27 November 2007

Front Office Thread

Sharing The Ball

Although I already wrote about my NLDS Game 1 experience, I wanted to make a separate entry about Jerry Colangelo and his ceremonial first pitch before the game. First of all, I missed it. Sitting in traffic. It's funny how Diamondhacks has been calling for a public reconciliation between the previous and current ownerships for years now, more stridently than perhaps anywhere else, yet when the symbolic invitation is offered, accepted and finally realized, we're like the last Americans to know. Ah, television and traffic, you make fools of us all!
I could talk about this all day, but frankly, I've got a load things to do in preparation for a family trip to Boston tomorrow. Maybe I'll elaborate more in the off season, but suffice it to say that Ken Kendrick did the right thing, whether this was mostly a business decision, or personal, or some of both. And Jerry did the right thing by accepting. People who were in their seats before first pitch told me he got a great reception. I'm hardly surprised, but I'm glad. Glad that enough fans not only cherish the championship, but appreciate that today's lofty thrills, indeed the Phoenix franchise itself, would be all but impossible without Colangelo and the foundation he built here. He had his excesses, he made his mistakes, but Randy Johnson is looking at the guy who not only turbochaged Johnson's personal place in history, but who also turbocharged the city of Phoenix with an historically successsful baseball expansion franchise.
Take a look at Randy's uncharacteristic body language in the picture. Johnson is the most valuable player in Diamondbacks history, but he knows he's looking at the most valuable person.
Kudos to the fans in the background, on their feet, and to Ken Kendrick for initiating the call to make it happen. It's something he didnt have to do, and something I wasnt expecting. Like the time, ten years ago, when most everyone in the ballpark knew Colangelo would throw out the first ball, christening his Diamondbacks' franchise at that glorious inaugural game. Instead, Jerry picked two shocked kids from the upper deck, a boy and a girl, to symbolize that in baseball, as in life, anything is possible. With leadership and love.
(photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
05 October 2007 at 01:24 PM in 2007 NLDS, Front Office, Games We Actually Attended , History and Tributes Permalink Comments (2)

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

This morning's critical win against the lowly Pirates means that in order for the Diamondbacks to sidestep the playoffs, virtually every one of the remaining eleven games - involving four contending teams - must fall against the Dbacks' favor. Not quite, but almost. The Padres could, theoretically, lose one more and still overtake the Dbacks - but essentially the teams looking to oust the upstart Arizonans are left with a zero margin of error. They need to sweep, or darn close to it, and the Dbacks need to get swept in Denver. Not as unlikely as the math might suggest, but in practical terms, still pretty unlikely.
Melvin bumped Brandon Webb at the last minute in favor of Micah Owings, apparently concerned that Webb's final effort of the season might be washed away in an unofficial rainout. I think there was more to it that that - the notion that you'd prefer your ace opening at Coors, where a single win can eliminate the Rockies from the NL West crown, and confidence in the idea that someone other than Brandon could dispose of the Pirates today. As usual, Bob was right, as Micah Owings not only pitched shutout ball into the seventh, but led the hitting attack with three doubles, in route to an 8-0 thrashing.
Boy, the Pirates are bad. They're not only bad, but they're stupid and dont hustle. Lethargic fielding and mind numbingly bad baserunning throughout the series. It must take a strong constitution to be a Pittsburgh fan. PNC chanters interrupted the telecast several times, shouting "Tracy Must Go!" in reference to Mgr Jim Tracy. If nothing else, it makes one appreciate the job Bob Melvin has done focusing his younger players on tasks at hand. Sure, they make mistakes and have hardly carried the club, but they dont make complete fools of themselves either, like Xavier Nady or Jose Castillo or Nyjer Morgan. And I'm not even ripping the players so much - when you see this much amateurish stupidity on one outfit - my radar heads straight for the manager.
Jeff Moorad and Ken Kendrick comandeered seats behind home plate in what looked to be the second row, so we got to see their respective mugs enjoy the proceedings until the rain really came down. Kendrick, the West Virginian, wore a short sleeved red polo shirt in the spitting rain, and the imperious Moorad one of those ridiculous faux leather baseball jackets with the huge dungeons and dragons "d*backs" font across the front. I imagine they're readying playoff acceptance speeches about now, crafting their message just so.
Those should be doozies - I can hardly wait. Oh, they'll compliment Melvin - how could you not? - but I'm quite sure they wont leave it there. Even as announcers under their own employ readily concede the D'backs have been unusually lucky and are basically a .500 team on paper, rest assured the men with The Plan will dutifully inform us that The Plan worked like a charm. Even though they fielded one of the two worst offenses in a terrible, injury plagued league all season, and declined to spring for a single upgrade before the trading deadline, this bizarre, razor thin margin of success crafted by Bob Melvin and/or the Gods will, no doubt, be due to leadership at the top and their bold culture of success.
Yoo hoo, Derrick, take a memo.
27 September 2007 at 04:48 PM in Front Office Permalink Comments (0)

Thank You

Today is a very good day in Diamondbacks history. There have been over a thousand days since the 2004 junta expelled Jerry Colangelo and revoked his check writing privileges, and Diamondhacks has chronicled The Subsequent Horror. But today, let it be said, a very good thing happened.
It's not that the Diamondbacks are in first place, taking two of three from the Cubs. A fun thing. An improbable thing.
It's not that Chase drew 46K Saturday night. A Cubs thing. A bobblehead and fireworks thing. But you're getting warmer.
Today, something happened that was more than just fun. Something good. Not perfect.
Today, the Diamondbacks finally slashed prices in their club level seats, so that people will actually sit in them and share in the enjoyment of a first place team.
The current promo, cleverly titled D*Votion, entails the usual restrictions (10 ticket minimum) and online fees (about 15% extra) and the unpleasant fact that every purchaser gets a Sedona Red T-shirt as part of the package. But I'm trying to stay positive in the face of these little indignities. This is the real world, and if this front office does ninety nine out of a hundred things wrong, it is my distinct pleasure to applaud them when they do something right.
This is how you start to mend fences and rebuild a fan base that you've systematically fractured. It probably wasnt easy - abandoning the model of "exclusion and illusion" - excluding "casual" fans with high single game prices to fabricate the illusion that season ticket holders are getting a fantastic deal by default. Season ticket holders already get a decent deal - you didnt have to extort the rest of us so they could sleep better at night about their investment, visions of Ticket Marketplace dancing in their heads.
This isnt just about the money. Like many fans, I could buy a $50 seat whenever I want. But I dont like the feeling of being ripped off on MLB's terms. So, meet me half way. Club level $23? To root for a first place team? It's a deal. Today, you didnt just slash prices. Today, you peeled away the first layer of what has been the steepest price for fans to pay - the hardest thing for many of us to overlook - your thinly veiled contempt for the customer. I feel like you finally, seriously, want me in your house.
I dont like your colors. From day one, I havent cared for your tone. But I've always loved baseball and a fair shake. So here's $233.50 from me to you, that you wouldnt otherwise have had. It's my way of saying "Thanks".
(image courtesy of joanndesigns.com)
26 August 2007 at 05:52 PM in Attendance, Front Office Permalink Comments (5)

Dbacks Fascinate Valley

What's there to add to the cessation of Brandon Webb's consecutive scoreless innings streak, other than another "Bravo", or perhaps copiously cursing Prince Fielder? Contextually, it's very impressive, as Webb shut out the heavy hitting Atlanta Braves on the road, and stacked 15 scoreless at home in one of baseball's most notorious hitter's parks. In a hitter's era.
Or as Mark Grace, described it, the "steroids era". Now I know people are hitting homers at alarming rates, compared to days of yore, but isnt that primarily because stadiums are smaller, players are more athletic and bats are thinner than when Phil Rizzuto and Nellie Fox (with his bottle bat) were league MVPs? Isnt the steroids era, like, supposed to be over? In light of Commissioner Selig's defense of MLB's drug testing policy as "the toughest in all of sports", isnt it revealing - and unsettling - to hear a very well connected ex player casually refer to today, 2007, as the "steroids era"?
This wouldn't be Diamondhacks (whatever that is), if we didnt take a quick look at Chase Field attendance for Webb's historic appearance. The Brewers ordinarily wouldnt be a big draw on Wednesday night, but this is no ordinary Crew, tied for first in the Central when the night began. Arizona, of course, has been pulling away in the West, playing the first late season games of consequence since 2002-2003. Most important, one would expect fans to flock to the ballpark to cheer on the likable Webb, who had garnered more instant national attention for his bag of tricks than any Diamondback since Jason Grimsley. Team broadcasters pleaded ceaselessly with folks to visit Chase and share in the moment. You could hear the buzz in town - at water coolers and restaurants - and not just from sports fans. It was the kind of vibe we havent felt in a while.
Turned out to be a 31720 "vibe".
They couldnt even draw 32 with a capacity just shy of 50. It's a disgrace, really. I agree with the fanboys on that much - but the willfully blind who reflexively rail against this "lousy sports town" ignore the true source of the disgrace: the huge fracture in the franchise fan base, arrogantly cultivated by the current front office "saviors". To their credit, Kendrick and Moorad have finally toned down their yearlong, unsuccessful "campaign of shame" to drive attendance in favor of a kinder, gentler approach.
Oh, heaven forbid, they'e not lowering ticket prices or anything like that - but at least their company mouthpieces have taken a brief hiatus from excoriating their customer base to insincerely praise them. Sutton and Grace positively gushed about the 31,270. Yeah, guys. What a triumph. More characteristically, Kendrick and Moorad have dispatched 'crisis communicator' Derrick Hall to work overtime to rectify the...um...crisis; akin to farmers introducing a wolf to the chicken coop to help with the production of eggs.
That said, visibly poor attendance ought not to be an issue from here on out. Our green and increasingly red, publicly financed hangar will be full of Cub fans this weekend, cheering on their divison leader - followed by an NL West showdown with San Diego.
And Diamondback fans should take note of Thursday's back n forth slugfest at Shea, where the Pads outlasted the Mets despite some shaky pitching by the boys off the Coronado. Not just because the come from behind victory leaves San Diego three back in the standings, but because of the way they pulled out the game.
Cla Meredith yielded a crushing 3 run jack to Marlon Anderson in the sixth, putting the Mets ahead 7-6, and igniting the dysfunctional mob of more than 50,000. It looked over - a time for lesser clubs to pack it in. But the pesky Petcos pieced together an improbable, two run, ninth inning rally off Wagner, just his third blown save all year, to recapture the lead. Then Trevor Hoffman blew the save, facilitated by a Reyes-Castillo double steal, taking the air out of the visitors. Once again, with all the momentum leaning the home team's way, Adrian Gonzalez blasted a solo shot off Aaron Heilman to quiet the crowd and provide a margin just barely enough for Heath Bell to eke out his first save of the season. It wasnt just a "close" game. It was a game illustrating the Padres resilience under tough circumstances, suggesting a tenacious will.
A game after which, in the postgame cooldown, you kind of shake your head, wondering how you managed to win the game with all those negatives working against you. The Diamondbacks should be very familiar with that feeling by now. Remarkably, they lead the division on the cusp of September with the West's worst run differential. Not an average run diff. Not the second worst. The worst - below the San Francisco Giants, sixteen games out.
It's fascinating to watch teams win when it's not at all clear how they do it. And thanks to the Cubs and this quizzical pennant race, more of the valley will be sitting down at Chase Field shortly, appearing properly fascinated.
(photos courtesy of salem-news.com & athlonsports.com)
24 August 2007 at 10:15 AM in Attendance, Front Office Permalink Comments (5)

