For the first and only time this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks will play a truly meaningless series. Neither team has anything to play for, both having been eliminated from postseason consideration. No major homecoming like Goldschmidt and the Cardinals, no disrespect meant to Rod Barajas, the new Padres manager. Just baseball.
If you had told me at the start of the season that it would take until game 159 for the season to reach the point where the only reason the games were still being played is because MLB mandates that all 162 games be played, I would have laughed at you. In fact, I did laugh at people who said stuff like that. My mind wanders back to a conversation my brother, dad, and I had around 3 A.M. at a Denny’s in South Phoenix during Spring Training. Dad and I saw the flaws that the team was carrying over from the season before, and the subtractions that had been made, and we thought that the team would be lucky to be competitive through the trade deadline. My brother was convinced they’d be good for 87 wins, and a chance at the playoffs.
If they sweep this series, they’ll finish at 85, just shy of the second Wild Card spot.
Regardless of where they finish, precious few thought they’d have a winning season or have more wins than last season. It seemed even less likely when that fateful trade deadline rolled around and Zack Greinke was suddenly wearing the navy and orange of the Houston Astros. Yet here we are. The returns from the trades of Goldschmidt and Greinke directly contributed to the success the team had this season, while building a foundation for the future that was shaky at best before this season.
Mike Hazen has done what has been deemed impossible for the better part of the last decade, if not longer. He completely remade a team from the ground up, initiated a fire sale the likes of which I don’t think this team has ever seen, and yet still fielded a winning team. All of conventional wisdom currently circulating through baseball says that isn’t how you do it. Tear the team down. Take three to five 100 loss season. Stash the money away, and maybe, one day, spend big, but whatever you do, don’t do it too early. Hope that you draft well and luck into a superstar or two five years from now. Compete for three years. Repeat. But don’t expect to compete right away, because you can’t do that. Yet here we are.
It’s hard to say what the future holds for the Diamondbacks. No matter what Hazen and Co. do, they’re still stuck in the same division as the Dodgers. They would make tough competition for any team in baseball, much less one with limited (artificially or not) resources and the barren farm system that Hazen inherited, but has since replenished. But one thing I can say with confidence, I’m excited for what comes next. #IsItSpringTrainingYet?
Game 1: Eric Lauer (8-10, 4.53 ERA) vs. Taylor Clarke (5-5, 5.40 ERA)
Game 2: Garrett Richards (0-1, 11.81 ERA) vs. Robbie Ray (12-8, 4.28 ERA)
Game 3: TDB vs. Taijuan Walker (first start since April 2018)