I can honestly say that six months ago, I thought (and wrote) the Diamondbacks would be pretty much where they find themselves today.
I thought they would be a winning team. They must deal with the reality of a tough division with two deep-pocketed franchises that may leave them pushing for a wild card spot, and even one additional ticket to the postseason in 2013 might not be enough to get them there.
But the path Arizona took from April to the end of August? Missed it by a mile.
Those three months — when Arizona overcame injuries, poor starts by key players, and a flammable bullpen to not only stay afloat, but lead the division at the halfway mark — naturally raised hopes and made the last two months as uncomfortable as the weather.
It sure did look good for awhile. The Giants imploded. All those bats in Colorado were again cancelled out by horrendous pitching. The Padres made noise in June but were never heard from again. And the Dodgers were 12 games below .500, about to fire Don Mattingly, and, well, that was before they completely stopped losing.
The Diamondbacks? They’ve never been 10 games over or under .500 all year. Arizona’s longest winning streak and longest losing streak of the year? Five games. They have scored and allowed about the same number of runs; won a few more at home, lost a few more on the road.
If not for Yasiel Puig’s arrival and Zack Grienke’s rebound — it might have been enough to win a division no one seemed to want. But then the Dodgers roared past the D-Backs like they were standing still — because they were — and by the time the division was lost, wild card thoughts were already fleeting.
It’s not the collapse of 2008, when Arizona had a three-game lead and a chance to put away the division in late August, when Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Randy Johnson were swept in San Diego by the last-place Padres even though the second-place Dodgers were being swept by the last-place Washington Nationals. A dozen games, later the Diamondbacks were done.
But 2013 will go down as another year where opportunity came knocking and was ignored.
All Brains, No Braun
While Alex Rodriguez appeals, litigates and tries to squeeze as many baseball games out of his tainted career as possible, Ryan Braun knows he will be back to making his mega millions before A-Rod sits out one game.
Braun doesn’t have to play out the string of a disappointing season. He doesn’t have to show up every day with his Milwaukee Brewers teammates who are hopelessly out of playoff contention – in large part because of Braun himself. He doesn’t have talk to the media every day and fend off question after question about PEDs.
Instead, Braun will put his feet up on the couch, wait out the short attention span of sports fans, and, apparently, try not to speak of this ugliness again.
On Thursday, Braun released his long-winded, carefully-worded apology for cheating the game that has given him so much. It came unannounced and without any of the fanfare of last spring, when Braun invited every microphone the Brewers could find to Maryvale so he could proclaim his innocence and denounce those who unfairly besmirched his reputation.
There were lots of words in the apology but no depth whatsoever.
Maybe he’ll sit next to Oprah and we’ll hear him say what we now only get to read. Probably not. Braun has one MVP award, not seven Tour de France titles.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.