May 21, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill slides back into first base on a pop fly in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
We've been fortunate, as Diamondbacks fans, that the team has been so successful over its short history. I won't rehash the details you already know, but if you're picking the "dominant team" of the NL West since 1998, the D-backs would have to be a strong contender for the position, with not-inconsiderable competition from the Giants. It's certainly a good place to be, much better then the other end of the spectrum with the hapless Rockies.
There is a certain childish frustration, though, that I feel with the team's inability to follow success with success.
Don't underestimate the value of consistency. With individual games it's nice to have variety, and the possibility of seeing something new. But over a season, and season to season, it sometimes seems almost better for the known to outweigh the known. Your team might be bad, but at least it tempers your expectations.
So much of what we do as fans is tied to expectations. We expect Ryan Roberts to continue to play well after last season, we expect the bullpen to continue to be at least average after last season, we expect the team will be competitive after last season. What we're quickly finding out, though, is that known of these expectations have any merit.
The Diamondbacks have never been good at maintaining their position. We've won 5 NL West titles, yet only two of those were back-to-back. There was that string of Cy Young Awards for Randy Johnson, but outside a short Brandon Webb Experience, we haven't had much consistency in starting pitching. We'll have the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse in 2007, but by 2009 the doom they bring is the Diamondbacks. Then the bullpen gets rebuilt for 2011, before turning back into a pumpkin in 2012. Players have breakout years in 2007, or 2009, or 2010, 2011, but then fade away.
Part of this volatility is the nature of the NL West, where no one team dominates year after year. I suppose that's better than being the Orioles for a decade, watching the Yankees and Red Sox win virtually everything. But part of this I think is a tendency by the D-backs and other West teams to over rely on guys who don't have a track record of consistency.
The World Series team that resulted in 3 NL West titles (yes, I will include '99 with them, because it had many of the same players) had a certain element of consistency, but when that door closed we've been stuck hoping every year that the Augie Ojeda of Eric Byrnes of the Month will sustain what is obviously unsustainable.
We're not the only ones have to endure that; the other NL West fans have their own horror stories. I don't have doubt that next year the Dodgers, without significant free agent help, won't be able to repeat what looks to be a good year for them. But they're getting it done now, and I wouldn't be surprised if part of it is that sometimes a manager can catch lightning in a bottle as the team looks around and think, man, these other teams are pretty bad. We have a shot at this thing. The lineup that the Dodgers threw out last night, with the exception of Ethier, was almost literally a replacement level team. Yet they also beat the D-backs 6-1.
It's tough to start thinking in the ways that the D-backs might win next year, but every day that they spend under .500 brings us closer to that time. I just hope it won't be another three years before we see the postseason again.