The Arizona Diamondbacks have been an incredibly well run franchise in their 20 seasons. They’ve made great trades and free agent signings. They’ve drafted well. OK, so the Dave Stewart era wasn’t particularly well run. Overall, they have a .492 record with 10 winning seasons in 20 years. They’ve won 100 games once and one World Series. They have five division titles.
Here’s how The Southpaw breaks down their ten best players.*
No. 10: Matt Williams
I thought Matt Williams signed a free agent deal with the Diamondbacks, but upon further review, he arrived via trade. The player the Diamondbacks gave up: Travis Fryman. He didn’t play for the Diamondbacks, I thought. Sure enough, the Diamondbacks traded a trio of prospects to the Tigers for Fryman in November of 1997. By December, he was gone, traded for Matt Williams. Fryman spent five years in Cleveland, accumulating a 5.7 WAR. Williams was slightly better, piling up an 8.2 WAR.
No. 9: Chris Young
No. 8: A.J. Polack
See No. 9 on this list.
No. 7: Steve Finley
Steve Finley was a solid ballplayer for a decade before arriving in Arizona. By the time he signed with the Diamondbacks, he was a .2675/.329/.419 hitter with more than 200 stolen bases and 100 home runs. He’d had three seasons with 5-plus WAR. In Arizona, he sparkled. He put up an .850 OPS over six seasons.
No. 6: Justin Upton
Justin Upton’s extra-base hit totals in his final seasons in Arizona: 63, 47, 75, 45.
Justin Upton’s stolen base totals in his final four seasons in Arizona: 20, 18, 21, 18.
Justin Upton is just finishing up his age 29 season.
No. 5: Curt Schilling
Curt Schilling is the best post-season pitcher of All Time. Look, we don’t make that pronouncement lightly. Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, John Smoltz, Whitey Ford, Christy Mathewson and a few others have solid claims at No. 2.
Here’s the fact. In 1993, he was the best pitcher in the postseason, winning the NLCS MVP and tossing a complete game shutout against one of the best offenses in baseball history in an elimination game. In 2001, he was co-MVP of the World Series with Randy Johnson and gave up just one earned run in 27 innings in the NLCS and NLDS that year. He was crucial in the Red Sox breaking their 86-year World Series drought in 2004. In 2007, he helped them win a second championship.
He’s also been a horse’s ass his entire life.
No. 4: Brandon Webb
It’s easy to forget Brandon Webb. Did you know he just started 198 games in his career, all of them with Arizona? Did you know he twice led the league in wins? That he twice led the league in shutouts? Did you know that he was selected to three consecutive All Star games? That he finished in the top 2 in Cy Young voting three straight years from 2006-2008? That he pitched just one game after that? It’s easy to forget Brandon Webb was really damn good.
No. 3: Luis Gonzalez
Gonzo will always be remembered for fisting a soft line drive over the head of Derek Jeter in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. But he was quite a solid ballplayer before he ended up in Arizona.
From 1990 to 1998, he hit .268/.341/.432 with an average of 12 homers and 10 stolen bases a season to go along with very good defense. He also limited his strikeouts. In 1991 and 1993 he posted 3.6 and 5.3 WAR seasons respectively.
The dry air in Arizona was just one factor that helped him to a career year, slashing .336/.403/.549 in 1999. He wasn’t done. He’d hit 31, 57 and 28 homers the next three seasons. He was a five-time All Star as a Diamondback.
No. 2: Paul Goldschmidt
The first baseman is just 29, but he’s already the second best Diamondback of all time.
The big man boasts a complete approach at the plate. He’s a former home run champ who has hit 33 or more home runs three times. He’s an on-base machine who has finished the year in the top ten in five of his seven seasons. He’s hit .300 or better four times and never below .286 in a full season.
No. 1: Randy Johnson
The Big Unit arrived in the desert having won one Cy Young and an ERA crown, led the league in strikeouts four times, pitched in five All Star Games and owning a 133 and 78 record. He was 34. If he pitched moderately well, he might become a borderline Hall of Famer.
What he did was go on an unbelievable four-season run that cemented him as the greatest free agent pitcher signing in Major League History. In 140 games over four years, he tossed a league-leading 2.48 ERA, a 2.53 FIP and a 1.044 WHIP. He struck out 1,417 batters in 1,030 innings pitched. To put that in perspective, Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter struck out 1,697 batters in his 15-year career. After an injury marred 2003 campaign, he bounced back to lead the league in strikeouts, FIP and WHIP in 2004.
* For these lists, we use players who have been on their teams for a minimum of four seasons. Tbe lists are, of course, subjective, but rely heavily on franchise leaders, hardware won and WAR. Check out more baseball posts.