DAN BICKLEY

GM Hazen, manager Lovullo can enjoy mutual catharsis following D-backs winning season

Oct 2, 2023, 3:28 PM | Updated: 4:08 pm

Mike Hazen, Diamondbacks GM...

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo and General Manager Mike Hazen celebrate in the Chase Field pool after the Diamondbacks clinch a wild card playoff spot following the game against the Houston Astros on September 30, 2023, at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ. (Photo by Wilfred Perez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Photo by Wilfred Perez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For an 84-win team that moonwalked into the playoffs with a four-game losing streak, the Diamondbacks’ champagne celebration was indulgent, over the top and beyond the pale.

Torey Lovullo wouldn’t have it any other way.

As the Diamondbacks prepare for the 2023 postseason, it’s important to remember the big picture in Arizona and the complex nature of these underdogs.

Do you know how hard it is to do your job while your life partner is dying from an aggressive form of brain cancer? To be a father to four boys, navigating all the grief and disbelief, simultaneously serving as architect of a playoff team?

Mike Hazen has pulled it off.

With all due respect to the great general managers who served Arizona in the past and those who will do so in the future: There will be no topping the sweat-and-tears equity Hazen put into the 2023 Diamondbacks. Sorry, that jersey has got to go into the rafters.

Now, the manager.

Do you know how hard it is to keep your job and your swag after losing 110 games in a single season?

A baseball manager can’t have one without the other and Lovullo has somehow surfed atop all the losing in Arizona, always bringing the right vibe to the job. Even when his strategy backfires.

After seven years, he is 32 games under .500. He has survived a series of one-year contracts, managing a small-market roster in a division of runaway spenders, consistently deflecting any and all personal animus one might accumulate in his situation. And during the peak of darkness in Arizona, Hazen and Lovullo refused to flinch.

Much respect.

The tragic timeline once again because it matters:

In June 2019, Hazen and his staff drafted Corbin Carroll with the 16th overall pick in the draft.

Just 11 months later, he witnessed his wife’s first seizure as she emerged from the kitchen. He knew immediately something was amiss.

The next two years were a blur. Hazen did not go on road trips in 2020 for fear of bringing home COVID-19 and further compromising his wife, Nicole. He attempted to work remotely, but was occasionally caught at the ballpark, fretting from his usual spot in the general manager’s booth.

Lovullo was carrying his own weight at the time, asked to manage a team during a complete tear-down, a comprehensive rebuild guaranteed to leave some scars. If he survived.

Through it all, Hazen and Lovullo remained committed to one another. When Hazen returned to work, Lovullo’s wife, Kristen, would spend all day, every day with Nicole. Two families working together for the greater good of everyone, including us.

That’s why Lovullo decided to unleash the hounds in Saturday’s victory celebration, giving his players carte blanche to go crazy. The manager even did a cannon ball into the Chase Field pool. He wanted to commemorate a three-year hellscape struggle with the party it deserved. A triumph of the human spirit.

The Diamondbacks get a fresh start on Tuesday. They might bow out quietly in a National League playoff series against the Brewers. They might cause a few scenes and pull a stunning upset. You never know with this team.

But this is a historical triumph for the organization. And there are a handful of people who know just how deep this story flows, and what this moment truly represents.

Reach Dan Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6-10 a.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7.

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