01 November 2013

Dbacks Roust, Sign Jackknife Jackson

With a growler of gin and promised lodging close to Chase Field, the Arizona Diamondbacks coaxed legendary gamer, Jackknife Jackson, out of a Wyoming boxcar and into an expected rotation slot this spring.

Asked about his 'makeup', Jackson explained,

Them colored fellas from Havana.  I'll make em up real good.

Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers defended the move:

"Jack's the pro we wanted.  People say you should go after an ace, somebody still in the game. But we needed a strong character guy to come inside or double up in there. Or triple up, when better teams monkey around at my expense.  He'll make his mark on the Dodgers. Hopefully several."

The fabled righthander began his career with the Cleveland Spiders and honed a reputation for "errant boneballs" with the San Diego Padres.  He last pitched for Wilkes Barre in 2007, allowing 33 hits in 47 innings, while walking 32.  He also hit sixteen batters, including four children.

Most recently, Jackson barnstormed the mountain states carnival circuit and county fairs across the west.


25 October 2013

Bloomberg to Earl "Breakeven" Kendrick: Club Worth $600M

Much to owner Ken Kendrick's 'dismay', the constrained small market club he deftly stewards into fiscal balance each season, earns more than one hundred million dollars above what it annually spends on major league payroll.

According to Bloomberg.com, the Diamondbacks are now worth approximately $600M,  roughly 250% more than when Kendrick assumed control in 2004, and now earns $195 million per year. Player payroll approached $90 million in 2012.

Breaking out the $195M income, up to $79 million stems from attendance driven sales, incl gate receipts ($41M), sponsorships ($23M, some of which may not be directly attendance driven), concessions ($12M) and parking ($3M).

Remaining income is derived elsewhere, primarily via media rights ($75M) and revenue sharing ($27M).  In other words, up to $116 million in income is realized before the Diamondbacks lure a single fan to Chase Field; which is also about $25-$30 million more than was expended on player salaries.  Keep that in mind the next time Mr Hall or Mr Kendrick suggest their payroll's squeezed by attendance and market constraints.


In terms of market, their $75 million in media income placed 17th among thirty mlb teams and was nearly as close to ninth place Detroit ($85m) as to 20th place Cincinnati ($66m).

But they didnt rank middle of the pack in revenue sharing. Oh, no.  Only six genuinely small market outfits, some in crumbling stadiums, were funneled more cashola by the leagues, suggesting the Diamondbacks failed to realize non-media income commensurate with their middle of the pack market and venue.  This is consistent with franchise management whose attendance and stadium revenues lag its market capacities.

Based on Bloomberg figures for gate, concessions, parking,etc. an additional 375,000 fans over this past season's 2.1M draw,  might generate $12-$15 million in additional income.  But that would also reduce the club's $27M shared revenue windfall. By how much, is unclear, yet any significant attendance spike would pull the club closer to mlb's net revenue sharing midpoint, closer to where the Phoenix market's potential - and pre-Kendrick history - suggests. This burgeoning theoretical fan base of 2.475 million attendees, would still be less than what Colangelo drew here in his worst season (2004) as owner - losing 111 games in what was then a considerably smaller market.

In nine seasons since, occupying a relatively weaker division, Kendrick's clubs have exceeded 82 wins just twice - once being outscored by twenty runs in the regular season.  The club also claims to offer the most affordable experience in all of baseball, yet just within their five team division, Bloomberg's 2012 gate receipts divided by attendance imply an average ticket cost ($19.52) closer to the glittery Dodgers ($21.89) than to the Rockies ($16.43) or Padres ($15.45). This incongruous self promotion of undelivered value has steadily worn on fans.

It's not that Diamondback prices are high, relative to mlb or other pro sports. They're not.  They're too high to draw half a million more paying fans to sit in the upper deck to watch mediocre teams in a lower income market.  This regime knows that, but instead of acknowledging their cold choice to reap shared revenues for pricing out the Valley's lower income fans, they have blamed almost a decade's worth of 'curiously' lower local attendance on fabricated market, inherited venue and fan shortcomings. They even once suggested that local fans, the same ones who came out in droves prior to Kendrick's money making mediocrity machine, dont really appreciate how baseball works.


 Well, that last part is all too true.

30 September 2013

'Fan Friendliest' FO Flounders to 14th in NL Attendance


Despite finding themselves in first or second place all year and not registering a losing season since 2010, the once popular Arizona Diamondbacks dropped to next to last in National League attendance, the Valley franchise's weakest comparative draw in its sixteen year history.
















