The Fan – Owner Partnership

I will be the first to admit that I have been rather critical of the new ownership of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The way the team changed leadership was an area that I was less than comfortable with. I have met with Jerry Colangelo and his team on occasion during the early years of the Arizona Diamondbacks and had a lot of admiration for how they conducted their business.

I liked the competitive nature that Colangelo brought to the Diamondbacks and to a certain extent I stood behind his decisions in 1999 to change the plan and build a team of veterans that could make a run at the play-offs and ultimately a World Championship.

Granted there were some financial decisions that were made that created problems within the organization and from a long-term perspective something definitely needed to be changed if this team was to remain solvent. It was just how the whole transaction went down that left a sour taste in my mouth and from conversations I have had with other fans I am not alone in this.

With Ken Kendrick becoming the General Partner it was definitely a different style and one I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with at first. Kendrick’s handling of the Jason Grimsley ordeal was especially awkward and it appeared as though he always seemed to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Aptopix McCain 2008But like a fine wine, or a good marriage Kendrick and his management style has kind of grown on me. I have found myself agreeing with his point of view a lot more often and have come to appreciate him as a person and as an owner.

One thing I will give Kendrick strong accolades for is his ability to judge talent. His decision to put Derrick Hall in charge is nothing short of brilliant. Hall has done a tremendous amount of work making the Diamondbacks one of be best values in all of sports. His tireless work ethic and innovative ideas have helped all fans enjoy the game more. Besides Hall, Kendrick has put together a first class management team in the Arizona Diamondbacks, which I think will pay huge dividends in the long run.

As I have gotten more familiar with the Diamondbacks behind the scenes I have gained a better appreciation for Ken Kendrick the person. He isn’t that unlike the fans that go to the games each and every night.

He lives and dies with each win and loss just like those of us who pay admission to Chase Field. He has high expectations for his team not just because he has a monetary stake in their success but because he too is a fan.

He recognizes that no matter how family-oriented or enthusiastic Derrick Hall and his staff make going to a game, it is the product on the field that will build loyalty and repeat business. Kendrick is a very passionate man and wants to succeed not just to make money but to be able to celebrate the team’s success just like all of the other fans.

Given that perspective it suddenly becomes much clearer why he makes some of the comments that he does. It is that fan-honesty that led him to express his disappointment in the 2009 season and to wonder aloud whether the Eric Byrnes contract was a mistake.

It was his insight as a fan that led him to question which players are juiced. It was his perspective as a fan to wonder aloud whether even the most revered players such as fan-favorite Luis Gonzalez was clean. He was not proposing that his star player was cheating he like every other baseball fan is left wondering who we can trust and who we cannot.

I am starting to appreciate Ken Kendrick as a fan and more so as an owner. He is not in this just to make a buck. He is in this because he loves the game and enjoys going to the ballpark and seeing the action on the field.

His love of the game has to be tempered by the fact that the Arizona market will never be the same as that of the New York Yankees. You cannot blindly mortgage the farm to win today. You have to be smart about where you spend your money. And like all of us, you don’t always make the right choices.

Given this new perspective I am beginning to appreciate the job that Ken Kendrick and the other owners have done to stabilize this franchise and put it in a position where they can not only be competitive but also can be competitive for a long time.

Kendrick has built an organization that he trusts will be able to put the team in a position to win. He has shown that he is not afraid to walk away from a mistake and go a different direction, a fact proven by the team choosing to walk away from the contracts of Russ Ortiz and perhaps Eric Byrnes.

That’s really all a fan can ask for; an owner who loves baseball and is willing to put together a team that can be competitive based on the economics of the market. He has shown a willingness to reinvest profits back into the team. That leaves the Diamondbacks fortunes in the hands and pocketbooks of the fans.

If we want this team to increase payroll and go after a free agent or sign one of these young players to a long-term extension then we need to be as committed as Kendrick and the other Diamondbacks owners.

We can make a difference by going to the ballpark and supporting the team. If fans choose to not attend a game and sit at home and complain they have no one to complain about except themselves. Withholding our disposable dollars by not attending the game means the Diamondbacks have less revenue, which means they have less to spend on the players.

Ken Kendrick and the Diamondbacks ownership group have shown a willingness to use the money coming in to make the on-field talent better. It’s hardly fair for us to demand the team be more active in the free agent market without providing them with a revenue stream to pay for it.

I’d love nothing better than to see the Diamondbacks have home attendance figures over 3 million fans. At that point we can then challenge the team to make the right decisions in bringing in new players that can help us win. As for me, I plan on being back in the stands next season cheering for the Diamondbacks and hoping that others will follow that example. After all, we are all in this together.

1 Comment

  1. I dont agree with every particular, but this is a terrific, thoughtful essay – it’s a pleasure to read the perspective of one with such a strong connection to the franchise from the beginning. Your analysis of Kendrick, the man, is sharp and resonates. I’m less forgiving, and the ugly, ongoing transition remains more of a sore point with me, but I appreciated what he said in the interview w/ Nick. Part One, anyway 😉 It’s nice (and appropriate) to hear this owner admit they messed up and not reflexively blame Colangelo, unrealistic fans or injuries for a change.

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