29 September 2009

Sutton Speaks!

For those who dont get enough of Daron Sutton, Jim from AZ Snakepit dutifully taped a lengthy interview with the Dbacks' televangelist. Jim is such a dear friend and admired colleague of Diamondhacks, I've decided to share my thoughts on the interview somewhere other than at Jim's website, for fear of reprisals.

Actually, it's a good interview, in that Daron elaborates quite a bit, even when he's full of crap, which isnt too terribly often. I suggest you read it, otherwise my critique will make even less sense than usual.


Daron says he aims to talk to "all the fans". I appreciate the pressing commercial need to target and engage so-called casual viewers, but the twitterish urgency with which FSNAZ steers away from games, often leaves baseball fans cold. Switching to silly or off-topic or feature mode in a blowout is one thing, but FSNAZ effectively abandons games that are 3-0 or 4-1 in the fifth, as if such games couldnt possibly entertain people.

By "returning" to games only if the Dbacks rally, Daron and crew condition viewers to suddenly react to results, without truly internalizing baseball's ebb and flow, the frequent failure inherent in the game, or the underlying perserverance instrumental to success. This is exactly what Derrick Hall complains about with fans, that they dont understand the game's travails, yet the irony is Hall's aggressive insistence to position his team in a superficially favorable light, contributes to (some might even say "drives") this very lack of fan understanding, perserverance and soul.

Neither is Sutton focused on baseball fans when he gushingly indulges Todd Walsh's smirking portfolio of off topic, cryptic asides. Walsh is about my age and we have similar tastes in music, but his rambling concert remembrances are utterly out of place in a baseball broadcast. Unless it's all about amusement, and not baseball, in which case I vote for less Daron and Todd, and more optical illusions and porn.

I liked how Daron volunteered young players are trying to re-establish the integrity of the sport. There's no glib assumption that the games he calls are clean, and I think that's refreshingly honest and accurate.

Regarding attendance, Sutton disparages Arizona as a 'baby fan base' that needs time, perhaps a generation, to establish itself.

Daron: I came from a place in Milwaukee where they're drawing three million fans...

Milwaukee never drew anywhere near 3M when Daron was there, and they're not drawing 3M today because they're suddenly a better, or older, fan base than Phoenix. They're drawing 3M now because they finally got rid of Daron and Derrick's beloved mentors ( the Seligs, who whined their small market, revenue-sharing way to four winning seasons in twenty lucrative years) in favor of a young, dynamic owner with customer driven priorities. Attanasio's already improved on field performance and star appeal, and less famously restructured value propositions at Miller Park when he arrived (2005). After Selig, many Milwaukeans sensed they were getting in on something better and within a couple years, bought in. Attendance has soared, in what the Seligs invariably portrayed as a disadvantaged small market.

Much the opposite in Phoenix, where Kendrick and Moorad carpetbagged a popular franchise founder, and assumed good will magically transferred to them with title. On the volatile heels of 2004, they astonishingly jacked single game prices in 2005, and again in 2006 - and raised some season rates as well. That, combined with an early litany of crass public relations missteps and baseball ops errors, suppress attendance to this day. So, Daron, forgive me as I suppress a snicker, listening to you educate Phoenicians about our not ready for prime time 'baby fan base' - when we toddlers averaged 3M fans (2.95) over seven consecutive years before you even got here.

My daughters go to school with what will be the real Diamondbacks' fans.

Again. Blech. Sounds like a Jim McLennan or Derrick Hall talking point. Can anyone imagine Colangelo saying that? Can these jokers possibly dream up more excuses to distract from their self-inflicted disconnect with this market? Gee, maybe Arizona's too hot to draw fans. Or we're too close to California. The upper deck's too big and doesnt convey the right atmosphere. The fans arent educated enough and dont understand 'the realities of baseball'. Dont laugh - they've actually floated the last two with a vengeance.

