2023 was set up from the start as a new wrinkle in baseball's developing rivalry between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
Apologies to the San Francisco Giants, but following a year where the Dodgers won 111 games, still fell in the NLDS, then ditched several of their veterans as the Padres added premium talent (seemingly daily), Los Angeles and San Diego are on a different stratosphere at the moment.
But ... wait one minute ... because the early-season race for the NL West had the Padres tied for first entering play on Wednesday (naturally) with ... the Arizona Diamondbacks?
Though MLB's power rankings continue to snub them, the D-Backs started the year off with a stunningly difficult slate, battling the Dodgers eight times before April 10. Balanced schedule, we thought? Huh. Interesting vibes.
Arizona took well to that challenge, splitting the opening set and taking 3/4 at home. Suddenly, the young Snakes are threatening to arrive a year or two early, throwing an interesting wrench into the race to the top.
Diamondbacks proving Dodgers, Padres need to take them seriously
If nothing else, the speedy, scrappy, bunt-forward Diamondbacks are proving they will be a thorn in both teams' sides as the year progresses.
We should've known it prior to Opening Day, though. After all, this is the team that decided they had enough outfield talent to sell high on Daulton Varsho, acquiring top catching prospect Gabriel Moreno in the process.
So far, Varsho has brought his regularly-scheduled electric defense to Toronto and has carried the bat well, but Corbin Carroll and Jake McCarthy have revved the Diamondbacks' engine just fine in his absence (McCarthy's name might forever be associated with his game-winning bunt at Dodger Stadium, at least in certain neightborhoods).
Add in Moreno's early returns -- he's lowered his pop time to 1.91 seconds and has gunned down 4-out-of-5 runners with a strong arm -- and it seems Arizona might've sped up their trajectory a bit.
Even Kevin Durant's paying attention now.
The Diamondbacks have more talent in the pipeline, with Andruw Jones' son Druw and shortstop Jordan Lawlar still honing their skills in the minors, while starter Brandon Pfaadt seems ready for a midseason cameo.
What we've seen so far in 2023 might not be a sustainable start, but the Diamondbacks could be here to drive a wedge through the NL West all year long, with designs of contending by next season. Better enjoy the two-team rivalry while you can, Juan Soto.