A Game Broke Out At The Charity Ball

Tonight could be a special night, with Brandon Webb trying to surpass Sal Maglie and Bob Gibson on his consecutive scoreless innings streak, currrently at 42. And we're genuinely looking forward to it.
Last night wasn't nearly as special, and it wasnt just because of the 7-4 loss to the Brewers in a game that wasnt that close.
Sideline reporter Todd Walsh encountered a representative from AFLAC Tuesday evening, who we quickly learned partnered with the Diamondbacks to bring over a hundred kids from Phoenix Children's Hospital to the game. Nice.
The thrust of the piece, and indeed of the entire nine inning telecast, was that Dbacks ownership is charitable, good hearted, community based, etc. Which is fine, to a point. Every MLB franchise has a charitable arm and derives customer good will from strategically advertising that fact. While some hardliners might argue true charity is not boastful, even I recognize the corporate quid pro quo and dont begrudge it, in principle. Charity is charity, and charity is good. But at what point, practically speaking, does that customer good will become compromised by self-service, or even cross over the line into exploitation?
Last night's nine inning song and dance might prove instructive.
This was not an impromptu sit down with AFLAC, in the signature, off the cuff Walsh style. The rehearsed Diamondbacks' production went on for several minutes and included taped footage of a pregame celebration for the patients at adjacent Sliders restaurant. Todd even egged on the AFLAC representative, "inquiring" if it was true that one youthful participant came "right from chemotherapy" to attend the event. The pleasant rep hesitated, smiling nervously, before confirming that fact. The live camera honed in on a young, bald child after Walsh had droned on about the newsworthiness of management's generosity.
It wasnt until the end of the drawn out segment in the middle of a baseball game that we discovered AFLAC has similar partnerships with 18 clubs, including one established with the DBacks in 2001 during the Colangelo era. Does that make this donation any less appreciated by these kids? Of course not. But it does make it less newsworthy, I think. Less a reflection of noteworthy charitable initiative than Walsh's segment, centered on this "development", tried to convey.
This FO's reputation has taken a mighty hit here in town. In particular, fans dont care for the righteous piety dripping from the talons of brothers Ken Kendrick and Jeff Moorad - and attendance has suffered accordingly. No big secret. So, last night, they grasped a large, blunt instrument and "designed" an entire telecast infused with nine innings of nuggets beating viewers over the head as to how righteous and wonderful the "brothers" really are.
"Beat over the head" too strong? Well, let's see. There was a brief "announcement" about the St Mary's Food Bank Alliance, a longstanding partner with this club and thousands of other valley businesses. (Since I have a blog, maybe I should take this "opportunity" to "announce" that I, too, volunteer regularly @ the Food Bank. Whoop de doo!)
Friday's Front Row Grill ran a sales promotion where Mark Grace "volunteered" to pay tabs, provided fans shelled out for the appropriate tickets.
There was the extended, over the top, Walsh/AFLAC "interview".
And then there was Mr Derrick Hall.
Under the smarmy guise of "being invited", the Team President strongarmed himself into the booth yet again to hand deliver a rapid fire series of carefully crafted, misleading "announcements". It seems he makes a "guest visit" essentially every game now. In forty years of watching baseball, I can honestly say I've never seen a baseball exec so cheerfully driven to distort reality, so desperate to shill his product entirely on his own self-servingly fabricated terms.
In order to illustrate ownership's family values, apparently, Hall went on at length, again with pretaped footage, showcasing what looked to be a chintzy, second rate kid's play area shoehorned into the least accessible, upper level corner of the stadium, in part, because his languishing titty megabar - with the $20 separate admission just beyond center field - crowded out previous ownership's play area for kids, established near that more desirable location.
Mr Hall's big "announcement", however, was that the Diamondbacks will donate $5 of every ticket sold hereon out, to Diamondbacks Charities, up to $500,000. Sounds wonderful. What's not to like? Well, that's not all he said. The reason for this, according to Hall, was that current attendance so exceeded ownership's expectations that they wanted to "reward" the fanbase for their allegiance with an "incredibly generous gesture".
Let's think about this.
Q: Has attendance exceeded ownership expectations?
A: Only they can say for sure, but it's highly implausible, given stories in the local and national press about how a first place team is underdrawing a 111 loss predecessor, by about 4K every single night - in the same market, in the same stadium. It's implausible given Sutton and Grace's on air campaign that this team "deserves more" and Grace's recent diatribe that current attendance is "unacceptable". The broadcasters are, after all, company employees, reporting directly to Hall. It's implausible given Hall's recent acknowledgement that gameday attendance wasnt commensurate with the team's high TV ratings as a result of, according to him, a lack of fan awareness that he is evidently rather feverishly trying to rectify. So, this "decision" is not based on exceeded expectations. It is driven by something else.
Q: What is really driving this decision?
A: If I've accurately described management's true position, it would seem that perhaps low attendance is driving their decision, exactly the opposite of Hall's claim.
Q: Why would he "lie" about such a thing?
A: Only Derrick knows for sure. Maybe pretending that attendance is excellent deflects from the fact it is not. Maybe pretending that fans already in attendance are somehow being "rewarded" deflects from the fact that this is a sales gimmick targeted at people who dont currently attend games. Perhaps a local journalist will inquire about these seeming contradictions.
Q: How does one "reward" fans by charging them the exact same price for tickets as before?
A: There's no reward or tangible benefit to the fans here. One could argue there's a psychological benefit, a philanthropic feeling of self esteem, but remember what Hall said. It's not the fans who are "incredibly generous" here - it's the owners. The fans role is to buy more tickets at regular club prices.
Q: Why is the donation limit set at $500,000? Why cant it keep going if we keep buying tickets?
A: Most likely, because ownership has already earmarked this particular amount for charity and is now merely "tying" additional ticket sales to the previously budgeted write off. Basically an accounting gimmick to try and sell more tickets under false pretenses.
Q: You mean, if I buy these so called "Charity Tickets", I'm not really donating to charity?
A: It's hard to say, without looking at the books. Even the US Congress had difficulty with that. But if it's on the up and up, you'd think the team would be more than happy to open up the books to an inquisitive reporter who pursued the issue. And I wouldnt bet on that happening anytime soon.
22 August 2007 at 02:05 PM in Attendance, Broadcasters, Front Office, Promotions, Self Aggrandizement Permalink Comments (3)

Fans Speak Out

For several years, the Arizona Republic lazily assumed that lethargic Diamondbacks' attendance resulted primarily from subpar on field performance. So when the team catapulted into first place in mid August, and fans still didnt come, the paper (a partner of the ballclub) finally got around to polling our supposedly passive fan base about their collective absence. And they got an earful.
If nothing else, it illuminates how conflicted recent local baseball allegiances have become. It's a pity, really, and we hold the new owners largely responsible. Our remarks can be found on page 8 of the copious comments.
15 August 2007 at 11:26 AM in Attendance, Front Office Permalink Comments (6)
Fall From Grace
Believe it or not, I really wanted to return from Southern California to immediately bask in some of the more recent positive D*Back developments. Family and friends managed to enjoy Webb's Sunday shutout of the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine, despite their daunting lack of exposure to Alyssa Milano. Our Houston Reds are pulling away from the NL West and, amazin'ly, have more wins than the New York Mets - in mid August! But all that has to wait, at least a smidge, after enduring Mark Grace's shameless diatribe aimed at my fair burg during last night's FSNAZ Pirates telecast.
While their employers have effectively suppressed attendance via pricing policy and a litany of fan alienating moves over three years, Grace and Sutton have consistently encouraged people to come to the ballpark. That's their job and there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that.
Where Sutton, Grace and DBacks' brass err is in the shrill, disingenuous nature of their salesmanship. First came the ponderous nightly lectures about how good the team was and how people watching from home were "missing out" on the action. As if greater Phoenix had contracted communal glaucoma and was blind to what's happening out on the field. As if a sports crazy community that purchased 25 million baseball tickets over the past decade was now suddenly incapable of discerning how to best spend it's entertainment dollars.
Then came Derrick Hall's dumbed down campaign pitching the easily refuted fib that Chase Field has the lowest prices in all of baseball. There's a line, over which standard marketing, putting your best foot forward, crosses over into credibility damaging misinformation - and Derrick Hall has repeatedly proven to be as timid about crossing that Rubicon as Donald Rumsfeld.
But even Hall's by now predictable hijinks pale next to Grace's scripted hissy last night. He used the telestrator to circle a large patch of empty seats in the lower bowl near third base and, for two solid minutes, scolded the entire televison audience that this was "unacceptable". He further enumerated that widespread complaints about the removal of team colors and the popular left fielder were "garbage".
You have to laugh. Here's a guy who's cashed $50 million in windfall checks from MLB ( and goodness knows how much more in peripheral endorsements ), chastising an entire city for not forking over sufficient dough to appropriately support their team - the one whose stadium most of them paid for and many of whom root for each night on television.
And this isnt just any city. The hot and currently humid object of Mr Grace's calculated "wrath" sports the lowest per capita income amongst MLB's twenty seven markets. Dead last.
Beyond the indignity (or is it hilarity?) of taking instruction on such money matters from a multimillionaire shill like Grace is his stunningly angry dismissal of an enormous swath of valley fans - tens of thousands who used to come to the park regularly who now seldom do, if at all. Grace labeled these people's concerns as "garbage". Regarding the dual departure of Luis Gonzalez and the exisiting uniforms, Diamondhacks never objected to either development on its face. Instead, we excoriated the specific implementation of these changes: the callous obliteration of every vestige of the original franchise color scheme, the outright refusal to negotiate with Gonzalez on even a non substantive, courtesy level, following Kendrick's unsolicited "whispers" demurely thrust upon E.J. Montini, targeting the popular left fielder.
In the end, it doesnt matter a whole lot what I, or Mark Grace, thinks about this - or a hundred other Diamondback issues. Every Phoenician can make up their own minds about this team and this particular ownership group.
And they do, every day.
Just like they did when 40,000 a night watched a 65 win expansion team, and later 30,000 a night to support a 111 loss monstrosity. This year, the very same community (only larger) barely draws 25K to support a first place squad full of young interesting faces - a product, it needs to be said (because current ownership will never have the "grace" to acknowledge it publicly), of both regimes.
10 August 2007 at 07:48 PM in Attendance, Broadcasters, Front Office Permalink Comments (5)

