Expectations can be the foundation of disappointment, especially when the bar is set too high too quickly.
So how do Arizona Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and skipper Torey Lovullo manage those expectations following a 52-110 season last year?
Well for starters, the general manager told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Wednesday that games like Tuesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in 12 innings may have been viewed as a moral victory in 2021, but not in 2022.
“When you’re in a 52-win season, you don’t fixate on games like (Tuesday) night as much other than to stop maybe a losing streak,” Hazen said. “When you graduate into a mode where the expectations change, then those games become more frustrating and there are no moral victories — it’s a loss.
“Whereas when you’re in a 52-win season, there can be moral victories at times in certain ways: pitched a great game, played clean defense, the team is kind of looking like it did. That doesn’t exist anymore and it shouldn’t and it shouldn’t have existed last year.”
Hazen added that he has spoken with Lovullo about what each other’s expectations are for the remainder of the year now that players have had an opportunity to shake off any early-season rust in their first 100 at-bats or so.
“The expectations change. They change into expecting a little bit more, expecting a little more growth,” Hazen explained. “It’s not expecting you’re going to be leading the league in hitting by the end of July. I think that’s irrational.
“I think it’s expecting growth as you watch guys mature. … When we get into this stage of the season, we are looking to push that steady growth upward and that now comes with wanting to win the games.”
The Diamondbacks general manager isn’t unrealistic, either. He understands that the team is in a rebuilding process with young talent that needs to learn how to close out winnable games — something Arizona has struggled with recently.
Take Monday and Tuesday night’s back-to-back losses to the Reds for example. The D-backs led 4-1 in the former and had the winning run at third base in the latter, but ended up losing 5-4 and 5-3, respectively.
“I feel like the expectation does change a little bit in order to really prepare our players to be ready to win,” Hazen said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. I think we’ve been consistent with that not being the expectation that’s going to happen every night. But those expectations have to shift in order for you to start.
“I think being prepared to excel in the moments you’re going to be thrust into every night when you’re competitive every night. There’s a difference between winning and losing sometimes in at-bats in an inning, in a play that gets made or doesn’t get made in a pitch that gets made or doesn’t get made and we need to keep finding ways to make them.”