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Dan Bickley

If the D-backs really love Lovullo, they should extend him before the storm

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 09: Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks watches from the dugout during the second inning of the MLB game against the Cincinnati Reds at Chase Field on April 09, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Brace for the worst. We have angered the Baseball Gods.

First base coach Dave McKay lacerated his spleen and broke a rib in a dugout fall before the season began; Christian Walker was hit in the face by an errant throw; and the team has been marginalized by injuries to their best player (Ketel Marte), their best pitcher (Zac Gallen) and key members of the bullpen.

They were shut out in Colorado. They were no-hit for six innings on the following day. They are getting nothing from Madison Bumgarner, who has three years and $60 million remaining on his contract after this season.

After his second consecutive poor outing, Bumgarner declined to speak with the media, leaving his manager hanging in the wind.

We have seen ominous starts in Arizona before. Never like this.

On Friday night, the Dodgers celebrated their 2020 World Series championship. The Padres produced their first no-hitter in franchise history. And the Diamondbacks?

They unveiled Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter late in the game, even though manager Torey Lovullo had position players available. It did not work out.

Lovullo’s decision was clear proof he is not managing to save his job. He is not thinking about the contract extension he does not enjoy. Buckle your seat belts.

Lovullo is the strangest lame-duck manager in baseball history. Mainly, because all of his bosses seem to love him. Team president Derrick Hall and general manager Mike Hazen speak of Lovullo in glowing terms. Majority owner Ken Kendrick went so far as to predict Lovullo will be back in the dugout next season.

So what are we waiting for? Can they not see where this season and this story is going?

Granted, it’s early. Kole Calhoun has just returned from a knee injury. Eduardo Escobar is finally showing signs of heating up. Gallen will be back at some point to steady the rotation.

This team still looks woefully short on talent, even when at full strength. The entire season feels like a placeholder year and a tank job, before the Diamondbacks shift into a new era of homegrown players, most of whom received zero development during the pandemic.

Truth is, this team needs a new methodology, a realistic way to compete with the Padres and Dodgers. I have no issue with the strategy, if that is what’s unfolding before our eyes.

Here’s the issue: If the Diamondbacks flirt with a 100-loss season, there will be an onslaught of unfulfilling baseball games juxtaposed with Lovullo’s endless brand of new-age optimism. That will not play well in the Valley.

Baseball is a sport where frustrated fans want their managers to express similar sentiments, knocking over tables in the clubhouse, raging in the dugout, throwing tantrums on the field for theatrical effect.

Lovullo isn’t that kind of guy. He’s already taken many hits for his players, assuming most of the blame for their wretched performance in a 60-game season. The pressure will surely grow on Lovullo in 2021, with a team that just can’t hang. And if it gets really bad, which it might, public pressure will prevent the team from keeping Lovullo.

This is nothing new. We’ve seen bad seasons before in Arizona. Many of them looked just like the 2021 season, including those two losses in Australia against the Dodgers; the Opening Day clunker from Javier Vazquez that featured 10 hits allowed in 1 2/3 innings; the shelling of Zack Greinke in his Arizona debut; and that cringe-worthy postgame press conference when Chip Hale blamed the media and fans for making such a big deal out of Opening Day.

That’s why Lovullo should be extended now. If his three bosses really love him that much, they should spare him the indignity, the public floggings, the embarrassing press conferences and the potential nightmares ahead. Because they know what’s coming, just like the rest of us.

Reach Bickley at 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 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
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