Criticism of D-backs misses the mark

I don’t want to go all here and pick apart what a columnist writes, but I can’t resist commenting on Greg Hansen’s column in the Arizona Daily Star today.

Look, the D-backs just finished a season 70-92 so some criticism of the organization is understandable. Fans pay money for tickets and merchandise and more important than that they invest emotionally in a team. So when it does not do well, they have every right to be frustrated and there is certainly some decisions that have been made that are fair game for second guessing.

I also believe that Chip Hale is an excellent coach and I was sorry to see him let go Monday. I know that Hansen has strong feelings for Hale and I can certainly relate. Bob Melvin was a friend of mine and seeing him get dismissed this year was not easy for me.

So I get all that, but this column really misses the mark. In italics below are just a few of the things I think Hansen got wrong:

— Hansen cites a quote from Doug Davis at the end of the year, “Going into free agency, it was big for me,” Davis said. “It was a good thing, a good feeling.”

I was there when Davis said that and I believe he was responding to a question that I asked him (or maybe it was Nick Piecoro with The Arizona Republic) about reaching his goal of 200 innings and he essentially was saying that going into free agency it’s a good thing to have thrown 200 innings. It was not a comment about being free from the D-backs as he also went on to say that he has enjoyed his time in Arizona.

— In the six years since Jerry Colangelo was exiled and his credit cut off, the Diamondbacks are 80 games under .500. They have become a team without a future. They have become the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This is a bit of selective number-crunching given that Colangelo left in August of a season in which they finished 51-111 and their records since that season have been: 77-85, 76-86, 90-72, 82-80, 72-90. That’s not Boston Red Sox type good, but comparing them to the Pirates is just ludicrous. The Pirates have not had a winning season since 1992 for crying out loud while the D-backs won a National League-best 90 games two seasons ago and finished two games out of the playoffs last season.

— The ballpark, dreary Chase Field, is a warehouse. It is the Un-fun House. The farm system has gone bust, victimized by two poor draft classes, and there is not enough available money to buy a free agent who can make a difference. The once-foundering Angels have become a thriving, playoff-frequenting, fan-friendly franchise that draws more than 3 million fans per year, with a payroll of about $115 million.
There’s been a lot of talk about how much money the D-backs spend, or don’t spend, but the bottom line is they spend enough to be competitive. Of the reasons they did not win more in 2009, a lack of money is not one of them. Depending on what outlets payroll figures you use, the Rockies spent about $2 million more than the D-backs. Anyone think that $2 million made the difference between the two clubs? Or what about San Diego which spent $42 million and finished ahead of the D-backs.

No, how the money is spent is the issue. The fact that the D-backs were not able to overcome key injuries was a factor. Again, if you want to take issue with individuals moves or how the money was spent — Eric Byrnes’ $30 million deal — fine, there’s an honest debate to be had there, but this notion that Arte Moreno would spend $115 million on payroll if he owned the D-backs is hard to fathom. Moreno spends that kind of money because he’s in a market far, far, far bigger than Arizona’s.

Look, it would be great if the D-backs could spend $100 million on players or $150 million, but the fact is only a very select few clubs can do that and the money the D-backs do spend is enough for them to be competitive, it just doesn’t leave them much margin for err.

As for the ballpark, yeah with the roof closed the atmosphere it doesn’t look or feel as much like a ballpark as some places, but would you prefer the roof be open (or have no roof at all) when it’s 110 degrees?

The addition of the large jumbotron two years ago offered fans high definition replays and the team has bent over backwards whether through season ticket scholarships, or family ticket packages, or reduced prices on certain concessions to reach out to fans during a tough economic time. Name me another team in the Major Leagues where you can email the CEO during a game and get a response.

— Don’t count on Webb, Haren or Upton being in Phoenix long enough to figure out the difference between Washington and Jefferson streets.

Well, Webb has been here since 2003 so he probably has a pretty good idea of how to get around. Haren is under contract through 2012 (2013 if the club exercises an option) and isn’t going anywhere unless the team completely falls apart. As for Upton, he’s still a year away from arbitration so that’s another four years he’ll be around.

– The D-backs, by comparison, celebrated the arrival of postseason baseball by announcing a shake-up of their coaching staff. Whoopee. At least they’re not going to stand pat.

The D-backs also acknowledged during the same press conference in which they announced the coaching changes, that this is an important offseason for them and that they were looking to upgrade every aspect of the club. They also said the payroll will go up slightly as they try to do that.



Steve, you blog is reproduced on Facebook, including this entry. Unfortunately, when it appears on Facebook it does not indicate that you are the author, i.e. you use first person (“I was there when Davis said that”) but no one can tell who you are.

This piece was a lfiejckaet that saved me from drowning.

Great post. Thank you for this. It is unfortunate that, even sometimes, the local media has been taken out of context when reporting on the big picture situation with the team. Yes, it was not a great season, we all know that. I do enjoy the point about the willingness of the management to communicate with the fans and their active participation in the community. There are so many moving parts when it comes to managing an organization and I hope that more people recognize that.

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