28 January 2011

Name That Franchise

Arizona Diamondbacks. What does that even mean anymore?

The organization's original, inclusive vision extended the triple AAA club, as well as spring ball, to Tucson, our state's second largest metro. Jerry Colangelo, who still resides off Thomas Road in central Phoenix, wanted to exploit the southern market and brand the club across the state. 

But after the franchise father was disowned, his successors severed the last limb of this statewide vision. The independent minor league squad recently relocated to Reno. Then, Paradise Valley residents, Ken Kendrick and Derrick Hall, abandoned Tucson entirely for greener casino pasture, just west of their private mcmansions. The audacity with which Arizona's indigenous team circled its wagons in Scottsdale, before the adolescent TEP was even paid off, begs the question whether the broad 'Arizona' appelation applies anymore.

Our crass brass hasnt merely consolidated the franchise's geographic base. The number and socioeconomic diversity of fans has been methodically winnowed as well, thanks to hapless baseball and exclusionary marketing policy. By trying to subsidize the sport's lowest season ticket prices with artificially pricey single games (in a down economy with an alienating product), Moorad, Kendrick and Hall transformed a welcoming brand that used to bring millions of Arizonans together into little more than a club sport.  Due to their efforts in the nation's fifth largest city, even the season ticket base central to their vision has dwindled to about four thousand accounts, the size of a few sprawling East Valley dinner parties.

These guys represent Arizona much like Michele Bachmann "represents" Minnesota. (Except she was elected.) There's little if anything statewide or inclusive about their actions, despite the incessant din of Derrick Hall's double talking populism. He can sit and rotate inside his "Circles of Success" all he wants, but the result of their leadership is that fewer and fewer Arizonans identify with the Diamondbacks each passing year. At Chase Field. On television. Now they've divorced the southern third of the state in favor of catering to a favored and familiar enclave of customers.

What place name marks the boundary of such provincial snobbery? Certainly commercial Phoenix, my hometown, more closely reflects what this front office is all about than rugged "Arizona". Scottsdale and Paradise Valley are more accurate still.

As far as the "Diamondbacks" part of the name, it's a shame Kendrick and Moorad didnt swap it out when they rose to power or painted over the colors. They were so determined to distance themselves from Colangelo. They boasted of their "financially responsible" front office, run like a business. Baseball ops run by whizzzz kids.  A broadcast overhaul, not just of on air talent, but an entire production paradigm (cable only of course) determined to sell anything but baseball. (Cable ratings are down). An aggressive makeover of uniforms and the stadium. They were so proud of themselves. Moorad even called them "The Dream Team". In public. Seriously. Not the team on the field. That's what the front office called themselves.

Except they held on to "Diamondbacks", to mine the valuable underlying continuity it implied, while detonating most everything Jerry built. They pretended to be visionary originals, except when piggybacking on the Diamondback legacy proved expedient.

Like now. The baseball has completely unraveled and carpetbagging partners angrily split with one another (again) over money. So now, the remaining principal (Kendrick) will exploit the tenth anniversary of Jerry's championship for all it's worth, to grab nostalgic good will from an operation Kendrick openly ridiculed, painted over and dismantled.  All to stem a freefalling fan base and distract from his own hapless operation unable to do so.

Maybe it would've been a cleaner break back in 2004, had Kendrick plainly announced his destruction of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the genesis of the Paradise Valley Scorpions or, say, Scottsdale Slots. It would have cleared up so much subsequent confusion.

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