10/09/07 12:23 AM ET
D-backs earn top marks in chemistry
Team dynamic has fueled young club to the postseason
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
"I hated chemistry, it was a terrible class," he said.
But the D-backs outfielder likes the chemistry that he sees when he looks around the Arizona clubhouse.
"This is just a very selfless group that goes out there and plays the game with a team-first concept," Byrnes said following the D-backs' light workout Monday night at Chase Field, where Game 1 of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series against the Rockies will be played on Thursday night. "That's what it is. It's showed all year and it's helped us get where we are. Is it everything? No, but it's a big part of it."
When the D-backs clinched a playoff spot the final Friday of the regular season in Colorado, the clubhouse celebration was as raucous as Arizona manager Bob Melvin had ever seen.
As things wound down that night, Byrnes choked back emotion when he talked about his teammates and how well everyone got along.
"I don't think in professional sports you're going to find more of a team than you're going to find here," he said.
It's always hard to pinpoint what comes first, chemistry or winning. But the D-backs seemed to be a tight-knit group right from the start of Spring Training.
"From Day 1 I felt very welcome here," veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez said. "Everybody in here works hard. I love my teammates."
Hernandez is one of the club's few veterans. Sure, there's Tony Clark, Orlando Hudson and Byrnes, but this is mostly a club of young players, which might help chemistry.
"There are no egos in here," first baseman Conor Jackson said. "Look around, you don't see anyone thinking they're more important than the team. We have some veterans, but they don't have egos."
Players also credit Melvin for establishing a clubhouse culture that emphasizes respect for one another and the game of baseball.
"We treat everyone very well," setup man Brandon Lyon said. "Obviously, there's a little hazing of the rookies, but everybody is respectful of each other around here. It doesn't matter if you've been here for 10 years or two months."
Melvin, though, while saying he hasn't been around a team with better team chemistry, downplayed his role in it.
"The number of good people that we have here and guys that are more apt to think about the team than themselves," he said when asked for a reason. "I think that's the way it's gone all year, the team has come first and I think that goes for every individual out here."
And as far as whether winning begat chemistry or chemistry begat winning, rookie outfielder Chris Young had this to say.
"We're winning as a team," he said. "It's a complete team. We're all out there pulling for each other and having fun together and whatever happens, happens. If we had come into [the Cubs] series and not made it, it would have been a great season and we still would have been there for each other. We just all feel good about each other. This is the greatest team chemistry I've ever had.
"We're going to try to just keep it going and see how far it takes us."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.