This Would Be Their Times

A bitchin haboob rumbled over the valley Thursday night, it's bitchin surpassed only by Diamondback fans, after a 13th defeat in seventeen tries.
"Fire the hitting coach", someone wisecracked, after the most recent scoring drought. ( Oh, that's right, we already did.)
Well, that was before a pair of welcome victories over the surging Cubs, courtesy of Juan Cruz and Yusmiero Petit, propelled Kendrix Vermillion to within 2.5 games of the wildcard spot - with a whopping 62 to play.
Objectively speaking, that's the definition of "contention", almost two thirds into the season. You'd think this would be the time fans would flock to Chase Field to root on their crimson heroes fighting for the flag - but that's not the case. You'd think this would be the time that message board die hards swathed in scarlet, and sabermetric politicians wearing same, would be optimistic - but quite the opposite is true. With rare exception, they're resigned to a dreary September finish and have focused their hopes on 2008 and beyond.
You'd think this would be the time for the front office to swing a deal for the wildcard run, but that seems unlikely with each passing day, which is a pity because that's what the front office promised they were prepared to do. They had earmarked funds for precisely this circumstance (wildcard contention) , arguing the money could be better targeted at midseason to address a pressing need and, you know, compete. Instead, GM Josh Byrnes recently served up that "other teams" dont seem too motivated to make a trade right now, and that he doesnt want to pay too much for a "rental" player anyway, since they can only contribute towards the remaining 40% of the season. Which team was it again, Josh, that wasnt motivated?
While one might explain away such discouraging tones as negotiating talk, Byrnes also volunteered that he's primarily in the market for a starting pitcher, a curious request coming from a gentleman responsible for constructing the worst hitting team in baseball. Well, it's curious assuming one's serious about winning through September. After all, Arizona currently sports the second best park adjusted ERA in the National League and is dead last in more offensive categories than one can count. Wouldn't a given investment in hitting yield a higher marginal return for this team than a like investment in pitching?
It would - but this isnt about this year. This is about stablizing the 2008 rotation and beyond, when all the hitters will be older and presumably less crappy, and Livan Hernadez will be a free agent, and 44 year old Randy Johnson will crow that he's "never felt better". There's a word for Byrnes' strategic approach - and it's not "contending".
It's called "rebuilding", and we're three years into it already, since investors wrested control of one of baseball's best farm systems from that system's creators.
Yeah, yeah, I know I said this team is the definition of "contention" - but that's only to date. Contending through the middle months and fading into oblivion, for whatever reason, is not "contention". For current ownership, it's business as usual. With veteran difference makers like Adam Dunn and Dmitri Young available, one could play to win now - for a price - but the current brass refuses to be dictated to by frivilous concerns like "winning", "markets" or "fans". They will win and lose on their terms, on their calendar. They will dress up our championship franchise as they see fit, and will draw fans based entirely on their ticket pricing, policies and vision.
It's time people understood that this would be their team.
And this would be their times.
(photos courtesy of azcentral.com)
23 July 2007 at 12:37 PM in Front Office Permalink Comments (4)

The Lowest

How could any Phoenician fail to be impressed with the Brewers' 36,381 gate, against a mediocre draw like the Diamondbacks? On Monday, normally the toughest day of the week to pull in fans.
Through 47 home dates, the Brewers have, in fact, captured almost 300,000 more customers than the Diamondbacks, well over six thousand additional fans per night.
The Crew's in first place; that's certainly part of it. There's a buzz in Miller Park absent in Phoenix - despite both cities fielding young, interesting teams on the rise. Some claim Milwaukee's a better "baseball town". Better fans. Phoenix, it is often said, has an uneducated, fair weather base with transient sports allegiances.
Regardless of whose fans are subjectively "better", there's no dispute as to which burg drew more fans - at least between 1998 and 2004. The DBacks easily outdrew the Brewers every single year - except for a blip the year Miller Park opened and Milwaukee's attendance edged past Arizona's by less than 1000 per game. That anomaly vanished by the next year, 2002, when the Diamondbacks again outdrew Milwaukee by more than a million fans. Even when Arizona lost 111 games, they still outdrew a superior Milwaukee club by a cool half a million.
But then something weird happened. In 2005, the Diamondbacks struggled with the Padres for the NL West flag while Milwaukee finished 19 games out - yet Brewer attendance hopscotched over Arizona, apparently for good. Despite comparable W/L records in 2006, Milwaukee increased their gate advantage to a quarter million, and are poised, this year, to double that - to half a million additional fans.
Do significant flip flops in intercity attendance, like this, over less than a decade, suggest one city is intrinsically a "better" sports town than another? What else is in play here?
One thing that changed after 2004, is that the Diamondbacks sharply raised prices on single game tickets - on the heels of that ignominious 111 loss season. They raised prices again in 2005, and a third time in 2006, despite failing to field a .500 team in any of those years.
The two stadiums' pricing charts reveal the Diamondbacks charge higher ticket prices than the Brewers, pretty much across the board. Pick any section you like (by clicking on the links in the previous sentence) and comparison shop for yourself. In some sections, the Brewers charge slightly higher season ticket prices, but their so-called "differentials" (the premium that single game purchasers pay above the season ticket price) are typically smaller than what the Diamondbacks tack on, resulting in Milwaukee's lower single game prices. Many middle tier seats in Miller Park, for example, go for half ($24) of what the Diamondbacks charge($50), perhaps illuminating why Brewer fans buy up thousands while comparable seats go unoccupied at Chase Field.
In addition, the NL Central Brewers, with a plethora of high demand matchups against the Cubs and World Champion Cardinals, jack up just ten games all year with "premium" pricing - the Diamondbacks designate twenty such games, a full quarter of the home schedule. I, for one, havent witnessed a remotely premium game at Chase Field since 2003, and declaring a game "premium" simply doesnt make it so.
Every market also has it's own demand characteristics. Milwaukee has a longstanding reputation as a blue collar town - so it surprises some to learn that its per capita income($36,488) significantly exceeds Phoenix($31,133). In truth, Phoenix has the lowest per capita income of any major league metro area.
The Brewers are just one of many NL clubs that charge less than the Diamondbacks. Depite repeatedly misleading claims by Daron Sutton and Derrick Hall, Chase Field clearly does not offer the lowest prices in baseball, either in terms of cheapest available seat, or more importantly, overall price structure.
Are the Diamondbacks liars? Oh, probably not enough to engage an Attorney General with more important crimes on his plate. It's more a willful contortion, by people who know better, to ignore the facts, ignore premium pricing, indeed ignore single game pricing entirely, to cynically justify spouting such self-interested foolishness.
(photos courtesy of mlb.com and email.mtsd.k12.wi./ddiener)
17 July 2007 at 10:06 AM in Attendance, Front Office Permalink Comments (1)

D*Backs Brass Eliminates Free Telecasts

Effective next year, no Diamondbacks games will be telecast locally, unless one has cable access - or if Arizona happens to play in a rare FOX Game of the Week. A wealth of games had been broadcast on free (non subscription) local television every season since the inception of the franchise in 1998.
Team President Derrick Hall cheerfully confirmed the elimination of free local telecasts from the stadium's FSNAZ pressbox Friday night. Hall indicated he was "excited" about the change and stressed it would be "good for fans" because all the games would finally be in "one place", where fans could "find" the games.
Fans sans residential cable may still watch games under the new restrictions, at wired-for-cable saloons, provided all drinks and cover charges are paid in full. Bars are, presumably, the "one place" Mr Hall made reference to, assuming dedicated fans have no trouble "finding" them, or their car keys for the dicey return trips home. Hall gave no indication of immediate plans to eliminate games on radio, an apparent concession to the elderly, many of whom are blind anyway, and seemingly content with that medium from their childhoods before the war.
(photo courtesy of movitz.com and mlb.com)
15 July 2007 at 01:13 PM in Front Office Permalink Comments (2)

Draw Bridge

An all time franchise low 16,792 attendees did not see Conor Jackson bat in three runs with a pair of homers Thursday, and thus did not see the Diamondbacks lose to the San Diego Padres in eleven innings 6-4, neither dropping the D*Backs below .500 nor further taxing their bullpen.
But what few people were there did see Tony Clark. His counterpart, San Diego's first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, hit a three run homer in the top of the first, and Bob Melvin countered by starting a first baseman who actually hits like one, enabling Arizona to take the series in surprising fashion and keep their heads above .500.
Livan Hernandez(2-1) survived A-Gon's opposite field bomb, shutting out the Padres on two hits from that point through the seventh frame to earn the victory. His opposite, Chris R Young (2-2), walked three and misplayed a comebacker in addition to yielding the pair of homers to Clark, and was removed in the sixth.
Why the record setting, poor attendance? Considering your team is 12-11, has exciting young players with a pair of recent walkoff hits, and your city is enjoying relatively fair weather, it's a fair question. Add the return of the greatest player in franchise history, Randy Johnson, and the sea of empty seats deserves some explanation.
We dont think there's any one factor driving such a dubious result, and gravitate towards a multi-variable 'perfect storm' theory to explain such an extreme outcome.
Here's what we think has primarily driven attendance down in 2007:
Lack of big draw opponents (apart from the 2 game series v LA, the Reds, COL and SD dont draw particularly well here)
Fans lack of confidence in a team of young unknowns.
Fans lack of interest in a team of young unknowns.
Fans response to rising ticket prices and what they perceive as a lack of "good old fashioned value" at the ballpark (metro Phoenix ranks dead last in per capita income among the 30 MLB markets)
Fans response to an FO perceived as putting profitability ahead of the product on the field.
Fans lack of confidence in a team skippered by Bob Melvin
Fan rebellion against an FO perceived as "mean" or "petty" (ie Gonzo's dissatisfaction, erasure of team colors, removal of $1 seats)
Some of this will self-correct momentarily. Tonight, for example, Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants ride in to the rescue for some Friday night fun. (The Bay Area Boyz drew 56,000 yesterday in Los Angeles.) And talented, hardworking young players will soon engender fan affection as surely as springtime heralds love.
But the bottom four bullets touch on a structural attendance problem here, that is largely the brainchild of new ownership. Every baseball market is unique and presents it's own advantages and challenges, it's own supply and demand. So, when people complain that Phoenix has fair weather fans or lacks the entrenched rabidity found in Fenway Park, they're merely describing a symptom rather than unveiling a root cause.
The question isnt if the Phoenix market differs from Boston or Tampa Bay. The question is, what do you do about it, and get people to come to your ballpark.

