Everybody in baseball knows what time of the year it is. You’re either a buyer or a seller.
“We’re all very well aware of it,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “There are two paths that organizations take.”
But, on the field, ballclubs have to shut all this out. They’ve got jobs to perform and aspirations that have nothing to do with the front office. But time is fleeting. The trade deadline is at the end of this month.
“We’ve got to take care of today and see where that leads us to tomorrow,” Lovullo said.
That’s his mantra: Feel it now, then move on from it.
But it’s more important this time of year than at any other, as trade rumors are swirling around the Diamondbacks clubhouse.
It’s Lovullo’s first time dealing with it as a full-time skipper.
He took over the Diamondbacks two years ago and had his club in contention from Opening Day. It was the same last year. Each season, the Diamondbacks clearly were buyers.
This year, they’re two weeks behind the Dodgers in the National League West standings, and they’re scrapping with at least a half-dozen other clubs for a wild-card spot.
Barring an immediately dominant run, General Manager Mike Hazen has to be looking toward the future and shopping players for prospects.
‘These guys are some horses’
It creates some friction, since Lovullo and his ballplayers are duty-bound to ignore that reality.
“I feel very strongly about this group here, right now,” Lovullo said.
And he should. His club has a shot at a postseason spot. The team’s record in one-run games, 13-19, points more toward bad luck than bad play. They have a chance, even though it’s slimmer than the likelihood that a little kid gets through “The Lion King” without crying.
“It’s perfectly clear to me what direction I want to go, and what I’m thinking this team can do. And I’m pounding the table, saying these guys are some horses,” Lovullo said. “We’ve got some really, really good players … That’s where my heart lies. It lies in that room with 25 guys that are out there laying it on the line every single day.”
He’s telling his guys to ignore the trade rumors. And they’re a veteran group, so they’re doing their best.
“You kind of just try to tune it out, I think,” Robbie Ray said.
There are few Diamondbacks who would be more valuable to a contender than Ray, an All-Star lefty in his mid-20s. He knows baseball isn’t personal.
“For me, it’s just go about your business every five days. Position players are in it every day, so they have to focus on what they’re doing every day. For me, it’s just, tune it out. As long as you’re doing your job every five days, for me, everything else is going to fall into place.”
‘Accept it, really’
Catcher Alex Avila, an 11-year veteran, has seen and been through it all. He was traded from the Tigers to the Cubs at the deadline two years ago.
For him, there’s only one way to deal with the reality of trade rumors.
“Accept it, really,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do. It’s out of your control, so there’s no reason to put any thought or effort or energy into it.
“It really shouldn’t bother you. It’s obviously difficult, because if you’re somebody who’s rumored to get traded or could potentially get traded, you’re essentially moving in the middle of the year, but I’ve done it. It’s not too difficult.”
This is why they say catchers make the best managers. It’s almost like Avila and Lovullo were reading from the same script.
“My message to the guys is just focus on what you can control and that’s today, right now, and to not look beyond that,” Lovullo said.
They still have goals, team and individual, regardless of what the front office decides.
“The game’s hard enough, and you’re competing against the best athletes in the world. And if you add to the distractions by worrying about things you really can’t control, it’s just going to make the game even harder,” Lovullo said.
It is what it is.
“It’s a challenging time,” Lovullo said.
But he’s going to tell his guys to keep fighting.
“That’s all I know, and I’m not coming off of that. I’ll never come off of that. And I know that these guys feel the same way.”
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