Blog Entry

Diamondbacks are the true surprise team

Posted on: August 17, 2011 7:51 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 10:50 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- The Pirates have fallen back under .500.

The Indians have fallen out of first place.

The summer of surprise in baseball seems to have ended a little early . . . unless you count the Diamondbacks.

And why shouldn't we be counting them?

"These guys have been flying under the radar," said Lyle Overbay, who spent the first four months of the season with the surprising Pirates, and is in his first week with the surprising Diamondbacks.

They lost more games last year than the Indians did. They looked as bad this spring as the Indians and Pirates, too.

And almost three weeks into August, the Diamondbacks began play Wednesday 3 1/2 games up on the defending World Series champions.

They're far from the point that we should consider them a lock for the postseason, and in fact that 3 1/2-game lead shrunk to 2 1/2 games on Wednesday night. It's worth remembering that the Padres held a four-game lead over the Giants on this date a year ago, and that the Diamondbacks held a 4 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers in late August 2008.

"We fell apart at the seams [that year]," Justin Upton said.

It took two years to put them back together, two years of 90-plus losses. It took two managerial changes, a general manager change, and enough roster turnover so that Upton, Chris Young and injured shortstop Stephen Drew are the only regulars remaining from that team.

It took Upton becoming a true MVP candidate at age 23, after a winter in which the Diamondbacks briefly considered trading him away.

But here they are, the only one of baseball's surprise teams that's still in a playoff spot, a spot that would most likely see them right back here in Philadelphia in six weeks' time. Here they are, the surprise team that got overlooked while we were focused on those other surprise teams.

"That's OK," Young said. "If everybody's talking about you too much, maybe your head gets too big. But if nobody's talking about you, maybe your confidence gets down."

The Diamondbacks seem to have little problem with confidence. They're 3-1 this year against the Phillies, including a Tuesday night win in which they became the first team ever (in 53 attempts) to come from behind in the ninth inning to beat Roy Halladay.

"We feel like we can play at this level, no doubt," Upton said.

The Diamondbacks came into their clubhouse after that game and watched the second-place Giants lose in extra innings against the Braves. But those who were there noticed that the Diamondbacks weren't fixated on the Giants, and didn't spend much time celebrating their loss.

"As long as we win, it's fine," closer J.J. Putz said.

As with so many other things that Diamondbacks players say, those words could easily have come out of manager Kirk Gibson's mouth.

There's no doubt that Gibson sets the tone for this team. They believe in themselves the way he believed in himself, and they fight back the way he fought back (as evidenced by their big-league high 35 come-from-behinid wins).

He would never want to admit surprise, because he begins every season thinking his team can win. Besides, he would never celebrate staying in the race through mid-August.

"We'll stay humble," Gibson said. "We've accomplished nothing. We put our head in there the first day of the season -- the Diamondbacks are in. The only thing we can say now is that the Diamondbacks are still in."

They're still in, while the Pirates have slid out and the Indians are in danger of doing the same.

There is a surprise team in baseball this year. The Diamondbacks are it.


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