My Experience at the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia

Working the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia

To say that the 2017 NFL Draft, held in my hometown of Philadelphia over the last three days, was a major success would be an understatement.

I got to experience this signature event of the National Football League up close and in person as a Sergeant with the Philadelphia Police Department. It was just the latest in a number of high profile events that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy while on-duty during my career.

Assigned to take charge of a group of police officers, we spent both days on the south side of the 2400 block of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

It was a slight surprise to me when my group actually took that position and found that we were at the very front lines of the stage and seating arena area. It turned out to be an exciting and rewarding assignment.

The crowd was massive, but Philly-friendly and cooperative. As far as their interactions with myself and my officers, I couldn’t have asked for a more positive reception. Everyone was friendly to us and appreciative of our efforts, and quite a few let us know that fact.

One thing that none of us knew, from the top brass on down to rookie police officers, was exactly what kind of crowd we would be met with. It was the first time that the NFL had put on their annual Draft of college players in that big of a show.

Philly can be notorious at times for our fan reactions, especially where Eagles fans are concerned. You also had to add in the factor that this was a free event. Would the crowd turn surly at any point? Sometimes it only takes a few bad apples to spoil things for the whole bunch. If any officials held any concerns of a worst-case scenario, those never materialized. In fact, just the opposite.

Even when faced with moments involving the hated, rival Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, or Washington Redskins, the Philly faithful responded with spirited but controlled reactions.

The biggest target of the ‘Boo Birds’ over the first couple of days was easily the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell. Yet even with the Commish, I witnessed first-hand a somewhat different reaction from the crowds.

On Thursday, before the actual player selection process got underway, Goodell came out and greeted fans along the very front of the crowd at the sturdy barricades which separated the street from the arena section. As he emerged, there were boisterous boos.

Goodell approached and then walked down the entirety of that front line. He reached across the barricades to shake hands, fist-bump, and even take selfies with those in front, all of whom looked star-struck. The crowd returned his outreach with smiles and handshakes. There were no boos at that point.

Yours truly with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

As the Commissioner made his way back towards the actual arena, he walked straight at me and shook my hand. I took the opportunity to ask if he minded a quick photo, and in a friendly tone he responded: “For you? Absolutely!” He then thanked me for the work we were doing. Great stuff!

As all cops do, I’ve worked many of these high profile details over the years. I’ve been within interaction distance of numerous famous folks including U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and South African President Nelson Mandela. I certainly could have tried to insinuate myself with any of them at some point, but always held off.

I’ve gotten to shake hands and exchange quick pleasantries with folks such as Flyers legend Bernie Parent and numerous other musicians, athletes, politicians, and celebrities. Goodell was the first time that I asked for a photo. Strange choice, no?

As the time came for the Draft ceremonies to begin, the event was kicked off with a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner“, by Chloe and Hallie Bailey.

Standing at attention, facing the stage and flag, I threw up the customary respectful salute. As I held my salute through the anthem and the girls wound towards the end, two cameramen suddenly charged me. Next thing I knew, there I was, flashing a salute (1:39 into below video) on national television for the NFL Network audience.

As the Draft itself unfolded, the crowd grew massive at the front of the stage area. They roared with approval whenever a local favorite such as Ron ‘Jaws’ Jaworski appeared, and booed lustily when some rival legend showed up. The best was former Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson, whose boisterous pro-Dallas rant was met by an equally vibrant reaction from Birds’ fans.

Early on Thursday, prior to starting my work assignment, I had visited the 2100 block of the Parkway. There I got to view some of the other attractions which I would end up missing while working up at the arena area.

I also ran into my cousin, Philly police officer Bob Veasey, who was working the daywork shift in that 2100 block of the Parkway. Bob told me that he had a great day, even getting a picture with the Vince Lombardi Trophy awarded to the Super Bowl winners.

Philadelphia looked fantastic. The mid-spring green colors in the trees were highlighted by unseasonably warm temperatures. It was as though three early-summer days had decided to invade the springtime, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time for the city.

Part of the crowd near the front of the general public staging area for the 2017 NFL Draft

A chilly rain had fallen for days prior to the start of the NFL Draft. With the event over now, Sunday is cloudy with a chance of rain. So it turned out that even Mother Nature was on Philadelphia’s side this week.

