Baseball is changing fast. Somehow, Paul Goldschmidt stays the same.
He’s unassuming and understated, reliable like the family dog. He isn’t jaded or jealous, never dwelling on missing MVP trophies and money left on the table. He can be so boring that Archie Bradley called him a nerd, in the best possible context.
But Goldschmidt is more than the face of the Diamondbacks’ franchise. He is their rock. And his dependability could shine brighter than ever in the coming months, anchoring a franchise evolving as fast as the sport.
“At a really young age, my dad taught me that you don’t show up your opponent,” Goldschmidt said. “You respect your teammates. You respect the coaches. You respect the guys you’re playing against. And most of all, you respect the game.
“That means a little something different to everyone. But I know what it means to me. And I can control my actions.”
Even with a host of familiar faces, the Diamondbacks might look dramatically different in 2018. The Chase Field humidor will likely impact offensive production during home games. The baseballs shipped to stadiums across America might not fly out of the park like they did last season, when Major League Baseball set an all-time home run record.
What happens to the new-age sluggers who have refit their swings to get the ball airborne? Will they struggle? Will declining power statistics chew them up inside? Will impending failure make them feel even greater pressure, thereby striking out even more?
The only thing that’s certain is that Goldschmidt will keep doing what he does. And if offensive statistics level off in Arizona and beyond, he will only look better by comparison.
There is another matter to consider.
During his career, Goldschmidt has been happily underrated, stoic at all times. You wouldn’t know that he’s finished second in MVP balloting twice. He also finished third in 2018, coughing up an award he once had in a headlock.
Goldschmidt has seen many things during his time in Arizona, but nothing like the bottom that fell out of the tub near the end of last summer.
The club acquired J.D. Martinez as a trade-deadline rental player, hoping he would provide protection in the lineup for Goldschmidt. Instead, the new guy stole the show, diminishing the perceived value of Goldschmidt. And when the incumbent slugger struggled mightily in September, his chances vanished.
He ended the season as the third-most popular player on his own team, trailing Martinez and Bradley. He struck out to end the season, with runners on base in a playoff game against the Dodgers.
If Goldschmidt was the type to burn with vengeance or find extra motivation in circumstance, I would stay out of his way in next six months.
“I remember running to Goldy when he was with his buddy at a Niketown,” former Diamondbacks star Luis Gonzalez said. “It was early in his career, and I was with my son, who was little at the time. And nobody knew Goldy was in there. I told him, ‘Hey, nobody knows who you are right now. But next time, you won’t be able to walk into this store.’ And sure enough, he’s a guy who has become a superstar in the game. But he’s also so unique.
“I come here in the offseason, and nobody’s here. I hear somebody in the batting cage, I walk back and I see Goldy in there with a special needs kid. He spent 2-3 hours with him. You don’t see that stuff in superstar players.”
Normally, you get some kind of vanity. Or some brewing resentment that your five-year contract doesn’t equal what Zack Greinke makes in a year, a pitcher who plays only 34 times a season. Or maybe a rare complaint about managers who keep burning him out, always promising more rest and still penciling him on the lineup card 145 times a year.
But you don’t get any dissent or diva from Goldschmidt.
He’s committed to staying forever true to baseball and the code of conduct instilled by his parents. He’s been crushing pitchers for a long time. And if there are competitive corrections coming to Major League Baseball in 2018, everything that makes him great will make him look better than ever.
Reach Bickley at email@example.com or 602-444-8253. Follow him on twitter.com/dan.bickley. Listen to “Bickley and Marotta” weekdays from 12-2 p.m. on 98.7 Arizona’s Sports Station.