Roundtable: Framing the reality of the Diamondbacks in the World Series

Oct 27, 2023, 8:45 AM | Updated: 11:08 am

The Arizona Diamondbacks are in the World Series. Few of us, even the most optimistic observers, would have called it this spring or even to start the postseason.

Yet there they are, in Arlington to face the Texas Rangers with Game 1 on Friday night.

What do we make of their World Series appearance considering the mild expectations throughout the year? And do we see them pulling off the unthinkable?

We asked our Arizona Sports show hosts and site editors the below:

How do you frame the reality of this Diamondbacks team, after all the ups and downs of the season, making the World Series? How do you think they will fare against the Rangers?

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: I moved to Arizona in 1997 and I can honestly say that this run by the Arizona Diamondbacks is truly my happiest moment as a sports fan living here.

The Suns’ NBA Finals runs were incredible, especially in 2021, but being a die-hard baseball fan first, this Diamondbacks team is special to me and I put this at the top of my list. I was not surprised that Arizona beat Milwaukee and Los Angeles — I expected them to win. I was surprised they beat Philadelphia. I can say that I absolutely cannot stand the national pundits that discredit this team and point to the 84-win season. My God, this team is not the same team that battled in the regular season.

Gone are Madison Bumgarner, Zach Davies, Carson Kelly, Andrew Chafin, Josh Rojas and a few others. Paul Sewald, Ryan Thompson and Tommy Pham are all additions to the roster who have played a huge role in their success but were not here for the full season. So the argument of 84 wins, run differential and all the other BS that people like to talk about means nothing.

This is a good baseball team playing great baseball at the right time. Brandon Pfaadt is a different pitcher now than three months ago. They play great defense, run the bases as good as any team in baseball and now have a bullpen that can match up with power offensive teams. Oh, and they are also well-managed.

Because of their throw-back style, I think they will defeat the Rangers in six games: split in Texas, take two of three in Arizona and win Game 6 in Texas.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: As somebody who declared the D-backs as “done” during their 7-25 swoon in July and August, I’m in utter (but pleasant) shock that we’re all about to watch them play in the World Series for only the second time in team history.

Of course, in August I didn’t know that the once-wretched bullpen would be completely refurbished by the newly-acquired Sewald, the yet-to-be-acquired Ryan Thompson and the promotion of Andrew Saalfrank, who started the season in Amarillo, Texas.

I love the fact that the Diamondbacks are arriving in Arlington with a chip on their collective shoulder, not satisfied with what they’ve accomplished to this point. I think that’s the mindset they’ll need to complete this improbable run against a fourth straight postseason opponent favored to beat them.

If Christian Walker can find his offense, if Zac Gallen gets back to close to his former self, if the pitching staff as a whole can cut down on Texas’ ability to hit the long ball and if they continue to embrace the chaos they created in the final two games of the NLCS win over the Phillies, they will win the series. I know those are big ifs (and four of them), but I’m feeling pretty confident that they’ll be able to.

Diamondbacks in 7. Let’s $%#@ing party!

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: The reality of the Diamondbacks being here is easy for me to frame once I give in to the notion that the regular season and the postseason are two completely different animals. In the regular season — over the course of 162 games and 500 at-bats and 180 innings pitched — we find out who you are.

And there’s no doubt that over 162 games, these teams were better than the D-backs. Doesn’t mean I’m saying the D-backs were not, or are not, good. But over six months of baseball, the teams with better and steadier talent will win more games.

In the postseason, in a best-of-three, best-of-five and a best-of-seven series, the most random things can happen. Pfaadt can be great. Kevin Ginkel can emerge. Gabriel Moreno can shine. Look at Corbin Carroll. For six games against the Phillies, he was mostly unnoticeable. All it took was one game for him to impact a series dramatically.

For two years the Phillies hardly lost at home in the playoffs; that illusion ended in just one night. The phrase “anything can happen” has never been more true than in the baseball playoffs. The D-backs embody that.

As for a prediction? As the great Michael Scott once said, “I’m not superstitious but I am a little stitious.” I haven’t picked the D-backs in any series so far this postseason. I’m not about to start now.

Luke Lapinski, co-host of Wolf & Luke: We all know the Diamondbacks are ahead of schedule. Carroll basically acknowledged as much after Game 7 in Philly. But that doesn’t mean they’re lucky to be here. This is a team that was 16 games above .500 at times this season, led the NL West for two months, had a Cy Young candidate for most of the year, built one of the best defensive rosters in baseball and has the surefire rookie of the year at the top of the lineup. There’s more, but you get the point.

I understand why people were picking against them this postseason, but I’ll never understand the people who are still trying to undermine what they’ve accomplished now and saying they don’t deserve to be here. This team has earned a spot in the World Series. Calling them a fluke after all this just means you either A) haven’t been watching the games or B) are a Philadelphia fan.

Back in spring training, the buzz around the D-backs was that there was legitimate optimism, but nobody really knew what their ceiling was yet. Now it’s October, they’re one of the last two teams standing and … we still don’t totally know what their ceiling is yet.

Texas is good. The Rangers’ lineup is absolutely loaded with bats that can do a lot of damage. But I don’t know how you can pick against the D-backs at this point. On top of everything else, they have the intangibles. And that’s what postseason baseball is all about.

Tyler Drake, editor: The reality is this D-backs team got hot at the right time with the young core they have built up and stayed patient with in recent seasons. They’ve blown by even my wildest expectations for this team entering the year and yet haven’t blinked. There were times this season where they looked like a team that could go make a playoff run and there were times they didn’t look to have a snowball’s chance to sniff more than a wild card berth if that. Just think, we were talking about Madison Bumgarner earlier in the year. Feels like a different season.

Now, they head into a matchup with not only a legit chance to hoist up the hardware at the end of this run but also with a blueprint they can build off of for years to come.

I’ve rolled with the D-backs since the wild card and I’m not stopping now. Arizona in five behind the starting trio of Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Pfaadt, and the managerial effort of Torey Lovullo, who has put on a masterclass so far this postseason (even if you think he should have kept Kelly or Pfaadt in).

Snakes alive in five.

Kevin Zimmerman, editor: I take issue with complaints about the playoff format being the reason the Diamondbacks — or the Rangers for that matter — are here. The expanded wild card allowed more, worse teams to make the playoffs. The three-game wild card series gave the better teams more room for error.

And yet, the D-backs swept Milwaukee. They embarrassed the Los Angeles Dodgers when there was little history to suggest anything like that could happe. There was a gulf in talent — it just so happened that it shrunk as soon as the first inning of that series. Somehow against the Phillies, Arizona survived Zack Wheeler’s ace stuff and didn’t get the best out of their own ace in Gallen. They couldn’t figure out how to contain Kyle Schwarber. Yet they still won.

They’ve done most of their damage on the road in three series of three different lengths.

Most ridiculous of all, the Diamondbacks have three starting pitchers! Three! And you could argue it’s 2.5 with the leash that’s on Pfaadt! I don’t care how you view roster-building, but the “better” teams had a 10-yard head-start on Arizona and still couldn’t get it done.

It seems that only baseball nerds are appreciating this matchup. Lovullo has pushed the right buttons to produce a team that 1) has no fear 2) has the systems and coaches who know how to strategize in playoff scenarios.

If you’re a casual whining about this matchup, don’t watch! No need to delegitimize the two teams that took advantage when all the favorites either wilted or just got outplayed.

The World Series is about stars, and in Game 7 of the NLCS, Arizona’s own Corbin Carroll looked like he’s ready for the biggest of moments despite his mini-slump in the six games prior. If that trends like I think it might, I’ll call it Diamondbacks in seven.


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