The Parkway itself was fully decorated in NFL Draft paraphernalia. Numerous tents and attractions drew fan participation and photo opportunities.

There was plenty of opportunity to purchase food and beverages. If you bought a bottle of water, you could refill it for free at a handful of kiosks scattered around the event. Porta Potty’s were aplenty.

From a concession stand set up next to the famed “Rocky” statue, I got to enjoy a delicious hot sausage on day one, a jumbo hotdog on day two, both washed down by a nice, cold bottle of H2O. The sausage, I waited in a short line and purchased by myself. The hotdog was a treat from a couple of my officers.

Speaking of those police officers, I couldn’t have asked for a better crew. I had the same group of cops under me on both days. Only one of the officers had any time on the job, the others were all rookies.

All of the officers comported themselves with professionalism. They basically held to my directives: “I need to see you around regularly, keep an eye out for problems while enjoying the event and the people, and don’t do anything to get yourselves on TV.” I was ribbed by a couple of them on that last one after my salute appearance.

While visiting with that Rocky statue, waiting on my first-day hot sausage, I ran into an old classmate from my Police Academy class 289. Newly minted Philly PD Deputy Commissioner Dennis Wilson has always been a great guy, and hasn’t let the new rank change him at all. My only problem with him? The man looks like he hasn’t aged a day in 27 years.

People in the area where I was assigned from outside of the Philadelphia Police Department were extremely cooperative and friendly. Fire Department paramedics on their Segways were everywhere. The event security personnel, federal law enforcement, the NFL staff, and employees of the various networks providing TV coverage all worked together well.

One member of that NFL staff gets particular thanks from me, and I’m sorry that I never got his name. The situation went like this: on Thursday night, after taking a few opportunities to capture some of the pageantry by taking a few pictures and videos, my cellphone died.

Still having a few hours to go on the work detail, I realized that I had left my portable charger back in my car. Overhearing me mention this in a conversation with my officers, a member of the NFL Network technical crew offered to charge my phone. I took him up on the offer, and a half hour later had a half-charge and was back in business.

Near the end of Thursday night’s first round, I got to meet and speak for a few minutes with the woman who was in charge of the actual arena structure. If you didn’t get to see it in person or on TV, the NFL Draft arena was an amazing piece of temporary architecture.

Flanked by Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders

She said that her company goes from town to town, event to event, pulling off similar amazing feats. For instance, this summer they will be handling the huge Lollapalooza concert in Chicago in August. Her folks did a phenomenal job putting that structure in place.

On Friday, newly-promoted Philly PD Deputy Commissioner Joe Sullivan stopped through my area and mentioned that “we haven’t even had to handle a fight.” We both knocked wood, hoping it would stay that way.

Stay that way it would. No fights, no major disputes. I saw one protest sign the entire time (“Investigate Pizzagate – it’s real!“) which garnered zero attention for the guy trying hard to get some. He left the front after about two minutes and no crowd response.

There were a couple of lost children, ultimately returned to their families. And there was one other incident that was handled by myself and my crew with the help of Chief Inspector Frank Vanore and the PPD Bomb Squad.

A non-thinking member of the stage crew had left a backpack leaning unattended against a tree for a length of time near a side stage entrance. The bag was reported to us as a concern by the NFL Network folks.

This was ultimately great work performed by the brave Bomb Squaders, who thankfully got to deal with a bag full of clothing this time. After the 2013 Boston Marathon attack, unattended backpacks are a no-no at major public events, people. Something to keep in mind.

It was this spirit of cooperation and friendship that was on display everywhere you looked this week which truly stood out. Whether it was with internal PPD ranks, or with security staff.

Especially with the crowds. Philly fans were outstanding, even from or towards rival Cowboys and Giants fans. A couple of Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders humored me with the above photo. Everyone was in it together, and in it for the right reasons – a peaceful good time.

Congratulations to everyone associated with bringing this showcase to Philly, and with organizing, managing, and running the event itself. The 2017 NFL Draft was a major success story, one of the nicest events that I’ve had the pleasure to work over a law enforcement career that is now in the middle of its 28th and final year.

