MIAMI -- A year that started with lofty expectations hit its midpoint last season with Paul Goldschmidt sitting in a San Diego ballroom representing the D-backs, alone, on the eve of the 2016 All-Star Game. It was a visual that captured how far short the D-backs had fallen of expectations after going all-in to build a contender.
The scene was starkly different on Monday, as Goldschmidt had several teammates with whom to share the spotlight while fielding questions in advance of the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard in Miami. Teammates Zack Greinke, Jake Lamb and Robbie Ray were there, too, giving the D-backs four All-Stars for the third time in franchise history and first time in 15 years.
"When your team is playing well, it's not just because of one person. It's a group of guys," said Goldschmidt, an All-Star for the fifth straight year. "As good a first half as we had, I think it is a good reflection having four All-Stars here. A huge reason we've had the success is because of the other guys here."
It may have come a year later than hoped, but, yes, it is proper representation for a team that has been one of baseball's best through the first half. Arizona's 53 wins rank second in the National League, and it placed more All-Stars on the NL squad than every team except division leaders Washington and Los Angeles.
"We're playing really good baseball, and it's not just us four that are contributing to that play," said Lamb, a first-time All-Star. "It's the whole team. It's been a lot of fun."
These four, though, have been especially integral, and they personify the way Arizona built a team eyeing a deep October run.
There's Goldschmidt, the homegrown superstar, who may just finally win that MVP Award that could have been his four seasons ago. Greinke was the marquee free agent whose decision to sign with Arizona in December 2015 legitimized the organization's belief that it was ready to contend.
Lamb, a former sixth-round pick by the D-backs, may be one of the more underrated cleanup hitters in the game. And Ray, with the help of a curveball, has reinvented himself since coming over as one piece in a three-team trade made after the 2014 season.
"I feel like we've always had the talent there," said Ray, also a first-time All-Star. "It's a matter of staying healthy and kind of figuring it out. Our pitching has been really good. Our hitting has been great. It was just a matter of everything kind of coming together at the same time."
Due recognition from their peers has followed, as all four players were named to the NL team via the player ballot.
It'll make for a different experience for Goldschmidt, who has either appeared alone or with one other teammate since making his first All-Star squad in 2013. He was glad to have the company.
"The past few years, it feels like it's just been Goldy," Ray said. "To have four guys come this year is huge. Every one of these guys is deserving of a spot on this team."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.