08 February 2010

Proud As A Ruse-ter

If Derrick Hall is "proud" of something, watch out. This gushing sentiment of his almost invariably heralds choreographed ambiguities designed to distract and dupe the public. There was the time, for example, when inveterate abuser Alberto Callaspo knifed his common law wife, hurled their one year old into a headboard, and wore Sedona Red a mere nine days later, prompting Hall to express widespread organizational pride. Or the time Hall cheekily exonerated degenerate Dback fans for throwing bottles at Rockie players in the 2007 NLCS. Or when a fan bemoaned the discontinuation of Jerry Colangelo's popular $1 seats, and Hall responded that he was "extremely proud" of the most deceptive pricing campaign in major league baseball.

So be forewarned. Derrick Hall is proud again. Not quietly prideful, like knowing parents who discretely scrimped to put their kids through college. Proud in the papers, and on radio, of his 'creative' front office that didnt bill those taxpaying parents for the club's latest edifice-on-demand. He's trying to contrast the Dbacks with the Cubs, who are lobbying to impose taxes and ticket surcharges pursuant to a new Mesa complex.


They [The Cubs] do draw well, as do we, yet we were creative in our search for a new site to identify a partner willing to finance the entire project without public dollars"
- and -

"....we [Dbacks] can take pride in knowing that the taxpayers are not building it [the Scottsdale stadium]."

Except that's exactly what's happening. According to the Phoenix Business Journal (subscription only), the Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribe:

"... is taking a $23M loan, backed by federal stimulus money, to help fund the $100M project."
Sounds as if taxpayers are integral to the Dbacks' venture, after all. Maybe the tribe is, in Hall's words, "willing" to finance the project without public dollars, but what's more germane, it seems to me, is that they will not actually do so.

Hall's Blackjack Ballpark is backed with A) taxpayer stimulus money, presumably spirited away from projects like hospitals, schools and roads - and B) "private funding" - Hall's highbrow euphemism for gambling profits. Little old ladies throwing away social security checks at the slots - that sort of thing. An industry that, apart from alcohol and drugs, undermines more Arizona marriages, families and dreams than any other addiction. Here, in the middle of a regional depression, that addiction enables the Dbacks' wholly discretionary $100M practice complex, in addition to welcome political cover for their third taxpayer financed stadium in fifteen years. These are the creative funding streams Derrick Hall is "proud" of ? Seriously?

I get how stadiums are financed nowadays. No illusions about that. And I dont begrudge the Diamondbacks, or any other club, their right to oppose the Cubs' latest wrinkle on getting others to spring for their spring home away from home. What rankles me are the adjunct allusions advanced by Hall about his organization's motives and actions - and the generally passive Arizona press that let's him do it, virtually unchallenged.

It's not enough for Hall to simply oppose the Mesa legislation, on grounds it's an unprecedented funding mechanism that would raise Cactus League ticket prices. He has to float the broadly inaccurate dichotomy that the Cubs aim to rely on public funding(!), whereas the Diamondbacks did not. Since when is a $23-30M loan backed by federal stimulus not public funding? Well, technically, I guess it's an indirect subsidy, as the money goes to the tribe, or the bank that loans to the tribe, but it's taxpayer dough facilitating, perhaps even enabling, the project. Does Hall limit himself to that rather sly construction? Not with earnest reporters scribbling away.

"It is frustrating to know that state money was used for the last few complexes that opened, yet funding is now dry for the home team" he said.

Ah, the "home team". Nice. The injustice of it all. Of course Arizona taxes should benefit the Phoenix home team, right? Well, no. Not really, actually. The taxing authority (AZSTA) was established to (among other things) seed the economic engine that is the Cactus League - not Arizona's regular season home team. Indeed, our indigenous Diamondbacks may warrant very low priority in terms of AZSTA funding, for several reasons:

1. Our fans are primarily local and dont drive ancillary spending (entertainment and travel).

2. These "last few complexes" Hall cites, enticed brand new teams to Arizona, generating more games and entirely new interest and revenues to the state. To equate the benefits or investment rationales for Goodyear and Camelback Ranch, with the Dbacks' intrastate move from Tucson to Scottsdale, is highly dubious.

3. The Diamondbacks chose to abandon a taxpayer funded stadium in Tucson that is barely a decade old for "greener" pastures. Hohokam is older. Since the early 1990's, the Angels, Padres and Mariners have managed to survive and/or thrive in older parks than TEP. Phoenix Muni was built in 1964 and the Athletics have called it home for 29 years (although it did get a $8M facelift in 2005). Does the "home team" deserve priority consideration over these clubs, just because Diamondbacks brass contracted a shameless case of Camelback Ranch envy?

4. A paid for, alternative Phoenix venue is at the exclusive disposal of the Diamondbacks - namely Chase Field. The club insists it's an unacceptable spring facility, and it's true there arent the necessary practice fields, but potential fields are nearby at Papago Park and easily upgraded elsewhere, and the Dbacks host a pair of spring games every year at Chase.

If Hall's stadium quest was truly confined by organizational pride not to soak the public, couldnt such a 'creative' FO manage the above or similar arrangement? Sure, but they're confined instead by a minimum threshold of conscience. As they've aggressively lobbied the public that both gifted facilities (Chase and TEP) are now completely unsuitable to their "needs", it's easy to make a case the Diamondbacks are among the greediest, least grateful outfits in baseball.

Hardly news to this page, or here and there. Somebody's got to be the greediest MLB team this spring. It might as well be Arizona's duplicitous "home team", applauding itself for years as a singularly fan-centric, virtual non-profit. The point is that neither greed nor gaping inconsistencies - between what is and what the Diamondbacks so often want us to believe - are qualities to be proud of.


PAUL said...

Since you're posting regularly again---and in pure psychopathic fashion----your presence is required (not requested, required) on Twitter as my Southwest Capo (as an entry level position to boot). I need troops as I bear in mind that you're almost completely out-of-control. The Canadian pimpmaster too. You've both been drafted. A no will not be accepted.

Diamondhacks said...

You talkin' to me?

Jeff said...

If you were pitching to Hall with that piece, well, you didn't just buzz his ear; you knocked his friggin' head off.

And, uh... yeah... what Paul said... about that thing...

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