All Signs Trending Upwards for Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies powered their way past the Miami Marlins by a 7-4 score on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, tying the Fish for second place in the NL East standings.
The Fightin’ Phils used three home runs, including a grand slam from Maikel Franco‘s suddenly percolating bat, to rally from an early 2-0 deficit.
Vince Velasquez provided manager Pete Mackanin‘s club with a tidy 6.1 inning effort. He allowed six hits and three earned runs in a 97-pitch outing. Velasquez also struck out three and walked two batters in registering his first victory of the season.
The win was a fifth consecutive victory for the Phillies, moving the team above the .500 mark at 10-9 as we approach the end of the first month of the 2017 MLB season.
Exactly one year ago on this date, the Phillies were also a game over that .500 mark. At 11-10, the Phils would continue to rise in the standings over the next three weeks. They would reach a high-water mark for the 2016 season of 24-17 on May 18th before it all came crashing down.
While that fast-starting Phillies season of a year ago deteriorated into a fourth straight losing campaign, there are signs that things may turn out differently this year.

PHILLIES OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT OBVIOUS

Offensive improvement is apparent from anyone who watches the team on a regular basis. The Phillies are currently 12th in MLB with a .740 OPS mark.
While that won’t get you any parades down Broad Street, it is certainly a major improvement over a year ago. The Phils .685 OPS mark in 2016 was at the bottom of the big league pack.
Phillies
The Phillies offense hasn’t suddenly turned into a juggernaut. What they are showing is the incremental improvement of a team rising from the ashes. There is now real hope that the darkest days lie in the past.
Second baseman Cesar Hernandez is making a believer out of many former skeptics. A month away from his 27th birthday, Hernandez is hitting .321/.360/.536 slash line. He leads the club with 27 hits, 18 runs scored, and three stolen bases. His four home runs are tied for the team lead, and his 10 RBI are tied for second on the club.
New left fielder Howie Kendrick had started out strong with a .333 average and .395 on-base percentage over his first 10 games before heading to the Disabled List.
The lineup has not missed Kendrick one bit. Aaron Altherr has taken full advantage of increased playing time. The 26-year old is hitting for a .361/.425/.639 slash. His 10 runs scored are second on the club.
Odubel Herrera, the Phillies’ lone 2016 NL All-Star, signed a long-term contract this past off-season. ‘El Torito’ is hitting .271 with a .354 OBP, and his nine walks lead the team.
Most encouraging for the Phillies is third baseman Maikel Franco, who appears to be finally heating up. The talented 24-year old is hitting .350 over his last five games. Franco has driven in 10 runs during that span. It is no coincidence that the team has won all five of those games.

ROTATION DEPTH PROVING VALUABLE

On the mound, the organization’s starting pitching depth has already paid dividends. Clay Buchholz is likely lost for the season. Aaron Nola is requiring a stint on the DL. As a result, early opportunities have arisen.
Into the breach has stepped Zach Eflin, a 23-year old who made his big league debut with the club a year ago. Eflin has provided the team with solid outings in his first two starts since being promoted from AAA Lehigh Valley.
Jeremy Hellickson and Jerad Eickhoff are giving the Phillies a competitive 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation for a second consecutive season. If Velasquez can harness his considerable talents and produce more consistency in deeper outings, it would be a major boon.
Mackanin was quoted on Velasquez’ development by Matt Gelb for Philly.com after last night’s game:
“He’s trying to pitch to more contact and not make perfect pitches and strike everybody out. Once he puts it all together, he’ll have that total ensemble working for him. He’ll know when to pitch soft and when to throw hard. He’s making good improvements.”

BULLPEN HAS MORE WEAPONS

Although Mackanin has been reluctant (for some unknown reason) to name him the official full-time closer, Hector Neris has effectively seized that role. Neris has allowed just nine hits over 11.1 innings with a 13/3 K:BB ratio.
A pair of youngsters, right-hander Edubray Ramos and lefty Joely Rodriguez, have been inconsistent. But both have also flashed enough positives that they could prove to be long term gems in the Phillies bullpen.
A pair of veteran newcomers, right-handers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek, have helped the Phillies bullpen provide far more stability and reliability in the late innings than in any recent season.

