As Sam Sees It

After standing pat and failed to address their needs before the trading deadline, the Arizona Diamondbacks finally moved to bolster their flimsy pitching staff with the acquisition of Livan Hernandez from the Washington Nationals. Hernandez has to look in a rear view mirror to see his prime, but he probably has enough left to be the third pitcher in the Arizona rotation.

The National League Western Division race is wide open. The Los Angeles Dodgers helped themselves with the addition of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. All Maddux did on his first outing for the Bums was pitch six innings of no hit baseball before a rain delay ended the night for him. The Dodgers went on a long winning streak following their deadline deals. Any team in the division is capable of winning it, but all have major weaknesses. San Diego, San Francisco and the Colorado Rockies all have enough fire power to win, if they get the right breaks. All also have enough weaknesses to knock them out of the race if another team happens to get hot.

The Diamondbacks have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Brandon Webb. You can win a pennant with two top pitchers as Arizona proved in 2001 with Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. Doing it with just one top pitcher is simply asking too much.

Miguel Batista was a good third pitcher in 2001 and he is the Diamondbacks' second best hurler this season. The Western Division, at least, is probably winnable if the D-Backs can get a pitcher better than Batista. He doesn't have to be as good as Webb, though that would be nice.

This team is going to have to learn to play consistently good, smart baseball as well. They have already lost too many games that not making the wrong throw or a stupid base-running mistake could have turned into a win. We have even lost games where hustling would have made the difference. These losses could have and should have been wins. There must be very few such incidents indeed if there is to be a play-off appearance in 2006.

Changing sports, as this column is being written, the Arizona Cardinals have still not signed first round pick quarterback Matt Leinart. Hopefully, that will have been rectified by the time you are reading this. That selection was one of many reasons long-suffering Cardinals' fans were hopeful of an end to that team's absences from the play-offs.

Holdouts don't help either side very often. Leinart is hurting his chances of making a meaningful contribution in his rookie season. He is also losing some fans that see the greed more than the talent. The Cardinals have a bigger problem. Fair or not, some are going to be saying, "Same old Cardinals."

Come on, guys, sit down and reason together. Get it done. Let's really make it a new start for the Cardinals and let it start with a much celebrated draft choice who is willing to work at his craft on the field, not mortgage his and the team's future by remaining a holdout.

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