It’s been a rough year for my adopted National League team.
Lost for me amid the April home run escapades of Mark Reynolds and Kelly Johnson was the fact that the Arizona Diamondbacks can’t seem to win a game. Which, of course, is what baseball teams would prefer to do, typically.
Backtracking a bit, I moved to Arizona at the end of 2006, and started going to see the Diamondbacks at Chase Field (just a few minutes from my house) pretty regularly at the start of the 2007 season. Tickets were cheap (you can sit in the third level for $5) parking was cheap or outright free if you arrived early enough, and most importantly, they were a fun team to watch.
Eric Byrnes was the face of the team and having his best season, and he was a blast. Galloping in left field with his blond hair flopping out the edges of his cap, he would chat with fans sitting in left field, steal bases with reckless abandon (he stole 50 that year) and even hosted “The Eric Byrnes Show” on cable, where you could see him doing things like working out with the NFL’s Cardinals, going shopping for a barbecue or setting up his teammates on dates.
There was more, of course. Brandon Webb was practically unhittable, finishing second in the Cy Young voting the year after winning it. Orlando Hudson was having another gold-glove caliber year at second base and made the All-Star team, and youngsters Chris Young, Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds came onto the scene and made an impact. They blooped their way to the top of the division and even knocked out the Cubs in the Division Series before they surrendered to the Colorado Rockies in the NLCS. A hell of a first year to watch them if there ever was one.
In 2008, they regressed back to the mean slightly, and last year was a full three steps back for the Diamondbacks, for sure. They finished with a record of 70-92, last in the National League West, and fired Bob Melvin (NL Manager of the Year in 2007) in May, replacing him with newcomer A.J. Hinch, who immediately got into disputes with many of the veterans on the team. Eric Byrnes was released at the end of the season, Hudson was allowed to walk before it, and Webb never threw a pitch after opening day.
And it doesn’t take more than a casual glance to see that this year isn’t any better. At 28-43, only the Pittsburgh Pirates are worse in the Senior Circuit. Dan Haren has looked rather mortal, with his 4.71 ERA and 1.332 WHIP. Webb still hasn’t thrown a pitch. Baseball Reference notes today that at -0.9, they’re almost a full run worse than the average team day-in and day-out. And despite the home run exploits of Reynolds and Upton, they’ve already struck out 100 and 92 times, respectfully. Even for Reynolds, who has set major league records in strikeouts the past two seasons, that’s a bit much.
There is some hope. Yesterday, they managed to beat up the Yankees to the tune of 10-3, and that was nice. Rodrigo Lopez struck out two over eight innings, Upton homered twice, and Reynolds and Adam LaRoche each added another.
But, it close to over for me. I’m back on the other side of the country, and the attachment I felt to the team came from seeing them every weekend they were home, and they’re hardly ever on TV now. I’m pulling for them to snap out of this, either this year or the next, but win or lose, it’s going to be a passive kind of support from here on out.