27 June 2010

The Times, They Are A Fakin'

Josh Byrnes, last week in The NY Times:

In a market like ours, we have to be disciplined with managing our payroll...

Market not only implies disadvantage, but an external, static handicap beyond franchise control. To be fair, he's talking to a New York reporter, covering the biggest, most lucrative market in the sport, but for an articulate spokesman like Byrnes, there probably are more accurate nouns than "market" at his disposal.

ESPN.com's Rob Neyer picked up on this. Here's his response to that portion of the Byrnes interview:

I'm not exactly sure what Byrnes means when he references "a market like ours" as if that were a bad thing. Last year the Phoenix metropolitan area was the 12th most populous in the United States, and growing incredibly quickly (sure it's a desert, but land is cheap and people are incredibly short-sighted); within a year or two, the region will break into the top 10.

Maybe the corporate support isn't there and maybe retirees won't pay top dollar for tickets and the people are definitely not concentrated within 20 minutes of the ballpark. But the Diamondbacks do not have a population problem.

Neyer's not exactly right either. There's conflicting evidence as to whether Phoenix is growing at all right now. It's certainly not growing incredibly quickly, like it has for a long time. But it's a substantial, spread out metro. The spread out challenge has been mitigated by improved freeways and signature light rail.

Corporate support has dwindled due to the economy and waning baseball utility. The Diamondbacks predictably responded by going where the money is, much like bank robber Willie Sutton, and heavily tied their enterprise to casino interests. As far as paying "top dollar" for tickets, the expensive box seats at Chase Field dont drive the vacancy issue. It's the mid to low range seats that Phoenicians feel are too high.

So, if selling your most expensive seats arent a real problem, and eager casinos are bankrolling your new stadium and half of what's in the old one, is it really "the market" disciplining your payroll? Relative to New York? Yes. Relative to most other MLB cities? Probably not. If fans arent buying enough tickets, can it really be tied to "market" if Colangelo sold substantially more tickets - to a younger, smaller metropolis with inferior public transport?

What's disciplining payroll isnt "market" nearly so much as "budget", which implies similar disadvantage, but not nearly the same determinism. A budget is a dynamic function of external and internal considerations. Ownership discretion and input are clearly implied, as are financial pressures stemming from a variety of internal actions, like bad contracts and fielding barely competitive teams.

The thrust of organizational advocacy is to make your boss look good. If you cant make him look good, like on the field, then you at least try to make him sound good in the papers. That's what this is about. Subtlely deflecting responsibility from Josh's bosses, and frankly, from himself.

As Neyer indicated, the Diamondbacks dont suffer from particularly unusual external challenges. It's an internal credibility issue that plagues them, that by dancing around with The New York Times, is becoming more "external" every day.


LMD said...

This is a bad year for our team. Least we took two of three from the Rays. IMO, That was the biggest road series win this year. Hacks, I dont know you like Jim calls us buddies, but anyways, you seem to have a real hatred for the team. I could be wrong with this analysis, but you seem gung ho on the purple uniforms and dont change anything approach. My question, as it's crossed my mind many times this year, is if you owned the team today, what would you do. Me personally, I'd fire AJ ASAP and his idiotic so called staff. I'd dfa qualls on Monday amoungst many other moves. Parra is my boy, I almost shit myself today when he hit a homerun. My question again, what would you do to turn things around and that's not at all meant in a smart ass way.

Diamondhacks said...

Sorry, the blogger platform doesnt support comments exceeding four thousand characters.

I'm honestly not close enough to the situation to be blurting out lists of personnel changes from my laptop, but there's alot of things I would do. I would need to interview existing principals, especially Josh, before figuring out how best to proceed.

Someone would have to make an extremely compelling case to me that we wouldnt benefit from a new pitching coach, and a pretty good case that AJ's in the right job. I'm predisposed to upgrade both positions.

Strategically, I'd be looking towards next year and beyond, probably dumping salary for future assets. We'e not just 15 games out of first; we're ten games out of fourth, way behind four teams - not an encouraging position from which to make a playoff run.

Apart from baseball ops, I suspect the org is in need of a pretty serious culture overhaul. That's what I mostly write about here, and dont feel like rehashing into a breathy manifesto. But high level, I'd put more focus and energy into selling the game rather than selling the team brand or a ballpark experience that's too often tangential to the game.

Phil said...

Bravo, Matt.

That's your most constructive comment or blogpost I've read in awhile. I'm not being sarcastic, either. I'm borderline agreeing with you.

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