(photos courtesy of Paul Conners / AP & http://www.artistnina.com/)
27 April 2007 at 10:34 AM in Attendance, Front Office, Game Analysis Permalink Comments (16)

For Better Or Worse

Some folks want to boycott the new Sedona Red colors. Have a "purple out" at Monday's home opener. There's even whispers of disrupting the game with a ritual immolation of offending threads.
I dont know. We live in touchy times, and as much as I empathize with these sentiments, it's not worth geting tased over. So rather than abetting a sympatico's jail time, here's Diamondhacks' perspective on the boycott.
Everyone's entitled to like one color over another. This change, though, was never really about that. What's at issue is whether a baseball franchise's brief but unique heritage ought to be cavalierly discarded in exchange for short term profits, by way of the latest fashion. Whether the public, which foots most of a team's bills, including the stadium's construction, is owed something permanent beyond cheerful promises and skyrocketing single game ticket prices.
At Monday's home opener, Diamondbacks employees will enthusiastically distribute more than 40,000 bright red shirts to jump start this identity theft and fans' response will help shape the future of our hometown franchise. Wearing the shirt reinforces that whatever the new owners want to sell is pretty much OK by you. Stadium and team name change? OK. I'm here for the baseball. Eradication of the original colors? No problem. Raise ticket prices after three consecutive losing seasons? That's cool, I'm just here for the Bud Lite - or this week - the red shirt. You make the job of MLB profiteers embarassingly easy.
If, however, you choose to place your maroon freebie on your lap or under your seat, or refuse to accept it altogether, you send a compelling, contrarian message, especially nowadays.
I don't support the erasure of my team's identity for marketing outputs, with little or no regard towards our common franchise heritage.
Uniform changes can herald a new era - but subtle, respectful alterations would have been much more appropriate.
Those who resist this power grab will be subject to corporate obfuscation, about how purple is inherently problematic, and how real fans should just "get behind the team" and wear red. In response, let's state clearly what eschewing red, and/or remaining loyal to purple, turquoise and copper does not mean:
Eschewing red is not living in the past, but appropriately respecting it.
Wearing purple is not disloyal to the hometown team, or players, in any way.
Eschewing red is not protesting subtle uniform alterations or change in general.
Wearing purple makes one no less a fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It's important, because as fans acquiesce to unsolicited red, these crass changes will recur until your Diamondbacks dissolve into the Arizona Chameleons. Not this year or next - they need to sell a bunch of hats first - but soon enough, the passion for red will die down, like any fashion, cuing the inevitable press releases about how red no longer separates "our brand" enough and is so hopelessly "2007-ish". A new color will be pushed, perhaps even "throwback" purple, and that wont be a good either, because this isnt about the intrinsic value of purple - it's about opportunistically robbing a team's permanent identity for short term marketing buzz and, perhaps, to settle front office personal scores.
Our franchise is very young, so let's forego comparisons with the venerable Yankees and Red Sox. Consider the more recent case of Houston and the New York Mets. Both entered the NL in 1962, Houston as the Colt 45's back in the heart of the cowboy era - a much hipper identity than the hopelessly abstract Metropolitans. Houston quickly discarded their cowboy boots n spurs , however, for an even trendier identity (Astronauts). The Astrodome, dubbed the 8th wonder of the world, drew enormous attention to Houston, while the hapless Mets moved to a stadium named after a lawyer. All the commotion further convinced Astro ownership to reinvent themselves, so instead of periodically tweaking uniform styles like many clubs, including the Mets, Houston eradicated their color schemes several times. From that 1962 twin birth, the Astros won more games and had more playoff appearances than the Mets, who stuck with less than fashionable orange and cobalt blue - through good times and bad.
Despite all that, who's got the stronger identity now? Houston played in the 2005 World Series, yet few remember what they look like, and more importantly, no one cares. Mets fans actually care about their goofy blue and orange. It's part of them and part of their shared heritage. Try a splash of chianti at Shea and you'll have a riot on your hands. Arizona fans, your scarlet D-Backs are halfway towards becoming the next disjointed, kaleidoscopic, Enron/Minute Maid/Whatever Astros - rather than the New York Mets - let alone the Red Sox, Tigers, Cardinals or Yankees.
We've been on this soulless path for a while. The stadium name change. The stealth decommissioning of popular $1 seats and disengenuous ticket and marketing policies. Yet the extermination of original colors signals an acceleration on that path, from which a respectable return seems unlikely. Owners come and go, but capitalism is here to stay. These little indignities happen because they work; because not enough people, people like you, just say, "Enough".
People say this is a lost cause. That a few fans cant resist the resources and will of a powerful corporation with just a sense of baseball history and an internet connection. I imagine that's true. We discard all sorts of things quickly these days. Why even bother with continuity and players honoring the past on the field ? Certainly the new owners are legally entitled to cloak players in bloody vermillion, upon the corpse of Jerry Colangelo's worst excesses, but the question isn't whether they can - it's whether or not they should.
Before we heel behind this blindingly red banner, reminiscent of a conquering Soviet or Chinese army promising a New Age, we ought to take a moment to remember our shared baseball past. Not the World Series and Gonzo so much - they've had their face time and have hardly faded. I'm thinking more back to March 31, 1998, when Arizona's christening, ceremonial pitch was thrown, not by honored attendeees Willie Mays or Rachel Robinson, or Barry Goldwater or Colangelo himself, but by two shocked kids randomly selected from the upper deck. Moments later, a purple capped Andy Benes, gave birth to a thousand more dreams a hundred times over, when he threw a fastball to the Rockies Mike Lansing. And so it began, on an evening when purple was wonderous and unequivocally beautiful, like a newborn.
Even moreso, we should remember 1997, and every year before it, when there was no purple cap. No first pitch - or delighted children to throw it. No team. No baseball.
Purple isn't the color of an owner.
For better or worse, in this town, it's the color of a team. And turquoise and copper the colors of a dream. The colors of our shared history that brings us together.
In this town, the colors of baseball.

16 April 2007 at 03:00 AM in Announcements, Front Office, Gear, Uniforms and Memorabilia, History and Tributes, My Team(s) Permalink Comments (18)

Paying Fans

Bumped into Jeff Moorad yesterday, at my son's middle school baseball game. I was, coincidentally, donning my purple Dbacks 2001 World Series shirt, so that went over well ;- ) Actually, since the Dbacks CEO had sunglasses on, no reaction was discernable as I walked past, smirking. Inside, I imagine, he was sobbing like a baby.
I've seen Moorad at Phoenix Country Day School(PCDS) a few times, when my kid is the visiting team, which makes me think Jeff attends many of his son's games. I wonder how often he'd attend if he had to pay $50 for a decent seat?
Moorad looks about as much like a typical baseball fan as Donald Trump or Sydney Greenstreet in Casablanca. They even wear the same color hat. Jeff's also a heavy man in an expensive suit, who watched the game apart from the other parents and fans. Who knows why, maybe he didnt want to discuss the colors?
He wanted to discuss the red threads the other day, in the Dbacks television booth:
"...they're selling like hotcakes, even though that's not why we made the change"
Moorad may not want to discuss attendance at his ballpark either. Wednesday's was 19,534, followed by an alarmingly low 20,219 Friday night turnout vs Colorado. It was MLB's lowest tally that night, save a game finally played in Cleveland that I understand was contested on tundra. Despite our young, exciting team's flirtations with first place, the 20,219 Friday fiasco may be the Dbacks lowest attended Friday night game ever.
Whaddya think? Must be an uneducated, transient fan base ;- )
In a final bit of Jeff Moorad news, his golden boy, Russ Ortiz, beat Pittsburgh last night, falling one pitch shy of a complete game. Here's Ortiz' line after 8 innings:
8 7 2 2 1 7 2.25
Paying folks to come to Chase Field probably isnt a bad idea. We just didnt think it would be Russ Ortiz.
14 April 2007 at 07:27 PM in Attendance, Front Office Permalink Comments (5)

Name That Team

We dont observe daylight savings time here in central Arizona, but the times, they are a-changing in Diamondback land. New players, new seat prices, even a new, truncated team name emblazoned on entirely new, barely recognizable uniforms. Many say that the Moorad/Kendrick buzzsaw has gone too far heralding their dramatic new change of direction, but after due consideration, Diamondhacks has come to the conclusion that perhaps they havent gone far enough.
Especially when it comes to the team name. The Sedona Red threads are a complete departure from the purple, but "D-Backs" is just so eerily similar to Jerry Colangelo's "Diamondbacks", that it fails to capture the magnitude of the brand new culture of excellence afoot, or the breathtaking scope of the new FO's Circle of Success.
Clearly, Jeff Moorad's front office "Dream Team" has looked to certain franchises in implementing it's ostensibly unique vision. The brick, sand and black scheme, for example, is identical to that of the Houston Astros. And earlier this spring, the Dbacks first televised game vs the LA Angels, featured two barely distinguishable teams, both sporting bright red tops.
Since you're incorporating the look of the Astros and Angels, why not go all out and overhaul your team name as well - to reflect those same franchises you so unabashedly emulate? Astros...Angels? Astros...Angels. Hmmm. How about combining the Astros first syllable (As) with the Angels last syllable (-els). Eureka!
Your Arizona Asels has a nice ring, but it still doesnt fully capture the pungent flavor of ownership's Change of Direction. These Asels need something extra, an adjective, to visually evoke the red identity theft perpetrated on Diamondback fans. Got it!
Flaming Asels!
T-Shirts, bumper stickers, tattoos...Flaming Asels everywhere, just in time for the home opener. What better way to salute the current stewards of our halcyon baseball franchise.
28 March 2007 at 01:40 AM in Announcements, Front Office Permalink Comments (13)

Level Headed?

