The second half of the Arizona sports year was almost as exciting as the first half -- except that most of what happened was pretty awful.
In case you somehow missed the first part of my year in review, you should probably go here and catch yourself up. Got it? Good.
Now with the year down to its final day, I'm back to review the final six months of the year. Warning: it's not quite as pretty as the first six months. The D-backs sucked, the Suns lost Amar'e, and the Cardinals suffered through an awful regular season. None of it was a laugh riot.
What Went Right:
When the D-backs traded Edwin Jackson to Chicago for Daniel Hudson and David Holmberg, it felt like a steal. Jackson didn't produce much outside of his no-hitter, while Hudson was one of the Sox top prospects -- though he had struggled in his brief stints in the majors.
But when I knew it was a steal was when Hudson started 11 games for Arizona, going 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA. Hudson is a guy with top of the rotation potential, while Jackson has probably maxed out.
Sure Arizona dealt him for a player to be named later but they were happy to find anyone who wanted to take the reliever with the lofty ERA. I have a feeling the D-Backs would have taken some shampoo for Baxter if offered.
What Went Wrong:
Ultimately, this was a thing that went right for the D-backs, since they now have more competent people in each position, but it's never terribly exciting when both your GM and manager are fired on the same day.
Byrnes was canned just three years into a ridiculous eight-year contract, while Hinch was sent packing less than a year after the severely unqualified guy was hired.
Jerry DiPoto took over reshaping the roster while Kirk Gibson was named interim manager.
For over four years, Amar'e Stoudemire existed as the subject of trade rumors -- and for four years, he wasn't dealt.
Following the Suns deep playoff run, there was renewed optimism that the team and Stoudemire could come to a deal that would help him remain with the team that drafted him in 2002.
However, it ultimately came down to guaranteed money and how much Phoenix was willing to offer. The Suns promised to guarantee the first few years of the deal, but had the final two years contingent on STAT reaching certain minutes per game limitations.
New York offered the full five-year max and Amar'e was reunited with former Suns coach Mike D'Antoni. That's Amar'e.
Faced with trying to replace Amar'e Stoudemire and without a general manager, the Suns decided to get all non-traditional and dealt Leandro Barbosa to Toronto in exchange for small forward Hedo Turkoglu.
Turkoglu was coming off one of the worst seasons of his career after signing a long-term deal with Toronto, but the Suns hoped he could recapture some of the success he had with Orlando.
The initial concept was to use Hedo at the power forward position -- the idea went exactly as well as everyone thought it would go at the time.
It's difficult to really classify where a trade for prospects should go so don't think too much about where this is located.
With Arizona hopelessly out of contention, they attempted to cash-in on Dan Haren when he was traded to the Angels for major leaguer Joe Saunders and prospects Rafael Rodriguez, Patrick Corbin, and Tyler Skaggs.
It's hard to judge the trade until the prospects debut, but Saunders was pretty much the definition of mediocre (4.25 ERA) in his first 13 starts in the desert.
Though the Sean Miller era was well under way, the Wildcats were penalized by the NCAA for major violations, including recruiting inducements and ineligible student athletes playing in games when Lute Olson was head coach.
U of A was put on two years' probation, lost their wins from the 2007-2008 season, and lost one scholarship in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.
What Went Right:
I put this in the "right" column basically because they needed to name a damn starter just days before their opening game.
Dennis Erickson settled on Threet, the junior transfer, over Brock Osweiler and while Threet would have his moments on the season, he had a very up and down year.
It was a little August victory over the Padres, but it represented the D-backs' first winning month since the previous August.
Arizona went 16-13 in their first full month with Kirk Gibson at the helm.
What Went Wrong:
After a few seasons away, the Arena Football League Arizona Rattlers returned to action and, in their first season, clinched a playoff berth.
The playoffs didn't last too long, though, as Spokane edged Arizona 57-49 in a game that I didn't see.
Two weeks prior, the D-backs had set their franchise low for attendance when the Nationals came to town on a Wednesday and only 15,670 people cared to come out.
Now, with the playoff-bound Reds coming in, it got even lower. Only 15,509 people saw Cincinnati score eight runs in the final two innings to defeat the D-backs 11-7. Apparently, the Rodrigo Lopez v. Edison Volquez match-up wasn't enough to bring people to the yard.
Though Ken Whisenhunt attempted to be very clear in stating that they just wanted to get a look at DA with the starters, the death of Matt Leinart's Cardinal career occurred when Anderson was named the starter for the Cardinals preseason test against the Bears.
What Went Right:
Darnell Dockett had been anything but quiet about his desire to have a contract extension in place prior to the final year of his old contract -- and that's just what he got on the first day of September.
