SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Diamondbacks president/CEO Derrick Hall got an ‘A’ for effort in his passionate clubhouse talk before Friday’s first full-squad workout of spring training. And maybe an ‘F’ (or two) for vocabulary.
Hall was particularly demonstrative during his speech, players said; so much so that he was able to repeat only the G-rated version when he spoke to the media. Whatever the enthusiastic Hall said, it played well in the clubhouse.
“It was awesome,” center fielder Adam Eaton said. “When you have people in the front office that want to win just as much as you do, it electrifies you. It makes you want to go out and play hard and play with a passion. If they have a passion, you’re going to have a passion, too. I feel like the team today kind of reflects our leadership and our front office. Whatever they can do to fire us up, it definitely does.”
Hall, managing partner Ken Kendrick, partner Jeff Royer and general manager Kevin Towers all addressed the D-backs on Friday, and they made it clear that anything short of a postseason berth will be a disappointment.
That is always the case, of course, but it appears especially so after the team’s winter remake in which outfield mainstays Justin Upton and Chris Young were swapped out for third baseman Martin Prado, outfielder Cody Ross, reliever Heath Bell and others.
The D-backs want to rekindle the spirit that lifted them to their most recent division title in 2011. As manager Kirk Gibson has said repeatedly, he felt the D-backs overachieved that year — 48 comeback victories, 78-0 when leading after eight innings — and underachieved last season. They were never more than five games over .500 or four games under .500 in 2012 and finished right on the mark at 81-81.
“We did make it clear we have to get back to what we were in 2011,” Hall said. “Back to that tenacious group, never out of a game, playing hard for 27 outs. I probably can’t repeat what I said. I was probably a little fired up.
“It was a team. We were picked by a lot of experts to finish last, and I think the group had a sense of, ‘Let’s show them they’re wrong, and we’re in this together.’ That’s a special feeling when a team feels like they are one.
“There are a lot of questions as to who is the face of the team. I think our team loves that, that there is not necessarily a face. I think it has produced that sense we’re all in this together, as one without a face. It’s fun to see it. There were heads shaking (nodding) the whole time in there. I saw a group that looked determined.”
Reliever David Hernandez said the Upton trade was mentioned.
“He was trying to make a point that just because we traded the face of the D-backs doesn’t mean we are conceding to anybody,” Hernandez said.
“Point taken. (Hall) expects us to compete. ‘Gibby’ expects us to compete. We expect to compete. He made it clear that we are not here to finish third. We’re here to win championships.”
By dealing Upton and Young over the winter and Stephen Drew last August, the D-backs have severed ties to every player on the 2007 NL West title team except catcher Miguel Montero, who was a rookie splitting time with Chris Snyder. Still, the changing of the guard has not resulted in a changing of the Diamondbacks’ expectations.
“We have very high hopes for this team,” Kendrick said. “We focused on putting a team together that we thought was principally built to win. We have a lot of guys that have had a tradition of winning, not only here but in other places. There is no limit to what you can accomplish so long as you are not concerned about who gets the credit.”
Prado, Ross, middle infielder Cliff Pennington and role players/handymen Eric Chavez and Eric Hinske were among the new position players acquired through trades and free agency who participated in their first Diamondbacks workout Friday. Chavez, a 15-year veteran who lives in the Valley, said he has been through good first meetings and mediocre ones, and this was one of the best.
“Derrick Hall, I didn’t know he was that funny,” Chavez said. “It was nice — the owners and everybody are really involved, and they make you involved. It’s a family-type organization, and it feels good to be a part of it. I know everybody is very excited about this team. Obviously trading Upton wasn’t very popular with the fans or whatnot, but we feel pretty good about the players we have in here.”
The returning veterans, most of whom played on the 2011 NL West title team, have an appreciation for the newcomers based on previous experience.
“Obviously is it going to be a little bit different type of team than we have had the last few years,” shortstop Willie Bloomquist said. “I think it is more of a team with a little bit different mentality, which I like. The guys we brought in are certainly good clubhouse guys and extremely competitive on the field as well.
“You don’t really have, I don’t want to say a superstar, but guys seem to play a little bit more with a chip on their shoulder, at least the guys that we brought in, guys like Prado and Cody Ross and those type of guys.”
Ross can see parallels to his last championship group, the 2010 Giants, who won the World Series after he joined them at the trade deadline.
“If you look back at 2010, you didn’t really have the superstar player that everyone looked up to,” Ross said. “You had Buster (Posey), but you didn’t know he was a superstar. He was a rookie. He didn’t have an unbelievable Mike Trout year, but he had a great year.
“It was just a group of guys who sort of put their egos aside and came together and gelled at the right time. You look around this room and you see that sort of character in this room. You don’t have the ‘me’ guys or the guys who are going to be looking out for themselves. It’s more the players that are caring about each other, and that’s what you need on a team that you want to get to the postseason.