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Dan Bickley

World Series’ 2 teams highlight flaws of Arizona Diamondbacks

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)

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.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier