24 April 2008

Trivial Pursuits

During Wednesday's FSN trivia question, Daron Sutton aired a veiled reference to criticism he's not "doing it right", so somebody's been on his case. Last night's teaser was unusually easy and he joked "Goodnight, everybody" as soon as it was over. It's clear Daron wants these segments to end quickly, and maybe the staged mischief is his inelegant means to that end. The interesting question is why? Why the compulsion to get it over with? Why cant this segment linger in the least, like it often does on more conventional (professional?) telecasts?

Maybe Sutton has so many other rehearsed japes, skits, promos and analytical tidbits to condense into each broadcast that he's simply pressed for time. Or he doesnt feel sufficiently in control with what could grow into a time-chewing conundrum - in any case, he's visibly uncomfortable with the bit. Which is funny for a guy who has turned Diamondback broadcasts into a race to get as many of his bits in as humanly possible. It's not as if everything Sutton says is inane - far from it - when focused on the game he's very often insightful. But this guy doesnt shut up for the entire telecast. Instead, FSN centers its production on the rehearsed parade of ingratiating babble from this unnaturally loquacious jester and his bag of japes rather than on what is spontaneous and true - whether that be a game of baseball trivia - or a trivial game of baseball.

Following Tuesday's sweep of San Francisco, company man Mark Grace emphatically tabbed the Diamondbacks the "best team in baseball", suggesting to me Mark needs to get out more. Plating the best stats over the first three weeks against a comatose NL West is impressive, but claiming that makes you the best team in baseball is dubious. In what was touted as a battle of #2's, the Dodgers certainly looked like the better team last night. Back to back subpar starts by Webb and Haren, and Lowe's domination of the slipping wunderkids have quelled irrational talk of a hundred wins.

Grace even reversed course from his river of early praise gushed upon the NL West, finally acknowledging the division he lauded as baseball's best isnt as strong as he led on. We've said so every week since March. There's no way this is the best division in baseball and by the end of the season, without Barry Bonds or one reliable closer, it could be MLB's worst. The reason lower revenue teams grabbed 89 and 90 wins in 2007 wasnt because they were especially good - it was due, specifically, to the collapse of the Giants and Dodgers, and more generally, to the degradation of the National League. Somebody had to win in the NL - so SD, AZ and COL were three respectable clubs that filled that vacuum.

Arizona's offense recently dropped to third in NL park adjusted OPS, behind the Cubs and Atlanta, and Florida should pass them shortly. No shame in that - a finish in the top half would represent solid progress for 2007's most offensive offense.

The Diamondbacks are still six up, which Jim McClennan thinks may be an all time record for April 23. Doesnt quite feel historic but he could be right. It's not unusual for a team to get six up on another team by Arbor Day, but to be six up on the field is a different construct, dependent on many more variables falling one's way, likely augmented by witchcraft. Second place in baseball's best division [snicker] is currently at 9 and 12.

Kudos to postgame analyst Ken Phelps, who never shoveled the 'best team in baseball' mantra during the winning streak. He said pennants aren't won in April - all you can do is put yourself in good position. That's exactly right and exactly what the Diamondbacks have done. Nothing more or less.

There's nothing new to say about the Diamondbacks' unique pricing model or lingering alienation of the local base. Arizona currently ranks 10th in NL attendance. In terms of market "comps", I've learned to gravitate towards Atlanta, Colorado and Milwaukee, all currenty bunched in the middle of MLB attendance rolls with Arizona. With the Diamondbacks playing so well, coming off the division crown, I'd expect them to outdraw these other markets fairly significantly, but it's still too early, the schedule too unrepresentative, to peg 2008 attendance or any conclusions from it.


Jeff said...

You've done it, Matt. "Japes" is now en vogue.

I saw attendance numbers in the paper today. At first glance (having not researched it) its seems to me that attendance is down everywhere.

I would think winning would be enough to get folks to the park but maybe the Arizona crowd isn't quite convinced?

Russell said...

Funnily enough I was going to ask who were a reasonable team to compare with Arizona in terms of attendance. I didn't get Daron and Mark on my beloved MLB tv but every other commentary team seem to enjoy the trivia questions. They ask them at the top of the inning and answer them at the bottom. I'm starting to think that Daron is worried that his authority will be undermined if he fails to get the answers and so ruins the slot. But I never get the answer and my authority is unquestioned.

PAUL said...

Someone from Arizona charged their car registration to my mother's credit card. Was it you? Are you Diamondhacking into my computer?

Matt said...

"Japes" is now en vogue

Thank goodness, now I wont have to use it as a verb.

I'm starting to think that Daron is worried that his authority will be undermined...

I think Daron is talented and employs disarming strategies (ie self deprecating humor, sarcasm, ingratiating politeness)to mitigate what, appear to me anyway, to be controlling compulsions. Obsessive compulsives suceed in many fields, but it's a big strike against a play by play man, IMO. Too much nervous energy.

Someone from Arizona charged their car registration to my mother's credit card.

Oh relax. It's a '97.

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