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Festivals, the recession and an All-Star game for the Diamondbacks?

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So, the Diamondbacks remain the sole major pro sports franchise in Arizona history to win a national title, and Game 7 of the 2001 World Series remains unchallenged as the pinnacle of sporting achievement by the state. But it was very, very close there for a few minutes in Tampa. If Warner had managed to pull out the game on that final drive somehow, even I would have had to admit that it rivalled the heroics of Grace, Womack and Gonzalez in the bottom of the ninth at BOB. But instead, I can now safely go back to ignoring football in general, and specifically the Cardinals, for the next 11 months. Which is just how I want it.

For we have more important fish to fry, with less than eleven days until pitchers and catchers report. And before we even get to that point, it's the Fan Fest on Saturday. Oh, hang on: it's now the  fifth annual Subway D-backs Fan Fest, featuring the H&R Block autograph sessions. Hey, can't blame the Diamondbacks: in the current economic climate, take whatever corporate sponsorship you can get. I am still thoroughly looking forward to it: I just copied and pasted the rest of my thoughts on the topic into kishi's fanpost, which I commend to all those who fancy getting together at some point on Saturday.

A final thought on Garland vs. Johnsoln. I was pointed at a metric called PRC, which stands for Pitching Runs Created. It's a number you can find over at the Hardball Times - here's the best overview of what it means there.

Year Garland Johnson
2005 98 105
2006 82 73
2007 75 29
2008 59 77
Total 314 284

It's an interesting stat.:like any other, not to be used in isolation (or taken internally), but it does seems to balance quantity (IP) and quality (runs allowed) when it comes to measuring a pitcher's conrtribution to his team. However, looking at the explanation, there is a "fudge factor" which seems to favor high-strikeout pitchers - I'm not quite convinced by this and suspect it may skew things towards Johnson unnecessarily here. Still, what jumps out here are that while Garland has the higher total, he does have a very persistent downward trend that he needs to reverse at least somewhat in 2009. Johnson, on the other hand, is all over the place, which pretty much reflects that signing Randy Johnson is, as Tom Hanks said, like a box of chocolates.

Bob Nightengale paints a gloomy economic picture for the Diamondbacks in a lengthy piece for USA Today. It's well worth a read, though is a mix of siginificant points and irritating nonsense, as well as some jawdropping factoids: "They still owe outfielder Bernard Gilkey...$500,000 a year for the next 25 years." WTF were you thinking, Jerry?*** On the other hand, the most useless waste of space ever probably goes to this quote: "You want to know how many people are talking about the Diamondbacks? The answer is zero. It's all about the Cardinals and the Super Bowl." Well, duh! How is that deemed worthy of print, anywhere except Stating the Bleedin' Obvious Weekly? This piece appears two days after the biggest sporting event in Arizona since the 2001 World Series, in a state notorious for front-running fandom. Who do you think people are talking about?

What will cure that is simple: a playoff appearance for the Diamondbacks. I tend not to think the Cardinals are in competition with the baseball team as far as raw attendance goes, given how little the seasons overlap. However, the depth and length of this recession is likely to be unprecedented in the franchise's history, and the Ken Kendrick quotes included in the story do reflect this. I think the key going forward is to enhance the fan experience, and this is something where the Diamondbacks do really well, under Derrick Hall. There's no doubt the organization has become a lot more accountable to their fans, the article has one example of this, but here seems a good point to toss in another I recently heard, and give some kudos to the Diamondback front office.

Got an email from a fan whose elderly parents - one disabled and confined to a wheelchair in public - were about to lose their quarter-season ticket package up on the third deck, with preference (somewhat understandably) being given to fans prepared to commit to a longer package. They couldn't afford the increase in cost, and though they put the deposit down, got the email they dreaded, letting them know the seats had indeed been sold. I suspect that in 99% of pro sports franchises, that would have been that. But an email to Derrick Hall got him to wave his Presidential magic wand, and the couple have now been re-instated to their seats, on the same terms as before It's this kind of thing - done by Hall without expectation of any coverage here or elsewhere, I must stress - that builds fan loyalty, and can only be applauded.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in the article, however, was this:

The Diamondbacks also hope to benefit from the impending news that they'll host the 2011 All-Star Game. Major League Baseball hasn't made an official announcement, but two high-ranking MLB executives confirmed the decision has been made.

That is certainly good news - about time too, dammit. I really think Selig with-held the game from Arizona as punishment for Colangelo's profligacy, though it punished the fans here far more than Jerry. Bud says of the franchise, "They had some very significant problems there, but they worked their way out of it." and now praises the Diamondbacks: "I'm very proud of what they're doing." Definitely a turn-around there, Bud. Time to start saving up for those 2011 season tickets...

Jeff Moorad has now reached an agreement which will let him buy all of the Padres if he wants, over the next five years - and he will be their CEO by Opening Day. Curious as to whether this means he has divested his holding in the Diamondbacks: nothing here to indicate that is the case. I note this paragraph: "Moores said the sale value of the club, determined through a series of closings, will ultimately be more than $500 million... Last year, Forbes Magazine valued the Padres at $385 million." And that was before the economic meltdown. As someone snarkier than me remarked, "Seems like Jeff is continuing his one-man mission to overpay for the mediocre and second-rate."

Finally, a sad farewell to Baseball Toaster, who are shutting up shop. Some of the blogs it contained are going elsewhere - Jon Weisman's essential Dodger Thoughts is heading for the mainstream media and the LA Times - but all the sub-sites there were worth a read, and it was a nice central location to browse a selection of team sites. Another rival to SB Nation bites the dust!

[*** - A usually-informed source sheds a bit more light on this. "In 1999 DBACKS owed Gilkey $11 million for 2 years: half that money was deferred into an annuity that pays 10% or $500,000 for 25 years.... Let's take a look at ownership who is all the time using [the] "we have to pay off the deferred money" excuse. This money has been paid out and Gilkey is getting his. It’s not like the [current] D-backs have to pay $500,000 for the next 25 years... Don’t believe everything you read." Interesting...]