PHOENIX — From the moment the first pitch was thrown in the National League Division Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks never appeared to be their true selves.
The moment seemed to be too much. At times, even overwhelming.
Back in front of their home crowd on Monday night in a must-win scenario, the Diamondbacks improbable season came to an end as they were swept out of the best-of-five series by the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 3-1 loss.
“We gave everything we had until the end,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We’re all hurting right now, but I’m extremely proud of everything this team accomplished this season.”
It all began on Opening Day. A walk-off win over the San Francisco Giants helped lay the foundation of a 2017 season that very few envisioned for the Diamondbacks.
After going 69-93 in 2016 and beginning a season with a first-year manager and a new front office, expectations were capped. But as the season progressed and the victories mounted, the feeling of winning baseball quickly returned to the desert. A resurgence of excitement filled the clubhouse throughout the season and as the postseason neared, things felt different.
“I know collectively as a group we’re going to look back on this year as one that was very productive. We have laid a lot of good bricks down on our foundation,” Lovullo said. “It doesn’t happen by accident. You have to build that foundation, and that’s something that we’re doing every single day here.”
The message that was spoken from day one by Lovullo to his team will be felt for years to come. Players have expressed the sentiments of the message, how it helped this year’s team and why it allowed them to succeed in the fashion they did.
Leaders in the clubhouse like Archie Bradley bought into the process this season and will look to share it with future teammates moving forward.
“The hair on my neck stood up a little bit,” Bradley said earlier in the postseason about Lovullo’s message. “I felt from that first meeting with (him), the words he spoke, they kind of hit me. And it was the first time in a while when your quote, leader or coach, the guy you’re going to follow for the season, says something and you stood up a little straighter.”
Often, it can be tough to watch good things come to an end. In this case, Diamondbacks players could only watch from the dugout as baseball’s best team celebrated on their home field. But as the mourning process begins and the season concludes, the process of transforming an entire organization is just beginning.
“We kind of worked through the heavy-lifting phase,” Lovullo said. “We advanced to the playoffs this year. We’re very proud of that.”
The Diamondbacks displayed a great deal of excitement in 2017 for a fan base that has been hurting for winning baseball.
With Paul Goldschmidt leading the way as an NL MVP candidate, breakout years for Jake Lamb and Robbie Ray, veteran presence down the stretch in the form of players like Daniel Descalso, Gregor Blanco and Chris Iannetta, it was a team that never ceased to surprise.
But as they reflect on both the good and bad of their season, the future appears brighter than ever for the Diamondbacks organization.
“My promise is to this team, this organization, this town, city, state, that I’m going to work as tirelessly as I possibly can until we turn the page and win a World Championship here,” Lovullo said.
“This organization is in good hands, and I think there’s going to be a lot of successful years in the future.”