Arizona Diamondbacks Top 5 Magical Events of 2011
By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine
Oct. 1, 2011 — Playoff baseball has arrived, but without great regular seasons, playoff baseball is unreachable. 2011 has been almost as magical as 2001 for the Arizona Diamondbacks and their fans, although the two teams could not be more different.
But just as it was 10 years ago, fans of the team should go along for the thrill ride with Gibby’s Grinders. Although this team has over come some serious injuries this season, it might not happen next year.
“Perhaps the truest axiom in baseball is that the toughest thing to do is repeat,” said legendary manager Walter Alston.
By looking back at the 2011 regular season, guys played the right way — for 27 outs every game — and they were rewarded. But along the way, the fact that big moments came at just the right time led to a magical season. For those who jumped on the bandwagon a little late, here are some of the most magical happenings for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011.
The Top Five Magical Happenings for 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks
No. 1 — The first two weeks
They had a little luck go their way early — but maybe luck is due to playing the game right. But the “grind it out” philosophy was in use from the first day in Colorado. Although it didn’t work out so well during the second series of the year in Chicago — dropping two of three — by the time they got back home, they had started to believe. Then, in the first homestand, against the Cincinnati Reds, they had two come from behind wins. If they would have had some line drives not find holes or strikes that were called balls, they might have stumbled more out of the gate putting the new “grind it out” philosophy to the test. Instead, the new approach paid off in the first 10 days and the belief spread like a wildfire. Those first two weeks of success — instead of struggles — let everyone in the clubhouse jump on the bandwagon and no one has gotten off since.
No. 2 — Ian Kennedy’s April and May
Although he would eventually put together a Cy Young caliber season, April did not start that well for Ian Kennedy. Over his first three starts, he had an ERA of 6.82, mainly thanks to nine runs allowed in three innings against the Cardinals April 13. Then he caught fire. He gave up only four runs over his last three starts in April, then had an 2.43 ERA in 40 innings in May. The ace had arrived and after a few hiccups in July, he never looked back.
No. 3 — Justin Upton’s June
By the end of May, Justin Upton’s batting average was at .262. Although he had 11 home runs and 28 runs batted in, he was only getting on base at a .363 clip. Those are numbers good enough for most, but not someone with the expectations that have been heaped upon Justin Upton. He responded with a June that saw him hit .382 with a .467 on base percentage and a .542 slugging percentage. From May 20 to June 20, the Dbacks were 9-10 but Upton hit .400. The guy single handedly carried them past a June swoon.
No. 4 — Surviving Stephen Drew’s Injury
When Stephen Drew went down for the season in late July, the team could have folded. Drew's loss was the only long term injury suffered one of the team's "big stars " — with all apologies to Geoff Blum and Xavier Nady. Instead, guys stepped up big. Willie Bloomquist has been the mainstay, but guys like Cody Ransom and later John McDonald stepped up as well. Offensively, Upton and Miguel Montero went on tears. Joe Saunders also kept up his torrid June and July with an 11 game-run of 74 innings with a 6-3 record and a 2.31 earned run average.
No. 5 Calling Up Goldschmidt
When Paul Goldschmidt was called up to the Arizona Diamondbacks and made his debut Aug. 1, the team was one game behind the Giants and facing the boys by the bay in a pivotal three game series on the road. All he did was get a hit in his first game followed by a game-winning home run in his second game. The guy has not just been consistent, but also a performer in crunch time. Is it a coincidence that the team has gone 34-19 since Goldschmidt has been called up? His big bat makes Upton and Montero even more dangerous.
Big moments and big turning points all, but since the team is in the playoffs, many more big performances are still in store. They will not get swept by the Milwaukee Brewers and just might find themselves in the NLCS because this a team that understands that you can’t give away anything in professional baseball or the better team will beat you.
As Tommy Lasorda said, “There are three types of baseball players: those that make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happens.”
And, as the 2011 Dbacks enter the 2011 postseason, they have a team full of guys who put themselves in the position to make it happen every night.
That’s all any fan can ask.
Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.