A wise man once said, "They are who we thought they were."
At the time, Cardinals coach Dennis Green was referring to the Chicago Bears after his club jumped out to a 20-point lead before collapsing and losing a game in which it allowed all of zero offensive touchdowns to a team that would go on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
It may be a different setting, but those words could very easily apply to the 2013 Arizona Diamondbacks.
Following a busy offseason that saw them deal two-thirds of the outfield that helped win the NL West in 2011, trade a mercurial pitching prospect for a slick-fielding shortstop and sign veterans Brandon McCarthy and Cody Ross, many a baseball pundit predicted the D-backs would be a fairly average ballclub.
Sports Illustrated pegged ranked them the 19th-best team in baseball before the season began, and ESPN.com thought Arizona would finish third in the NL West. And of the 20 MLB.com writers and analysts who made predictions for the upcoming season, just one had the Snakes reaching the postseason.
As of right now, they are second in the NL West, though they are closer to the third-place Rockies (6.5 games) than they are the first-place Dodgers (10.5 games).
D-backs fans may be disappointed, but baseball analysts are being proven right.
What's happened should not have come as a surprise, and deep down, I bet a lot of folks were ready for this. However, the team's great start to the season…or, rather, the Dodgers' miserable start, elevated the D-backs into first, with the expectations of the team rising with them.
Yet, even while they were spending more than two months atop the NL West, they were playing at a fairly pedestrian level. Remember how they would have been leading no division other than the one they were in?
Anyway, their collapse hasn't really been all that collapsey. Check out their month-by-month records:
One losing month, but otherwise the D-backs were pretty consistent.
However, they've been all over the place when it comes to when they play well.
The Diamondbacks have played well at home and poorly on the road. They have a winning record against teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles, but have struggled against the likes of the San Diego Padres, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants.
They've been exceptional in extra innings, but lousy in trying to lock-down late leads. They have a legitimate MVP candidate and a pitcher who could contend for the Cy Young Award, but each is likely to fall short because their surrounding cast has struggled for most of the season.
There is a lot of good, and there is a lot of bad. That is who the Diamondbacks are. This is who the Diamondbacks are.
The D-backs will finish the season around .500, out of the postseason picture but not near the bottom of the NL standings. Given where they were at times in the campaign, it will likely go down as a disappointment in the eyes of many.
But in reality, this team is meeting most reasonable expectations. Now, why were the expectations so low? That's a column for another day.