We want to be fair with Josh Byrnes, if only because his typically "level headed" quotes lack the oily residue of self interest dripping from his colleagues' pronouncements. Josh has made mistakes, but that's fine. Everyone's entitled to a few, provided one doesnt reflexively deny, or worse, blame others for, the screw ups.
It's in that context we heard the Arizona GM comparing his squad to some other young, very successful, teams of the past. The 1966 Baltimore Orioles, mid 70's Dodgers, mid 80's Tigers and early 90's Pirates. To be fair, Byrnes was hardly equating his squad, but using the earlier teams to a) illustrate that a young nucleus isnt resigned to lose and can, in fact, win - and b) draw some connection between those teams and the 2007 Dbacks.
Josh, armed with his handy qualifiers, makes it all seem so reasonable...so innocuous. Problem #1 is that when you examine these wunderkind rosters a little closer, some pretty big differences become apparent. They each had a handful of young players like the currrent Dbacks, but they had a bunch of other assets as well.
The 1966 Orioles, for example, had a HOFer in his prime at third base, and their right fielder hit 49 homers in a pitcher's park in a dead ball era, which in today's context is about 75 home runs. His name happened to be Frank Robinson, but in 1966, his Triple Crown year, he might as well have been Babe Ruth. The Dodgers and Tigers had better rotations than the Dbacks and were each led by HOF managers. Big, big difference there. Jim Leyland's Pirates had biennial MVP Barry Bonds.
Problem #2 is that Josh Byrnes knows all this. It's not like he threw out these comparisons not appreciating who Frank Robinson was. Which begs the question, Why is he even bringing these comparisons up? Is he overstepping in a rather desperate defense of his strategy to "go young" before a weary fan base, or cynically, mechanically drumming up enthusiasm for the coming campaign?
Diamondhacks hopes the Joshster has a third motivation. That is, he has every intention of molding this team into those earlier success stories but he just hinted at " his plans" a little too soon. He's not calling Sparky Anderson or Jim Leyland, but we all learned only yesterday that he chatted up the Yanks about acquiring Alex Rodriguez. This news floored some people.
Not us. We've been saying since August that Chad Tracy's future with the club is on tenuous ground. At 26, Chad's a poor fielder who has never never hit lefthanders worth a hoot. Second, as we've been saying since the 2004 Richie Sexson injury, the Diamondbacks are in dire need of a big bat. Short on cash, Arizona boasts a bevy of valuable prospects to barter for an older, immediate impact, hitter. Conor Jackson, anyone? We'll throw in Chad Tracy or Eric Byrnes, take your pick.
One certainly gets the impression that the Arizona Reds 40 man roster is relatively settled but I wouldnt be so sure. J Byrnes doesnt appear thrilled playing E Byrnes in left and is clearly less enamored with the prospect of starting Scott Hairston. As Jeff DaVanon recovers, be prepared for some Dback position players to be moved in return for a crusher in left - or possibly at a corner IF position.
05 March 2007 at 01:40 AM in Fantasy, Front Office Permalink Comments (2)

Just Joshing

This time of year, Diamondhacks rigorously ignores the self serving charade of optimistic blather oozing from many club executives, but when level headed GM Josh Byrnes, measured beyond his years, talks up the club in March, we sit up and take notice.
Our expectations are high. Many people feel that we have conceded the present for the future. That is not the case.... we believe that [we] can compete in the NL West.
And this:
Our depth is outstanding... I believe that our depth will serve us well over the 162-game season, [and help us] make any improvements in-season.
We feel that our pitching depth is very good...we have significant depth to reinforce any problems that arise.
Exciting stuff. I almost want to whip out the Visa and splurge on some "premier" games.
Two caveats on the Joshing, though. First, perceived "depth" is more often a weakness than a strength, in that it signals a failure of individual players to rise above the pack. Several young pitchers vying for a single rotation spot, for example, is often touted as "depth", when it more accurately reflects that none of them are quite ready for the show.
Second, and indeed far more worrisome, is that the above quotes from Mr Byrnes, were not delivered on this first day of March, but in March of 2006, just prior to his ballclub floundering to an ignominious, and at least to him surprising, last place finish.
01 March 2007 at 12:04 PM in Front Office Permalink Comments (7)

Singular Honeydrippers

The green retro scoreboard asserts the score:
DBacks Game 1
Chick Flicks 0
This cheeky result appeared in my Sunday paper, within yet another season ticket ad, further clarifying Diamondbacks' two pronged marketing strategy: misrepresent the product and shame people into buying it.
We previously chronicled a similar home mailing targeted at fathers' insecurites; today's 14 inch ad shows a couple, their features dramatically darkened just shy of silhouette, overlooking a distant Chase Field. The ad's shading is a masterful device, clearly projecting the body language and facial expressions of a man and a woman, while obscuring their race and ethnicity. In other words, whether you are Anglo, Hispanic, African or Asian, this could be you!
The young woman in the ad is smiling, looking up adoringly at her "guy" a la Nancy Reagan. She is leaning into him, her chin almost on his shoulder. Season Ticket Man is smiling back. A kiss seems imminent. Perhaps even a condom.
And with good reason. He has jettisoned "chick flicks" and imposed his manly will upon her - and the little woman is positively dewy about it. Why, how could a gal ever sit through another Hugh Grant or Brad Pitt blockbuster when Randy Johnson and Chris Snyder are this close?
The ad further instructs:
Put away the tissues and come out to the ballgame.
Seems like alot to ask of those who've actually sat through a summer in Chase's top deck, where this fictional couple is also, apparently, in heat. After trekking to the stadium in 110 degrees, braving the steep climb up to allegedly air conditioned seats, any dripping fan can identify the true source of this young lady's moisture.
Perhaps the most misleading aspect of the ad, however, is here:
DBacks Game 1
Chick Flicks 0
Oh, the exploitation of young men's sexual insecurities is clear enough, and we're not even referring to the subtle but false promise of old time charm suggested by the Fenwayesque, manual scoreboard. What caught our eye was how the allegedly good thing, the Dbacks game, is singular and that which is to be avoided is plural. The authentic, real world choice between "a" ballgame and "a" movie has been distorted here into a false challenge: assert one's manhood with "1 game" or eternally wallow, fettered and emasculated, in a perfumed sea of "chick flicks".
What's misleading further - and borderline fraudulent - is that this isnt an ad for a ballgame, but rather for season ticket packages - where "Dbacks Games" makes perfect sense and "Dbacks Game 1" perfectly does not. This is another purposeful contrivance. Ballsy Diamondbacks' brass apparently lack sufficient cajones to openly market a boatload of ballgames versus a bunch of movies. Instead, under the guise of singularity, they're selling quite a long term committment - without honesty, courage or even the appropriate moisture to seal the deal.
19 February 2007 at 01:37 PM in Attendance, Front Office Permalink Comments (6)

Corporate Giving

A spiffy season ticket flyer from the Diamondbacks arrived Saturday, proving, if nothing else, a need to target their direct mail a little better. It's a slick little brochure, hinting at the usual illusory benefits attributed to suckers who pay way, way too much for 83 baseball games. Despite the fact the mailer took a tad too long to roll out, as evidenced by Randy Johnson's absence within it, the Diamondbacks should still take pride in their effort. At least they avoided the temptation of enumerating any Baby Backs. Nothing says death to potential season ticket sales quite like "Carlos Quentin is our best position player."
As I say, I have no desire to purchase their package, despite a love for the game and more than a passing interest in Mr Quentin. In the flyer, adjacent to the intricate seating diagram, is this blurb - in lieu of a price list apparently - hinting at my disinterest:
We're giving our season ticket holders a bigger advantage than ever before over single game pricing.
Notice how we've been given something. Not a competitive team (not yet anyway), but a gift nonetheless. As most fans already know, season ticket holders (STH) havent been given anything - rather, MLB franchises have systematically taken away attractive, reasonably priced single game tickets from most everyone else. The resulting illusion of season ticket(ST) "value" is a cornerstone of MLB revenue strategy and has met with some success, as evidenced by the amusing paradox that overall attendance is up despite the fact fewer unique fans are attending games. In other words, turnstiles are turning more, but it's pretty much the same people night in and night out - the 15 to 25 thousand STH in each city who've been suckered into this shell game.
During the Dbacks memorable inaugural season, companion and I sat just off home plate in the lower bowl for $38 per game. In 1999, we paid $41 for 100 wins and the playoffs. In exchange for a World Series, the damage ran about $46. Just six years later (and 4 years removed from fielding a competitive or remotely interesting squad), the magnanimous Dbacks now offer esteemed STH those identical seats...for $62.
As a gift, mind you.
If you're paying more to watch a considerably inferior product, where's the "advantage"? Well, if you bought these same single game seats today, the ones I paid $38 for less than a decade ago, they'll run you $110-125 after all the nauseating online charges and fees. The STH "advantage"(ie $62) hinges on this false dichotomy: the illusion of only two choices.
A third choice, of course, is not to purchase baseball tickets at all and instead pursue more attractive entertainment options with one's savings. Alienated fans have made that choice - millions of times in the Phoenix market alone. Baseball is fond of comparing their high end tickets with pricier basketball and football seats - and their upper deck options against $10 movie tickets. A typical baseball game, however, doesnt have the energy level or entertainment value of a typical NBA or NFL game, according to most sports fans anyway, and while it's plausible that a cheap seat to watch the Mets play on a nice day at Shea is worth more than seeing a run of the mill movie, it's also true that a good first run movie in a comfortable seat is infinitely more enjoyable than the vast balance of Diamondback games endured from the upper deck.
A fourth choice, for baseball diehards needing a fix, is to forego inflated box office prices for secondary ticket markets (ie ebay, stubhub, word of mouth) more aligned with a seat's actual value. In Phoenix, this consistently entails repurchasing seats from rather desperate STH's, sometimes at a significant discount.
Another misleading premise about season ticket value has to do with long term utility - the implicit notion that fans' level of enjoyment stays relatively constant regardless of how many games one attends. It's one thing to sustain utility over time in an authentic, high energy park like Fenway or Wrigley, but after witnessing Chad Tracy hit his first ten homers for a last place team in a less than charming, half empty airplane hangar, all but the least discerning consumers feel pretty foolish paying top dollar just to "be there" for the second ten. Diamondback STH who insist their ballpark experience hasn't deteriorated are fools or liars, either too ashamed of their dubious investment to accurately assess it, or resigned to the drab ballpark each night due to some sort of family trouble at home.
So, Diamondbacks, thanks for thinking of me and for wanting me "to be part of our team again." I understand you have representatives standing by, ready to recommend a plan "right for me". It's just that, well, I've given your opportunity a good deal of thought.
Here's your flyer back. By all means, think of it as a gift.

06 February 2007 at 03:33 PM in Attendance, Front Office Permalink Comments (0)

Once More To The Diamond

The most illusory, and ultimately counterproductive, aspect of stadium naming rights is its imposition of an increasingly transient corporate stamp upon baseball, our most traditional and longstanding pastime. Sprouting dot coms and feverishly merging banks tout showy naming contracts only to abandon them - and by extension - the stadium, team and fans, soon thereafter.
Smoothing one's decals on a park somebody else built, and pretending it's yours, is a particularly modern illusion; hinting of something new that is not new, of something better that is not better. The deception of ownership or auspices over that which you clearly do not own.
Taxpayers financed the Phoenix hangar on Jefferson and Seventh, and we can call it anything we like, regardless of which executive vice president of blah,blah, blah sheepishly snips his ceremonial ribbon to a cascade of boos this year or next. On the heels of the Chase/JP Morgan merger, for example, one pundit, apparently familiar with Bob Melvin's teams, deliciously came up with "The Morg" - and we mocked up our own tongue in cheek naming ceremony a while back - but it's time more serious thought was applied to this matter.
Despite my idealistic preference for an eternal, stand alone name like Fenway, Yankee or Dodger Stadium, market realism dictates a compromise of nomenclature: a hybrid moniker of an inevitably revolving, corporate "first" name, followed by an immutable stadium 'surname'.
What venue titles might distinguish our place from the rest, while evoking baseball's timeless qualities? Incorporating "Diamond" into the field name is unique - no other MLB team currently does - and it ties into the franchise name rather obviously.
"Diamondbacks Diamond" doesnt exactly roll off the tongue. What about "Copper Diamond" or "The Diamond at Copper Square"? Or "Downtown Diamond", " Desert Diamond" or "Diamond in the Desert" ? The corporate appendage elongates it to "Chase Downtown Diamond", which could segue into "Nextel Downtown Diamond" or, horror of horrors, "Blue Diamond Almonds Desert Diamond". Whatever the core stadium name though, stays.
In perpetuity.
The advantage is that, in an era of accelerating change, fans more readily associate permanence and continuity with their hometown franchise, which engenders a stronger, more lasting affection. Players move in and out, Diamondbacks is truncated to Dbacks and colors are thrown to the curb - but at least you can still take your kid to "The Diamond", just like your parents took you a generation earlier.
It's been said that "...a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet" and perhaps fretting about a ballpark's name is superficial. Maybe that continuity thing, about grandparents and progeny escorting one another to the very diamond of their respective youths, has been reduced to an illusion nowadays.
At the ballyard, however, ordinary people are entitled to our illusions. We paid for them - at least as much as the big banks.
25 January 2007 at 02:51 PM in Ballparks, Front Office, History and Tributes, Tearjerkers Permalink Comments (2)

Closing Time

This story informs us that Doug Davis has a girlfriend in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and tips well at the tavern. Oh, I almost forgot - there's a little confession at the end of the story about how his arm is shot.
"I would love to stay in Milwaukee, but I will probably be traded. That’s fine, my arm is cashed anyway. I’ve got nothing left."
It's looking more and more like the biggest difference between this guy and Russ Ortiz, is that Bob Melvin will insist on Doug throwing 200 innings, whether we like it or not:
"Davis is a guy who is an innings-eater, who is left-handed, which is something we've been looking for. Along with Webby and Livan, he gives us another proven guy who should provide innings."
Can hardly wait.
22 January 2007 at 12:54 PM in Front Office, Hot Stove, Players Permalink Comments (2)

Dbacks Hike Ticket Prices 500%

Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall proudly announced Thursday that gameday ticket prices in certain sections of Chase Field will increase by 500%. Seats in Sections 300 and 332, priced at $1 every year since franchise inception, will now cost $6 on gameday at the Chase Ho Park box office.
In order to "create more affordability", management addressed fan "complaints" that "there weren't enough" $1 seats, by a) freezing the number of available $1 seats, and b) raising their price 500%. This according to Hall, the Dbacks exec who decreed in autumn that "everyone will like the new uniforms, regardless of age or gender."
In a related goodwill gesture, Hall is also "extremely proud" that approximately 5000 nearby upper level seats will now be priced at $5, to bring them back in line with what they cost when the Diamondbacks last had a winning season and people actually sat in them.
(photo courtesy of Barry Gossage/Arizona Diamondbacks)
07 January 2007 at 04:30 AM in Announcements, Attendance, Front Office Permalink Comments (8)

Boy! Boy! Crazy Boy!

Who will supplant Thom Brennaman as Chase Field's play by play boy? The East Valley Trib says the club,
"...might seek permission to interview San Francisco’s Dave Flemming, 29, who teams with Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper, and San Diego play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian, 39."
As one of six or seven Maricopa County geezers who can actually place Vasgersian's esoteric Broadway show tune references, I'm certain his outlandish schtick would sink like Tony Gwynn's gut, were it ever thrust upon our pridefully dreary cow town. Matt might even get beat up in the parking lot after games.
Every summer our family catches several Padres broadcasts and we're immediately struck by how dull Vasgersian's games are compared to the more familiar Phoenix productions. It's the first thing we all notice - and hits you like a ton of bricks. The Padres booth sounds like a minor league operation frankly - lots of dead air, copious errors and precious little insight, except when Gwynn makes a cameo.
One game, Vasgersian signed off at the end of an inning, and his crew actually went to the commerical break, before anyone realized there were only two outs. They had to cut short the commercial to play the rest of the inning. Amateurish stuff like that.
In spots, Vasgersian can be very clever. One time, amidst a tense brushback **** for tat, Jose Mesa made threatening, theatrical arm gestures, prompting Matt to chime, "Boy! Boy! Crazy Boy!", a delicious reference to the West Side Story rumble bit. It was very funny, but as an increasing share of his audience isn't familiar with old broadway shows, this goes over most people's heads - and worse - alienates folks who consider it highbrow.
I dont know anything about Dave Flemming but suspect a 29 year old guy might not be the most interesting solution here either. The Diamondbacks ought to think out of the box and pursue a mature, intelligent woman with a measured delivery for the play by play job and pair her with a baseball guy comfortable working alongside. Leering Mark Grace is obviously out, as is creepy Steve Lyons, who was apparently fired again last night. Ken Phelps' simple directness might work well. This isnt about women's rights or affirmative action - it's about MLB better reflecting baseball's increasingly feminine fan base and shaking up the stale dynamics of big league baseball booths - creating more relevant and, ultimately, more interesting broadcasts.

13 October 2006 at 02:35 AM in Broadcasters, Front Office, Hot Stove Permalink Comments (4)

Front Office Boners

There were so many front office missteps by the Diamondbacks front office in 2006, it seems impossible to elevate one screw up above the rest.
But you persevered. Here's the full results of our latest poll, seeking out the season's biggest front office boner:
Kendrick calling EJ Montini & linking Gonzo to steroids
Raising ticket prices
Kendrick threatening to violate Jason Grimsley's contract
Not renegotiating Gonzo's contract
Kendrick not attending the Gonzo contract meeting
Bob Melvin's extension thru 2008
Eliminating the franchise's original colors
On most teams, a gaffe like re-signing Bob Melvin, or the General Partner badmouthing Gonzo, would carry the day as the apex of incompetence, but even these flubs fade next to the disingenuous, petty and utterly unnecessary decision to eradicate the franchise's original uniform colors.
Thanks for voting. New poll to follow shortly.
10 October 2006 at 06:29 PM in Front Office, Gear, Uniforms and Memorabilia, Polls Permalink Comments (3)

Alternative Music

It was enormously refreshing to hear any Dbacks analyst, in this instance Ken Phelps, sway from the cheery company line by daring to mention team shortcomings generally glossed over by his colleagues. While the front office, and many fans, appear to be focused on acquiring offseason pitching, Phelps made two key points:
1. This team badly needs a big-time bat, an RBI guy.
2. Next year's rookie laden team needs addtl veteran presence, implying that the currrent mix of veterans(sans Counsell & Gonzalez, of course) wont provide sufficient leadership and stability.
Some assume that the Dbacks offense, currently 4th in the NL in Runs Scored without a big home run hitter, is looking good. These optimists assert that Chad Tracy will come around and the baby backs are only bound to get better. A more realistic analysis, however, requires that the career years of Hudson and Byrnes serve to counterbalance Tracy's decline. And are the rookies really bound to get better? They've played marvelously this year. Drew is at .318 and Young & Quentin are among the team leaders in OPS. These kids havent even hit a slump yet.
Further, the Diamondbacks have never made the playoffs, sitting as low as 4th in Runs; Bob/Chase is a great hitters park and the home team needs to either lead the league or be closer to the top to think about the postseason. ( One year the Dbacks were third in runs and still made the playoffs, but they also had Randy Johnson & Curt Schilling.) In short, next year's team needs to score more runs if it intends to be successful. More runs without Luis Gonzalez.
Which brings us to Phelps' second point about veterans. We're normally not a big believer in intangibles like veteran leadership and aura and stuff. We know that teams win based on how many runs they score and yield, not on how well they communicate in the clubhouse. But the 2007 Dbacks are poised to start three, potentially four[Montero], rookies plus second year man, Conor Jackson, alongside Tracy, Byrnes and Hudson. Three rookies who've never endured a slump in the majors, let alone slogged through a grueling six month MLB season. Who's going to set the standard of what an everyday player needs to do to remain successful? Orlando Hudson perhaps. Who else? Tony Clark. Easley. They can talk all they want, but they barely play themselves, let alone start. When Eric Byrnes is your most veteran presence, you're sitting on a powder keg.
Ken Phelps understands this and, fortunately, has the integrity to make his views public, even when it's not music to his employer's ears.
17 September 2006 at 02:31 AM in Broadcasters, Front Office, Hot Stove, Rookies Permalink Comments (8)

I Am Third

What exactly did Luis Gonzalez demand?
One, Gonzo wants to be an everyday starter.
Two, any financial expectation he may have had was not expressed to the club. This, from Gonzo's agent on yesterday's discussion:
"I want to make it clear that Luis never had a chance to make a contract offer, never had a chance to make a salary demand," Bross said. "It had nothing to do with his option. The Diamondbacks decided they didn't want Luis back."
That's really all that's been made public.
One demand. To start fulltime, that the club evidently found so irreconciliable as to not entertain its possibility at any price? Theoretically at least, the club could have offered Gonzo less money than Eric Byrnes to play left field. They could have offered him less money to bat second or sixth.
Or could they?
Diamondhacks believes that Gonzo's demands may go beyond 'starting everyday'. According to MLB.com's Barry Bloom:
Gonzo has said all along that he wants to finish his career in a Diamondbacks uniform. But Gonzalez insists he only wants to return in his accustomed starting role in left field, batting third in the lineup. In his mind, a bench player he's not.
Hmmm. This is Bloom talking, not a direct quote from Luis - but it resonates. We've questioned before why Luis wasnt shifted around more in the lineup. Currently, he seems better suited to bat somewhere other than third or cleanup - but it didnt happen. Maybe Bob Melvin's hands were tied by some sort of unwritten agreement or understanding?
It's one thing to "start" a reliable veteran, but another entirely to promise a 40 year old a spot in the middle of the batting order. Were we a GM, this would be the kind of demand that would stop us dead in our tracks.
Another reason we think the 'batting third" demand seems plausible is because Gonzo appears to be increasingly absorbed in his statistical legacy, perhaps at the expense of the team. No longer a home run hitter, but still defended by exaggerated shifts, where are the easy bunts for hits down the unoccupied third base line? One of Gonzo's goals is, reportedly, 3000 hits, some four or more years away. Regardless of whether he can acheive that milestone, it seems evident that the then 43 year old would be doing so at the expense of younger, better players. At the expense of a team.
Apparently, Gonzo doesnt see it that way. Or doesnt care.
Luis is scheduled to hold a press conference today a 2PM.
15 September 2006 at 11:15 AM in Front Office, Lineups, Players Permalink Comments (0)