The defensive lineman is a two-time Pro Bowler and tied a Super Bowl record with three sacks. He has struggled this season, but he's expected to be the anchor of the defense for years to come.
Though Jerry DiPoto had done a job that was universally praised, the D-backs organization could not resist the opportunity to bring in veteran GM Kevin Towers.
Towers has experience winning on a budget, as evidenced by his four division titles and one World Series appearance in 14 years in San Diego.
The new GM has already put his stamp on the organization, handing Kirk Gibson the full time manager job, keeping Jerry DiPoto around, and dumping a number of players from the previous regime.
It wasn't pretty, but on the opening weekend of the NFL season, the Cardinals went into St. Louis and beat the Rams 17-13.
If we'd only known at the time that this was going to be the peak of the season for Derek Anderson (85.1 QB rating), Adrian Wilson (interception, blocked kick), and probably the Cardinals themselves, who advanced to 1-0.
Larry Fitzgerald caught the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Any time a top 10 team out of conference foe comes into your house, it's a big opportunity. And on this night, it was not one 24th ranked Arizona was going to let pass them by.
Mike Stoops' boys jumped all over Iowa right from the get-go, taking a 27-7 halftime lead. Though they had to survive a late rally, Arizona hung on for a 34-27 win that seemingly legitimized the program.
Sure, both teams would go on to finish 7-5, but at the time, this was big.
When Alvin Gentry joined the Suns as an assistant coach under Mike D'Antoni, he may have thought he was finished as a head coach. Stints with the Heat and Pistons did not last terribly long, while a two-plus year term with the Clippers was, well, a two-plus year run with the Clippers.
After Terry Porter was canned in early 2009, Gentry took over on an interim basis and was quickly a player favorite.
In his first full season, Gentry helped lead the Suns to a 54-28 record and a berth in the Western Conference Finals while developing a bench the Suns hadn't previously had.
For his trouble, Gentry had his option picked up for the 2011-2012 season in July. Yet when Lon Babby took over, he extended Gentry for three additional years.
It remains to be seen how successful Gentry will be without Amar'e Stoudemire.
What Went Wrong:
It was never expected to be perfect when the Cardinals went into an offseason where they were going to transition their QB position from Kurt Warner to Matt Leinart, but it was supposed to go better than this.
Two years after losing his job to Warner in the preseason, Leinart apparently did nothing to impress Ken Whisenhunt through training camp or the preseason and was demoted to the backup quarterback position behind Derek Anderson.
Whisenhunt and the organization didn't think Leinart could handle relegation to the backup role, so they granted him his release just a few weeks later. Thus ended an era that started so promisingly for the Cardinals and the former Heisman winning golden boy.
The reign of the defending WNBA champions ended when they lost Game 2 of their Western Conference Finals series 2-0 to the Seattle Storm.
The Merc held a 19-point lead, but a furious rally led by MVP Lauren Jackson of the Storm was too much for Diana Taurasi and company to overcome.
On the same day that their counterparts to the south came up with a huge victory over a Big Ten opponent, ASU failed in a similar opportunity.
Despite a missed 25-yard field goal in the first quarter, ASU had a lead of 10-6 in the second quarter and had the game tied in the third. But the real soul killer was late in the fourth. With Wisconsin up 20-13 late in the final quarter, Cameron Marshall scored a touchdown to bring ASU within one. Unfortunately, Thomas Weber's extra point attempt was blocked and ASU never saw the ball again.
What Went Right:
They beat Iowa and handled Cal then they got into the top 10. In the history of the University of Arizona football program, this would be just the 22nd week they were ranked in the top 10.
Nearly nine months to the day after the Saints ended the Cardinals playoff dreams, New Orleans came into University of Phoenix Stadium and lost.
After Derek Anderson started the first four games of the season for the Cardinals and was exactly as uninspiring as you'd expect, the undrafted rookie from BYU was named the starter and "led" the Cards to a win.
Hall was distinctly below average in the game (17/27, 168, 1 INT), but was bailed out by some conveniently recovered fumbles and a pair of defensive touchdowns. This would represent the peak of the Max Hall era.
What Went Wrong:
Following their win over Iowa, Arizona found itself up to #9 in the college football rankings -- lofty territory for the Wildcats.
But in their first test as a newly-minted Top 10 team, they fell at home to a pedestrian Oregon State team that would go on to finish the season 7-5.
Arizona would win their next three games, but this loss was a sign of things to come later in the year.
Remember the peak of the Max Hall era? Well, this game served as the reality of the Max Hall era.
In his second start, Hall and his tiny hands handled the rainy conditions at Qwest Field like a bad quarterback with tiny hands would be expected to. Hall was 4/16 for 36 yards, an interception and a fumble before being benched following the first drive of the third quarter.
