Sports | September 28, 2017 8:56 am

What It’s Like to Be Inside an MLB Clubhouse During a Playoff Race

D-Backs broadcaster and former MLB pitcher Tom Candiotti gives RealClearLife an inside look.

Next year, the Arizona Diamondbacks will celebrate their 20th year in the majors, which makes them one of the two youngest franchises in professional baseball (the other is the Tampa Bay Rays).

In that short period, the team has taken home five divisional titles, a pennant, and World Series win, felling a formidable New York Yankees team in 2001, just three years after its inception. That made them the fastest expansion team to ever win a world championship.

In recent years, the D-Backs play has suffered a bit, with losing seasons in 2014, 2015, and 2016, their last divisional title six years ago in 2011. The Los Angeles Dodgers, on the cusp of 100 wins, have made it all but impossible for any team to win the National League West this season. But the D-Backs took the NL wild card by storm, clinching home field advantage in their first-ever wild card game this past Sunday with a walk-off win.

RealClearLife wanted to find out what it’s like to be inside a clubhouse that’s on the verge of a sudden-death wild-card game—and the brink of the playoffs. So we called on longtime D-Backs broadcaster Tom Candiotti, himself a 16-year MLB veteran pitcher, to give us the scoop.

Speaking From Experience
“I ended up making it to the playoffs three times in my career—twice with the Dodgers, once with the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays was the first one, and that was a blast. I had gotten traded that year from the Indians, and you get there, and there’s 50,000 people in the seats and every game meant something, every person was really held accountable for doing their job, and I just loved that. I ate it up. It was just great. And then, stupid me, I signed this free agent contract and left Toronto, and they won the World Series the next two years.”

Keys to the Diamondbacks Resurgence
“I think a couple things this year have really set them apart. Greinke’s been really good, we’ve seen the emergence of [pitcher] Robbie Ray, who’s turned himself into an elite pitcher, and the starting rotation has been phenomenal. This offense clicks; they can go. Especially when we added [outfielder] J.D. Martinez. He was supposed to be a complementary piece, and he ended up being the main piece in our offense. And then one thing I don’t think gets talked about enough is the bullpen, mainly Archie Bradley. Archie has solidified that bullpen. You could put him down as the MVP of the team.”

Who’s the Life of the Locker Room?
“Archie’s probably that guy. He’s vocal, he’s not afraid to put anything out there, so he’s probably that one guy in the clubhouse who will pump guys up.”

What Does It Feel Like to Be in the Clubhouse Right Now?
“Times in baseball have changed over the years. Twenty years ago when I was playing, there was probably a lot more clowning around, playing jokes on guys; you always had that one guy who was picking everybody up. Now there’s so much preparation that when you get done [with a game], you don’t see guys sitting around in front of their lockers. You see them in the video room, taking a look at the pitcher, they’re looking at charts and graphs. They’re so routine-oriented now, you’re not going to see guys tackling each other over couches or anything like that.”

It Pays to Have a Great Skipper
“[Manager] Torey Lovullo is a great communicator, and that has made a big difference. The manager has to win guys over to get the best out of them. Him and his coaching staff. But Tory, being a first-year manager, he’s come in and left his mark with guys. They want to play for him. He was a bench player in his career, so he is really delicate with the bench players. He gives them Sunday to start, and he stays with it, even if it’s a big game. Those guys know that they’re going to play. And their psyched up, they’re ready to go.”

How Do Players View the Wild Card?
“The only problem with the wild-card is you gotta win that first wild card game [to get into the playoffs] compared to before when you were [just] in. But having said that, there’ve been wild card teams that have won the World Series. The [San Francisco] Giants have done that. So that happens now. In our division, it happened early, because the way the streak the Dodgers put on everybody, they blew away from everybody in the division. So you were always just looking at the wild card; you weren’t looking at the division.”

Who Starts the Wild Card Game and Potentially, Game 1 of the Playoffs?
“If we host the wild card game,* I’d start Zack Greinke, only for the fact that he’s 13-1 at home. And if we win that game, we’re most likely going to play against the Dodgers. Robbie Ray is a stud on the road. You’ve got that lefty going against the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium in the first game against [Clayton] Kershaw.”

*RealClearLife interviewed Candiotti before Sunday’s big win.