Very Close To Nothing

As today's information regarding Luis Gonzalez trickles in, we think the heart of Steve Gilbert's piece frames the issues most clearly and is worth reading:
...the D-Backs decided that it would not make sense to bring Gonzalez back even if he agreed to a reduction in salary.
Whether or not he would [agree to a salary reduction] was never talked about during Thursday's meeting, which according to one person familiar with the discussion took Gonzalez by surprise.
"This wasn't a negotiation," Byrnes said. "It evolved into a yes or no. We really didn't operate in the gray area too much."
While salary may have been negotiable for Gonzalez, playing time didn't seem to be. Gonzalez had previously made it clear both verbally and with his play on the field this year, that he was not ready to accept a non-starting or reduced playing role.
In other words, the Diamondbacks did not entertain the possibility of bringing Luis back as the everyday left fielder at any price. Money was never even discussed. The extent to which Gonzo may have been willing to take a reduction in pay in order to remain the everyday leftfielder was, again, not discussed.
It's important to understand this, not so much in light of message board idiots who still think the issue is whether or not Gonzo's worth $10 million dollars, but in light of another remark from GM Byrnes, namely:
"I think Gonzo's still a very productive player..."
This comparison of five Arizona outfielders seems to bear Byrnes out. What's most interesting isnt the numbers themselves, but rather their context - that is to say the consensus perception that Gonzo is an over the hill hanger on unable to recapture his past, contrasted with the 30yr old Eric Byrnes matching, perhaps surpassing, his 2004 career year.
Now, we think Eric Byrnes is an unusually entertaining player and personality, but in this, the tail end of his career year, old decrepit Gonzo still has a higher OPS! We're not asserting Gonzo will have a better 2007 than Eric Byrnes - he may not. But based not on their entire careers, but based just on 2006 alone, isnt it reasonable to assume that Gonzo might perform comparably to Byrnes? Or that both Byrnes(CF) and Gonzo(LF) might perform comparably, or better than, Chris Young?
GM Josh Byrnes weighs in again:
"It's going to be Eric Byrnes as the primary guy [in left].... it's a fairly appropriate time to make the transition if for no other reason than I think the nucleus of the next wave of Diamondbacks are here and performing well. We can now kind of turn the club over to them and know that the standard that Gonzo has set is very high."
Diamondhacks recently observed that because of his unique role in the franchise and bond with the community that Gonzo is worth more "off the field" to the Diamondbacks than to any other team. For that reason, we assumed Gonzo's best market offer would come from his current club and the only issue would be if the price suited him.
We were wrong. His own club rejected the possibility of Gonzalez continuing as the everyday left fielder at, apparently, any price.
Anticipating next year's very young, largely untested team, without Craig Counsell, sporting drastically different uniforms, in a league and division that is bound to be more competitive, we asked another question about Luis Gonzalez and this community.
Apart from, or perhaps in addition to, his on field performance, how much is Gonzo's unique link to the Diamondbacks fan base valued by this front office?
Based on the limited information divulged to date, that answer appears to be very close to nothing.
15 September 2006 at 12:07 AM in Announcements, Front Office, Players Permalink Comments (2)

Gimme Five

Which MLB ballpark is the best value and where does Chase Field rank?
Sports Illustrated collected detailed fan fedback on ballpark satisfaction and applied that subjective data against objective standards, like ticket prices and team W/L, to arrive at their list*
Again, it's not a list of the best ballpark "stadiums" or "experiences", but an attempt to weigh those experiences against cost to arrive at a measure of value - hence exorbitant little jewels like Fenway and Wrigley rate quite poorly.
Chase ranks in the middle of the pack, with average ticket pricing (per MLB), slightly above average access/amenities (per fans) and a below average team (per any six year old).
Is Chase really an average ballpark experience? Examine the list of teams, top to bottom. See a pattern?
( Think geography. Hint: Wrigley and Anaheim are anomalies, bucking the overerwhelming trend. )
Answer: All the worst value venues(except Wrigley) are in coastal states, and all the best values (except Anaheim) are in interior states.
There could be several reasons for this. Per capita income, cost of living and subjective expectations about pricing and team performance vary regionally. Perhaps a flaw in SI's methodology resulted in a Midwestern bias ? Or maybe red state parks really are better values? In any case, this puts Chase Field's ranking in a different light.
Among "interior state" venues, Chase ranks 12th of 15th**, ahead of only Wrigley, Minute Maid and Toronto. Obviously Wrigley, and we would assert, Toronto, are special destinations that fans expect to pay a premium for. Old Skydome is smack dab in what is arguably North America's most appealing major downtown. Houston provides a better comparison to Phoenix. Their ridiculous ticket prices($26 ave) are tempered somewhat by the Astros 2005 accomplishments. None of the other eleven "interior state" stadiums, however, rate a worse value than Chase.
Diamondhacks suggests Coors Field is the most apt comparison with our hangar. Mountain state per capita income, modern venue, lousy team. (Heck, both teams even wear purple!). The Rockies get a couple extra points for the view and having a hipper bar scene than Copper Square, but everything else scores very similarly.
Except ticket prices. Coors seats are, on average, $5 cheaper than Chase. Every seat, out of 40-50,000 is, on average, priced five dollars higher in our toasty tin. That's mostly why the Rockies rank 2nd here and the Dbacks bring up the rear.
Diamondhacks recognizes that franchises employ different strategies within their markets to maximize profit. The clear message, however, that Coors Field provides Phoenicians is :
The Diamondbacks are not trying very hard to maximize fans.
* hat tip on the SI Story: AZ Snakepit
** we treated the Phils and Nats as "coastal state" teams because of their East coast attributes, although a geographer could quibble with that assumption. If both were considered interior state teams, the Dbacks would have ranked 13th of 17.
13 September 2006 at 01:45 PM in Attendance, Ballparks, Front Office Permalink Comments (7)

Code Red

After fleeing this year's dog of an NL playoff "hunt" as decisively as did last year's BoMel "led" squad, perhaps it is time to ask a hard question regarding the Diamondbacks:
"How might this franchise's recent ill fortune have differed if the players had only worn red uniforms?"
It is, due to recent developments, a fair question. After all, Diamondbacks' woes certainly cant be laid at the feet of Bob Melvin, who must be, by virtue of his contract extension alone, a fine, fine manager.
Diamondhacks timidly thought maybe the fourteen of seventeen game abstention in the middle of a wide open 2006 wildcard race might be the players' fault. But no. We've since been assured they're doing "everything we ask". And most everyone, even us, agrees GM Josh Byrnes is doing, at minimum, a solid job bringing in personnel.
So, yup, we're pretty sure it's those godawful purple uniforms that've been holding this well oiled juggernaut back. Those dirty, filthy, "loser" uniforms.
04 September 2006 at 03:50 PM in Fire Bob Melvin, Front Office, Gear, Uniforms and Memorabilia Permalink Comments (5)

An Early Christmas

Bob Melvin's getting an extension, to be boldly announced to the world sometime this week, perhaps during the Home Run Derby Finals or while the All Stars are being introduced along the foul lines Tuesday night.
Per The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro, the agreement was kept hush hush until the club actually won a couple games in a row, which, as it turned out, took several weeks.
Diamondbacks fans, here's how your team's manager, through at least 2008, assessed his team going into this All Star break:
"It's been a progressive climb. To end up this way at the break certainly is a good feeling".
This unqualified comment reveals quite a bit about Melvin and his expectations for the team. He's obviously referring to the Coors sweep without defining his remarks as such, leaving the air thick with broader connotations. Dont these comments also suggest "we feel good about where we're at, considering... " Or, "we're on the upswing, excited about the second half"? We think reasonable readers would infer that.
Diamondhacks couldn't disagree more. To end up this way at the break is certainly not a good feeling. It's a miserable feeling. Five weeks ago, more than a third through the season, this team led it's division with a record better than the New York Mets. Barely a month later, the team has not merely surrendered the NL West lead, but has responded to it's early success with a monumental dive exceeding that of any World Cup striker, spiraling the Diamondbacks into last place. Arizona is farther out of the race today, trailing four teams by as many as 5 games, than at any point in the entire season. This is a "progressive climb"? We cant think of a clearer case of regression.
Yet Bob has a "good feeling". If any manager thought he had a contending team with a fighting chance to win the division, would he crow about a "good feeling" after going 43-45 and being in the cellar? Most likely, he'd have a "bad feeling", wouldn't he?
Do you remember towards the end of last year when Bob had a similar groovy vibe about his club? After utterly failing to make any kind of a run at all in the historically woeful, injury depleted NL West, the Dbacks reeled off seven or eight meaningless wins in late September and Bob praised the club's professionalism and pointed to the streak as a sign for next year.
Bob Melvin has hopes, not expectations. He hopes his team will compete for the division, but doesnt expect it and hasn't the leadership style to sufficiently enable it in a highly competitive division.
This extension confirms Diamondhacks' long standing concerns about whether on field achievement is of paramount, or even significant , importance to this front office. It appears to us they are at least as concerned with certain relationships than with team performance. Relationships between the manager and the players. The relationship between GM Josh Byrnes and the manager. The relationships between the front office and the manager.
Have another great team Christmas party, fellas!

In October.
10 July 2006 at 10:52 AM in Fire Bob Melvin, Front Office Permalink Comments (4)

On The Job

Abruptly marking an end to a recent string of groundbreaking club actions, Diamondhacks management failed to confirm speculation that the team is, in fact, on summer vacation.
"There have been whispers", conceded a club executive.
"Fans irresponsibly declare that we took off on June 5th, when we were, in fact, right here the whole time, very quietly cleansing the organization of suspected evil."
"People said we were actually in Catalina when we lost fourteen of sixteen, but I am not one of those people! I have absolute confidence that Bob Melvin and his staff have been here, diligently doing their jobs...at least as much as any of the players."
"Look, I have a Little Leaguer at home. It's actually a traveling team, but his coach gave a great speech after Tuesday's doubleheader - about how winners get up early every day for roadwork, to study tape and for some extra time in the cage, and how other kids, losers basically, sit around all summer reading or wasting time on some world "trip". I look that Little Leaguer in the eye every night, when he's in town, the same way I'm glaring at you, and I'll tell you both that no ballplayer I'm responsible for is taking any godd*m summer vacation."

