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This Week in AZ Baseball: Brandon Webb option talk, TV ratings drop - and haircuts?

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The Angels and Yankees are under way in Game Two of the ALCS, the Diamondback-free post-season rumbling along the way it does. Is it just me, or does the schedule seem to be really stretched out this year? I know the likes of TBS want to milk the relative ratings bonanza for as long as possible, but if we're going to endure the doomsday scenario of a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, I'd far rather we get it over with as quickly as possible, and then really start looking forward to the 2010 season.

In the meantime, however, things have not been entirely quiet on the Arizona front, even if you discount the Arizona Fall League [which seems to be getting as much coverage in our Playoff Thread as the actual big boys] and the arrival of Stephen Strassburg, who'll be leading the Nationals to the promised land of the post-season this time next year. Er, or not... Anyway, after the break, we'll take a look at the latest word from Brandon Webb, and various other nuggets of potential interest.

Eric Byrnes wasn't the only Diamondbacks to have a meeting with the front-office this week. Brandon Webb also spoke to Josh Byrnes on Wednesday, and Nick Piecoro reports that it looks likely we'll simply be exercising the 2010 option, though Webb has not ruled out the possibility of extending here, once he's proven his fitness. Said Webb, "I told them, ‘If you pick up the option and we don’t do anything, let me pitch the half year and see how I’m doing and feeling and then maybe we can revisit it.’ I don’t want to sign a one-year deal. I want to sign a three- or four- or five-year deal. That’s kind of where it was. They were really good about it. They totally understood it, too."

That would seem to make sense for both sides. Webb doesn't want to give a "health discount" to Arizona, and allowing Webb to prove his fitness would allow the Diamondbacks to avoid the possibility of signing a long-term deal that ends up being a total lemon. Of course, it also removes the possibility of any discount signing of our ace. Webb [who'll be inducted into the University of Kentucky Hall of Fame on Friday] will be fully motivated to pitch as well as possible. and if he's as good as he was from 2005-2008, then we're probably right back to looking at a $20m per year free-agency deal, something which the team will probably find difficult to handle, for a variety of reasons.

The team's TV ratings took an even bigger hit than the Chase Field numbers this season. The Phoenix Business Journal says viewing figures were down 19% in 2009, the fourth-biggest drop in baseball. It was ahead only of the Reds, Indians and A's, and the last-named were in their first season on CSN. It also continues the trend from the previous season: in 2007, the average rating for Fox Sports Arizona games was 4.8; last season, it dipped to 4.1; this year, it's down to 3.32. Obviously, the team's downward-trending victory totals are a factor [What? Fairweather fans? In this state? Surely you jest...], but to lose 30% of viewers in two years must be worrying - more for the channel than the team, whose $250 million deal is locked in through 2015.

Former D-backs coach Bryan Price has found new, permanent employment: after walking away from the Diamondbacks, in support of his buddy Bob. He found temporary work in the minor-league organization of the Phillies, but has now climbed on board with Dusty Baker as the pitching coach of the Reds - they just fired the existing incumbent, the intriguingly-named Dick Pole. The Reds haven't made the post-season since 1995, though this year it was their offense that was the problem; the OPS+ of 84 was ahead only of the Giants. Also, two former Arizona managers - Bob Melvin and Al Pedrique - interviewed in Houston this week, among the ten candidates for the same spot with the Astros.

Next Friday sees the AFL's third annual Pat Tillman Foundation Beneft Night, at Scottsdale Stadium. Eric Byrnes, who played football against Tillman in high school, will be recognized for his fund-raising efforts on behalf of the Tillman Foundation and will be joined in pre-game ceremonies by several Tillman ASU Scholars and Tillman Military Scholars. There will be an extensive sports memorabilia auction, including autographed major-league jerseys of current and former players, before and during the game. All proceeds from the auction and one-half of the night's gate receipts will be donated to the Tillman Foundation. Gates open at 5:30pm, and the Scottsdale Scorpions take on the Peoria Javelinas at 6:35pm.

I'll close with a letter from today's Republic: who says the readers of that paper don't have a keen grasp of the game, and what's needed to get the team back on track?

My wife and I are Diamondbacks fans, so we have to pick other teams to root for in the playoffs. There's no telling when the D-Backs can make it back to the playoffs. We do notice that the New York Yankees are a well-groomed team of gentlemen. They apparently have a grooming/appearance regulation in their contracts. There apparently is no facial hair, and haircuts are short and well-trimmed. This is in sharp contrast to virtually all other major-league teams, including our hometown D-Backs.I think good grooming shows respect for the fans, and it gives a team a good feeling and a winning attitude.

Attitude is extremely important in any endeavor, especially when there is competition. I would like to see our Diamondbacks adopt a "good grooming" policy. No facial hair. No long, scruffy haircuts (no hair showing out the back of caps or helmets). I understand personal preference and liberty, but these men are being paid millions to represent their team and our state. The least they can do is comply with a simple rule, and they would also probably please their parents. Best of all maybe, just maybe, it would give them an attitude adjustment - and they might think of themselves as winners and at least win half their games.
    - Bernie Dolberg, Scottsdale