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Know Your Enemy: Arizona Diamondbacks

If the White Sox play but everyone has tuned out and no one watches, did they really play?

Arizona Diamondbacks logo circa 1998.

The final home stand of 2023 is upon us, as your Chicago White Sox welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks to Sox Park. As this fetid carcass of a baseball season winds to its close for the South Siders, the Diamondbacks come in with something left to play for.

Arizona. The Grand Canyon State. Picturesque vistas and breathtaking scenery. Spring training home to half of baseball, including our very own Chicago White Sox. But also home to some of the worst-ass backwards political thinking in this country. And some of the most uninhabitable climate for humans during the scorching summer. Perhaps there is a link between the later two? Think about it ...

A highway divides the barren Arizona desert.
Matt Howard/Wikimedia Commons

Arizona is also the state of my birth. I have no memory of the town I was born in, though, and feel zero connection or affection. The mountainous regions of northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon, and surrounding national parks really are the best thing Arizona has going for it — and about the only thing for which I can genuinely say I have any fondness in the whole state. I’ve flown in and out Sky Harbor International, and honestly, meh.

Arizona brought us John McCain, decent man and a war hero, if that is something that matters to you. But he also introduced the nation to Sarah Palin, who seems quaint now compared to the whackadoodle tenor of right wing politics today, but Palin is a stain that haunts the former Arizona Senator, may he rest in peace. I mean, Joe Arpio for fork’s sake, he of some of the shittiest political takes imaginable, or, you know, west of Texas. But this is a baseball piece after all, and while I enjoy colouring outside the lines, I will steer this back towards baseball before I go completely off the rails.

They play baseball in the major leagues in Arizona? I mean, actual games that count? The Diamondbacks exist, I guess, but outside of this year they have been so bad and so forgettable that it didn’t even register on my radar that they got off to a hot-ish start.

They play in Phoenix, yet call themselves the Arizona Diamondbacks. Awfully presumptuous, if you ask me. Few teams claim to represent a whole state, and for all of the teams that play baseball in the state of Arizona, the Diamondbacks are one of them. See how easy it is to revert back to seeing them as utterly unremarkable? The Pacers get away with calling themselves Indiana and not Indianapolis, for reasons I can’t explain nor care to comprehend. The Miami Marlins wised up eventually and dropped the Florida moniker and went with the much cooler Miami. No offense to the Rays, but there’s not a whole hell of a lot going on in Florida outside of Miami, or anything good for that matter. I’ll admit that I miss the days of the California Angels over the multiplicity of silly nicknames they’ve taken before setting on the Los Angeles Angels, despite playing an hour east in Anaheim. Arizona really should join the Suns and Coyotes and claim Phoenix in their name. Northern and western Arizona are much different than the Valley of the Sun and its arid, uninhabitable desert in which the Snakes plant their flag. Just do it, Diamondbacks!

So How Are They Doing, Anyway?

Surprisingly, pretty good! Arizona comes into town sitting at 82-74, some 14 1⁄2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West, but good enough sit in a tie with the loathsome Cubs for the second Wild Card spot. The D’backs were one of the surprise teams in the National League in the early going. After a slow start, they climbed to a season-best 16 games better than .500 at 41-25 over on June 12, with a three game lead on the Dodgers in the NL West. They won their 50th game on July 1, but their lead in the division dwindled to a narrow half-game. A 2-5 week entering the All Star break dropped them 2 1⁄2 games behind the Dodgers, and they did themselves no favors as play resumed, going 4-11 to close the month. The dismal cold streak would continue into early August, as they went 5-19 from July 14 to Aug 11. A nine-game losing streak to open August dropped Arizona to 57-59. The latter half of August saw them rebound and get hot again, climbing back into the NL Wild Card race as August turned to September.

Are The Hitters Fearsome? Need I Worry About Dingers?

While I watch thrice the amount of National League baseball since they adopted the designated hitter and did away with the ridiculous, antiquated notion that pitchers hitting was good strategy, I still pay next to no attention to the team that calls Phoenix home. I was quite surprised to discover that they were leading the NL West earlier in the year. Them being anything but an abysmal cellar-dweller still seems like an inconceivably farfetched notion to me. There are names on the roster that I recognize, but I couldn’t pick any of their players out of a lineup, nor can I say with any certainly that I’ve even watched any of them play. They are a team that will never be on my radar.

For a team in the thick of the NL Wild Card chase, their team OPS+ is middle of the pack, on par with the very average offenses of the Cubs, Angels, Red Sox, and Cardinals. They have an 84.6% chance of securing a Wild Card berth despite a run differential of -18 and being around league average in runs scored.

Make no mistake, though, Arizona is lead by second-year All-Star Corbin Carroll. Carroll and Ketel Marte are both in the Top 25 in baseball in WAR and OPS entering play. Christian Walkers’s team-leading 31 homers, 36 doubles and 97 RBIs are Top 25 in all of baseball. Carroll and Marte are in a four-way tie with nine triples, and Carroll’s .363 OPB is Top 25. Arizona’s team offense might be mediocre, but these three can definitely do damage.

And the Pitching Matchups? What of Them?

Arizona’s pitching is below-average statistically, sporting an ERA+ of 97, a 4.40 FIP, and 1.334 WHIP. Its 743 runs allowed is 11th-worst in baseball, and sixth from the bottom in the NL. The D’backs are a .500 team (39-39) on the road, but our White Sox are 15 games under at home and the hitters have been mailing it in since April, so we very well may see a three-game sweep for a hungry Arizona team.

With MLB’s scheduling change moving Monday’s series opener to Thursday to accommodate rainy conditions of the D’Backs series in New York, and the rainy forecast in Chicago on Tuesday, these matchups are quite jumbled and are certainly subject to further change; pencil these names in on your scorecard accordingly.

Tuesday, September 26

Zach Davies vs José Ureña

Wednesday, September 27

Brandon Pfaadt vs Touki Toussaint

*Pfaadt has never faced anyone on the current White Sox.

Thursday, September 28

Ryne Nelson vs TBD

*Nelson has only faced Trayce Thompson out of everyone on the Sox roster, all the evidence one really needs to glean how infrequently these two teams face off.

Why Do We Hate the D’backs?

While the White Sox try to stave off sheer boredom as they careen towards a 100-loss season while making offseason vacation plans, Arizona still has the inside track of reaching the promised land. Sox fans have rightfully checked out with a week left, and it’s genuinely difficult to muster much hatred for the D’backs, much less compel fans to care about a home series against a team they barely ever face. Aside from having a history of sporting some of the ugliest uniforms in the modern era, I forget the D’backs exists most of the time. If anything, I have sympathy for a long-suffering Arizona fanbase that has endured many years of inept leadership under the sage counsel of such luminary baseball executives as Hall-of-Famer Baseball Person™️ Tony La Russa and others. Sox fans are sadly all-too-familiar with the aftermath of having your team decimated by his archaic touch.

Tell me Sox fans, why do we hate Arizona, and or the greater Phoenix metropolitan area?

Good question.

Seems like the primary reason one would not want to live in an arid wasteland.

And why do we hate the Diamondbacks?

Ah, simple baseball reasons.

Randy Johnson and the infamous bird incident. How can we forget?

Odd neckline fashion choices. And look at that silly baggy sleeveless he’s wearing ...

This is a pain Sox fans know all too well. It is unforgivable. And reason enough for all Sox fans to hate the D’backs forever.

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