The brawl. Dodgers versus Diamondbacks. At the time, last place versus first place. Ian Kennedy hits Dodger hotshot Yasiel Puig with a pitch. I don't believe Kennedy meant to hit him in the nose. But whether he did or not, the Diamondbacks should have expected retribution. Zack Greinke tried several times to hit Miguel Montero with a pitch before finally plunking the Arizona catcher. And then, the dreaded "unwritten rules of baseball" came into play -- rules that no player or manager has the same opinion on how to enforce. Kennedy felt justified throwing at Greinke. However, Kennedy hit the star pitcher, just off of the DL, in the shoulder. Benches cleared. A giant was awoken. The Puig-led Dodgers became the best team in baseball overnight and proceeded to breeze to the division title and peed in a pool.
BIGGEST SHOCK: Ian Kennedy's season
If I would have told you that Ian Kennedy would be pitching for the Padres by season's end, you would have called the cops. A year-and-a-half ago, general manager Kevin Towers was discussing one of those premature, long-term contracts for Kennedy that mid-to-small market clubs use to keep star players in the organization. The idea being to pay young stars years before they reach free agency to avoid the first eligible years of free agency and losing said star to high bidders. For three consecutive seasons, Kennedy began the year as staff ace. But for two consecutive seasons, he was unable to regain his 2011 form. At the deadline, Towers traded "Nerfbeard" to a division rival for table scraps. No one saw that coming.
TEAM MVP: Paul Goldschmidt
No brainer here. The first baseman may actually win the league's MVP honor. He certainly has the numbers for it, leading the senior circuit in home runs and RBI. He even leads the Diamondbacks in stolen bases.
WORST PERFORMANCE: Kevin Towers
He built a team around bullpen and grit. The bullpen blew more saves than any group in the National League, and the "gritty" D-backs rolled over the moment the more talented Dodgers made their charge.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Patrick Corbin
The lefty had a rough second half, but we saw enough from him this season to know what his ceiling is. At 24, Corbin pitched his way into the All-Star Game on the strength of one of the nastiest sliders in baseball. His 9-1 record and 2.49 ERA at the break weren't flukes. The guy is a natural athlete, who is going to get better with age and added strength.
NEXT YEAR'S BREAKOUT PLAYER: Archie Bradley
The Diamondbacks' top prospect will be invited to Major League spring training in 2014 and will be given a shot at winning a spot in the rotation. Bradley posted a 1.84 ERA in the minors this year, striking out 162 batters over 152 innings of work. He is a big strong kid with one of those "Nuke LaLoosh" thunderbolts for an arm. His off-speed pitches still need refinement, but even if Archie doesn't break camp with the big league club, his Major League debut will occur in '14.
BIGGEST OVERSELL: Adam Eaton
The competition for this distinction is fierce. After all, Kevin Towers sold us Didi Gregorius as Derek Jeter-like and has compared the newly-acquired Matt Stites to the best closer in the game, Craig Kimbrel (Stites wasn't considered a top-20 prospect for San Diego). Towers effusively praised Eaton as the leadoff hitter the organization has lacked for years. Injuries, base running blunders, a .266 batting average, a .320 on-base percentage and five stolen bases probably wasn't what the team had in mind for their new center fielder.
BIGGEST UNDERSELL: Josh Collmenter
All we've heard since he broke into the league is that hitters will figure him and his funky delivery out, and when they do, Collmenter's career is in trouble. Three years later, he's still a very effective pitcher. The organization hasn't pressed him into one of the higher-profile roles of starter or closer or even setup man, but perhaps they should. Right now, he fills the role of teammate willing to pitch in whenever he's asked.
BIGGEST CONCERN: Tyler Skaggs
Skaggs is taking the month of September off to "clear his mind." What seems to be troubling the 22-year-old is an issue that needs to be solved between now and 2014. The left-hander spent spring training competing with Patrick Corbin for the fifth and final rotation spot. Corbin won the job and ended up making the All-Star team. Skaggs had his ERA climb from 2.87 last year to 4.60 in 2013. He's reportedly lost velocity, fastball command and confidence. The future of the organization was to be built around great young arms. Ian Kennedy is a Padre, Jarrod Parker is in Oakland, Trevor Bauer is in Cleveland, Daniel Hudson required a second Tommy John surgery this season, and now Skaggs needs to "clear his mind." Uh-oh.
BEST MOVE OF 2013: Corbin over Randall Delgado for the fifth spot in the rotation -- although, I still don't understand why it took 'til the last day of spring training to make the call.
WORST MOVE OF 2013: Trading for Heath Bell
Even though the trade took place in 2012, committing $13 million over two years for a setup man bothers more than Bell's waning abilities.
THE MOVE NOT TO MAKE FOR 2014: Long-term extension for Gerardo Parra.
I really like Parra. Frankly, I wonder why the D-backs have annually plugged him into a reserve role only to relent to his ability to play every day. However, those premature contracts I mentioned earlier? They're meant for the Goldschmidts and Evan Longorias of the world, not the Gerardo Parras.
THE MOVE TOWERS WILL MAKE FOR 2014: Phil Hughes... to the bullpen
The man's obsessed. Bullpen, bullpen, bullpen. So despite the desperate need for starting pitching and a power hitter to protect Goldy, you can bet the Diamondbacks' GM will acquire more bullpen help for 2014. Phil Hughes is a free agent who seems to have lost his touch as a starter. But at only 27, maybe Towers can talk him into working out of the pen. If not Hughes, Joe Smith, Joaquin Benoit and Jesse Crain have KT written all over them as well.
PLAYER I'VE GIVEN UP ON: Trevor Cahill. Trade him.
PLAYER I EXPECT TO BOUNCE BACK IN 2014: David Hernandez
PLAYER WHO NEEDS TO WORRY ABOUT HIS OWN GAME RATHER THAN CONSTANTLY WORRYING ABOUT HOW OTHERS ARE PLAYING THE GAME: Miguel Montero
PLAYER WHO SETTLED DOWN AND PITCHED BETTER THAN ANYONE HAS ACKNOWLEDGED: J.J. Putz has a 2.48 ERA for the season, and has allowed only two earned runs in the second half of the season.
BIGGEST DISAPPEARING ACT: Jason Kubel. Five home runs and 32 RBI? What happened there?
BEST REAPPEARING ACT: Martin Prado. After struggling in the first half, the veteran has 47 second-half RBI.
MY 2013 PRESEASON PREDICTION: 2nd
2013 FINISH: 2nd
MY EARLY 2014 PREDICTION: 4th