I stumbled across this article from the SABR website : Arizona Diamondbacks team ownership history – Society for American Baseball Research (sabr.org) which got me wondering about 'why' the Dbacks have been consistently inconsistent (more bad than good), and been a yo-yo of sorts year to year with some highs and some extreme lows over the last 2 decades. There is no prestige in having the worst record in baseball, and even less prestige in breaking some records (road losing streak), but is that really KK's fault?
On one hand, KK (he is the managing partner, so I guess he is the scapegoat), provided financial stability to the Dbacks. Sure, there was a significant price to be paid for winning the WS (maybe more than $200 million, and imagine the fallout if we did not win), and for that, KK et all have done a remarkable job erasing all the dept. As a fan, the importance of financial stability primarily is that of not losing the franchise. The fact that they were doing their 'due diligence' and exploring options in Las Vegas, Vancouver and other places left me with a sour taste towards the ownership group.
I do think there is a problem with lack of consistency in the GM position, and secondarily with coaches. Since 2005 (KK tenure), the Dbacks have changed GM's 6 times (though Gebhard and Dipoto were somewhat interim). I think that is too much change in too little time, especially since it takes at least 4-5 years for draft picks to make it to the MLB. Thus, why does this happen consistently? Is KK to impatient? Is he meddling? Is he making wrong choices based on bad information? Does he keep wanting intermittent success so that the franchise retains/increases in value? I think it is all of the above, but instability of the front office I think is a major problem.
Secondly, I do think having a self imposed salary cap is an issue. On one hand, for example, they 'have to move salary' to balance the books every year, so they trade a Toukki type player to dump a contract, but then few months later sign Grienke for one of the highest AAV in baseball at the time. Really? My understanding was that KK/DH wanted Grienke, not Dave Stewart. Why did they want Grienke? Would he increase ticket sales, move more merchandise, have more national games on TV, increase team value? What about becoming a more consistently winning team? After they sign Grienke, all of a sudden there is no more money to fill the starting rotation, again, so they move prospects instead to fill the starting rotation. Moving Grienke in 2019 made sense in that 'one player' cannot account for 30+% of teams payroll. But why did you sign him to begin with, as he was always going to account for 25-30% of the teams payroll with the self imposed salary cap (unless you were really going to raise the payroll to $140-150 million).
Break the cycle. GM gets fired after a few bad-horrible seasons, new GM comes in, unexpected success results in optimism. Then the consistent problem on how money/prospects has been spent rears its head. For example a few years back, there was an article looking at Towers, the moves he made, to a Dbacks team where no trades or FA signings were made. What If: All of Towers’s Trades Were Reversed? | Inside the 'Zona (insidethezona.com). At the end the team might have been better financially, and prospect wise had no moves been made. Team underperforms, starts to play horribly, GM gets fired, and new GM restarts the cycle. But why does that same problem happen with every new GM? Hazen has not been immune to this as well. I think the root problem has been the lack of financial flexibility, in that the owners want to win (who does not want to), they allow some spending, but stop at a certain point, and then the GM 'needs' to move young players and prospects in the 'win now window'. For the most part Hazen has avoided this (probably because there were no prospects worth moving, but it did start to show itself last year when he traded for S Marte, and then immediately 'had to move him' because there was 'no money' to pay his 2021 salary).
I never want to lose, but being horrible in 2020 and now in 2021, has prevented Hazen from trading more prospects. My biggest fear is the Dbacks having unexpected success in 2022, and then Hazen starts trading multiple prospects in win now moves. If the team has success, they need to spend money, not prospects.
Lastly, I think Legacy is important. It sets a standard, and raises the bar for future players. It also breeds generational loyalty in a fan base. The Suns have that, because they have been here for 50+ years, but despite never winning it all, they had been a historically very good team (up till the last 10 years, the Suns were a top 5 winningest team in all of basketball), That engrained this town with generational loyalty. Sarver has been criticized (more than the local media, it has been the national media) to change his behavior, and perhaps he has for now, and maybe that is why the team has some national respectability again (winning does that of course). Personally, the main reason to keep Goldy was for legacy reasons. It would have cost KK et al money, but I think it would paid dividends long term because I think Goldy retiring as a Dback would have had lasting ramifications especially on young Dback fans.
My solution: Don't fire Hazen for at least 5 more years. If by chance the Dbacks have success in 2022, don't start spending prospects to build up the team. Instead spend money in the off season and keep the prospects. It is too late now, but don't let the next franchise player get away. Keep him, and pay him till the end because I think legacy is a big part of future consistent success.