mlbdotcom5: What is your vision for the D-backs for 2011 and beyond?
Derrick_Hall: Off the field, the same as we have been showing -- that we are leaders and innovators with our fan experience, our corporate culture and our community impact. On the field, vast improvement and a return to a team that competes to win the division. It will take a little time, but we can already see what the tweaks we made this offseason have done in the area of improvement.
We have re-stocked the Minor Leagues and are excited about the starting pitching that is developing from within. That is how we are going to win. We need solid starting pitching and relief to win this division on a yearly basis.
fiveat49: What do you think are some of the greatest strengths of the team? What are the weaknesses? How do you hope to improve those weaknesses?
Derrick_Hall: I think our strengths are areas that were weaknesses last season. Our bullpen is considerably better with a solid eighth-inning guy and ninth-inning guy. We lacked a veteran presence last year, which is now a strength with [Melvin] Mora, [Willie] Bloomquist, [Henry] Blanco, [J.J.] Putz and [Geoff] Blum. We are striking out less and scoring runs in different ways than just waiting for the long ball. And we are aggressive on the basepaths.
Our weakness thus far has been starting pitching. We are lacking consistency, but seeing strong signs with the recent starts of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson.
vindeaz: Hello, Derrick. In the last chat here, I asked about your expectations and hopes for the tough month of April. You suggested that playing .500 ball would be a good month, given the schedule. The guys went 12-15 through May 1, or .444 -- not that far off.
Derrick_Hall: Absolutely! I am pleased with how we fared considering the difficult schedule. The sweep in New York really hurt us and our record. We needed to win a few of those games in my opinion. The positive to the losses is that we seem to be in every game. It seems like we have had the tying run or go-ahead run up in each of those losses.
acdr: When can fans get to see D-backs batting practice?
Derrick_Hall: All season-ticket holders are allowed in early to watch batting practice, and we open it to all fans on weekends. I have actually always been an advocate of flip-flopping home and visitors' BP times. The visiting team likes to get out of the hotel early and get to the ballpark anyway, and the home team could spend a little more time at home before coming in, rather than getting here midday, working out, and then sitting around in the clubhouse for a few hours before game time.
murdog1: I don't think we have a chance to win the division with the current makeup of starting pitchers. Did you expect the starting pitching to be better than how the starters have performed during the first month of play?
Derrick_Hall: We expected to have Zach Duke in the rotation, but unfortunately, he broke his hand in spring. He will be back soon and that should help. As stated earlier, the front end has really come around. We just need more consistency from the back end. This team can afford to give up runs more than our teams from the last few years because we have a more productive offense and can put runs on the board.
fiveat49: Hey Derrick! With the year in full swing, I wanted to know what sort of standout events or highlights we can expect at the ballpark this year.
Derrick_Hall: As you know, we are hosting the All-Star Game this summer. With that, the building has been completely refreshed and looks better than ever. We are also excited for the weekend of Sept. 9-11, when we will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of our World Series championship. We will be bringing our former players back, wearing throwback uniforms and distributing some great giveaways. Please plan on joining us.
acdr: I know the fans are loving aggressive small ball -- much more exciting and just better ball.
Derrick_Hall: Thanks for sharing that. I definitely agree. This coaching staff is terrific and these players want to be aggressive. We are doing the little things right so far this year. We are moving runners over, we are stealing bases, we are catching the ball, and we are shutting down the run game for the opposition with pickoffs and slide steps. This team should be fun to watch.
MichaelJay: Are the All-Star Game ticket purchases in line with MLB's and the D-backs' expectations so far?
Derrick_Hall: Sales are going great. We have already sold over 40,000 for the game itself. The other events are selling well too, but we still have tickets available for purchase. Another positive note, we have sold over 90,000 tickets to Fan Fest. Last year, 115,000 went to Fan Fest in Anaheim, so we should do at least that.
kidsoccer: Who is your most improved player from last year (not pitchers)?
Derrick_Hall: I would have to say Stephen Drew and Ryan Roberts so far. Both have been extremely consistent and productive with runners in scoring position.
ryantorn: Do you have any big plans as far as trades go? We seem to be very inconsistent with the starting pitching. We can hit the tar out of the ball.
Derrick_Hall: Agreed. We will always look to improve our team and our starting pitching. And yes, we can hit the tar out of the ball -- well put.
will98: Do you like the play of your team this year?
Derrick_Hall: I like that they are competing and that they believe they can win every game. The culture has changed completely in that clubhouse and dugout. The guys care deeply and want to win. I would like to finish over .500 every month and win more series, but we knew April was going to be a challenge with us having the toughest schedule of all 30 teams. We will get healthy here soon and produce even better results.
We are out of time for today's chat. Thanks for your questions and your participation. If you have not come out to Chase Field yet to see this team, please do. They play hard and put on a nice show for you, and the ballpark looks beautiful. This is the nicest time of the season, when the roof and door panels can remain open at night. Come on out and enjoy! Thanks for your support of this team. We care deeply for you, our fans. Go D-backs!