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Dan Bickley

Like Warner, Goldschmidt overcame adversity without a complaint

Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt, center, is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Tuesday, June 19, 2018, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Fresh energy fills the Valley. The Cardinals have their quarterback of the future. The Suns drafted an impact center. Within 24 hours, we added an Ayton and a Hayton.

Somehow, we’re missing the best story of all.

His name is Paul Goldschmidt, and he did not work on Sunday. But he’s never stood taller, never been stronger. At his worst, he has been his very best.

Imagine the torment that should’ve been swirling inside Goldschmidt’s head during the month of May: 30 years old and can’t hit; no longer barreling up fastballs; batting .198 in May; always late at the plate, looking painfully uncomfortable; giving the Diamondbacks every reason to plan a future without him.

He never flinched.

During his stellar career, Goldschmidt has been the rarest of franchise players. He signed a five-year deal worth $32 million, and has never once complained about the one-sided contract. He’s never internalized the embarrassment that would fill lesser players with rage. During the worst slump of his career, he never lost what makes him special.

Goldschmidt has 11 home runs in his past 22 games. He looks like a different player, lifting a sagging team out of their May swoon. He’s currently the best hitter outside of Mike Trout, who pulled off a similar feat in 2014. The Angels’ star won his first MVP award in a season where his batting average dropped 75 points in May.

Goldschmidt has twice finished second in National League MVP voting. He finished third in 2017, coughing up the award when his late-season slide coincided with the heroics of J.D. Martinez. Imagine if Goldschmidt rallies from rock bottom, becoming the Valley’s first MVP since Steve Nash.

It could happen. His stoic persistence and poise will surely help his potential candidacy, as will the relaunch of the surging Diamondbacks.

Humility has always defined Goldschmidt, separating him from a generation of me-first athletes weaned on self-promotion. But it’s easy to be modest on the wings of success. True character only blooms in the face of failure. It’s heartwarming to know that Goldschmidt’s awful adventure in adversity only confirms his greatness, his special place in Valley history.

We may never know what prompted Goldschmidt to look so lost at the plate. The Diamondbacks have pledged undying allegiance to analytics, an approach that has served this franchise very well under the direction of general manager Mike Hazen. But the team’s sudden shift in hitting philosophy late last season is powerful circumstantial evidence that they marginalized Goldschmidt with information overload, a subject that seems to make the new regime a bit defensive.

Even now, the team shows a maddening tendency to rest players in the midst of hot streaks and good performances. Whatever data leads to those conclusions, it sends a convoluted message to the clubhouse. Baseball players are extremely superstitious and dependent on routine. No player wants a day off when living in the zone.

Either way, Goldschmidt never pointed a finger or made excuses. Somewhere near rock bottom, he offered his most memorable quote as a member of the Diamondbacks, relayed by the manager in a post-game press conference.

Just tell them I suck?

Not today. And he shouldered it all without a whimper or hint of weakness.

Kurt Warner once displayed a similar show of heart with the Cardinals. When his starting job was handed to Matt Leinart, Warner knew it was an egregious mistake, properly convinced he was the better player. But he never plead his case, on or off the record. He never undermined his teammate. He served the team and not himself.

Still, Goldschmidt was dealing with more than injustice. He was searching to find his missing talent, a stricken slugger dropped in the lineup, no longer feared by opposing pitchers, all while attempting to hit a baseball, the hardest single act in sports.

Goldschmidt never lost his mind or his way. He was a deep-rooted tree in a hurricane. If his struggles are over for good, he will do more than power to the Diamondbacks to the postseason, resurfacing as an MVP candidate once again.

He will force the Diamondbacks to make good on his contract. The alternative would be far too ruthless for a franchise that prides itself on serving the community, rewarding the good guys. And it would leave an ugly question in the wake:

If you won’t take care of a guy like Goldschmidt, then who?

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier