As the baseball season begins its winding down, and the Formula 1 season in its mid-season European schedule, I was struck by how much the Diamondbacks are like the would-be challenger Lotus F1.
Lotus, for the uninitiated, has played the role of potential spoiler to the Club of Big Constructors of Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren (even if they've been awful this year), and Mercedes. Kimi Raikkonen was mathematically in the hunt for the title until the end last year, and the team seemed like a real contender for a title this year through the first few races.
But like the Diamondbacks this year, the team has faded a bit as the European schedule has heated up. They've moved from the conversation about who can steal the title from Vettel and Red Bull to musing about whether they'd lose their number one driver in Raikkonen to a bigger team.
Sound slightly familiar?
The analogy, like most cross-sport comparisons, has limitations, but the two teams are similar in that they're both mid-table teams the sometimes punch above their weight. And both are being held back by a similar problem: a lack of funds when compared to the peers.
Neither is particularly hurting for money, but neither is completely flush in it, either. Arizona started the 2013 season 17th in the league in payroll, with $90 million tied up, yet the teams they're chasing, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Los Angeles, are all ahead financially. The closest is Cincinnati, with only a $20 million gap, but it opens up significantly as you approach the Dodgers: they're a whopping $126 million over Arizona, and have no signs of stopping.
In 2012's Formula 1 season, Red Bull spent over $300 million, and Ferrari over $200 million. Lotus topped out near $190 million for its race budget. That's still a pretty nice pile of cash, but the limitations show through the course of the season, as rivals make updates and have better engineers, and mid-level teams fall back.
Some teams have beaten the odds, like the Rays, and have created an intelligent way to spend less but to not scrimp on talent. And the Diamondbacks haven't been a complete failure this season. Finishing over .500 and being in the fight for the playoffs is certainly better than wallowing near the bottom.
Rooting for these teams have their own brand of frustration. Yes, it's incredibly privileged to complain about sports, let alone ones doing good-if-not-great. Yet I'm still not going to feel embarrassed to be frustrated that teams I root for have a certain competitive disadvantage due the financial good fortunes of their rivals.
I'm not going to snipe at those richer rivals, at least not this time, either. I'd hope the Diamondbacks, and Lotus, and other mid-level stupid team I follow (namely, all of them) to use all their resources to win, and if they were the richest teams, then I wouldn't feel guilty. And, at least in baseball, the Rays have given a blueprint on how to beat the fat cats.
Perhaps the Diamondbacks will surprise me this year, and charge through the last month. Perhaps Lotus will swing through Asia in the last part of the schedule and challenge for the title. It's not likely, but I'll be watching. What else do I have to do?