Feb 24, 2012; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Ian Kennedy (31) during a bullpen session during spring training at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
Will the 2012 Dbacks wilt under the pressure of expectations?
For quite a while now, Phoenix sports fans have been know to be quite fickle. As a general rule, teams that aren't winning don't get watched or get attendance. If the team has been bad and starts playing well, fans wait to see if it's for real. If the team is expected to be good but begins to struggle, fans bail quickly.
There are many possible explanations. The weather is great, so it's not the end of the world. There still is not a strong native Arizona fan base. Thousands of people have allegiances to the teams they grew up watching not in Arizona. The teams are too young to have a passionate fanbase.
We can explain it away, but it really doesn't matter. The reality is that Arizona fans really only want to cheer for winning teams.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in a very interesting position. Their success on the field last season did not translate into attendance for most of the year. However, now there are some pretty high expectations of the team, as national media are going as far as to say they could be a possible World Series team.
The fans are starting to pay attention. Team president Derrick Hall revealed that the team has sold 1300 more season ticket packages and that season ticket renewals are at about 90 percent.
There is a buzz with the team.
They won the division. They brought back all of the key pieces. They improved (on paper) their starting rotation and added quality arms to the bullpen. They have three pitching prospects considered among the top prospects in all the minor leagues still waiting for their big league shot.
This is the key now. How will the team respond?
Last season, it made its reputation on responding to adversity. How will it respond to expectations?
The fans are there waiting.
If the team comes out of the gate and plays well, the city will catch fire with Diamondbacks fever. That's how our fans work here. Remember all those really, really bad Cardinals teams? The second they started being competitive, it was like they were gods.
Even this season with the Cardinals it happened. They had a record turnout at training camp. Web traffic for Revenge of the Birds, our Cardinals team blog, was soaring before the season started. When the losing streak happened, it was almost immediate. No one was looking for the Cardinals online. Their subsequent winning streak led to the hope of the playoffs and again web traffic spiked.
Once they were eliminated, it waned again.
In 2008, the Diamondbacks withered under the expectations of a followup great season. They started extremely hot, but then fell apart. It has been since then that the fans have sort of ignored the team. That is, until now.
Now the fans are ready to pay attention. It will be up to the team to not let them down or to lose their attention. The same grit we here at this site mocked the team for needs to be evident. They need to win games early. They need to get good pitching. They need good bullpen arms.
If they can do it, we have seen how the town gets taken over with love and passion about a team.
There is a lot more pressure on the team this year. If they can live up to the expectations, there will be a new wave of dedicated Dbacks fans.
Can they do it? I don't doubt they can. But if there is a guy that get them there, it is manager Kirk Gibson.