DAN BICKLEY

World Series’ 2 teams highlight flaws of Arizona Diamondbacks

Oct 20, 2020, 6:28 PM
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to Tampa Bay Rays' Joey Wendle during t...

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to Tampa Bay Rays' Joey Wendle during the second inning in Game 1 of the baseball World Series Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The World Series has begun. The Diamondbacks are helpless spectators.

They are stuck watching the uncatchable Dodgers, a team closing in on their first championship in over 30 years, crowning their reign of dominance in the National League.

They are also chasing the Padres, a fresh young franchise that has burst from the cocoon of irrelevance, uncorking the most exciting young prospect in baseball.

And in Year 23 of their shared existence, Arizona’s Major League Baseball franchise is dangerously close to being passed by the Tampa Rays, their expansion partners in 1998.

At one time, this seemed impossible. The Diamondbacks made the playoffs in just their second year of existence. They won a championship in Year 4. They were fueled by the athletic passions and connections of Jerry Colangelo, one of the most powerful owners in professional sports.

Tampa was a disaster at birth. Their owner was a buffoon. Their stadium was a drab place where baseballs hit catwalks and fell to grotesque artificial turf, a stadium consistently ranked among the worst in sports. They went 10 years before winning more than 70 games in a season.

Things have changed dramatically.

Tampa now claims as many playoff appearances as Arizona (six). While they have zero championships to date, they have won two pennants and two World Series appearances, one more than the Diamondbacks. And unlike our wobbling baseball franchise, Tampa has its own identity, its own sustainable methodology, employing only two managers since 2006.

The Rays have become small-market titans, celebrated for their $28.3 million payroll, the third-lowest in baseball. They can’t outspend the Yankees and Red Sox. So they don’t even try. Their goal is to find great deals on baseball players and bargain racks, and they do it extremely well.

The Diamondbacks face similar financial obstacles in the National League West. But in moments of desperation or desire, they keep trying to spend alongside the Dodgers and Giants. As if they belong in the same gated community, right down to the sports car in the driveway.

This is a game the Diamondbacks can’t win. They are pretenders at the expensive tables, spending like overserved auction attendees. The proof can be found in the standings, from Zack Greinke to Madison Bumgarner.

Unfortunately, buyer’s remorse always leads to painful corrections. Diamondbacks fans pay the ultimate price for an impetuous franchise that too often spends too much on luxury items before the team is ready to win. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Granted, the Rays might need their own championship parade before passing our MLB franchise, but they clearly shamed the Diamondbacks in 2020. The Rays started fast, seizing the moment, getting immediate traction in a 60-game season. They finished with a 40-20 record, with a payroll that only topped the awful Pirates and Orioles.

Our team staggered from the gate and only played well when pressure was no longer a factor, when the cowards come out to play.

As a result, the World Series is a lesser of two evils for the Diamondbacks, featuring a Dodgers team they can’t catch and a twin brother passing them in the fast lane after a decade of incompetence; a Tampa franchise writing the manual in how to beat big spenders in the neighborhood.

Penguin Air

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