As Sam Sees It

The Arizona Diamondbacks are not having a championship-quality season to say the least. They are, however, much improved over the disaster that was the 2004 edition that set a record for losses in a season. In fact, this team is a contender for the National League Western Division title.

There was a long time that this writer thought the Diamondbacks would wind up winning the division this season. The San Diego Padres have been on top for most of the campaign, but have played woefully after a good start. The Diamondbacks looked like the superior team. They played, however, very similarly to the Padres. In other words, they have been playing like one of the worst teams in baseball.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have hung around in third place most of the year, but caught Arizona as we entered the final month of the season. The San Francisco Giants are just a game or two behind the Dodgers and closer to the Diamondbacks than the Diamondbacks are to the Padres.

Every one of these teams has several glaring weaknesses. It isn't likely the Western Division winner will get out of the first round of the National League Playoffs. Even the wild card entry will be a superior team to any that survives in the West.

Arizona could still win and the prize is worth winning. A division championship is a division championship and it does get you into the playoffs. Anything can happen in the playoffs and the best team does not always win.

Frankly, it should be embarrassing for this team to finish third or fourth when the talent is there to win the division. Last season was bad enough when the Diamondbacks had to try to overcome the effects of trading two thirds of a team (six players) for one first baseman who didn't last a third of the season. Better deals this year have given the team a rare opportunity to go from last in the division to first. That should be motivation enough for an all-out effort at the end of the season.

This has to be one of the most inconsistent and therefore frustrating teams you will ever see play the game. That said, they are also giving us something some franchises almost never give their fans: a pennant race in which the home team has a real chance to win.

So, let's relax and enjoy the race. If the Diamondbacks do happen to win, keep watching and see if the playoffs hold the upsets they need to keep playing.

There is no "Dynamic Duo" of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson any more. In fact, both are disappointing their new teams this season. There are, however, some players who are an improvement over most who have played at their positions in Phoenix. Royce Clayton is the best defensive shortstop the Diamondbacks have had and he has hit better than expected much of the season. Craig Counsell is back and is still one of the smartest players you will ever see. Then there is Tony Clark. Where would the D-Backs be with out his potent bat? He has gotten enough clutch hits to be the difference between second place and fighting for the cellar with the Colorado Rockies.

We are spoiled from having had a World Series Championship team in just a handful of years after obtaining a franchise. The Boston Red Sox waited nearly a century for their last championship. There are older teams than the Diamondbacks who have never won a World Series.

It's Major League Baseball, let's enjoy it.

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