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Dan Bickley

Diamondbacks’ strong road trip revitalizes belief in team

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner, center right, is congratulated after pitching a seven-inning no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves at the end of the second baseball game of a doubleheader Sunday, April 25, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Reset buttons don’t exist in sports. Except the Diamondbacks just found one.

After a dazzling East Coast road trip, they are a .500 team for the first time since Opening Day. Their doubleheader sweep in Atlanta was one of the best days in their regular season history, even sparking a national conversation. Our baseball team has effectively gained a second chance to make a first impression.

Granted, I’ve been wondering about the collective psyche of this team for a while now, one I assumed was either delusional or in denial.

It started with the postgame Haka dances, the sign of great competitive spirit and a completely engaged clubhouse. How could they be so joyous? How could they be so happy in their situation? Didn’t they know they were a stand-pat team that did very little in the offseason, seriously overmatched in the powerful National League West and clearly capable of losing 100 games?

I felt like the Grinch, wondering why the townspeople were still singing even after their Christmas presents were stolen.

And what of all those preposterous “shock the world” mission statements that burst forth in spring training? Surely, that was nothing more than the desperate tones of a lame-duck manager, who unfairly entered the final year of his contract without an extension. Usually, that spells disaster in Major League Baseball.

Early on, my suspicions were confirmed. The Diamondbacks took it on the chin. They were shut out twice in the first six games. Nearly no-hit in Colorado. Stung hard by even more injuries, including one that sent their best player (Ketel Marte) to the shelf.

Look at them now.

In Cincinnati, they won three games in the span of 22 hours, leading sage observers to pine for the good old days when Reds resided in the NL West. They won two more games on Sunday, in a single afternoon against the Braves, prompting others to pine for more seven-inning doubleheaders. Either way, that’s five road wins in about 30 hours combined, the kind of microburst that can turn a season around.

From a national perspective, the big news is how Madison Bumgarner pitched a no-hitter that will remain unrecognized as such by Major League Baseball. Sort of like the NBA refusing to acknowledge that Jerry West is the guy in the logo. It’s yet another tribute to the absurdity of baseball under commissioner Rob Manfred.

The sport has no problem giving the Dodgers a World Series trophy after a 60-game regular season. It has no issues with properly crediting Zac Gallen for his one-hitter on Sunday. But they can’t do the same for Bumgarner? Even with an asterisk attached?

It’s pretzel logic and nonsensical, and in Arizona, the debate misses the bigger picture entirely. If Bumgarner isn’t an $85 million bust, if his last two outings are his way out of a dark tunnel, it changes everything around here. It changes the present and it changes the future. Especially if Taylor Widener continues to anchor the end of the rotation. Especially if Marte continues to rake when he returns from injury.

Like most underdogs, these Diamondbacks are easy to embrace when things are going well. Kole Calhoun’s exchange with that young fan Friday night in Atlanta was the stuff of legends, the kind of interaction that makes you care about a baseball team. Same with the postgame Haka dances, and one report indicated that Bumgarner even participated in the tribal display on Sunday, under the caveat that the video never be posted online.

Shock the world?

OK, local nine. You have our attention.

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