Only the Florida Marlins, owned by Jeff Loria, drew fewer fans in the fifteen team senior circuit.

12 June 2013

Dbacks' Ace In The Hole

As if the 5.49 ERA wasn't enough, Dbacks' ace-in-the-hole Ian Kennedy has discovered
other ways to compromise his teammates' well-being.  

He hittin' folk in dehead!!!



 More to the point:

He hittin' folk in dehead, tah-wyse!!!


Now, Ian and Miggy claim Ian wasnt trying to hurt anyone, which may be true. To which the Dodgers respond, after much deliberation:

He hittin' folk in dehead!!!

That's really the problem, isnt it?  Intentional or not, at some point a professional pitcher has to take responsibility for fastballs that hit people in dehead.  Even if Zach Greinke is a bit of a doofus, for retaliating against what was probably an unintentional HBP, Greinke didnt hit anyone above the letters.

That's a different animal, as the Diamondbacks should know.  They hit the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter below the neck three times in a recent game. While St Louis was red as a bird, their roster didnt storm the field. 

But the Dodgers have every right to be upset.  This isnt acceptable in the modern game. Kennedy unleashed the most powerful drive his opponents have. Not to win a game, but self-preservation.  Livelihoods and all that. For both teams ultimately.  The notion that IPK is a decent guy is, at best, a secondary consideration at this point.


He hittin' folk in dehead!!!!
Ian may not be a headhunter, but he's a head finder. There are consequences for pitching that far up and in. Twice. Beyond the suspensions. There's a blue collar price to pay for grazing the Dodgers' hottest hitter in the nose, then bouncing another fastball off the starting pitcher's earflap. As a Diamondbacks fan, who's relished watching Pat Corbin and Paul Goldschmidt propel my team into first, I'm  concerned the price for our Ace-In-The-Hole's thumping hits isnt yet paid in full.

Paid In Full - Eric B & Rakim

31 March 2013

Alive

April Fools is as good a Day as any for the Diamondbacks to embark on their sixteenth
slate, because when it's all over someone will play the fool. Active payroll is higher than it's been in a decade, even adjusting for inflation, yet the roster somehow lacks a single bankable star.

Instead, the Diamondbacks sport a few very good players and a few more good ones. Neither group, however, has garnered a fraction of the attention drawn by their most controversial and, by now, least secret weapon - a laboriously advertised culture of gritty clutchness.

So far, three of the grittiest Diamondbacks - Willie Bloomquist, Adam Eaton and Cody Ross - are unavailable due to a variety of dashing spring ailments. We'll keep you posted on their characteristically gutsy rehabilitations.

***

I drafted those paragraphs a couple days ago, and this morning Nick Piecoro wrote basically the same thing, only much better. I had even titled my draft "On The Cusp of Something".



Today Kevin Towers guaranteed 90+ wins. Good for him. I admire his balls, and frankly, his track record of extracting more with less. But now he's constrained by a lot less less, spending almost $100M and significant surplus talent, with three established Arb/Pre Arb starting arms (IPK, Hudson, Miley) and several more in the fold (Corbin, Skaggs, etc).

What it all will result in, we're not quite sure. The Rockies and Padres still cant pitch, so it's hard to see the Diamondbacks bringing up the divisional rear.  The Dodgers and Giants have too much talent to do that either, but their reliable, underlying assets are really not all that different from our Sedona Reds.  The club that plays best in one run contests will probably win this division.  Call me a eunuch, but unlike baseball's sexiest GM, I have no idea who that will be.

That is baseball's greatness, above other sports.  For all its familiar ritual, marking the seasons and years of our lives, it's the game's day to day - and even seasonal - unpredictability that gives it life.  The scalded liner nonchalantly turned into a rally destroying double play.  An unknown prospect who baffles a Murderers Row.  A fortuitous call or a bad hop.  

Sincere observers just dont know any of that until it actually happens. Those seeking certitude or standing, predictably surrender to faith.  Others of us watch to discover, in what often seems an inevitable world.  To confirm that even the familiar can be beautiful and mysterious - and that we are ignorant and alive.

28 March 2013

Grit Leap Forward?

Grit. We're pretty sure it matters, but unclear how much or even what it means.

The first problem with grit is that it's not reliably defined - at all.  It's more a subjective take on a player's perceived approach to the game and how he looks, than it is an objective accounting of what he does. Faced with a slump, for example, is it grittier to express anger in the clubhouse, be stoic, or upbeat and positive? That pretty much runs the gamut of human response, yet 'grit', determination or competitive focus could reasonably be manifested by any of those.

