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Applying the mettle of Arizonians, the Diamondbacks themselves have overcome a lot as well. After finishing last in the National League West in 2010, oddsmakers picked Arizona to comfortably do the same in 2011. Certainly there was little consideration that they’d win the division—not over the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Preseason odds for the D-backs to win it all were 80 to 1, the longest shots of the eight teams that made the playoffs this season.
But like all underdogs, the Diamondbacks resisted the experts’ pessimism. With Kirk Gibson leading the way for a full season—he became interim manager midway through 2010—there was a semblance of continuity and maturation going into this year. Arizona’s band of no-names did not accept being cellar dwellers and surprisingly found themselves four games back of the Giants as late as July 29.
Instead of being content with a second-place showing, the D-backs approached the trade deadline as if they had nothing else to lose and first place to gain, making subtle trades to bolster their roster. Amazingly, by August 10, Arizona was atop the NL West—and they never looked back.
With such a seemingly starless ballclub, how did they do it? To the average baseball fan, Arizona has a fairly anonymous roster—currently they boast five rookies. But what they lack in individual domination, or experience, they make up for with a steady lineup. Though they don’t have the most spectacular team numbers, they were balanced enough to score the fourth-most runs in the National League, also ranking fourth in home runs and doubles. However, known for their wealth of power—five different players hit at least 18 home runs—the D-backs ranked second in the NL in stolen bases. Quite the balance on offense. Heck, they even had the best-hitting pitching staff in the league.
And yet Arizona only had four players with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title and only three pitchers to start more than 30 games. They have been such a mishmash of different lineups and players, it’s a wonder how they got this far.
But that’s what underdogs do—they persevere. They defy logic. Underdogs rise above and overachieve. They’ve already done enough to be considered a legitimate Cinderella story. Let’s see how long the fairytale continues.