The expectations for these two teams couldn't have been more different entering the season. The Milwaukee Brewers were clearly loading up for a big playoff push before the potential departure of Prince Fielder as a free agent. The Arizona Diamondbacks were supposed to be in the proverbial "rebuilding" mode, having finished in last place in the NL West in 2010, and expected by many to continue that process in their first full season with general manager Kevin Towers and manger Kirk Gibson.
The Brew Crew got what they were expecting out of their investment into this season, but the D-backs completed a worst-to-first transition with a lot of credit being given to the "clubhouse culture" instituted by Gibson, an interesting contrast to some of the stories coming out now about the Red Sox's failure to make the postseason. I'm based in Arizona, so the D-backs are the team I see more than any other. And while I think the influences of things like the culture or clubhouse mood or chemistry can be vastly overstated at times, I will say this: Gibson had the 2011 version of the D-backs honestly believing they were never out of any game, no matter the score. The team led baseball in come-from-behind victories -- none crazier than their final one of the season, scoring six in the 10th inning Tuesday, capped by a walk-off grand slam by Ryan Roberts after giving up five runs in the top of the frame. Obviously, their season was mostly about on-field improvement, but the off-field difference is at least worth mentioning.