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Series Thirty-One: Marlins at Diamondbacks

It was probably a long flight out West yesterday for the Fish, as the Marlins were unlikely to be happy campers after dropping three of four games to the Phillies. Now the Fish are in Phoenix, and while the Diamondbacks aren't great this year, and it's time to turn things around - and quickly.

The Fish are scuffling; when they score runs, the seem to give up even more; when they can't score, they tend to squander a good start. Now they head into Phoenix and will likely start Jason Vargas (first Major League start) tonight, someone in place of A.J. Burnett tomorrow, and Brian Moehler (although he's returned to prominence, he wasn't supposed to be in the majors this year) on Wednesday. That off day on Thursday is sure looking good right now.

To help distract us from all the negativity surrounding the Marlins right now, we sat down with Baxter the Bobcat (pictured here with his family) to discuss the upcoming series.

: Baxter, welcome to FishStripes! Before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be associated with the Diamondbacks? I'm sure that most of our readers don't know why the Diamondbacks (a snake) employ a bobcat for a mascot.

: Thanks for having me. I'd be happy to explain my involvement with the DBacks. Truth be told, my initial affiliation is with the Diamondbacks' stadium, and not necessarily the team. You see, the DBacks play at Bank One Ballpark, which is commonly referred to as the BOB. I, being a Bobcat was naturally drawn to this place.

: But you're in Phoenix. Are there even any bobcats in Phoenix? Other than you, of course.

: Actually, yes - there are. Bobcats often live in the mountains surrounding Phoenix. They do come into the city and the lower lying areas at times - mainly for water. That's how I found my way to the BOB; there's a pool, you know. I've adjusted to the chlorine quite well.

: Interesting. Enough zoology. Let's move on to baseball. The Diamondbacks are currently in second place in a wild NL West. Are the DBacks buyers or sellers as the trade deadline approaches?

: Unless they're presented with something irresistable, I'd say neither. While the DBacks are in second place, they're also below .500. The focus here is building a team and competing for another World Series in another year or two. There is a stable of players who are young and talented who should contribute to this team for a long time. Unless someone makes a spectacular offer, I'd expect to see the Diamondbacks to keep their young nucleus - both in the majors and in the minors - intact this year.

: So what you're saying is that the Marlins won't be picking up Brandon Webb on the cheap?

: Probably not. But you can watch former Marlins like Craig Counsell and Armando Almanza this week.

: Great. Speaking of the Marlins, what do you think they should do?

: Mike Lowell is a very puzzling case. I thought he was the type of guy that would finish his career as a Marlin and would remain involved with the team for the rest of his life - as a coach, broadcaster, and/or front office type. It's been a rough year for him - not just the 2005 season, but really since last year's All-Star break. I'm not sure if Mike just needs a change of scenery or if his skills have eroded. The Marlins may not be able to afford to find out though - as by moving him they could pick up some payroll flexibility. Lowell's track record, outstanding reputation, and playoff experience could encourage a contender to roll the dice on him. I'd move Lowell.

Other than that, I don't think there are a lot of moves to make. The Marlins pitching staff is full of question marks, but not many more than other contenders. On a positive note, the Marlins issue - at least as guys start to come back from the DL - is that they just don't know where to fit everyone in. If they can sort through that - quickly - they could be looking at something good.

Normally I'm not one to advocate coaching changes, and you folks have discussed that enough recently already, so I'll leave that topic alone.

: Let's switch gears again. As you alluded to earlier, the DBacks are loaded with talented youngsters. Who are some guys we should know about but probably don't? I'm not looking for the Brandon Webb's and Brandon Lyon's here - but the guys a little below the surface.

: I'm not sure if Chad Tracy meets your requirements, but he's still young (25) and is off most folks radar screen. He shouldn't be though. He hits for power and average; he just needs to become a little more selective - so far this year he's striking out twice as often as he walks.

At the minor league level (i.e. you won't get to see him in this series), Carlos Quinten is a star in waiting. You may know him from his days as a collegian at Stanford. He should become a DBacks regular by next year, if not the end of this season. As an outfielder in AAA Tucson this year, he's hitting .310/.430/.561, with 18 homers, 7 steals (hasn't been caught yet), and has more walks than strikeouts.

And one more: although he's no youngster, Tony Clark will surprise you. He's something of a jack-of-all-trades this year, and he's been suberb. His line of .324/.353/.625 just about says it all; that's a .978 OPS. The only problem has been getting him into the lineup often enough.

: Thanks for your time, Baxter. Good luck - after the Marlins leave town.