23 June 2006 at 01:03 PM in Fantasy, Fire Bob Melvin, Front Office, Giggles Permalink Comments (3)

Some Reality

In keeping with his history of publicly casting stones at employees and company officials, Ken Kendrick recently imposed himself on veteran Arizona Republic reporter, Ed Montini.
Diamondhacks isn't sure how Ken Kendrick acquired his money, but judging from his periodic forays into the limelight we're inclined to believe that publicly mishandling personnel issues might be a very lucrative business. Not to be outdone by his stunningly ungracious botching of the Wally Backman escapade, Kendrick tried to educate Montini on the presence of performance enhancing drugs within his organization.
"We've had some suspicion in the past here with the Diamondbacks. There were some players that there was suspicion about that we very quietly moved on. We moved them out of our club because we thought there may be some reality to the suspicions that we were getting."
Some reality? Is that rudimentary code language for "evidence"?
Very quietly moved on?
Diamondhacks compiled a sizable group of ex-Dbacks who Kendrick has casually cast "suspicion" upon with his vague accusation. In the same spirit of Ken's "very quiet" approach(ringing up the biggest muckraker in town), we'll list the "suspicious" players in very small font, absolving us of blame in the event anyone actually takes notice.
Shea Hillenbrand, Troy Glaus, Steve Finley, Lance Cormier, Mike Koplove, Randy Johnson, Brian Bruney, Orlando Hernandez, Elmer Dessens, Casey Fossum, Oscar Villareal, Koyie Hill, Alex Cintron, Scott Hairston, Quinton McCracken, Roberto Alomar, Mike Fetters, Shawn Estes, Brad Halsey, Javier Vasquez, Kelly Stinnett, Tim Worrell, Royce Clayton and Jose Cruz Jr.
Regarding Luis Gonzalez, Kendrick curiously continues:
In other cases, yeah, there have been some other suspicions, and we probably haven't acted on them. I'll be blunt with you and say there have been certainly whispers about Luis Gonzalez. Because he's such a high-profile guy and you can make a case of his numbers five years ago versus his numbers today and therefore he must have been doing something. Well, he's also five years older."
A day later, Kendrick "clarified" his position on Gonzo:
"I don't have any suspicions about Luis Gonzalez," Kendrick said. "Any more than I would about any other player...I think the world of the guy. I used him as an example of how people would react. I'm not one of those people...
Kendrick says there are suspicions about Gonzalez but that he(Kendrick) doesnt personally believe any of them. Or, he doesnt believe them any more than suspicions against "other players", that presumably led to their release?
Call it suspicion, call it evidence, call it circumstantial evidence. Short of a positive drug test, there's more "stuff' implicating Luis Gonzalez than any other current Diamondback and Ken Kendrick knows it. Gonzalez' startling production through the first five months of 2001 marked a more abrupt marginal increase than any of Barry Bonds' more heralded, simultaneous acheivements, in fact, rivaling the seasonal improvement of any regular player in major league history.
Ken Kendrick is a conflicted man.
On the one hand, he eagerly asumes the public role of PED crusader, tracking down Montini to report he's cleansed the club of some "suspicious" characters, well before some reality reared its ugly head. He's taking the fight to Grimsley and even composing a strict player conduct code so he can look his Little Leaguer in the eye.
He even implicated Luis Gonzalez. The players are up in arms about it. Player rep Craig Counsell said the remarks were "careless". Not wrong, mind you, but careless. Gonzo wants an apology. Diamondhacks applauds Kendrick for publicly acknowledging reservations about Gonzo's remarkable 2001 season.
But his conflict is this. As soon as the bashing starts, Kendrick backs away from his initial comments and fawns over Gonzalez like a schoolboy over Eva Longoria.
"I don't have any suspicions about Luis Gonzalez..."
Right, Ken. He cant even bring himself to say the team "has not" acted against Gonzalez, when that appears to be the case. Instead, the Dbacks "probably haven't" acted on the suspicions, like they have, "very quietly", with other players, none of whom, BTW, capped ordinary careers by almost breaking the NL all time seasonal Total Bases mark in 2001.
We believe Kendrick is sincerely troubled about PEDs. He's also trying to run a profitable business.
Some reality.
17 June 2006 at 05:58 PM in Front Office, Juice Permalink Comments (2)

A Good and Excellent Move

The $21.5 million reassignment of Russ Ortiz has received favorable press, mostly lauding the Diamondbacks for voluntarily taking a sizable financial hit to improve the team. In fact, the Dbacks aren't incurring much cost at all by this move. As Tao of Steve commenter Matthew Leach deftly points out:
Bless 'em for understanding the concept of sunk cost.
They're paying the salary no matter what. The money is spent, period. Once you acknowledge that the money is spent, you have to make the decision as to what will help you win games.
Smart teams understand sunk cost.
If Arizona was dumping Ortiz' salary and signing a replacement pitcher for an additional $20 million, or seven million, then one could say they're incurring a big expense for the sake of the team. But that didn't happen. Instead, a stable of cheap guns (Gonzalez, Cruz, Nippert) has supplanted Ortiz (and El Duque) in the rotation.
The Diamondbacks intend to improve their staff at virtually no cost. When put that way, it sounds like a no brainer - but this is where management dynamics clouds the picture.
In the corporate world, when the prospect of dumping a $20 million commodity is proposed, implicitly conceding that a strategic blunder has been committed(in this case, Moorad and Kendrick grossly overpaying Ortiz), one can be fairly certain of several things:
The risk / reward issues will be vetted by a increasingly sizable management group over a considerable length of time
Vested interests will oppose the proposal
That opposition must be overcome by a compelling, fact-based argument which convinces the opposition that they're assuming minimal risk.
In other words, it's one thing to say Russ Ortiz is a lousy pitcher and probably wont get better anytime soon. We all think that. And it's easy to say "Dump Russ" when someone else is heavily invested in his future.
But what if it's your money? Your budget. It's much tougher to pull the trigger under those circumstances. You think Ortiz wont get better, but you don't really know that. How can you be sure? One cant afford to make another $20 million mistake on top of the first one.
This is where Diamondhacks believes Josh Byrnes came to the rescue. Executives manage risk and reward and Byrnes' role, we believe, was to construct and deliver that compelling, fact-based case A) against the prospect of Ortiz returning to form and B) in support of the club's young in-house pitching alternatives.
We suspect he presented quantatative analysis on past performance, age and physical profiles to arrive at a range of expected results. So that the beancounters and fretting partners wouldn't have to guess about what was the right course of action. So that they would, as much as is possible, know. And grant their critical signoffs.
Academically, this was a no-brainer. But in the real world, you desperately need logicians to gather facts and salespeople to present the case to the board in a compelling way. Our hunch is that Josh Byrnes was both those guys.
Parting with Russ Ortiz will prove to be a good move.
Hiring Josh Byrnes was an excellent one.
-- Diamondhacks
15 June 2006 at 12:34 PM in Front Office Permalink Comments (2)

Those Who Have Vanished

Lowest. Attendance. Ever.

I figured maybe one of those oxymoronic Pacific typhoons, or at least a wicked dust devil, prevented the denizens of the nation's fifth largest city from visiting Chase Ho Park last night - but it turns out the weather was...

...typical chamber of commerce variety - simply mahvelous!
So why the record-setting apathy?
Both teams on the field stunk, but that's hardly news - even 'Hack partner The Arizona Republic is on board that aircraft carrier. In previous years, the always dull Rockies have drawn more here on "Game 2" dates, and this year's locals already look better than any DHacks squad since 2003. Besides, several crummy teams historically draw pretty well.
No, this gradual but unmistakable exodus isnt as much about the recent brand of listless, inept play as it is a product of collective, cumulative disenchantment with an inexplicably aggresive schedule of ticket price hikes.
I dont mind supporting a bad ballclub, especially considering the DiamondHacks impressive, albeit somewhat distant, past and their exciting future. Indeed, the enthusiastic backing of lovable losers has delicious cachet, at least for a while - and is an old baseball tradition. What I do mind is watching a bad team while absorbing a rapid fire barrage of unjustified increases, coyly marketed as "Premium Pricing" and the like.
Look. Everyone knows the DiamondHacks haven't played a remotely premium game since 2003. It may've taken a couple years for the densest among us to catch on to baseball's complex, tiered, too important by half, pricing structure.
But we get it now.
There are no decent everyday values, let alone bargains, left at Jefferson & 7th. (And by no, I mean that waiting for an hour or two under the broiling Arizona sun to score genuinely cheap, sameday seats is not an option for most Caucasians.) Once reasonable upper deck admission, like the Hohokam culture , is now ancient Phoenix history. And the $10 bleacher seat is, of course, long gone.

The best remaining value for an increasing number of modern-day working Phoenicians is to simply stay away from the stadium.
To vanish, as it were.
For some, it's only about economic utility - simple choices reflecting their personal values. For others, including thousands of former season ticket holders, it's even more personal. It's about feeling that they've been taken for granted, taken for a fool, taken for a sucker, by corporate marketers overcharging for an inferior product of ever-diminishing quality - and then suggesting that perhaps because other fans are being ripped off more than you are that you should be content watching a boring shell of a team from your $34 "value price" seat behind the foul pole.
Well, $34 plus the $2.50 handling fee and the $2 ticket printing charge - but you get the idea.
13 April 2006 at 12:05 AM in Attendance, Front Office Permalink Comments (2)

Man on The Moon

March 31, 1998 - What a grand, cathartic evening the Inaugural Game of the Diamondbacks franchise was. Fireworks, pageantry, stars human and celestial. The Suns' gorilla careening from the impossibly high steel rafters to theatrically deliver and install brand new bases.The first breathtaking aperture of the world's most advanced retractable stadium roof. A blessing, not from a priest or minister, but from a native American elder. Memorable rites of passage for a self-conscious cowtown desperate to celebrate and build upon their identity.
On the same date, Tampa Bay was celebrating their own coming out party. Stan Musial and Ted Williams each threw out ceremonial first pitches to the delight of Florida's newest MLB fans.
Back in Phoenix, an eclectic group of local singers (Alice Cooper, Rob Halford, Nils Lofgren, Margo Reed, Sam Moore and two of the sisters Sledge) harmonized a disarmingly sweet version of the national anthem. The star chosen to throw out the first ball, however, remained secret. Colangelo, the master conductor, was an even money favorite to call his own number. He, it could be fairly said, earned it. A surprise appearance by ailing Barry Goldwater was the dark horse gameday buzz. Willie Mays and Rachel Robinson were in the house ...either would have been a worthy and dynamite choice. Mainly, I was hoping my minor league burg wouldnt cart out a local B-lister like Acquanetta or the Mayor of Phoenix.
Instead, what Jerry did, on national television with all the dignitaries in attendance, was pick an unsuspecting six year old boy and girl to do the honors. From 331. Not some sponsor's kids. Upper deck. By the foul pole. Children lucky to just be in the stadium. Young enough to be awed by the electric feel in the ballpark; old enough to appreciate this serendipity the rest of their lives.
At his moment of greatest professional triumph to date, Colangelo shared the spotlight to demonstrate that in life, as in its metaphorical ally, baseball - anything is possible. His childlike faith in possibility captained a fledgling franchise through challenge and disappointment - all the way to Luis Gonzalez' improbable bleeder just beyond Derek Jeter's grasp. Yes, the 2001 World Series was his crowning acheivement - but make no mistake as to this franchise's defining moment. That which married this team to a city - and gave promise to any future glory. It was when Jerry handed the ball off to those kids.
05 October 2005 at 02:35 AM in Front Office, History and Tributes, Tearjerkers Permalink Comments (0)
Paradise Valley, AZ


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