PHOENIX — Move on. It’s in the past.
Along with a handful of other similar cliché phrases, that was the mantra around the Arizona Diamondbacks clubhouse Sunday after the team’s 162nd and final game of the season. And that might have been the attitude around the clubhouse since as early as May 1, when the team was already mired by a 9-22 record — a whole 9.5 games back in the National League West.
Move on — that was surely the thinking on May 17, when the D-backs surprised the baseball world with the announcement that Tony La Russa would be joining the organization as chief baseball officer. And it was certainly the force behind the team’s trade deadline activity and the barrage of front office and coaching staff moves made in September.
On Sunday, the team completed its second-losingest season in franchise history at 64-98 — even fewer wins than what they achieved in their inaugural 1998 season.
Worse yet, this D-backs team happened to be the most expensive in franchise history. Over the offseason, D-backs brass heralded their commitment to surpassing all past payroll totals with their 2014 roster, which added some venom to the season-long sting of losing.
And louder than the payroll noise in the offseason was the determination of the front office to blazon the D-backs as rivals to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“The pool has been emptied,” owner Ken Kendrick declared to a 35,000-person crowd at the team’s February Fan Fest, alluding to the Dodgers’ infamous division-clinching celebration in the Chase Field outfield swimming pool.
“And thoroughly disinfected!” he finished, smiling as the festival’s attendees hooted and hollered.
Sunday, another area of Chase Field would have to be cleaned as another team celebrated their division pennant following a 1-0 defeat of the D-backs. La Russa’s former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, got nowhere near the outfield pool, but drowned the visitor’s clubhouse with champagne after clinching the NL Central.
The Cardinals will face the D-backs’ avowed rivals, the Dodgers, in the first round of the playoffs.
You could smell the team’s celebration from the D-backs clubhouse, where La Russa was conducting exit interviews with players as they intermittently packed their things and said their goodbyes.
Randall Delgado applied dozens of layers of packing tape to a box carrying his locker items. Wade Miley strolled through the room, giving hugs to teammates, D-backs staffers and media members. New general manager Dave Stewart and new senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson jaunted from the coaches’ offices to the exit. Former general manager Kevin Towers headed for the weight room, where La Russa was meeting with players.
Before handing an envelope to the club’s bat boys and thanking them for their work, losing pitcher Josh Collmenter spoke with the media.
“It’s bittersweet,” Collmenter said. “It’s the last time this team will be together. We’ll obviously say goodbye to some guys and have a handful of guys back.
“It was a tough season all along, especially getting off to a bad start. We played some pretty good ball there through the middle, (but suffered) some key injuries and were constantly battling that. But the fun thing was being around these guys: There’s no quit in them. The clubhouse was always a fun place to be, and you didn’t get the sense that things were as bad as they were.”
Across the room, center fielder A.J. Pollock packed his things. Pollock, 26, enjoyed a breakout 2014 season when healthy, but missed half of it with a broken left hand. He didn’t want to talk about his personal accomplishments. The 2014 season — every bit of it — was behind him.
He wanted to talk about next year.
“I think everyone’s just looking forward to taking the pieces that we have here, which we think we have a lot of good pieces. In that regard, everyone’s staying positive,” Pollock began. “We’re not going to keep being negative about the year, but look forward to next year.”
He was quick to point out the team’s 2015 record.
“We’re going to start next season on the same level as everyone,” he went on. “I don’t think we’ll have problems putting a bad season behind us. We’ve seen teams have really bad seasons one year and win championships the next.”
Of course, everyone in the D-backs clubhouse wants to put the season behind them. Everyone wants to have faith in a renewed front office — one that immediately ousted the two men responsible for the D-backs lineup over the last four and a half seasons, former manager Kirk Gibson and bench coach Alan Trammell.
Catcher Miguel Montero said he isn’t sure how, exactly, he’ll move on.
“It’s too soon to be thinking about it,” he said. “I don’t know what it’s going to feel like this offseason and next season.”
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who sat out the final two months of the season with a broken left hand, sought to drum up optimism for the 2015 season in the same manner as teammate Pollock.
“Whether we won the World Series or had this (worst) season’s record, we all start 0-0 next year,” he said. “So that’s what I’ll focus on.”
Goldschmidt headed for the exit after the interview. A photographer soaked in champagne that sprayed down the hall took photos of his vacant locker.