World Series musings

October is baseball's crowning month to a lengthy season.  The pennant races have been decided and the World Series begun and sometimes ended.  The fans of also-ran teams watch and wonder why their teams didn't get there.

We Arizona Diamondbacks fans may feel this longing more than most.  Former Dback players dot the lineups of nearly all the most successful teams.  Zack Greinke and Max Scherzer, two of the top pitchers in the game today, once pitched for us.  Didi Grigorius, Yankee shortstop, spent a couple of seasons in Arizona.  Red Sox power hitter J.D. Martinez put In a half-season slugging in our ball yard.  Patrick Corbin of the Nationals, Paul Goldschmidt with the Cardinals, A.J. Pollock over in L.A. — all erstwhile heroes in the southwestern desert along I-10.  These are just the names that come readily to mind.

It's hard to understand why a team that had Pollock, Goldschmidt, Martinez, and Corbin all playing at the same time couldn't go somewhere.  You watch these guys doing good stuff for their current teams and wonder why the Dback front office let them get away.  It's almost as if Arizona were a minor-league subsidiary of the rest of the major leagues, providing a regular supply of top talent for other teams to use in going on to glory.  Since winning it all in 2001, we haven't even been close to a pennant, much less a World Series.

We have a great ballpark.  Domed and gorgeous Chase Field is modern in every way, easy to get to, and well maintained.  Prices, as everywhere else, sometimes make a family man pale, but there seems to be nothing anybody can do about that except not buy hot dogs or popcorn or, especially, beer.  A true baseball fan doesn't mind all that much; you enjoy the game in comfort and with a good view wherever you sit but with no expectation of your team going anywhere.

You just keep in mind that whoever runs this show isn't really in it to win anything.  Baseball in Arizona has become like summer league bowling — a way to spend time with family and friends, a change of pace, a sedate way to pass a few hours, but nothing exciting, no nail-biting tension, no praying that the next guy hits one out if he's on your side or strikes out if he's on the other side.

Money matters — a lot — but even the wealthiest owner isn't going to win all the time.  Many of us remember "the worst team money can buy" back in — what was it, the eighties, when the Mets had the highest payroll in the game and finished last?  Sheer luck matters.  Key injuries can knock a team right out of contention.  A player who always showed promise may suddenly blossom on another club for no discernible reason, or some guy nobody ever heard much about just explodes on the scene.  You can't buy kismet.

Pro franchises are toys of the super-rich.  My impression may be wrong, but it seems only a handful of owners anymore really love their sport.  If your team's billionaire wants to win, he'll go all out to get and keep top players.  Money doesn't matter; he'll pay the luxury tax if needed and overspend on this player or that, just to ensure he hasn't missed out by counting pennies at the crucial moment.  He'll get personally involved in negotiations so tender player egos get massaged.  Most importantly, he'll bring in front office talent that knows how to assess player talent.

If this doesn't describe your owner, you'll spend the season in sports purgatory, interest waning if never quite extinguished.  The Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Finals, the NCAA tournament will always get your attention, but gradually, your passion for the game, whichever game, wanes.  Maybe that's also a function of age and physical energy.  Maybe it's misplaced energy and passion.  But it used to be so much fun to follow a team in its ups and downs over the season, and once in a while to go far in the tournaments at season's end.

Yeah, we're spoiled.  But nothing's to be gained from unspoiling ourselves.  Seems to me love of sports is natural to a healthy life.  Not only is physical exertion good; enthusiasm for living, period, probably adds more years to a life than any other single thing, and sports is a big-time provider of enthusiasm in many lives, not to mention appreciation of excellence.

I don't apologize for being a baseball aficionado.  I just wish my guys would make a run for the pennant once in a while.

Meanwhile, go, Nationals!

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