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Dan Bickley

If D-backs rebuild immediately, it means trading Paul Goldschmidt

Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt looks for a sign during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Sunday, Sept 9, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

The Diamondbacks are rated PG. For Paul Goldschmidt.

For how long?

Following a sleepy farewell series in San Diego, the Diamondbacks must choose a path, confronting this awful question. To blow it up or bring it back revolves around Goldschmidt’s future in Arizona, a player who still holds iconic status in the Valley.

The head says it’s time to trade him. The heart says he needs to retire in Arizona, one of ours until the bitter end. Because we’ve learned that’s the stuff that really matters.

As of now, it sounds like the organization is straddling the same fence, open to all suggestions.

Goldschmidt has one year left on his bargain-basement contract. He’s 31 years old with one RBI in his past 17 games. He’s swooning for the second consecutive stretch run, once again bowing out of the MVP discussion. He is no longer untouchable.

He’s also one of the best ambassadors the franchise has ever employed, homegrown and humble. My 15-year old son was once indelibly moved by his grace and good nature, and would cease speaking to me if he knew how I pondered his departure.

That’s because Goldschmidt makes Arizonans feel good about the Diamondbacks, and is an asset the team will sorely need going forward. Whatever path they choose.

There is conflicting evidence clouding the process. The Diamondbacks were atop the National League West for 125 days, dwarfing their 18-day stay in 2017. They were in first place on April 1, May 1, July 1, Aug. 1 and Sept. 1. They never spent a day under .500, suggesting our baseball team is close to being special, especially if their bullpen can be repaired in the coming months.

They also had a losing record at home (40-41). They were 19-29 in one-run games entering the final series. The installation of a humidor at Chase Field was a really bad idea, leading to a power outage and psychological barrier for all Diamondbacks hitters.

The team hit 42 fewer home runs in 2018 than they did the previous season, unplugging a tangible home-field advantage at Chase Field, where they posted a 52-29 record in 2017. Their slugging percentage also plummeted from .492 to .398. And here’s the smoking gun:

The Diamondbacks were 21-8 on May 1. They’ve been a bad baseball team ever since. You don’t put off a much-needed rebuilding effort for one-month wonders.

It’s been a long, strange season. Chase Field staged the longest game in team history (5 hours, 46 minutes). It endured a power outage caused by a haboob, although a rogue baboon seemed like a better fit for the tone of the season. The Diamondbacks also lost one of their most passionate customers (Sen. John McCain), a man who once blamed an erratic political performance on a late-night watching his favorite baseball team.

The Diamondbacks drew 2.24 million fans, the most since 2008. But down the stretch, their stadium was stormed and conquered by Cubs fans and Dodgers fans mocking our bandwagon nature. Goldschmidt heard MVP chants inside his own stadium for a guy in the other dugout.

Some believe this team was extinguished by Matt Kemp and that awful series in Los Angeles, by a pair of roundhouse punches finally flattening a battle-weary boxer. It got so bad that manager Torey Lovullo later benched five starters, penciling-in a Triple-A team in the heat of a pennant race. The gimmick prompted serious questions:

Why did Arizona’s core players need so much rest in 2018? Wrong mix of personalities? Not enough alpha males or internal fire? And why were they so fragile in the end, out of fight and out of gas well before the finish line?

The 2018 Diamondbacks could only produce a pair of consolation prizes: a non-losing season and a series victory that kicked the Dodgers out of first place. They were a spoonful of sugar, akin to eating a cupcake. But it won’t last and it’s not enough. And the time is coming for general manager Mike Hazen to build a perennial contender from scratch, executing the job he was hired to perform, a job that has never been done properly in Arizona. So:

How soon is now? If immediately, it all starts with trading Goldschmidt, and I cringe at the sight of him finishing up in another uniform, like Brandon Webb playing for the Rangers, like Randy Johnson winning his 300th game with the Giants. I’m not ready for another lengthy rebuilding effort for another major professional sports team in downtown Phoenix, either.

But I also know this:

I don’t want to see another baseball season like this. Not at Chase Field. Not ever.

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