And So It Ends

For the fans of 21 Major League Baseball teams this is a day of conflicting emotions. On the one hand you get to watch your team for the final time in the 2009 season. On the other hand you get to watch your team for the final time in the 2009 season. For the fans of eight lucky teams their season goes on. The records and the standings are erased and the first team to ten wins will go home as the World Champions.

For fans in Minneapolis and Detroit, you get one more regular season game to enjoy. With the Tigers and the Twins ending the season in a virtual tie atop the American League Central Division there will be a one and done scenario. The winner of the game in Minnesota on Tuesday will send one team and their fans to the post season while the other team will go home to watch the playoffs from the comfort of their home.

The Arizona Diamondbacks end the season with an afternoon game in Chicago at Wrigley Field. Their fate at season’s end has been known since before the All-Star break. Just about everything that could go wrong this season did and the Diamondbacks will end the season in the same position in the standings that they were after Opening Day on April 6th; last place.

I doubt anyone would have anticipated that staff ace Brandon Webb would pitch just six innings all season nor would they have predicted the Arizona offense would disappear as it did for most of the season. The 2009 season has been a character building year. It humbled a lot of players and coaches in the Diamondbacks organization.

Diamondbacks Cubs BaseballOutfielders Chris Young and Eric Byrnes found critics at every corner as they failed to perform at levels that the fans and coaches expected. Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds were both forced to endure life under a microscope as critics questioned their every game. Infielder/Outfielder Conor Jackson dealt with an unknown illness that continues to linger and introduces questions as to whether he will ever regain his previous level of performance.

While young players such as Gerardo Parra, Clay Zavada, Daniel Schlereth, and Juan Gutierrez made the most of their opportunities, there are other names such as Doug Slaten, Augie Ojeda, Trent Oeltjen, and Chris Snyder who are left to wonder whether they have played their final game as an Arizona Diamondbacks.

So as the sun shines brightly on a crisp fall afternoon, there are many more questions surrounding the Diamondbacks than were anticipated going into this season. Starting pitcher Doug Davis took the mound for the snakes, which seemed almost fitting considering what will happen this off-season.

Davis is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season and this may very well be his last start as a Diamondback. He could very well look at this game as an audition not only for the Diamondbacks but for the other 29 teams as well. A good performance on this day could go a long way to securing Davis a job next year. A poor performance could mean a substantial cut in pay or perhaps no job at all.

Davis did not seem to let that bother him though. Neither did he seem to mind the fact that the wind was blowing out at Wrigley Field. Instead he focused on the task at hand pitching eight innings for only the third time this season. With the second out of the fifth inning Davis also surpassed the 200 innings mark for the first time since 2006. That is a mark of durability and will undoubtedly go a long way when listed on his resume this off-season.

Center fielder Chris Young continued to progress since being recalled from Triple-A Reno in late August hitting a three-run home run in the fourth inning to give the Diamondbacks a lead they would never relinquish.

Fellow outfielder Justin Upton had the exact opposite success in this game going 0-4 with four strikeouts at the plate. His season average dipped to .300 and he was on the verge of going 0-4 and seeing his average fall below that mark when teammate Gerardo Parra was thrown out at second by 30 feet trying to steal.

The throw out ended the ninth inning and it allowed Upton to retain his .300 batting average. The base running blunder was not a blunder at all but rather a calculated move to protect a teammate. Manager AJ Hinch was clearly not amused but you do have to give Parra credit for taking care of his teammate. That may go a long ways this off-season and seasons to come as these two players become closer teammates.

In the end Juan Gutierrez came in the ninth inning and closed the door on the Cubs and the 2009 season by striking out Chicago catcher Geovany Soto to end the game securing the win for Doug Davis and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It was with some sadness that I sat and watched the players and coaches of the Arizona Diamondbacks meet at the mound of Wrigley Field and shake hands for the last time this season. It’s hard to tell which of these players will be back and what their roles will be next season if they do return.

As of now the off-season has officially begun for Diamondbacks fans. We will have to be content to watch the playoffs from outside like a child window-shopping at a candy store. I’ll cheer for the National League and cringe when I have to clap for the likes of Manny Ramirez or Troy Tulowitzki. I’ll continue to count down the days until April 5, 2010 when the doors to Chase Field will once again be opened and the thoughts of another season dance in my mind.

I’ll look forward to the 162 games next season and pray for better results than we had this year. But I’ll also come to the ballpark with a better appreciation of fans such as those following the Chicago Cubs. While it is frustrating to think that it has been nearly ten years since the Diamondbacks won their world championship I can’t imagine how it must feel to have it be over a century since their last title.