2001 Diamondbacks should be rememberedBy Matt Verderame
The 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks are not an edition anybody will ever want to remember. While some of the individual performances have been nice, the Diamondbacks are putrid. Going into Monday, they are in last place of the National League West, despite being a hot pick in spring training to reach the World Series.
With so much ugliness in the desert these days, perhaps this is the right time to remember the first and last Arizona team to win a World Series. In 2001, the Diamondbacks came out of nowhere and authored one of the most improbable stories in recent memory, giving us a tremendous campaign.
While that group will be thought of for many reasons, it was the top of the rotation that absolutely dominated at historic levels. Despite playing at the apex of the Steroid Era, the duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were nothing short of brilliant. Johnson was 37 years old and still at the top of his game, sporting a 21-6 record with a 2.49 ERA. Johnson also racked up an absurd 372 strikeouts and 1.01 WHIP. Schilling was right there with Johnson, earning a 22-6 record as a 34-year-old hurler. Schilling also pitching six complete games, helping Arizona win 92 contests on the year.
While the rest of the starting staff was forgettable at best (seriously, can you name any of the other three guys? No? They were Brian Anderson, Albie Lopez and Robert Ellis), the Diamondbacks were able to roll in the National League. Of course, it wasn’t just a two-man show. The lineup had no less than eight players who swatted double-digit home runs, including an all-time great season from Luis Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’s campaign is forgotten because of the age in which it happened, but it was legendary. The outfielder – who was never connected to steroid use in any real way – bashed his way to a .325 average with 57 home runs and 142 RBI. he also had plenty of support, due in large part to right fielder Reggie Sanders. Sanders, one of the most underrated players of the last 20 years, crushed 33 home runs and knocked in 90 runs. Veterans such as Mark Grace, Jay Bell and Matt Williams also contributed, combining for 44 dingers and more than 150 RBI.
Ultimately, Arizona would get to the World Series and play a series truly worth being called the Fall Classic against the New York Yankees. After taking a 2-0 series lead, the Diamondbacks lost all three games at Yankee Stadium, including two that they led in the ninth inning.
Once back in Arizona, the Diamondbacks cruised in Game 6 before staging a heroic comeback in the bottom o the ninth against Mariano Rivera. The game would end on a bloop single off the bat of Gonzalez, capping off a fairytale ending.
Arizona may be awful now, but there were once glorious times.