Sizeable achievements for D-backs

Sizeable achievements for D-backs in 2006

For the first six months of 2006, things went according to plan for the D-backs.

Their bullpen was improved and their offense provided tough outs up and down the lineup as the team climbed into first place.

All the good feelings changed June 5 when word leaked that reliever Jason Grimsley was involved in a federal investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. The D-backs went into a 3-20 slump and went from first to last in the NL West.

"That was early on and then the whole Jason Grimsley case went down and that took the wind out of our sails for some reason," NL Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb said. "I don't know if it was that or if it was a coincidence with the timing."

The D-backs eventually pulled out of the slump, but by then the damage was done and though they made a run at the Wild Card, a slump at the beginning of September wound up being their undoing.

Still, the season had its share of bright spots, most notably that some of Arizona's top prospects got a chance to play at the Major League level. Stephen Drew, Carlos Quentin, Chris Young and Miguel Montero all showed why the organization was so high on them.

"As far as young talent goes this is the most I've ever been around," veteran outfielder Eric Byrnes said.

January

The new year started off well for the D-backs as they were able to sign Justin Upton, the first overall pick from the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. The infielder, who would later move to the outfield, gave Arizona yet another talented young player in its Minor League system.

The D-backs also locked up their ace when they signed Webb to a four-year contract extension that runs through 2009 with a club option for 2010. It was the beginning of what would be a magical year for Webb.

February

The D-backs added depth to their outfield in early February when they signed veteran Jeff DaVanon to a one-year contract with a player option for 2007.

On a beautiful day in Tucson, Ariz., the D-backs pitchers and catchers took the field for the club's first official spring workout.

Arizona's top brass addressed the team prior to its first full squad workout and laid out their goals for 2006.

March

Upton showed why he was regarded as the best player in the draft and opened eyes in his first taste of Cactus League play. Upton played well during the spring and impressed veterans with his mature and humble approach to the game.

There was some bad news during the month when shortstop Craig Counsell was diagnosed with a shoulder problem that would keep him out for much of the Cactus League, but he wound up being ready just in time for Opening Day.

launch the 2006 year in review

April

The D-backs suffered the loss in their season opener against the Rockies at Coors Field. The 3-2 loss in 11 innings came thanks to missed opportunities on offense, something that had plagued the team in 2005.

Webb beat the Astros for what would be the first of many wins in 2006.

May

Just a few days into the month a trend was beginning to develop as the the D-backs continued to rally from early deficits.

Meanwhile, for the second straight year, Webb got off to a 6-0 start.

As they did with Webb earlier, the D-backs agreed to a contract extension with third baseman Chad Tracy.

June

June started off with such promise for the D-backs. Infielder Damion Easley made the most of a rare start by hitting three homers against the Braves.

That was just one of the highlights of the weekend that included a four-game sweep by the D-backs, their first ever in Atlanta.

The month took a dramatic turn for the worse not long after that, though, as Grimsley's name was linked to an investigation into performance-enhancing drugs among baseball players. The news seemed to take the wind out of the D-backs' sails as they went into a 3-20 slide that took them from first to last in the NL West.

July

Miguel Batista made sure the D-backs turned the page from their June Swoon when he flirted with a perfect game July 1 in Oakland.

The month brought further good news when Webb was selected to his first All-Star Game and he was impressive throwing a perfect inning in Pittsburgh.

Another injury to Counsell was mitigated by the promotion of highly touted shortstop Stephen Drew, who would go on to compile an impressive half-season in the big leagues.

August

Chicago broke a record for high temperatures while the D-backs were there, but nothing was hotter than Arizona's bats in a six-homer game against the Cubs.

GM Josh Byrnes, unable to make a trade before the July 31 deadline, was able to land veteran right-hander Livan Hernandez in a deal the club hoped would put it over the hump in the tight NL West race.

The D-backs would play three extra-inning games, including a 15-inning affair against the Dodgers, but none as long as an 18-inning marathon at Coors Field.

September

Though the D-backs were pretty much out of the postseason race, Webb didn't let up as he tossed a one-hitter against the Cardinals on Sept. 9 at Chase Field.

Midway through the month, the club announced that franchise icon, Luis Gonzalez, would not be returning in 2007.

October

The last weekend of the season was all about Gonzalez. The news of his farewell dominated the newspapers and television reports and the final game for he and Counsell at Chase Field was an emotional one.

While their record didn't reflect it, the D-backs felt like they took a step forward in 2006.

November

After a nationwide search, the D-backs hired Daron Sutton to be their new television play-by-play voice. Sutton replaced Thom Brennaman, who left the club to be reunited with his father, Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman, in Cincinnati.

For the first time in franchise history, the club changed its look, ditching its purple and teal color scheme in favor of a Sedona Red and Sonoran Sand look.

Webb capped off a banner season midway through the month when he captured the NL Cy Young Award. It was the fifth time a D-backs pitcher had won the award, but the first by someone other than Johnson.

December

The D-backs were quiet at the Winter Meetings, but manager Bob Melvin had reason to be optimistic about his club heading into 2007.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.