I didn’t want D-backs fans to wake up on the first day of our off-season, and the first thing they see is the recap of our final L. Instead, I’m going to pin this to the front for a day or two, so we can remember all the (many) good things about this year...
The 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks season is over. There’s no doubt a little sadness and disappointment - hard to argue Arizona didn’t perform as well in the playoffs as they could have. But this is not a year defined by a single contest, or even a single series. There was so much to enjoy, appreciate and remember fondly, about a campaign which began in almost universal low expectations - yet only ended after 23 other teams were eliminated. To quote General Patton, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” So, let’s celebrate all that was good about 2017: please chip in with your favorites in the comments.
The first inklings this team might be special came on Opening Day. Three runs down in the middle of the sixth, the Diamondbacks staged the first of 44 comeback wins. They rallied to tie it, then Fernando Rodney, making his MLB debut, gave up a run in the top of the ninth. But he ended up with the W, as Daniel Descalso and Chris Owings had RBI singles, to give Arizona their first ever walk-off win on Opening Day.
The glory of Goldschmidt
It just never gets old. Paul Goldschmidt is not just the best position player in D-backs history, he has been one of the best in the majors over the past six years. Since the start of 2012, no National Leaguer has put up more than Goldschmidt’s 34.4 bWAR. He executes every part of the game well, from base-running to defense, and carries himself with a humble quiet that can only be respected. We’re extraordinarily lucky to have him.
Archie Bradley carries the flag
At the end of spring, Bradley wasn’t deemed worthy of a spot in the rotation, and went to the bullpen instead. He didn’t just accept this new role, he reveled in it, giving the team one of their best relief seasons ever. He also became the loudly-beating emotional heart and soul of the team, whether it was his “This is OUR house” proclamation, or charging across Chase Field to the pool, carrying the D-backs/Arizona flag after the team clinched their first post-season spot since 2011.
The D-backs team wobbled around the All-Star break, losing five in a row before the team acquired J.D. Martinez from the Detroit Tigers on July 18. He proved just the shot in the arm the offense needed, and truly had a season here for the ages: he hit .302 with 29 home-runs in only 62 games. That peaked in the magnificent 13-0 demolition job of the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he became the first Diamondback ever with four home-runs in one game. He may well not be back. It was still a joy to watch.
Zack Godley steps up
After a promising start to the season, it was announced on April 29 that Shelby Miller would have season-ending Tommy John surgery. That could have derailed our rotation, but there was an unlikely blue-collar savior on the sidelines, in the shape of Godley. He had a 5.34 career ERA before this year. Yet Zack developed into one of the best pitchers on the roster, with a sinker which caused Sean to compare him to Brandon Webb. His energy and enthusiasm also made him a firm fan favorite.
13 in a row
For more than two weeks in last August and early September, the 2017 D-backs were literally unbeatable, reeling off a franchise record 13 wins in a row. Even more amazing was the 98 innings streak without trailing, which also included 52 consecutive innings ending with the D-backs in the lead. We may not see its like again in our lifetime. For eight other teams have never won 13 straight, including the Angels, who have been around for 57 seasons.
Ray becomes an ace
Last year, Robbie Ray showed flashed of greatness, with a K rate that was among the best in the majors - yet a pedestrian 4.90 ERA. That improved by more than two runs in 2017: never mind “among”, his K rate was the best in the league among qualifying pitchers, and the hits dropped by a third. His return from a really scary head injury was one of the best comebacks in baseball this season, and he proved himself capable of dominating any line-up in baseball, on his day.
That wildest of wild-card games
No-one who was there will ever forget it. And I can state from personal experience, no-one who was watching on TV in a Las Vegas casino will ever forget it either. From Goldschmidt’s three-run homer in the first inning, through Robbie Ray’s much-needed relief appearance, into the first ever postseason triple by a reliever, then Jeff Mathis’s genius-level bunt and the final ground-out off Rodney. Truly one of the greatest games of all time at Chase Field.
I could easily go on. The Fernando Rodney Experience which, despite qualms, was far more ups than downs. The rise of Ketel Marte. The memorable performances from bench guys like Daniel Descalso and Chris Iannetta. The all-round improvement in pitching, which went from a glaring weakness to tower of strength. Each and every one of the nine walk-off wins. Clinching the first post-season spot in six years. I look forward to hearing your suggestions in the comments as well.
Overall, there can be no argument (so don’t make me ruthlessly cleanse the comments!). Despite the inevitable letdown in how it ended, this has still been one of the best seasons in franchise history. As we go home, after the lights have been turned off at Chase Field for the final time in 2017, we should remember that, and toast the Arizona Diamondbacks. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch them for the past six-plus months. Here’s to more of the same in 2018.