After the 3-2 victory over the Marlins on Sunday afternoon that secured home-field advantage for the NL Wild Card Game — the D-backs will host either the Rockies, Brewers or Cardinals at Chase Field on Oct. 4 — there were smiles, hugs, laughter and even a few tears of joy shed. It was a magical moment for a core group of players that had been together for years.
And it was a group that could have easily been broken up after last season’s disappointing 69-93 finish that caused the team to dismiss general manager Dave Stewart and hire Mike Hazen to replace him. When he looked at the roster, there was an understandable temptation to start over.
“The reason we kept the team together in the offseason was because we wanted to give these guys a chance to redeem what happened last season,” Hazen said.
Did they ever.
The D-backs built a lead in the NL Wild Card race and were bolstered by what will go down as the best non-waiver Trade Deadline pickup of the year when Hazen acquired outfielder J.D. Martinez from the Tigers for three Minor Leaguers.
Martinez has hit 27 homers in his 2 1/2 months with the D-backs, and it seemed only fitting that he would be the one to get the walk-off hit in Sunday’s clincher.
As he stood in the clubhouse afterwards the champagne burned his eyes, but he kept the goggles off because he said it’s a burn every player wants to feel. And then he shared some wisdom with his teammates.
“This is my second [time in the playoffs],” he said. “I know for a fact they only get bigger. There are more bottles. More beer. More cameras. More people. This is just the beginning. I want these guys to know that. There’s a lot more.
Paul Goldschmidt, a leading candidate for the NL Most Valuable Player Award, was a rookie the last time the D-backs made the playoffs. On that 2011 team were veterans like Willie Bloomquist and J.J. Putz, who had not experienced the playoffs before.
“We had guys then that had been in the league eight, 10 years and hadn’t been to the playoffs, so I do remember them saying, ‘Hey, enjoy this, you never know when it’s going to happen again,’ and that’s always stuck with me,” Goldschmidt said.
After that 2011 season, the D-backs finished .500 in two straight seasons, then bottomed out with the worst record in baseball in 2014. They made progress in ’15, but once again struggled mightily ’16.
The core of the team has remained the same over the past three seasons, with position players like Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Jake Lamb and David Peralta to go along with pitchers Patrick Corbin, Robbie Ray and Archie Bradley.
“To accomplish this together is really special,” Goldschmidt said. “A lot of guys have been here for a few years, and we’ve had some [losing] seasons, so to be in the playoffs with them is awesome.”
Said Corbin, who started Sunday’s game, “All these guys I’ve come up with, we’ve always known we had the talent here, we just never put everything together in a single year. So to see us get off to a good start and win on a walk-off to make the postseason …”
When all that was left was empty champagne bottles, the D-backs headed out onto the field, where one by one they climbed the wall in right-center and took turns jumping into the pool.
Bradley, who has been dominant in a setup role this year and is the team’s vocal leader, sprinted across the outfield with an Arizona flag that had a D-backs logo in the middle of it.
When they were all out in the pool area, they began chanting for the one person who had not yet made it out there.
“Gol-dy, Gol-dy,” they chanted before switching to “M-V-P! M-V-P!”
Finally Goldschmidt climbed the wall and jumped in the pool as the team erupted in cheers.
The sweet sounds of redemption from a team that almost wasn’t.
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Source : MLB