The fans who were in Bank One Ballpark on Winslow Standin’ on the Corner Day were treated to the privilege of seeing baseball legend Mark Grace make his last start as a Major League player. Grace delivered with two hits including a double and went out in style. He came on as a defensive replacement on Sunday and showed some of the dazzling glove work that he was noted for throughout his career.
The acquisition of Grace probably bought the Diamondbacks some new fans. He was a fan favorite in Chicago and the largest group of “immigrants” from any Major League city in Phoenix hail from Chicago. You will still see quite a few Cubs jerseys in the stands when that team comes to visit. However, not a few switched loyalties when Grace switched uniforms. Others now root for the Diamondbacks against every team except their eternal favorites.
There is much speculation about the future of Grace now that his playing days are over. The betting in the press box is that he will stay with the Diamondbacks in some capacity. The logical options are as a broadcaster or a coach of some variety. He would be a good fit in either position.
The Diamondbacks could use a coach who would instill some hitting discipline and improve the ability of some players to execute basic baseball plays – like getting down a successful sacrifice bunt. I don’t know if there is a coach in trouble over the failure to do these things this season or not. Grace, though, has been a fundamentally sound, patient hitter during his long career.
Base coaches are the most visible of all non-players except for the manager. Grace would likely be a great first base coach. That, however, would mean he would be taking over for the popular Hall of Famer Robin Yount. Still, Yount might move to third and Eddie Rodriguez, whose judgment was questionable at best on occasion, would be reassigned. Manager Bob Brenly or a superior would have to make those decisions.
The most likely scenario has Grace replacing Steve Lyons along side Thom Brennanan in the broadcast booth. Grace will remain a fan favorite. He and Brennanan have superior knowledge of the game and should make a good team. Grace also has a sense of humor as demonstrated by his mimic of pitcher Mike Fetters during a blow-out loss to San Francisco in 2002. Regardless of what his future position, finding a spot for Grace is imperative to satisfy many current fans, especially those with Chicago connections.
There has been much speculation about who will go and who will stay from the Diamondbacks roster. One that is often mentioned as likely to go is pitcher Miguel Batista. That would be a mistake. Batista is worth far more than a mere pitcher. He is an ambassador of good will, especially with the Native American population and probably with the Latin fans. He also happens to be one of my personal favorites, though that isn’t likely to make much of a difference.