Attendance stinks, ultimately, because ownership stinks - at least in the eyes of fans. Just like it used to be in Milwaukee. Fans dont have confidence in owners or franchise direction, or derive sufficient values at the park. In Phoenix, a dozen years of hard and soft data, across winning and losing seasons under both regimes, reflect stark distinctions in public opinion about comparative owners.

In other news, Sut thinks the Dbacks need a veteran presence, perhaps two - one for the bench and one in the pen. Coming from an insider with some pulse for the clubhouse, I think it's troubling that's the first "need" Daron blurted out, and may suggest the players enjoy less credible leadership than is generally let on.

Gracie's brash insights seem more along the lines of the drunken uncle at Thanksgiving who rails about the government. The government is, in all likelihood, too big, but you're apt to hear a more elegant case made at the local transmission shop. When Grace talks defense, however, I'm all ears. He knows a thing or two about that. Despite good team range, the Diamondbacks defense visibly broke, contrary to volatile metrics contriving Stephen Drew and Montero saved more runs than Tulowitzki and Yadier Molina. As Grace might say, with the Diamondbacks last in the league in double plays, and first in 'wild pitches', how the f*ck can you take that $&!+% seriously?


Russell said...

Ha! "Optical illusions and porn"-that's my average weekend in a nutshell.

On a less serious note, the meme that the FO are trying to establish by suggesting that attendance is low because it's not a baseball town is pretty much destroyed by the earlier figures you quote.

I also noted that Daron implied that the team needed leadership in the clubhouse, which has to be taken as a swipe at either AJ or his appointment.

From the interview I was disappointed that Jim didn't address the fact that Daron was a divisive figure (on the messageboards) and it would have been interesting to know if he was aware of this (and if it influences him in any way).

Diamondhacks said...


Good points, as usual.

From his comments, I sense Daron's very aware he's not everyone's cup o' tea, and, to his credit, that knowledge influences him on air. Not as much as I'd like, of course, but I think he's very aware.

Not sure how much leadership is needed in a dugout, but your recent point that an inexperienced mgr isnt a good match for a young, inexperienced team, may be playing out here. To be fair, they hired Gibson (and TClark) to augment Melvin's 'leadership' as well, so I'm unclear how much Sut's call for vets truly reflects on Hinch.

...sometimes I feel my Sense O' Humor slippin' away, so thx for noticing "optical illusions and porn". I envision a dedicated channel...EyeCandyBlue(ECB), anyone?

Caroline said...

"Real Fans". I hate people who say they're real fans of whatever team just because they're a fan of their hometown team or they've been a fan for more of a portion of their lives. True, you can't relive every postseason and you can't remember every great player for the team, but you can learn about it, respect the history, and follow the team now. This doesn't have very much to do with your post, just an angry rant that kind of sort of is inspired by it.
All TV announcers are horrible. Radio announcers are better because they HAVE to tell you what's going on and even if they talk about fried twinkies or whatever they occasionally talk to you about what's going on. The quality has really recently deteriorated. I was rewatching part of the 2001 world series last night, and you can really tell the difference. Maybe because these guys were world series announcers, but they were paying complete attention to the game. Especially during game 7 with all those Emmy popups, they said nothing at all about any awards. It was all about Bob Brenly (not his resemblance to Randy Johnson, which some announcers would probably dwell on) and Mariano Rivera and what a horrible hitter Roger Clemens was.
And it was nice because they were being relevant.
That will never happen again, unfortunately.

Diamondhacks said...


The broadcasts' relative adherence to the game during the WS is instructive, because despite increased interest in the postseason, the network is also tasked with entertaining a far larger and fragmented audience than what Grace and Sutton deal with.

In the WS, for example, most viewers arent watching their hometown team, and millions of them hardly watch baseball otherwise. A typical Dbacks audience is more knowledgeable and focused on the team.

Yet as you suggest, even with the network's Emmy popups, etc, the WS broadcasters maintain an intense focus on the game. People complain about individual announcers and their styles, but it's so implicitly understood the game is the main attraction, that potential conflict hardly, if ever, discussed.

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