Is it gritty to play through injury?  Chris Young and Justin Upton did that in 2012, yet apparently neither were seen as especially gritty by Kevin Towers. Perhaps Upton did (or didnt do) something else that displeased the GM.  Maybe he didnt join Bloomquist and the coaches in the weight room at 6AM? It's hard to say. What's old news, however, is that an unsettling share of so-called gritty overacheivers tend to be older white players. Is it because the class of African American players lack an objective work ethic or dedication to sacrificial team principles, or does it reflect the fact most player evaluators (fans, pundits, GMs) are also white, which may bias attitudinal expectations and evaluations?

Grit is a subjective input, not an objective result.  Even if connected, the results themselves are more independently apparent now anyway, rendering any hidden benefits of grit relatively moot. In other words, we can now measure fairly accurately how Eric Chavez performs Late & Close, or makes productive outs or whatever, regardless of whether he's perceived as gritty or not. We can evaluate actual results, rather than rely on subjective inputs.  This applies especially to established veterans. The work ethic or grit of a youngster with a less established record, however, could reasonably alter subjective projections. It logically flows that a good work ethic leads to a more promising upside, etc But most of the time, this annointing of grit applies to older players and it's harder to argue they have much hidden upside. Their makeup and professionalism have presumably been reflected in their career results to date - baked into the statistical cake.

Is there another hidden benefit to grit? Something we cant readily see in the new, more granular stats? There very well may be, like an ability to make teammates better.  Rigor requires we remain open to that possibility. But a more practical question, for Diamondbacks fans, is whether Kevin Towers can  identify and exploit grit as a market inefficiency. Has Towers identified a hidden competitive benefit to these so-called gritty players that his GM counterparts cannot?

Some of Towers' easily contradicted assertions this offseason - for example his lauding Martin Prado's rather mediocre batting record Late & Close - either suggest he has little special insight as to the value of resolute grit and clutchness. Or perhaps he does, and the erroneous platitudes are some brilliant subterfuge.

The view of Towers, here, essentially splits the difference. I think he understands a great deal about professional baseball that I dont. When you're around something a long time, you can often intuit what works and what doesnt, even if you cant always articulate why. It's a feel and I think Towers has a feel for chemistry, in game leverage and certain aspects of roster construction.

But when he or Gibson go on about grit, they can sound more enamored with idealized personal attributes than they are with real competitive results.  They almost sound like they prefer players who they can lift weights with at six in the morning, or hunt with in the offseason.  Perhaps younger, idealized versions of themselves, in their own image. Instead of a more talented group of diverse personalities, who need to be professionally managed and assimilated - and who might also be more objectively equipped to help them win.

25 March 2013

Thank You For Mowing My Rather Expansive Lawn For A Quarter Century....Now, Go Away

Led by an unidentified "small market owner", baseball's Lords of the Realm are trying to dismantle collectively bargained pension plans currently protecting non uniformed personnel.  Of course, all Diamondback personnel are uniformed, sartorial advocates for The Organization, but you get the idea. Scouts, groundskeepers, the widow working the Will Call window.

 
Were MLB publicly traded, its (conservatively estimated $8 billion) annual revenue would position it as a Fortune 300 firm, neighboring boutique mom and pops like Visa and Campbells Soup. 

Bear in mind, too, that MLB's most salient business distinction - its federal antitrust exemption -  enables this often collusive bevy of baseball owners to orchestrate an advantageous network of regional monopolies, and mark up their prices devoid of direct competition. Unlike Campbells and Visa, there's no Progresso or American Express cutting into baseball's consumer demand and bottom line. 

More generally, MLB competes for the sports or entertainment dollar, but that's tangential competition, similar to the way Campbells "vies" with Sara Lee for the food dollar or Amazon "battles" Visa as transactional clearing houses that really arent all that similar.

Not only is baseball's operational profit margin thus legally protected, but those profits and rising franchise values are concentrated among just thirty ownership groups. Compare that to the nation's true corporate behemoths, whose revenues dwarf mlb's, but whose profits are distributed among hundreds of thousands - and in some cases, millions - of shareholders. Even in an era of diminishing pensions, that a cottage industry this profitable - and concentrated - would dick around with the pensions of low level scouts and groundskeepers is another stained window into the sort of people running mlb.

Who is the pension-smashing small market owner most responsible?

I cant say it's Kendrick. For one thing, Phoenix isnt a small market (although it's often mistaken as such). Secondly, mlb has never lacked for slimeball owners. The Dolans in Cleveland. Pohlan in Minnesota. Loria. My (uneducated) guess is it's one of them, and Ken is laying low, with a big smile on his mug, as others do the dirty work.

