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Tickets, please!

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Team President Derrick Hall said yesterday that 86% of Diamondbacks tickets will remain the same price or be reduced next season. Knowing my luck, our tickets will be in the other 14%. :-( It always seems to be that way, at least, as this kind of proclamation has a nasty tendency to be little more than a PR gimmick. The ticket prices which get reduced are inevitably the ones in Nosebleed Alley, that nobody wants to sit in anyway, so the D'backs lose no income by taking a buck or two off the prices up there.

This seems to be supported by the specific quotes in the piece: "a number of (upper-level) seats will be just $5." No word on whether the price includes the use of a telescope, which will undoubtedly be needed to follow the game from their location. I suppose that's just straightforward economics - supply and demand - but trying to spin this into some kind of charitable endeavour is a bit disingenuous. We'll wait and see what the full details of the plan as it emerges. Until then, soundbites like "Over 70 percent of the tickets will be $20 or less," are effectively meaningless, because over 70 percent of the tickets are probably for seats we'd rather not sit in.

What would be greeted with loud, resounding cheers in the fan community would be an announcement reducing the price gouging at the concession stands. The prices charged for things like sodas inside are hardly family-friendly, and the Nazi-esque restrictions on what you can take into the park give the organization an effective monopoly. [Though I have to say, the enforcement of these seems vastly sexist: Mrs. SnakePit's bag always gets the once-over, but my capacious trouser pockets never merit a second glance.] Any loss of income would undoubtedly be offset by increased sales and additional fan goodwill - and possible increased attendance. Kendrick should call up Arte Moreno, who is worshipped in Anaheim, if he wants details.

For it's the overall cost of an evening - not just ticket prices, but also the cost of parking, snacks, etc. which help determine baseball's position in the entertainment dollar hierarchy. At the moment, we have no marquee names (four nights out of five, at least), a fickle fanbase, no recent success to draw people in, and a significant reservoir of ill-will being publicly-expressed toward the current organization. A concession concession, as it were, would likely go a long way to smoothing the troubled waters caused by things such as the departure of Gonzo and the change in uniforms.

Curious headline - or, perhaps, non-headline in the Tribune: Webb likely won't make Japan trip. My first thought was, this would be followed tomorrow by, "Webb not travelling to Kazakhstan either." :-) On closer examination, however, the story makes more sense: MLB asked the Diamondbacks about our ace's availability for the traditional off-season tour of Japan by a select team of major-leaguers. However, the D'backs are being understandably cautious, Josh Byrnes saying, in effect, "Thanks, but no thanks":

We'll probably decline the invitation. To crank it back up this time of year is a little too much to risk. We haven't finalized it, but that's the way we're leaning. Obviously we want to cooperate with Major League Baseball, and we want Brandon to be able to do it. It would be a great trip, but he threw a lot of innings and had some soreness in August that caused him to miss a start."

No word on whether Andy Green was bouncing up and down behind Byrnes as he spoke, saying "Ooh! Ooh! Pick me! Pick me!" :-) Speaking of the nearly-departed, a bunch of minor-leaguers have also decided to hit the free-agent market: Mike Bacsik, Juan Brito, Matt Erickson, Donnie Sadler, Jon Weber and Bill White. Here are their stats during the past season (for Tucson, unless otherwise stated):

  • Bacsik: 11-0, 2.79 ERA, 87 IP, 1.15 WHIP, .248 BAA
  • Brito: 247 AB, .296/.360/.449, 8 HR, 43 RBI
  • Erickson: 293 AB, .270/.347/.331, 2 HR, 24 RBI
  • Sadler: 190 AB, .279/.366/.405, 1 HR, 13 RBI
  • Weber: 168 AB, .321/.374/.518, 5 HR, 27 RBI
  • White (AA): 0-1, 3.53 ERA, 63.2 IP, 1.45 WHIP

According to the Tribune, we'll try to get Bacsik, Brito and White back for 2007. The last seems a bit of a shock, since White will be 28 by next year, which is old for someone who has never got past Double-A ball. Bacsik proved a bit of a unstoppable force, but whether he's one of those "AAAA" players remains to be seen. In 98 major-league innings, his ERA is 5.88, though in his defense most of those were back in 2002 or before. Brito could be the everyday catcher in Tucson, with Montero likely up in Phoenix. Erickson and Sadler are both now 31, so I can see why re-signing them is not a priority.

