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End of season Diamondback thoughts from Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo

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The GM and manager talked about a very disappointing 2021 season for the Diamondbacks.

Arizona Diamondbacks Introduce New Manager Torey Lovullo Photo by Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks/Getty Images

Mike Hazen

  • The larger direction this off-season: “We’re going to continue to give a lot of our younger players, the opportunity to come up here and play.”
  • Fielding a contending team next year: “That’s a more complicated question... It’s hard to say. Making up 30 games on our win total is probably going to be somewhat challenging. I think there are some things we need to tackle to get our guys to perform at a better level than what we saw this year. And we need to do a better job in games where we had an opportunity to win [one-run losses]. That’s where you’re going to see some roster improvement.”
  • Needs going into the off-season. “The bullpen needs to be rebuilt... We need to do a better job defensively. We gave away too many games this year because of sloppy play. I believe that’s controllable for us. We’re going to take a hard look at who we’re asking to move around the diamond. We’re looking to push offensive performance.”
  • How do you develop a Tampa Bay model: “Choices are to complain about it, or develop a robust enough, versatile enough young team, and us in the front-office making good decisions to supplement that team. That will give us the ability to be a contending team. Payroll is not the only mechanism. It’s more of an excuse than anything else, in my personal opinion.”
  • Learning from the Giants: “If you look at the players that beat us, it wasn’t the same guys all the time. It was a roster of 26 players. That falls mostly on me, but it also falls on our ability to get our guys to perform at those levels too... Look at the consistency of their offense. We got beat five times with home-runs in the 7th-9th innings. That’s not luck. The other part of this is, when you win 106 games, when you come to the ballpark, you assume you’re winning games. From a momentum standpoint, that can be a real thing.”
  • Changes to the coaching staff: “Structural changes, in the sense of thinking about how we attack problems - fundamental issues on the field. We are going to examine those processes, as I don’t think we’re at a spot where we should be. Most of this falls on me, this is a self-critical assessment. I’m not sure the consistency is at a level we should be doing it at... That stretch in May and June: we should do a better job of righting that ship.”
  • Fastball velocity and strikeout rate: “Yes, I would like to reduce balls in play. It’s tough, because the Cardinals are going to the playoffs with the lowest strikeout rate. To be fair, they might be the best defensive team in baseball. Yes, we have prioritized guys who throw strikes, put the ball in play, but I think you can go too far in that direction, and address the sheer “stuff” in our bullpen to envisage better results. I think that’s doable. There is ample opportunities to acquire more power in your bullpen. Now, that comes with some inconsistencies, so we need to be prepared [for that]. The other piece is that we probably had the best developmental pitching year in the minor leagues since I’ve been here. We have a large group of pitchers that fit that profile, most of whom we see as starting pitchers... There is going to be a group of arms that are ready to come to the big-league level, but letting these guys get their feet wet in the bullpen is something we’re going to talk about as well.”
  • External acquisitions: “I don’t want this to come across as ‘We’re closing the laptop today’. I’m not going to be unrealistic about realizing we are a 52-win team. I want us to remember where we are at: it’s easily the worst place I’ve ever sat - and I’m responsible for it! We’re going to move the ball forward, and part of that is always going to be engaging the market... Third-base is a clear area we need to be better at. Right-field, depending on what happens with Kole. But on a 52-win team, I don’t feel there are a lot of jobs which aren’t going to be discussed. I envision going into spring training with a lot of competition.”
  • Message to fans: “First of all, I’m extremely disappointed in where we’re standing today. We didn’t set a course for this level of play. If I were a fan, I’d be extremely disappointed, and rightly so. I believe we have a group of players who have shown the ability to play in the major leagues at a fairly decent clip. We’re going to need those guys to take a step forward, and we’re going to integrate our younger players into the team, I think fairly quickly. I don’t think we are relying on a series of top five draft picks to get us back into the position we should be. I think there’s a lot of volatility with how you see the next 360 days. We still have good baseball players on this team.”
  • Watching the playoffs: “Not motivating, painful. It’s a reminder of who you’re not. You watch, but I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to watch... What we experienced in 2017-18, that’s the driving factor to getting us back to playing meaningful competitive baseball. That has not happened the past couple of years, and it’s extremely frustrating.”
  • Positives from the season: “That’s a hard question. At the major-league level, there’s not a lot in aggregate that we should be taking away, feeling good about ourselves. Where Varsho dug himself out from, where that path could have gone, I’m extremely proud of his ability to battle through that. I thought Josh Rojas probably had our most consistent season, but I’m not going to go down too many routes with individual performances. Silver linings from 52-win seasons don’t exist... The draft: I feel like our scouts have done an exceptional job.”
  • Trading established players: “I’m not going to be not answering the phone. I love our guys and I believe in the group of players, but we are not one player away from taking down the Dodgers and Giants... We need to do a better job in the front-office of matching up what we believe is important, specifically to the defensive side.
  • Were there signposts you missed? “I think that’s probably fair. Outside of the Starling Marte trade, we have not made those types of moves, to take on short-term risk at the expense of long-term organizational talent. We’ve done almost everything in the short-term to put a team on the field that fans are going to be proud of. We did not do that this year. The question of whether I should have torn away the structure of the 2020 team, that’s a fair criticism. I don’t know how much further ahead we would be. We would probably have made a few more trades to get in a few more prospects.”

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Torey Lovullo

  • How challenging was the season? “You can’t quite imagine what it was like each day. I tried to do my best to block everything out, but that became challenging. There are times where it was tough, I’m not going to lie. Nobody likes to go through what we went through, but we can grow more resilience going forward. I’m going to take my term and apply things the right way, spend time thinking about them, because that’s a model for improvement.”
  • Improving record in one-run games: “There’s a lot of identifiable things... We’ve got to find a way to have winning moments. I don’t want just hard triers, I want guys that can step up in the most crucial moments and know that they’re prepared to execute. We need to be spot-on with the lessons were teaching every day. Those are the easy answers, but there’s more to it than that, centered on preparation.”
  • Were you surprised the team stuck with you? “I’m a human being. I’m not a machine. Of course, I was always concerned how I was being viewed by my direct bosses and ownership. When you’re in the middle of an 8-48 run, it’s a tough situation. I am extremely grateful; I’m not an idiot, I know what happens to managers who only win 52 games. The trust they place in me is not something I will ever take for granted”
  • Will you be under pressure to right things quickly? “It should have implications. I accept and embrace that responsibility. It’ll push me to be even better than I’ve ever dreamed and I want everybody around me to follow the same pattern. We know what our challenges are, and that helps us be as creative as possible. We talk about winning the inch a lot inside our clubhouse and we’ve got to find a way to win those inches and close up that gap. Payroll doesn’t mean a darn thing to us.”
  • Changing staff: “My starting point is that we won 52 games and I need to examine everything from A to Z inside of the coaching staff. But starting with me, we’ve got to be better.”
  • Versatility vs. consistency on defense: “We know where we stood defensively and to me that was unacceptable. I am pitching and defense at my core, and when we would drop fly balls or miscommunicate, there is a reason for that. Is it a fundamental reason or a lack of preparation reason? Is it it that we’ve asked too much of certain guys? We’re not sure.”
  • How have you grown as a person and manager this year? “I don’t think I’ve been through anything this hard. I keep looking back and thinking I’ve been tested to the highest level, and didn’t crack, continued to press forward every single day. I think I’ve become a stronger human being, much more resilient, through this process. What I learned is that I’m never going to make an excuse as to why it happened. I’m just going to figure out a way to get better.”

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