As reigning NL West champions, everybody had such high hopes going into this season. Personally, I tried to temper mine, knowing that a lot of guys had career years in 2011 and realizing that many good things won't repeat themselves because, as Willie Bloomquist said on the broadcast yesterday, "That's just baseball." But still, I was excited. I happened to be down in Arizona in March for another event, and I stayed to go to two games at Salt River Fields - my first time ever going to a Spring Training. It was great to go early and meet some guys in a more casual environment than AT&T Park, and of course it was fun to meet up with the 'Pitters at the games.
Then Opening Day finally came, and Paul Goldschmidt hit a home run off of Tim Lincecum, and the Diamondbacks swept the Giants in the opening series. Then we beat the Padres and, at 4-0, things were looking good. Chris Young was hitting .410 with five homers in the first 10 games, and Joe Saunders wound up with an ERA of 0.90 across five starts in the month of April.
Would you believe me if I had told you then that the next time the Diamondbacks would win four games in a row would be two months later during a sweep of the eventual AL West champion Oakland Athletics? Would you believe me if I told you J.J. Putz had three blown saves and an ERA of 6.35 on June 1st? That the injured Daniel Hudson's ERA was 5.48?
On May 22nd, the Diamondbacks were 19-25 and 11.5 games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers. A deficit like that wasn't impossible to overcome, but the team just wasn't playing consistent baseball. They'd had two 5-game losing streaks by then, and were otherwise playing around .500. Injuries took their toll, as they always do - Hudson would soon have season-ending elbow surgery, and Stephen Drew didn't get off the disabled list until the end of June.
The closest we got to the top of the division was on August 3rd, when the team managed to creep to two games back. But the Giants and Dodgers weren't backing down, and the Diamondbacks just weren't playing at the level they had to be. The few trades made by the front office resulted in little on-field improvement. Even when still mathematically in the race for the second wild card spot, it just wasn't going to be the Year of the Snake, and everybody knew it.
Nonetheless, in a mediocre season, there were standout performances. Aaron Hill hit two cycles in a span of 11 days, the first player to hit two in a season in 81 years, and I was 50' feet away from a could've-been third cycle in San Francisco. Paul Goldschmidt hit 20 home runs, and in his first full big-league season, proved that last summer was not a fluke. Wade Miley, a rookie who just barely made the roster in April, made the All-Star team in July, ended up leading the team in wins, and might win the Rookie of the Year. Brad Ziegler racked up more double plays than I've ever seen and no J.J. wasn't perfect but he was still solid through the middle of the year with 24 straight scoreless appearances.
Yes, I am sad that this season has ended. This team, this group of 25-30 guys, had a lot of potential, and it is sad that it will never come to fruition because our 162 games are up. It is sad to know that it was probably Chris Young's last season as a Diamondback; heck, it was many guys' last season as a Diamondback. For some, we will be relieved, but for others, their departure will be sad. This small familial unit that we have followed for six months, that we have both cheered for and cursed at for half of the year, will now simply go their separate ways.
For Diamondbacks fans, the 2012 baseball season is over. There is no more tuning in every night at 6:40pm to the television, or radio, or the Gameday Threads. For a few more weeks, some of us may find other teams to watch and cheer for, even ones with former Diamondbacks on them, but it won't be the same. The Diamondbacks are our boys, win or lose, and we won't get to see them play baseball for another 180 days... and that makes me very sad.
Of course there is hope for the 2013 season. The owners have said they will increase payroll, and that Justin Upton will likely remain. The rookies that have made appearances this year have shown a lot of promise. There's the World Baseball Classic in March, and, as my friends had told me so for years, I loved my first Spring Training and will make every effort to go back next year. (Also, the Triple-A All-Star Game is in Reno - let's go! SNAKEPIT ROAD TRIP!)
In the meantime... I will stare out the window and wait for spring.