DAN BICKLEY

D-backs inspire little confidence with befuddling remarks to close season

Sep 29, 2020, 5:21 PM | Updated: 8:37 pm
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)...
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Diamondbacks are in a strange place. They were painfully ill-equipped for a 60-game season. They will go down among the worst sprinters in Major League Baseball history. They parlayed a splashy offseason into a last-place finish in the National League West.

Manager Torey Lovullo is clearly scrambling, saying ridiculous things. Team president Derrick Hall is now referencing two majority owners, and not just the ubiquitous Ken Kendrick. The team also unveiled a second mascot at Chase Field, a grungy rat that might’ve been murdered by the housecat in the season finale.

Here’s what I don’t like:

A handful of players shipped off at trade deadline are doing far more than playing postseason baseball. They are flourishing in different climates, raising red flags that the culture is severely amiss in Arizona.

Are the Diamondbacks guilty of hubris, i.e., arrogance on steroids? Do they falsely believe games are won from the top-down, with algebra and algorithms, long before they reach the baseball field?

Maybe they’re suppressing talent instead of liberating talent, deploying too much analytical information, creating too much internal pressure. Or maybe they’ve just signed the wrong players and the wrong kinds of leaders. Either way:

Entering Tuesday’s playoff games, Jake Lamb was batting .267 with three home runs and nine RBIs with the A’s. He looks nothing like the lost soul who hit .116 with zero power in Arizona.

Robbie Ray crafted a respectable 4.79 ERA in Toronto, much better than the cartoonish 7.84 ERA he posted in the Valley, when every outing with the Diamondbacks brought something new and weird, changing everything from his mechanics to his hairstyle.

Archie Bradley posted a 1.17 ERA with the Reds, a stark contrast to the 4.22 ERA he registered in Arizona. Andrew Chafin has a 3.00 ERA in limited duty with the Cubs, compared to the 8.10 ERA he posted in Arizona. Starling Marte is essentially the same player statistically, but he is also the outlier. And these simultaneous transformations should raise serious concerns.

Not surprisingly, Lovullo sounds like a manager feeling the heat. He boasted that his depleted, last-place team will play with “its hair on fire in 2021.” He vowed the Diamondbacks would’ve chased down some teams ahead of them in the standings if they only had more time.

His words are full of life preservers and artificial sweeteners, and his demeanor reached peak absurdity during an interview with Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Tuesday:

Dave Burns: “If there are no significant changes to your core, do you believe that this team can compete as it’s currently constructed in 2021?”

Lovullo: “I do. I think we have enough pieces here. No doubt about it …”

That’s ridiculous. And when co-host John Gambadaro followed with a stream of data proving how former players are succeeding with other teams in 2020, Lovullo actually said the following:

“Yeah, well, I mean, I don’t know exactly what they’re doing now. I haven’t had a chance to talk to any of them. I’ll probably get a chance to sit down with them after the season to get a bird’s eye view and exactly be able to answer that question …”

I had to go home and rewind the tape, just to be sure. Because it’s laughable for Lovullo to suggest he’ll get any kind of clarity from exit interviews that will never happen with former players like Lamb, Ray, Bradley and Chafin after the season. So why would he say such a thing?

Answer: Desperation.

There seems to be a lot of that in Arizona. During an interview with the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro, Hall said that financial shortcomings and staff layoffs point to diminished payroll in 2021. He said that could conceivably change if attendance restrictions loosen and the two majority owners, Kendrick and Jeff Royer, somehow change their collaborative minds.

Um. What?

It’s depressing enough that the future of our baseball franchise is based on turnstile activity and gate receipts. But who is Jeff Royer and when did he become part of our conversation? How many championship organizations have a pair of policymakers at the top? Maybe partnerships work with superheroes and screenwriters, but they are generally poison to a professional sports franchise.

And, seriously, how many last-place teams about to cut payroll are trying this hard to get you hyped about the future?

Not many. And maybe it’s time the Diamondbacks stop with the B.S. and the mascots and take a long look in the mirror.

Penguin Air

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