The Arizona Diamondbacks held their second Town Hall meeting for Season Ticket Holders prior to today’s game against the San Francisco Giants. These meetings allow Season Ticket Holders an opportunity to talk with club officials and ask questions.
The subjects at these meetings vary from discussing on-field player personnel to making suggestions for changes to game day fan experiences. During today’s meeting the speakers were Diamondbacks President/CEO Derrick Hall and interim General Manager Jerry Dipoto.
With all of the changes to the Diamondbacks management team there were many questions surrounding the state of the team and what changes the fans could expect the team to take in order to be more competitive either this year or next.
This was the first meeting where Season Ticket Holders have had an opportunity to hear from Dipoto so I was especially interested in hearing what he had to say. My first reaction was pleasant surprise.
Speaking in the past with Josh Byrnes, his ego and dare I say arrogance was so prominent that it made communications difficult. You always came away from these conversations frustrated as it seemed Byrnes was talking down to you.
Conversely Dipoto appeared very open as he answered fans questions and laid out the organizational goals in creating a 25-man and 40-man roster. Looking at the faces around the room I was not the only one to make that connection.
I will attempt to relay some of the highlights from the question and answer session.
Dipoto described the situation with the team structure as one where they have too many players with the same skill set/deficiencies. Normally fans and media talk about this with regards to having too many hitters who strike out a lot, hit long balls, and are inconsistent hitting with runners in scoring position.
He then went on to say the pitching staff has similar problems. So many of the pitchers on the Diamondbacks staff are the same that it gives batters repetition to be successful. They throw from the same arm slot, angle, side of the mound etc. What the team needs is complementary pitchers who are each a little different to mix things up.
Hall and Dipoto described how the team had been focused on starting pitching but little had been invested in the relief staff. They then described how a staff needed to be 12-pitchers that acted as a relay team getting you through nine innings.
From that perspective they committed to developing a roster where each of the 12 pitchers had depth and experience to work towards a common goal. That may seem like common sense but looking back at the past two plus years that is not how the Diamondbacks had been constructed.
Much of the conversation in the town hall dealt with the state of the roster and of the farm system. The Diamondbacks admitted the upper levels (Double-A and Triple-A) were fairly barren while the lower levels seemed to be stocked with high ceiling talent.
The goal going into this trade deadline is to make deals that will help to bridge the gap from the major league level to the lower farm system in order to strengthen the team and set them up to have a continual flow of talent from the minor leagues to the major league.
From that you can assume that any deal the Diamondbacks make it will have to include prospects at the Double-A or Triple-A caliber and that the team will trade losses this year for wins in the next couple of years.
For fans that is a mixed signal. On one hand it was encouraging that they want to build for sustained success but that means it is probably going to be a couple of very long seasons before they are able to be competitive.
Besides the on-field personnel questions Hall also fielded questions regarding the 2011 All-Star game and the impending ticket price increase.
From an All-Star game perspective the team has not been given any indication that the commissioner is considering any change in venue. The Diamondbacks are moving forward planning to have the game in July 2011.
Most season tickets will go up $1-2 per game for the 2011 season. After two years of holding ticket prices flat, the team needs to increase prices by a nominal amount. This is due in part to the low attendance figures this season.
Everyone acknowledges that a winning team will increase attendance and ultimately revenues but until that happens the Diamondbacks need to raise ticket prices to slow down the losses that are mounting from higher payrolls and fewer fans in the seats.
I can appreciate the spot the team is in and while I never like to see prices raised, even with the increases the Diamondbacks will still be the most affordable ticket in the valley and probably throughout all of baseball.
Overall the town hall meeting was a success. The room was packed and the fans and team officials were very open and honest in their questions and answers. Hopefully some of these proposed changes will made a difference not just in the wins and losses columns but also in the attendance figures.