2012 rewind: D-backs take a step back

No. 7: D-backs struggle to .500 season, cut ties with former mainstays

Top 10 Arizona sports stories of the year, as selected by FOX Sports Arizona staff.

It was not supposed to end this way. After winning the 2011 NL West pennant, the Diamondbacks not only returned most of the pieces from their title team but also strengthened several areas in preparing their defense. Instead of finding a groove, however, the season was more of a rut. The D-backs were never more than four games over .500 or less than five games under while missing the playoffs and finishing at 81-81 and in third place in the NL West.

Early injuries compromised the production of Daniel Hudson, Chris Young and Justin Upton. Hudson missed most of the season because of an elbow injury, and both Young and Upton played with nagging injuries, and their numbers dropped accordingly. But it was more than that. The D-backs never found the kind run that defined their magical charge in 2011, when just about everything seemed to go right. Even with strong seasons from Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel, Miguel Montero and Wade Miley, there was a sense of underachievement when the season ended.

No one typified the changing tide more than fan favorite Ryan Roberts, the Tat-Man whose fist-pumping imitation of Kirk Gibson’s famous 1988 World Series home run trot will have a place in D-backs’ lore forever. Roberts did not recapture his career-year form, and he was traded to Tampa Bay at the July trade deadline.

Stephen Drew, the team’s longest tenured player and starting shortstop since mid-2006, never regained form from the devastating ankle injury he suffered midway through 2011 and followed Roberts out of town in August, getting dealt to Oakland in a salary dump. The same fate befell starting pitcher Joe Saunders (to Baltimore). Young, the starting center fielder since 2007, was the next long-timer to be jettisoned, sent packing to Oakland shortly after the season ended to make room for young Adam Eaton.

— Jack Magruder