It would be easy to criticize and belittle the Arizona Diamondbacks for how this season has gone, especially the recent disaster of a homestand that effectively ended any realistic shot at the postseason.
Less experienced and/or more ignorant members of the media would take pot shots at a team fresh off a 2-8 stretch at home, including a sweep at the hands of the lowly Padres for the second time this season.
And while I hardly consider myself the world’s foremost authority on the great game of baseball, I have been covering it long enough to know the difference between a team deserving of our hate, and one that simply hasn’t been able to consistently recapture the magic that raised our expectations to apparently unrealistic levels in the first place.
What I’ve found to be the most infuriating aspect of baseball (aside from pitchers that take 30 seconds between pitches) is that the harder a player or team tries to get out of a slump, the worse things seem to get, thus the more it looks like they’re not trying as hard as they should.
Case and point, Jason Kubel, Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero combined to go 10-for-83 (.120 average) with four extra base hits, six RBIs and 24 strikeouts on the last homestand. Those are the same guys who have combined for 58 homers and 220 RBIs. In other words, the D-backs’ top three run producers in 2012.
Does that mean they’re chokers? Does it mean they don’t care? Of course not. They just ran into a bad stretch at the worst possible time. It happens. The Giants’ offense went in the tank last season fresh off winning a World Series in 2010. Seems to me they’ve bounced back quite nicely.
The D-backs have also been awful in one-run games this season (10-20 as of August 29th). Their offense is practically non-existent in “close and late” situations, a National League-worst .199 batting average. Even the Astros aren’t that bad.
That’s not to say guys haven’t underperformed. Bigger and better things were expected from Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy and Trevor Cahill. Stephen Drew’s recovery from ankle surgery took longer than expected, and even when he did return, it wasn’t to form.
That being said, I have yet to see a single player on this team throw in the towel. Guys are still running out ground balls. In the field, they’re diving for balls that other teams and players in similar situations wouldn’t bother with. They’re trying to make things happen on the bases — although that doesn’t usually turn out very well.
I know Upton has been a popular target this season. Some of it is deserved. Some of it is because he’s still a young player who may still have a thing or two to learn about dealing with success. Chris Young’s white-hot start to the season was derailed by a shoulder injury that probably wasn’t completely healed even after he returned from the disabled list.
General Manager Kevin Towers has done everything in his power to try and upgrade the roster by making trades, and deeming just about everyone not named Paul Goldschmidt or Tyler Skaggs open for business. He even tried to inspire the troops by calling his shot on “Doug and Wolf”, a second straight trip to the postseason for the D-backs.
This isn’t a team that lacks leadership or direction. Kirk Gibson and his staff came arrived at Spring Training with the correct, “put 2011 in the past” approach. I think the players said the right things, but for whatever reason(s) have struggled to deal with being the hunted instead of the hunters.
The good news is the Giants and Dodgers will grab all the attention in 2013, so the D-backs can get back to flying under the radar again. It seems to be the best place for them.