MINOR LEAGUES POISED TO PROVIDE BOOST

Along with the positive developments at the big league level, the Phillies improved minor league system appears nearly ready to deliver even more talent in the coming months.
Phillies
First baseman Rhys Hoskins, catcher Jorge Alfaro, infielder Jesmuel Valentin, and outfielders Roman Quinn and Nick Williams could all see action in Philly at some point this summer among the position players at AAA Lehigh Valley.
On the mound, Nick Pivetta is about to make his own big league debut this weekend with the Phillies. Pivetta has gone 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA and 0.74 WHIP mark for the Pigs. He has allowed just a dozen hits over 19 innings with a tremendous 24/2 K:BB ratio.
Lined up behind Pivetta and waiting for their own shot at the Phillies rotation are Jake ThompsonBen Lively, and Ricardo Pinto.
Two of the Phillies more high-profile prospects, shortstop J.P. Crawford and pitcher Mark Appel, are struggling at the AAA level. Both are going to have to demonstrate mastery of the minors before they can be seriously considered to help in Philly. But both remain very talented players who could also emerge later this summer.
The Phillies have even more talent percolating at the lower levels of their minor league system. With a boatload of cash available in ownership’s coffers, the Phillies are positioned well for the future.
The winning start to the 2016 season proved to be a mirage. Even this 2017 solid beginning may not last. But one thing is becoming clearer. Something different is going on down at Citizens Bank Park these days. The Phillies finally appear to be turning the corner, and a return of more consistent excitement appears to be right around the corner.

Rays of Hope During Hot Spring in Tampa Bay

To say that the 2016 season was rough for the Tampa Bay Rays and their fans would be an understatement. The club’s 68-94 last place finish in the AL East was their worst in nearly a decade.
From 2008, the year that a talented, young Rays club won the franchise lone American League pennant, through 2013, Tampa Bay won 90 or more games in five of six seasons.
But it has now been three straight losing campaigns in west-central Florida. And most prognosticators had the team again finishing at the bottom of the standings.
But the Rays are off to an encouraging 9-9 start here in the early weeks of the 2017 season. It hasn’t been any one particular thing either.
Under third year manager Kevin Cash, there has been real improvement across all facets of the game. Those improvements added up to a winning record after the Rays swept the Detroit Tigers earlier this week for the first time since 2010. A loss last night to Houston dropped the club back to the .500 mark.

LONGO GETTING HELP ACROSS THE LINEUP

During their glory years, the most important player in the everyday lineup was third baseman Evan Longoria. Now a 31-year old veteran, Longo is still on board, and still a major offensive threat. The three-time AL All-Star has a half-dozen extra-base hits, including three home runs, and has driven in 10 runs.
Right fielder Steven Souza also has three homers. The 28-year old leads the club with 15 RBI and a .343/.429/.582 slash line.
The other two outfield positions feature speed to burn. In left field, Mallex Smith has taken over. The 24-year old was flipped back in January from the Atlanta Braves to the Seattle Mariners, who then shipped him to Tampa for lefty pitcher Drew Smyly.
Smith has gotten off solidly with a .273 average and .360 on-base percentage. He is second on the club with three stolen bases, but has missed the last eight games with a hamstring strain. He has been running lightly, and the club hopes to get him back soon.
Leading the Rays in swipes is Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who has four. The 27-year old is hitting .294 with a .385 OBP thus far in 2017.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the everyday lineup has been first baseman Logan Morrison. Once a highly rated prospect in the Marlins organization, Morrison has mostly disappointed over his first seven seasons.
But now in his second year in Tampa, the 29-year old is tied with DH Corey Dickerson for the team lead with four home runs. Morrison is also second on the team with a dozen RBI. For his part, Dickerson is hitting for a .317/.358/.603 slash.