11 March 2013

Slim Shady

Here's some photos from today's SRFest against the Cubs.

First, the leaner Cahill, warming up in the outfield grass.  Not sure if you can make him out, but he's the red and white blade, center.   

 

 Here's the right field berm about a half hour before game time.



...and at first pitch


My son and I sat out here for a couple innings. With hordes of squatters on blankets and a cultural disregard for personal space, it was a little like India. The shirtless drunks and mundane food - closer to Indiana.  

Here's Cahill preparing to bounce another swinging strike to Alfonso Soriano. Just get it over (with), Trevor.  























Finally, here's the 85% shade Derrick Hall brags about, an hour into the game.  This was snapped an hour and twenty minutes from first pitch, and one can see it's still not 80-85%.



















Salt River is shaded better than any Cactus venue,  but clearly a third of the fixed seats are still in bright sun well into the contest.  And unlike Scottsdale Stadium, there's no shade trees on the berms here. The clubs should be proud of their design accomplishment, but there's no need to mischaracterize the reality that most patrons are still baking in sunlight most of the time.

06 March 2013

With Friends Like This...

On Saturday, 'fan friendly' Dbacks' brass yet again tackled curiously soft stadium attendance the only way they know how: by raising prices with a smile.  

For 56 of 81 home games, the least expensive ticket now allegedly ranges from $12-16, which conveniently excludes mandatory convenience charges to impulsive outliers purchasing seats 'online' or at the park on 'gameday'.  Not surprisingly, these Outfield Reserve seats, located in the corners of the top deck, are generally regarded as the least desirable at Chase Field. Prices, of course, ascend from there. 

Bleacher sections, for example, are 26% more expensive than they were just two seasons ago (2011).   Today's mean average bleacher price is $21.22, excluding fees.  As recently as 2004, under previous management, these individually purchased seats sold for $11.50... and $11 during the championship 2001 season.  But for next month's home opener against St Louis?  $33 a pop. 

For 25 lower demand games, the club offers $9 Outfield Reserve seats, which is still more expensive than the lowest priced points of entry offered by most divisional rivals. The megamarket Dodgers and enormously successful Giants, for example, both offer $8 uppers for assorted low demand games, and tickets to Colorado's popular centerfield bleachers, The Rockpile, are just $4 across the entire 81 game schedule.  Including Opening Day. 




28 February 2013

Puttin' On The Pits

There were five or six reasons why this page lay dormant for ages and none of them are all that interesting. But there's two reasons why I'm back. To talk Diamondbacks' baseball and bear witness to the horrors metastasizing at azsnakepit.com.



The horrors, I tell you.

The Pit's set forth a sweeping censorship campaign disguised as some civility overhaul, and I got taken off guard - and offline - during a pomp and circumstantial Changing of The Mods.  This adolescent and uncivil power grab they dub "A New Hope" more closely resembles "The Phantom Menace" with hints of The Spanish Inquisition. Mainstream remarks magically disappear, sometimes en masse, and the funniest part is sinister warnings are issued after you're punished and your comment is killed. 

These after the fact "warnings" or chilly online icebergs, lock up one's screen with all the inherent charm of pop up malware, except there you might at least momentarily glimpse something useful, like an indecent girl or decent mortage rate, instead of being laboriously told what you already know isnt true: that YOU HAVE BEEN ISSUED A WARNING!!!

**************************

In club news, somehow this free postgame storytelling confab completely eluded the Pit's paltry eight man editorial staff.   Bound to happen, I suppose, when they're up to their epaulets, restricting all speech requiring restriction. 


One thing I did see over there was this magnificent slideshow of Jeff Moorad's 16,100 sq foot house in PV.  Apparently, it's up for sale again. You may remember Moorad. He was Kendrick's partner, whose mlb ownership application here was a long, drawn out, contentious struggle. When he finally two timed his way out of Phoenix, he and Kendrick squabbled for two more years over Moorad's outgoing share. Then his failed attempt to buy the Padres took another couple years. Now he's trying to dump his Queen Mary of the Desert for the second or third time.

I cant find evidence Moorad's tried to actually kill any of his adversaries, but it seems reasonable to conclude from this litany that one of his negotiation strategies is hoping some of them will simply die of old age.

And take a look at that house!   Maybe if he had downsized a tad, to nine or ten bathrooms, he'd have saved just enough to buy the Padres.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Turns out the Pit did note the storytelling bit, in the ninth paragraph of one of their roundup columns. And I missed it. One of their typists was kind enough to bring that to my understandably sporadic attention ;-).

07 October 2012

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