D-backs GM Hazen dealing with wife’s cancer fight, loaded NL West

Feb 17, 2021, 8:51 AM
Mike Hazen introduced as the Arizona Diamondbacks new executive vice president and general manager....
Mike Hazen introduced as the Arizona Diamondbacks new executive vice president and general manager. (Photo by Alexis Ramanjulu/Cronkite News)
(Photo by Alexis Ramanjulu/Cronkite News)

There is no tailwind in Arizona. There is no hype preceding our baseball team. It feels like the yawn of a new era.

But the Diamondbacks are always most dangerous when doubted. And you’ll find no bigger underdog than Mike Hazen.

The D-backs’ general manager and his family are dealing with a horrible, unexpected ordeal entering the 2021 season. Hazen’s wife, Nicole, was diagnosed last July with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that is very difficult to treat.

She’s only 44, and has already endured surgery followed by six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

“It’s actually been a long nine months, grinding through last year, starting in about May, unfortunately, when she had her first seizure,” Hazen told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Tuesday. “It came as a complete shock and surprise what was in there. And, you know, it’s been a long road for her.”

Under normal circumstances, Hazen would be under significant pressure in 2021. The Diamondbacks are losing ground in the National League West. While Arizona’s farm system is highly regarded, the Padres are the team with the transcendent young superstar and the captive audience.

Hazen still ranks among baseball’s brightest young minds. But unlike the Tampa Bay Rays, which developed a unique, low-budget methodology to cope with the big-spending juggernauts in Boston and New York, Hazen has not been able to crack the code in Arizona.

He is coming off his first losing record as GM, a year when the Diamondbacks finished 18 games out of first place in a 60-game season. He did little to fortify a lukewarm, low-ceiling roster that rarely crossed home plate and bored the Valley to tears.

“We’re not blind to what two of the bigger teams in our division have gone out and done this offseason,” Hazen said. “We respect that. But they still have to go through 162 games, as well.”

Clearly, Hazen is also operating under strict payroll constraints after the Diamondbacks claimed to lose in the vicinity of $100 million during the 2020 season, with further losses looming in 2021.

But chances are, Hazen is looking at job pressure a lot differently these days. His wife is battling for her life. Hazen said his family is researching experimental treatments, scouring every community for signs of hope, desperate for anything that resembles a winning path. The story is positively gutting.

It puts last season in a different light, a year when Hazen was forced to juggle a flailing team with a family crisis, working on trades from hospitals and doctor’s offices. It makes the heart weep for a simpler time, like when Hazen and his wife first went house shopping in the Valley (He wanted a fixer-upper; she preferred the bells and whistles). Or when their four boys were astounded at how you could play baseball all year long in Arizona, and not have to wait for fields to melt like back home in Massachusetts.

“Unlike a lot of people in the community, I don’t really golf,” Hazen said. “I don’t really have a lot of hobbies. I have two things: my family and baseball …

“You have to adjust. There’s been a lot more Zoom calls with doctors across the country, oncologists, surgeons and clinical trial experimentation consults. But then there’s baseball and then there’s the kids and, thankfully, as screwy as this is, COVID was a little bit of a blessing in disguise.”

In short, the pandemic allowed Hazen to work from home for the first time in his baseball life, and the job constraints came at a perfect time, allowing an upended family to spend lots of time together when they needed it most.

So, please, hope for the best when it comes to the Diamondbacks in 2021. But save your prayers for Hazen and his family.

“Unfortunately, the nature of this thing is very tricky,” Hazen said.

And solutions are much easier to find in baseball. Even when you’re chasing the Dodgers.


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Dan Bickley

Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns talks with Chris Paul #3 during the second half of th...
Dan Bickley

Focus should be on Chris Paul after Suns’ unexplained collapse

Monty Williams, according to multiple sources, had something of a fallout with Suns point guard Chris Paul.
3 days ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the first half in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Play...
Dan Bickley

Suns’ humiliating Game 7 loss is 1 of the greatest collapses in NBA history

The Valley is not devastated. We are disgusted. We are humiliated. We just witnessed one of the greatest collapses in the history of the NBA.
12 days ago
DALLAS, TEXAS - MAY 12: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after hitting his hand while takin...
Dan Bickley

Suns facing new crossroads ahead of Game 7 against Mavs

The Suns are at a new crossroads. They are at the dangerous intersection of survival and scorn. Lose Game 7 to the Mavs, what do they become?
14 days ago
Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks passes the ball against Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns...
Dan Bickley

Game 7: The greatest 2 words in sports, only if Phoenix Suns win

Game 7. Two of the greatest words in the vernacular of sports. Unless you cheer for the Suns. Buckle up, Valley sports fans.
15 days ago
Dan Bickley

Suns G Devin Booker’s maniacal ambition shaped him for limelight

It’s clear that Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker must be the engine that powers this team to a championship. He must be that dude. The alpha.
16 days ago
Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of Game Five of the Wes...
Dan Bickley

Suns return to court like NBA champions in Game 5 win over Mavs

Order has been restored. Faith has been renewed. For the third time in the past two seasons, the Suns have prevailed in a pivotal Game 5.
17 days ago
D-backs GM Hazen dealing with wife’s cancer fight, loaded NL West