Last night I sat down to watch game 5 of the National League Championship Series. I did so with equal parts of enthusiasm and trepidation. On the one hand as an Arizona Diamondbacks fan I wanted nothing better than to see the Philadelphia Phillies crush the Dodgers and put them out of the play-offs. Since the Dodgers had taken the post season spot earmarked for the Arizona Diamondbacks since April 4, every day they remained in the play-offs was a reminder of the failure of the D-Backs season. With the exception of Manny Ramirez, the Diamondbacks roster matched or exceeded that of the Dodgers. That one player difference, that one trade deadline deal difference is what made this post season nearly unbearable.
It is one thing when your team is soundly beaten and you are left watching and wondering what pieces are missing for the team to become a contender. It is quite another thing to watch your team implode and beat themselves. In the stretch of one week an entire season’s worth of work was destroyed. Were it not for that six game losing streak the first part of September we might be at Chase Field watching the Phillies battle the Diamondbacks. Granted I am discounting the Chicago Cubs and rightfully so. The Cubs have shown a large hole in their armor against right-handed pitching. Their predominantly right-handed line-up was really no match for any of the pitching staffs in the National League play-offs. I don’t think it would have mattered who they faced in the Divisional Series, the outcome would have remained the same; an early exit for the Northsiders.
It left me wondering, how then would the Diamondbacks have handled matched up against the Philadelphia Phillies. Over the course of the season the Diamondbacks faced the Phillies seven times with a 3-4 record. That record is somewhat misleading. Three of the four losses came as a result of late inning failures by the Diamondbacks bullpen that could have very easily been reversed meaning Arizona should have been 6-1 against the National League Champions.
The starting pitching would definitely have favored the Diamondbacks with Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, and Randy Johnson starting the first three games. That would have matched up very favorably against Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, and Jamie Moyer. Shane Victorino was a force during the season series with Arizona so you should expect that he would again have found a way to be productive. On the other hand with the addition of Adam Dunn the Diamondbacks would have had additional power they did not during the season series. The team speed of Arizona is significantly better than the Dodgers leading you to believe that perhaps Arizona would have been better at manufacturing runs. I’m not suggesting that Arizona would have beaten Philadelphia but I do believe they would have made the series much more interesting than what Los Angeles did.
While I was happy to see the Dodgers eliminated, part of me was hoping that the series would go longer than 7 games. I believe the American League Championship Series will go a minimum of 6 games meaning that the Phillies will find themselves in the same predicament that the Colorado Rockies did last year, an extended lay-off. That will not bode well for the National League. With the American League having home field advantage and momentum for the ultimate winner of the ALCS, it has the appearances of yet another disappointing year for the National League representative.
But all of this speculation doesn’t make it any easier to get over the fact that the Diamondbacks bullpen cost them the pennant. It continues to amaze me how this group of pitchers could go from being counted among the best in baseball to being one of the worst. I would have never anticipated that trading Jose Valverde would have had such an impact. His inconsistent nature during his tenure in Arizona led me to believe that the trade Josh Byrnes made to get Chad Qualls was sound. It just goes to show that sometimes the whole does equal more than the addition of all the parts. As an Arizona Diamondbacks fan I am hoping that Josh Byrnes and the Diamondbacks front office can develop a plan that will get us back to the play-offs next season. I am not sure I can deal with another October like this; it is just too painful. I guess it could be worse, I could be a Cubs fan.