There are a little more than 50 games left in the 2016 season, and it’s no longer a question of whether or not the season will be a good one. All that remains to be decided is precisely how bad it will be: as bad as 2014, or worse? Particularly at this point, there are alternative options. The Olympics are on, the EPL starts next weekend, and even meaningless exhibitions like pre-season NFL games might have some appeal in certain quarters. [I don’t judge - what you do in the privacy of your own home is entirely up to you]. But there are still some reasons to keep watching the 2016 Diamondbacks.
Because you never know
2004 saw the Diamondbacks produce the worst season for any National League team in the past 50 years. It also gave us Randy Johnson’s perfect game. That’s one of the wonders of baseball: on any given day, a historically-awful side can, for a few hours, become absolutely unstoppable. That same brutal season also gave us three-homer games from Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley, four other complete games by Arizona starting pitchers. eight blowout victories and four walk-offs.
The development of young players
The 2016 D-backs are an extremely young team. Only two teams (the Phillies and Braves) have had a younger pitching staff this season, and just the Astros have a younger set of hitters. This is, inevitably, going to be a work in progress. There will be issues. There will, in fact, be failures. But it’s a necessary part of the process, and one better carried out now, in a “lost” season, than trying to find things out in the heat of a pennant race. The result, from the fan point of view, is a greater attachment to those you’ve seen develop. This is why we love Paul Goldschmidt more than Jean Segura, even though the latter has been, by bWAR, more valuable this year.
See something you’ve never seen before
Baseball is a game that never ceases to amaze. No two games are ever alike - there may not even have been two innings completely alike. And it’s never over until it’s over, being the only major team sport without a clock. Already this year, we’ve seen the Diamondbacks score a run, on a pitch which dropped inside the catcher’s chest-protector. Over the weekend, we had the team’s first walk-off walk in close to five years. Even if the end result is a defeat, every single game still has the potential for something similar, a great defensive play, an amusing moment, etc.
Building toward 2017
Somewhat related to the youth movement mentioned, we can treat the remaining fifty games as a laboratory, a test-bed designed to see who can be useful contributors in future seasons. This is why I’m kinda peeved to see Michael Bourn being rolled out there day after day in center, because he is not going to be part of the long-term solution. Admitted, he’s largely there just as a placeholder for A.J. Pollock, but the 50 starts Bourn has made, have been a waste of an opportunity to assess a younger player, who might be help going forward.
Yeah, we’re not going to the playoffs this year. But we still have, for example, seven games left against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and have played them fairly tough this season, going 5-7. It would be awesome if their record against the Diamondbacks proved the decisive factor in the Dodgers missing out on the post-season this year - or even if it just makes things tougher, such as costing them home-field advantage. We also have six games against the Mets, five versus the Giants and series against the Orioles, Red Sox and Nationals, so we will have our part to play in deciding who goes on into October.
Can Paul Goldschmidt hit .300 again? With how many home-runs will Jake Lamb and Yasmany Tomas end the season? Will Robbie Ray strikeout more batters than any D-back pitcher since the glory days of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson? Even if the team is almost certain to fall short of the win total from 2015, there are plenty of ways in which individual players on the team can match or surpass their own figures. Goldschmidt at-bats always have the potential to be something special, and I’m finding Ray’s starts are drifting into the “must see” category as well, even if they tend to finish about as well as M. Night Shyamalan’s filmography.
It’s better than no baseball at all
It may not seem it, but even the worst Diamondbacks baseball is infinitely better than no baseball at all. That’s particularly true if you’re a monogamous fan of baseball, whose loyalties do not transfer well to other sports. In eight weeks or so, there will be no more meaningful Arizona Diamondbacks games for six months or so. That may seem like a good thing - no more yelling at your TV set as the bullpen walks the bases loaded - but trust me on this: you’ll miss it when it’s gone.