At first, Weber looked worth another look, but that line is well above the .258/.333/.358 he posted for the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas earlier in 2006. And examining his splits for the Sidewinders, it seems like he was the beneficiary of the Tucson Electric Park effect:
Home: .354/.395/.582 = OPS .978
Road: .292/.356/.461 = OPS .817

In addition, his batting average on balls put into play was more than forty points higher in Tucson than elsewhere (.371 vs .329), which suggests he was a bit lucky too. Looks like he may have to go elsewhere if he wants his shot at the big leagues. It's something he seems keen to do, but an outfielder like Weber needs to have very solid numbers to make the show.

Very interesting piece on mlb.com, where Steve Gilbert talks to farm director A.J. Hinch about the standout players at the various levels, with special emphasis on those who may not have received as much attention as the Drews and Quentins in the Diamondbacks' system. Second-base in particular seems a strength of the organization, with Danny Richar and Emelio Bonifacio getting somewhat stuck on the ladder because of Alberto Callaspo. Also good to read about our pitching prospects, something of which the Diamondbacks could certainly use more.

Richar is, as mentioned before, playing in the Arizona Fall League, so let's have an AFL glance - as ever, concentrating on the AZ prospects playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions. Monday proved a disastrous day for our pitchers, as we lost the game against the Grand Canyon River Rafters 9-8, with all bar two of the opposition runs coming in 1.2 innings of work thrown by Mike Schultz and Matt Elliott. However, both men were the victims of shaky defense from shortstop Andy Gonzalez, as only one of the seven runs was earned. Elliott allowed three unearned on three hits in the fourth, while Schultz blew the save and took the loss with four runs, one earned, on three hits and a walk during the ninth. Reynolds drove in two runs with a first-inning double off Luke Hochevar.

Yesterday, however, the Scorpions bounced back with a 3-1 victory over the River Rafters. Richar had two hits batting leadoff, meaning his average is now over .400; Mark Reynolds had two as well - he's now hitting .450 - and drove in his ninth RBI. That's tied for third-most in the AFL to date, and his .850 slugging percentage leads the league. Jamie D'Antona went 1-for-4. On the pitching side, Chris Kinsey pitched the sixth, and wobbled a bit, giving up two hits and a walk. But he also struck out three hitters, and escaped the inning unscathed. Scottsdale play again today, but it's an evening game: tempted to go, but we're off to see Covenant, who're playing live in Tempe tonight.

Another article on mlb.com, discussing the impact of technology on pitch-tracking, as demonstrated during Fox's coverage of the playoffs. This was able to confirm that Joel Zumaya's pitches do indeed reach more than 102 mph; the system doesn't use radar, but triangulation from three cameras that can precisely pinpoint the ball in time and space. According to one executive, "When the system is installed in all 30 ballparks, it will provide unprecedented accuracy, consistency and depth of data to the measurement of speed and trajectory of each pitch." Hmmm: you know where this will end up. An earpiece in the home-plate umpire's ear, that tells him whether it was a ball or a strike. The union will undoubtedly rebel, but it's going to happen, eventually...

Finally, remember that autographed Russ Ortiz jersey I mentioned over the weekend? Bidding has now reached a startling $111: as johngordonma said, "Rusty's mom and aunt must be in a bidding war." Though the user ID currently leading the bidding is "barrybonds73", so it's clearly someone who knows nothing about baseball. :-)