In the end, the Diamondbacks teased their supporters on what could have been a decent ride.
Instead, Arizona finished the 2013 campaign amid disappointment and uncertainty.
Despite closing the season with a win, this was not the way the Diamondbacks wanted to handle the season in general.
The 3-2 victory over the Washington Nationals before 30,420 Sunday afternoon in Chase Field was inconsequential. The win credited to reliever David Hernandez was just another statistic but the game itself gave a glimpse of a season left behind.
Trailing 2-1 but scoring two runs in the bottom eighth, the Diamondbacks earned their 42nd comeback victory. Only the Rangers, Braves and Royals had more comeback wins. The 34, one-win victories was the most in the majors and their 33 wins in their last at-bat is also tops in the big leagues.
In between, there was little to cheer.
The D-backs finished 81-81, and that’s exactly the same record as a year ago. Arizona became the first team to finish with consecutive 81-81 seasons since the 1988-1989 Montreal Expos.
While every team treasures to play in October, several factors prevented Arizona from joining the prestigious October Club. The amount of home runs allowed, blown saves, leaving runners on base and inconsistency from the starting rotation all played to the Diamondbacks demise.
“We just didn’t play well,” said second baseman Aaron Hill. “It was up and down, we had peaks and valleys but never did put a winning streak together.”
While the National League West Division-winning Dodgers put one steak together of 42 wins out of 50 games to create significant separation from other division teams, the D-backs languished in mediocrity.
Their longest winning streak of the season was five games. That was accomplished twice from May 6 to May 10 and from July 3 to July 7. They actually ended the season by dropping five of their final seven games.
Inconsistency plagued this team dramatically.
Sunday’s starter Wade Miley did not figure in the decision and finished the last two months of the season with one win in his final 10 starts. Though he finished 10-10 and a 3.55 ERA, Miley said he was satisfied.
“I feel fine but I need to get more consistent.” he said after Sunday’s game. “I need to get total command of all four of my pitches. Now, I’ll go home and get ready for next season. Nothing mechanical and I’ll probably tweak some things, nothing big.”
For a team stuck with a .500 record two years in a row, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt represented that rare respite. He finished the season with a 19 game hitting streak and the longest since Danny Bautista hit in 21 straight during the 2004 season. Goldschmidt was also the first Arizona Diamondback to lead the National League in RBIs and also tied with the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez with 36 home runs.
Save Goldschmidt, a strong second half from Martin Prado, the Diamondbacks showed little more offensively.
Now it’s time to scatter about the international landscape, visit friends and family at home, and patiently wait for spring training.
“What’s disappointing is that we all had high expectations for this team,” said Kevin Towers, the team’s general manager. “We fully expected to play in the playoffs.”
Towers, Gibson, the players and their fans can now take comfort in that old Brooklyn Dodgers’ refrain, “wait ‘till next year.”
RECORD BREAKING SEASON
The 1,538 innings played by the Diamondbacks in 2013 is a major league record for most innings played in one season.
The D-backs’ record-breaking season topped the 1,537 innings set by the 1964 New York Yankees.
In all, the Diamondbacks played 25 extra-innings games, a franchise record, and the 80 extra innings were two short of the major league record of 82 set by the 1918 Washington Senators.
NO EXIT INTERVIEWS
Meeting with reporters to prior to the season finale Sunday morning, manager Kirk Gibson said he will not conduct formal, exit interviews.
Because he conceded several players will not be back next season, the value of exit interviews was marginal.
“I’ve had conversations with players over the past few weeks,” Gibson said. “Several have been lengthy and I was able to get their perception on the season.”
As far as his immediate future, Gibson said he would take a few weeks in his home state of Michigan and then return to the desert.
Back in Michigan, Gibson said he would likely attend a game in the Detroit-Oakland AL Division series. Planning to repair back to Phoenix in mid-October, he indicated, “I’ll start to reconnect with players and plan for the future.”
Gibson also plans to attend games in the Arizona Fall League. Here, Diamondbacks’ prospects on the Salt River Rafters include infielders Nick Ahmed, Michael Freeman and Jake Lamb and pitchers Jake Barrett, Andrew Chafin, Bo Schultz and Matt Stites.
Along with general manager Kevin Towers and others from the D-backs brain trust, Gibson will head meetings Monday to discuss roster personnel and then take time to evaluate the coaching staff.
Towers told reporters after Sunday’s game there is no timetable for these decisions but these will be made carefully.
A FOND FAREWELL
Sunday’s loss to the Diamondbacks was the final game as manager for Washington’s Davey Johnson.
At 70 years old, Johnson is hanging up the Nationals’ red, white and blue uniform, and indicated he is not interested in answering the phone should teams call with a manager’s job.
Johnson’s impressive resume includes achievements as a player and manager.
In 1973, Johnson hit 42 home runs as a second baseman, and that ties Rogers Hornsby for most homers by a second baseman in a single season. Johnson actually 43 that year, but one came as a pinch-hitter against the Cubs on June 17.
In 13 major league seasons with the Orioles, Braves and Phillies and the Cubs, he hit .261, 135 home runs and drove in 609 runs in 1435 games.
As a manager, his winning percentage of .562 is tops among active managers and was named Manager of the Year twice, once with Baltimore in 1997 and the Nationals in 2012.
Now, Johnson said he’s ready to walk away as manager but kept the door open as a consultant. Expressing affection for the Washington organization, Johnson said he would not allow himself to gain attention.
“To show up in spring training in an uniform is not a good idea,” said he prior to Sunday’s finale with the D-backs. “That would take away from the manager, and, out of respect, I wouldn’t do that.”
Though disappointed on Washington’s second place finish in National League East this season, Johnson took a moment to reflect on the past and offer a glimpse into the future.
“This is a great bunch of guys and great baseball players,” he said. “I think they are ready to take it a notch forward. At the same time, this is a melancholy day for me. It means my big league journey is complete.”
The crowd of 30,420 Sunday brought the Diamondbacks’ season total to 2,134,729.
Last season, Arizona drew 2,177,617 through the Chase Field turnstiles.