RAYS PITCHING HAS ALSO BEEN STRONG

On the mound, 28-year old Chris Archer has stepped up to become a legitimate ace after helping lead the U.S. to a World Baseball Classic championship in March.
Archer is 2-0 with a 1.71 FIP and 117 ERA+ mark. Over his first four starts, Archer has allowed 25 hits in 25.1 innings with a 27/8 K:BB mark.
Alex Cobb appears to finally be all the way back from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the entire 2015 season and most of last year. Cobb has an 18/4 K:BB across his first 24 innings, and three of his four starts have been encouraging.
24-year old Blake Snell had a strong rookie campaign a year ago, and the lefty is off to another solid start. He has allowed just 12 hits over his first 16.1 innings across three starts.
Matt Andriese was supposed to be the big question mark in the rotation as the fifth starter. But thus far, the 27-year old has done his part. Andriese has a 14/5 K:BB in allowing 16 hits over 16 innings in his three starts.
Jake Odorizzi was supposed to be the breakout pitcher in the rotation. But the 27-year old is currently wrapping up a stint on the 10-day DL with a hamstring issue.
Odorizzi is due to throw a bullpen session on Saturday, and the Rays hope to have the talented right-hander back soon. he did get on the mound for three starts in which he allowed just 10 hits over 13 innings.
Alex Colome took over as the closer a year ago. The now 28-year old is off to a strong start as well. He has allowed just two hits over six innings thus far. He also has not walked a batter across his first half-dozen appearances, and has registered three saves.
The bullpen setting up Colome has been mostly effective as well. Erasmo RamirezTommy Hunter, and Jumbo Diaz have led the way, with Ramirez stepping into the rotation to fill-in while Odorizzi recovers.

RETURNING PLAYERS COULD BOOST CLUB FURTHER

Management likes what it sees of the renewed fight in their ball club. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times recently quoted general manager Erik Neander:
“The makeup and chemistry is showing signs of being a real strength. There is a chip, an edge, a selflessness, a greater purpose behind how these guys compete together. … It’s an easy group to root for.”
Tampa should get better in the coming weeks. Odorizzi could be back on the mound and Smith back in the lineup soon. The Rays are also looking forward to the return of shortstop Matt Duffy, who had off-season surgery on his left heel. Duffy is slowly progressing, and should be back in May.
The Rays have fashioned their .500 start thanks largely to a strong home mark. The team is 8-3 at the sparsely populate Trop, while just 1-6 on the road. They’ll have to figure those road woes out in a hurry if they expect to stay competitive, as the club heads out on an eight-game road trip next week.
While it is way too early to get overly excited about the team possibly contending this season, the start has been fun. Tampa is showing that they can beat you a number of ways. Now it’s up to Cash and his players to keep things moving forward as the warm feelings of spring turn into a long, hot summer.

Angels Again Surround Mike Trout With Little Help

The Los Angeles Angels are off to a 7-10 start to the 2017 season. Those uneven first three weeks have the team tied with the Seattle Mariners for third place in the AL West Division standings. Those two clubs are just a half-game ahead of the last place Oakland Athletics.
One of the main reasons that the Halos remain closer to the bottom of the division than the top is the continuing struggle to find support for the lineup’s lone true superstar.
Mike Trout appears set to add yet another strong season to what might already be a Hall of Fame career. Turning 26 years of age just before the MLB All-Star Game this coming July, Trout is hitting for a .339/.424/.625 slash line over the season’s first three weeks.
Trout has thus far produced three home runs, 11 RBI, and seven runs scored while stealing three bases. Those numbers put him on pace for the second ’30-30′ season of his career, which is now in its seventh year.
But even with a player of this caliber in their lineup, the Angels still struggle. A two-time AL MVP who has been the runner-up for the award in each of his other three full seasons. Five straight Silver Sluggers and AL All-Star nods. And still the team cannot win consistently.

LITTLE HELP IN THE ANGELS LINEUP

The only other player with a big reputation on the club is veteran first baseman and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. The 37-year old has 11 RBI, tied with Trout for second on the club. But his .190/.242/.310 slash line exposes that in his 17th season, Pujols is a shell of his once three-time MVP self.
New second baseman Danny Espinosa leads the Angels with a dozen RBI. Espinosa is also tied for the club lead with Trout, having banged three home runs. However, the former longtime Nationals’ infielder is also hitting just .232 with a .254 on-base percentage.
Kole Calhoun won a 2015 Gold Glove, and appeared to be developing as a consistent offensive contributor over the last two seasons. But this year, Calhoun is off to just a .218/.306/.327 slash.
Third baseman Yunel Escobar is hitting well at .313/.371/.406, and leads the Angels with 11 runs scored. But he brings little power to the traditional power position, having just one homer and five RBI to this point.
Only two other players besides Trout have even a single stolen base. Overall, the Angels as a team are hitting for just a .241/.306/.363 slash line. Imagine where the club would be without Trout’s contributions?
When you factor in a pitching staff that is mediocre at best, one that is also battling some injury issues, and the outlook for the Angels in the 2017 season is not a good one.