Arizona turned the ball over five times in the game and never really gave themselves a chance to contend against the thoroughly unimpressive Seahawks.
What Went Right:
Though not as directly soul-crushing as the loss to Wisconsin, ASU's kicking game again bit them in the butt in a road visit to USC.
After taking a 33-29 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, Thomas Weber had another extra point blocked, but this time it was returned by USC for two points.
Needing only a field goal, USC converted and grabbed the lead on a 29-yard kick with just over three minutes left. Weber had a chance to play hero again, but missed a 42-yarder that would have put ASU back in the lead.
What Went Wrong:
The title pretty much says it all here. The Cardinals were coming off a tough loss to Tampa Bay in which they blew a fourth quarter lead, but when they led 24-10 with under five minutes remaining against Minnesota, you'd figure they'd be able to turn it around.
At the time, Minnesota was actually a bigger mess than the Cardinals -- coach Brad Childress would be fired just two weeks later -- but they were still able to muster a rally behind the arm of Brett Favre and lack of defense from Arizona.
Already with a five-game losing streak in tow, the Cardinals held onto slim hopes for the NFC West crown when they invited the Niners to town for a Monday Night Football match-up sure to disappoint the nation.
And disappoint it did. Arizona fumbled on their first offensive play and things didn't really improve from there in a 27-6 rout.
The real fun started post-game when Derek Anderson flipped out on Arizona Republic beat writer Kent Somers for questioning why he would be laughing on the sidelines in the late stages of a blowout. It (and airmailing passes) will be DA's legacy as a Cardinal.
What Went Right:
For a change, the Devils won a game based on their special teams. With Steven Threet out with an injury, Brock Osweiler got an opportunity to start and performed quite solidly for ASU.
That performance notwithstanding, Arizona scored a touchdown with 27 seconds left to tie the score. All they needed was a PAT. Arizona State blocked Alex Zendejas' low extra point attempt and the game went to overtime.
After trading field goals in the first overtime and touchdowns in the second, Arizona found themselves again facing a PAT to tie the score -- and again they failed.
This is the only place on this list where I will address the Coyotes bankruptcy situation and hopefully the only one that ultimately matters.
The maligned franchise has seen a litany of buyers come through, but it was the city of Glendale stepping in to ease the cost of running the franchise that helped clear the way for Matthew Hulsizer to purchase the team and keep them in Phoenix.
No matter where you stand on the politics of the matter, sports-wise it's good to keep the Coyotes in Glendale.
Seeking to undo a mistake (Hedo) and add some size, the Suns traded Turkoglu, Earl Clark, and playoff hero Jason Richardson to Orlando in exchange for Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, and Vince Carter.
The actually payoff from the trade is far from known at this point, but Gortat and Pietrus add a much-needed defensive presence to a team struggling to get stops. One of the real boons from the deal was getting rid of Turkoglu's contract. Man, people hated that guy.
Although their playoff hopes had ended a week earlier and winning ultimately cost the team draft position, the Cardinals gave their fans a solid Christmas present with a win over the Cowboys.
Arizona jumped out to a 21-3 lead on the back of a pick-six by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, another one by Greg Toler, and a long bomb to Andre Roberts (as aided by a Dallas defender tripping). The easy scores helped mask the Cardinals' complete inability to move the ball and, following a late Dallas touchdown, the Cowboys led 26-24. A missed extra point by David Buehler gave the Cardinals a chance to win with a field goal.
On their final drive, the Cardinals fell into a fourth-and-15 situation, but a long pass to Larry Fitzgerald (his first catch of the game) and a 19-yarder by Max Komar set Jay Feely up for a game-winning 48-yard attempt. The Cardinals offensive MVP drilled it and the Cards had themselves their fifth win. All hail the mighty John Sketlon (and forget he went 11/25).
What Went Wrong:
See above except think about this sadly instead of happily.
By the time the Rams came to Glendale, the season was basically already a lost cause for the 3-8 Cardinals. It was a matter of if and not when they would seal a losing season. It frankly happened in quite appropriate fashion.
In what was probably the last start of Derek Anderson's Cardinal career, he sucked about as much as he usually sucked and was replaced by unpolished rookie John Skelton.
Neither guy was able to take the Cardinals into the end zone in a game St. Louis tried to give away.
If there's such a thing as a low point of a probable four-win season, this was almost certainly it. At no point had the 1-12 Carolina Panthers showed much fight during a lost season, but that didn't stop them from opening up a 19-3 lead on the Cardinals.
Though Arizona fought back to 19-12, it was still a loss to a one-win team. Brutal.