The 5: Things to be thankful for as an Arizona sports fan in 2017
You’ll give thanks for your loved ones and the food around the table. You’ll give thanks for good health and the best that life has given you and your family over the past year.
That’s all part of Thanksgiving. But it’s also time to give thanks for another wild season of Arizona sports in your life.
No, it wasn’t the best year we can remember — hardly — but there is still a fivesome of things we’re thankful for this year.
A playoff berth
The signing of Zack Greinke and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ first season following it was just like that time you dropped 200 bones for the finest outdoor turkey fryer only to set the patio roof on fire on Thanksgiving. If that was the metaphor for 2016, then 2017 was like when insurance covered the rebuild of the patio roof and the turkey came out perfectly the second time around.
The D-backs put together a memorable 93-69 season under new leadership in the front office and in the dugout. Greinke performed like an ace, Robbie Ray rose to All-Star status and the bats played as expected and even moreso once a trade for J.D. Martinez re-sparked Arizona in the middle of the year.
Also, Paul Goldschmidt was Paul Goldschmidt, putting together an MVP-caliber season.
The Wild Card berth and win over the Colorado Rockies led to an NLDS loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but considering the year prior, the D-backs couldn’t have done much more under first-year manager Torey Lovullo and general manager Mike Hazen.
A lot has happened over the past year in the land of the Phoenix Suns. Since last November, the team went into full-out
tank strategic rest mode, drafted Josh Jackson, lost Brandon Knight to injury, got involved in trade talks involving Kyrie Irving — among others — lost two of its first three games by more than 40 points, fired coach Earl Watson, read a tweet and traded Eric Bledsoe for Greg Monroe.
Trying to determine their path to relevancy is something like deciding which delicious Thanksgiving dishes to put on your plate.
Unlike that scenario, the Suns have a lot of room for error in this muddled future that lies ahead. The good news is they’re taking a patient approach.
The Timeline buys them time to find what works, and it gives fans hope. Devin Booker is the centerpiece of that hope, the turkey at the center of the table. Now it’s a wonder if those side dishes will be enough to make The Timeline pan out.
Pac-12 voters being wrong
Remember that time Pac-12 media members picked the Arizona Wildcats to finish last in the South Division and the Arizona State Sun Devils to finish fifth?
Let’s be thankful the 7-4 Wildcats found quarterback Khalil Tate to revive them and put them in the chase for a pretty darn good bowl game should they win the Territorial Cup on Saturday.
Rival Sun Devil fans can be grateful they’re not only in a position to mar the end of the surprising season for Arizona but make a bowl game thanks to a few surprise upset wins over ranked Washington and Oregon teams. The only issue here is whether Todd Graham can be thankful to have a job much longer.
All-in-all, Wildcats and Sun Devils can agree 2017 has led to surprising optimism in what was supposed to be a painful year.
A new era of desert hockey
Much like the Suns, it’s been an eventful past year for the Arizona Coyotes.
After announcing a joint arena plan last November, the project was completely withdrawn and the Coyotes still don’t know where they’ll play.
The team booted Shane Doan into retirement, saw Andrew Barroway become the sole owner, swapped in coach Rick Tocchet for Dave Tippett and turned the roster over on draft day. In one busy 24 hours, they added center Derek Stepan, defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and goalie Antti Raanta, the last of whom replaced outgoing Mike Smith.
All that led to was a 0-10-1 start to the 2017-18 season. But since Halloween, Raanta returned from an injury-plagued first month, and Arizona has played .500 hockey, a sign things aren’t as bad as they once appeared.
While it’s not been his 15-point October, rookie Clayton Keller remains the brightest piece to the young Coyotes as they attempt to stabilize after the past year was filled with change. Throw in more promising play from the likes of Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Christian Dvorak, among others, and it seems the best is yet to come.
Doesn’t Fitz just deserve to make this list every year?
It hasn’t been the kindest of seasons for the Arizona Cardinals. From just about the opening kickoff of 2017, injuries derailed any shot they had at contending. David Johnson, Carson Palmer and D.J. Humphries went down, adding to the lack of talent that also hit the defense in free agency — Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson were two of the key losses.
At 4-6 heading into a Week 12 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, it’s Fitzgerald who has remained the consistent force.
The 14-year veteran has put together another nice season with 69 catches, including four touchdowns, and 768 yards through 10 games.
He signed a contract extension this past week, a sign that he’s unwilling to enter retirement in a down year. For a culture and a fan base that is a few years removed from tasting success, Fitzgerald is as important of a piece as he was in times when wins were easier to come by.