When the Diamondbacks announced they had landed the top-end pitcher they were seeking, Dan Haren, expectations shot up even higher for the defending National League West champions. That means individual expectations will rise for several of the team's players, too, especially catcher Chris Snyder.
Snyder is coming off a season in which he set career highs in runs (37), hits (82), doubles (20), home runs (13) and RBI (47), plus had a huge second-half surge to help catapult Arizona to a 90-win season and a berth in the National League Championship Series.
He hit .292 after the All-Star break with 16 doubles, six homers and 31 RBIs -- the highest second-half totals of his pro career.
Manager Bob Melvin loves the way Snyder calls a game behind the plate, but he pointed out that his catcher evolved into a true team leader in other ways.
Left-hander Doug Davis remarked toward the end of last season that Snyder had become a more vocal player in the clubhouse and during pitchers' meetings, speaking up and being unafraid to disagree with a coach or a scouting report.
"I might shake him off five or six times a game," Davis said, "and when I do, I usually get burned."
"He's like the general back there," noted reliever Brandon Lyon, who has worked with Snyder for the past three seasons. "But it's a tough job, getting beat up every day like he does. I always wanted to be a catcher, but I'd close my eyes when they'd swing, so I couldn't catch the ball. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like to take the punishment, either."
Snyder, 27, said he still needs "a good, swift kick in the butt every now and then, too," adding, "If somebody comes up to me on this team and has something to say about something I could do better, I'm going to listen."
"To play this game, you've got to have tough skin and you've got to be able to take criticism. Some of it is positive, but a lot of times it's negative, and you can't let it get to you. You've just got to take it in, because if you can avoid making mistakes, it could be the difference in the season."
--2B Orlando Hudson, who is arbitration-eligible, hasn't had any recent offers from the team regarding a contract extension. He said in December he didn't think a deal would be able to get done, but he expressed his hopes of remaining with the franchise for several years.
"I would love to stay in Arizona," he said. "I love the park. I've got the best manager in baseball. I don't want to go nowhere else. I want to play for Bo-Mel (Bob Melvin)."
--RHP Todd Stottlemyre, who compiled a 138-121 record during his career, which included a stint with the Diamondbacks, was placed on the Hall of Fame ballot by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Results were to be announced Jan. 8, and Stottlemyre was considered a long shot to make it in.
--With their fourth postseason appearances in their 10-year history, the Diamondbacks' .400 career percentage of reaching the playoffs ranks second best in major league history since 1903 behind only the New York Yankees, who have a .456 percentage. The Yankees have made the postseason 47 times in their 103-year history.
--RHP Brandon Webb, the 2006 National League Cy Young Award winner, had a highway named after him in his native Ashland, Ky. Community leaders in Ashland recently announced that a portion of U.S. 60 has been renamed "Brandon Webb Highway."
--INF Chad Tracy still has a blood clot in his injured right leg, but he has resumed workouts and still has designs on being fully ready for Opening Day. He remains on blood-thinning medication.
--RHP Dan Haren on being traded to the Diamondbacks from the Oakland A's: "New York or Boston would have been interesting places to play, but once I realized Arizona was one of the teams interested, that's what we (along with his wife, Jessica) hoped for. And once (A's GM) Billy (Beane) called and I heard 'Arizona,' it was a relief."
--RHP Billy Buckner, acquired from the Royals in exchange for IF Alberto Callaspo, made the jump to the majors last season after starting out at Class AA Wichita. The 24-year-old could make a case for joining the Diamondbacks' 25-man roster. "He got his feet wet at the big-league level, and he's in good position to give us some depth and compete for a job," GM Josh Byrnes said.
--LF Eric Byrnes, who became the first player in club history to hit at least 20 home runs and steal 50 bases in a season, ranks second on the team's all-time stolen bases list with 75, trailing Tony Womack (182).
BY THE NUMBERS: 577,777 -- Dollars per win by the Diamondbacks in 2007, based on their $52,067,546 payroll and National League-leading 90 victories.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We know that the expectations will be higher next year, and I think our guys are ready for the challenge." -- Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin on the 2008 season.
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