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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Snakebit: Diamondbacks 3, Cubs 2

It is fair to say that Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is my favorite of the new parks in the Cactus League, mainly for its construction. Shade, in the infield at least, is nearly ubiquitous, which makes the sometimes scorching Cactus League much less formidable for the paying customers. I am less enamored of its predictable approach to "alternate" food. Every venue, save for concourse vendors and clearly-marked traditional hot dog hawkers, has its designated "alterna" chow. Here, a salad, there, a "burrito" as practiced in ancient refried-bean-and-yellow-cheese Mexican restaurants run by someone named Stan. But here I quibble; judging a spring training facility by the food is about like judging Miss America on her actual talents. Or something.

On to the Diamondbacks, who pulled off a worst-to-first turnaround nearly unprecedented in modern history. As BPro's writeup evinces, it had only been done three times by teams residing in divisions with more than four clubs, making it something of a rarity. They accomplished this feat by

Of course, it also didn't hurt that the rest of the division was not notoriously strong. The Giants' 2009 turned out to be a one-off, and with the Padres and Dodgers fighting for air amid the Moores and McCourt divorces respectively, nobody else was really poised to contend for the crown.

So, the Diamondbacks, for the moment, appear to be the class of the division, although I seem to recall thinking similar things entering 2011 about the Giants. With that in mind, we watched a split-squad Cubs team go down versus a very strong outing by staff ace Ian Kennedy, who pitched seven innings of one-run ball. Cubs starter Jay Jackson only lasted four innings but looked creditable, at least, which is all you can hope for from a minor leaguer who's hoping to eventually crack the rotation. He'll be playing out his age 24 season in AAA, and with a team as bad as the Cubs are expected to be, not to mention the usual injuries accruing to a starting rotation, he'll get his chance to shine sooner rather than later.

One of the fun parts of the game, I confess, was a guy I found myself cheering for in last year's postseason, Paul Goldschmidt. Goldy got to Jackson in the fourth with a laser shot into the outfield berms. While it's kind of a stretch to think he'll have the impact this year he had on last year's NLDS (.438/.526/.813??), it's no big leap to imagine him becoming a high-OBP/SLG star the Snakes have needed at first base for a very long time.

For a spring training game involving the Cubs, actual attendance was surprisingly light, only 11,573. An engaging game at one of my favorite spring training parks: this is what Camelback Ranch should have been.

Cubs recap

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