are bringing in a new pitching voice makes very little sense.
Will Birds Fly South?
While it’s nice to see the Arizona Cardinals pull out a few wins over struggling teams over the last two weeks, their 3-2 record must be weighed against last year – when they were 4-1 against a similarly slushy schedule.
And with today’s visit to San Francisco followed just four day later by a visit from Seattle, we’re about to find out exactly where the Cardinals rate in the NFC West — standings aside.
The passing game remains a mess, with Larry Fitzgerald actually behind his statistical pace from last year, when the likes of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley were pitching the pill. Head coach Bruce Arians needs to come to terms with the fact that Andre Ellington is a better option than Rashard Mendenhall and two stout defenses are preparing to take aim at Arizona’s fragile offensive lines.
The 49ers appear to have steadied the ship after a two-game bobble in mid-December. And while the Cardinals did a nice job corralling Cam Newton last week, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson not only are a step up in class, they have a lot more help on their side of the ball. If Arizona can’t beat the Seahawks in Glendale, they have no chance in Seattle — the best home-field advantage in sports right now.
If Arizona is anything better than 3-4 five days from now, there should be cause for celebration. And if they are 3-4, it will be interesting to see how healthy and how motivated they are on the other side.
Take One Giant Step Backward
To all those football fans who counted Super Bowl rings and decided that Eli Manning is a better quarterback than his older brother, it’s time to take one Giant step backward.
Quarterbacks rely heavily on supporting casts, and Peyton Manning hasn’t historically had the kind of talent his brother has enjoyed — especially defensively. But to watch Peyton do what he has done through the first six weeks of the season and watch Eli completely collapse at the same time has been amazing. Yes, the Giants have no running game thanks to injuries and their defense has imploded. But when that happens you count on your starting quarterback to keep the team afloat with two or three wins until the cavalry arrives.
Who is the best Manning? It was always a silly argument. But the Eli boosters are now seeing it for themselves.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.