CONTRACT ISSUES AND REALITY

Trout is due to make more than $34 million each year beginning next season, when Pujols will be another year older.
Angels
Pujols is locked in for another $114 million over the next four years, a contract that will be impossible to move and will hang around the team neck like an albatross through 2021.
The minor league organization was rated 29th of 30 teams in the most recent Baseball America rankings back in late February. There is little prospect help coming over the next few years.
Arte Moreno and Halos management can deny reality for another year if they like, but sooner or later they are going to have to face a hard truth. The Angels cannot win as currently constructed, and Trout is the only asset they have who could change that fact.
Look at the prospect packages that the Phillies received in return for both Cole Hamels and Ken Giles in recent years. The talent received by the White Sox in exchange for Chris Sale. This is the type of impact that a trade of Trout would have for the Angels.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Angels should be actively shopping Trout right now, looking for a massive 5-6 top prospect package in return.
For now, they continue to run the best player in baseball out on the field at Angels Stadium. Unfortunately with little chance of fielding a winning overall ball club around him.

Jake Lamb Shepherds Dbacks Renaissance

Heading into Thursday night action in Major League Baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks are tied atop the National League West Division standings with a 10-6 record.
This comes one year after a disheartening 69-93 campaign for the Dbacks. Last season found Arizona avoiding the division cellar by just a single game.
The biggest offensive contributor in the lineup thus far has been third baseman Jake Lamb. The 26-year old is now in his second season as a full-time starter.
A native of Seattle, Lamb was the Diamondbacks selection in the sixth round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Washington.
The 6’3″ lefty-swinging Lamb achieved success in the minor leagues between 2012-14. In doing so, he became a Top 100 Prospect as ranked by both MLB and Baseball America prior to the 2015 season.

LAMB REACHES THE BIG LEAGUES

Lamb made his big league debut on August 7, 2014 in a game at Chase Field against the Kansas City Royals. He went 1-4 and drove in a run that night, and stayed with Arizona for the last two months of the season. With the exception of a month-long stay on the DL early in the 2015 season, he has been up with the Dbacks ever since.
Last year, while the team struggled in his first full big league season, Lamb powered up. He clubbed 29 home runs and raked 31 doubles. Lamb also drove in 91 runs and scored 81 times.
Lamb has begun the 2017 campaign by taking his overall game to another level. Over his first 15 games and 65 plate appearances, he is hitting for a .304/385/.554 slash line. His counting numbers would project out to 30+ homers, 140+ RBI, and 120+ runs over a full season.
It is somewhat unlikely that he will maintain that RBI and Runs pace. But the 30+ homer power is for real. Lamb is emerging this year as an NL All-Star caliber player.
Lamb is also trying to take on more of a leadership role in the clubhouse. He was interviewed by Bob McManaman of The Arizona Republic late in spring training:
“I’m trying to bring a little more fun in the clubhouse in a smart way, in a respectful way. It’s good to be loose, you know. I think it’s really important to have a loose clubhouse. You play better.”

DBACKS APPEAR GREATLY IMPROVED IN 2017

Lamb and left fielder Yasmany Tomas have joined perennial MVP candidate first baseman Paul Goldschmidt as threats in the middle of the Dbacks batting order.
Diamondbacks
Center fielder A.J. Pollock is back and healthy. Arizona also features an underrated middle infield of Brandon Drury and Chris Owings. The overall lineup appears much more solidified and deep than a year ago.
On the mound, Zack Greinke heads a rotation in which each member has been improved over their 2016 performances. Lefties Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray, and righties Shelby Miller and Taijuan Walker, are all 27 years of age or younger.
The closer is 40-year old veteran Fernando Rodney. If he can hold up over the entire season, the bullpen may also prove to be greatly improved. A pair of youngsters have been keys to that improvement. Righty Archie Bradley and lefty Andrew Chafin have each gotten off to strong starts
The club also has a new man at the helm in manager Torey Lovullo. The former Boston Red Sox bench coach has long been considered as managerial material. His debut has gone as well as any Dbacks fan could hope to this point.
Can the Arizona Diamondbacks go from near the bottom of the division one year to a playoff team the next? The talent appears to be there.
If Lamb and the Dbacks keep up this pace, then the preseason favorite Dodgers and Giants may find themselves doing some unexpected chasing all summer long.