At the midway point in the Cactus League season, it's time to check in on the Diamondback Way's progress. The Arizona Diamondbacks are 5-15 with one less nominal starting pitcher than they began with in spring training. They also now have three nominal first basemen and no likely left fielders. Perhaps Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Outfield is still waiting by the phone.
Of course, wins and losses have nothing to do with the Diamondback Way, as previously discussed. The laws have changed. No, let's focus on the real measurement of the team this season.
Four players have been hit by a pitch and Diamondbacks pitchers have hit 13 men with their own pitches, so it's clear the intimidation level is up. MLB's site doesn't seem to display the number of bunts, so that's an incomplete. We're also still waiting for the lab results on the amount of dirt lodged in the players' uniforms this season over last.
While we wait for the lab to call, let's focus on the really real measurement of the team this season: attendance is up!
While the rest of the Cactus League flounders and complains about a late spring break, the Diamondbacks log an average of 10,000+ hardy local souls to their new mixed-use paradise. According to the sign on the center field concession stand, it's a great place to get your fresh, natural, and local pizza, burgers, and soda.
I attended the game against the Rangers weekend before last and can safely report that baseball has been sufficiently marginalized. (If you have to ignore baseball while paying $35 for the privilege, it might as well be Spring Training ball.)
Both the Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies have a team shop where they sell each other's gear for those who can't make it around to the other shop. Food stands are well-spaced for those who get winded going for a locally-grown pepperoni slice. And, apparently, some people play baseball there. Not the Diamondbacks, of course.
And when you leave the parking lot ($5), you can be directed quite easily towards The Pavilions, the mall conveniently adjacent to the park conveniently located near the casino. If you got some grit on you at the game, one of the helpful staff at Bath & Body Works can identify a cream to lessen the chafing.
Speaking of chafing, the regular season on-field results will likely mirror the preseason ones. The Grit Index seems to be on the upswing but not fully mature yet. Therefore, the Diamondbacks may have to rely on small sample size for their most important decision this season.
Consider it: attendance last season at Bank Chase Morgan Field Park Under Chattering Roof (Not) Near CityNorth wasn't great and this season promises to be worse. The whole point of having gritty veteran-y goodness was to prop up attendance numbers and now those veterans can't field (Geoff Blum's five errors, Xavier Nady's arm-like substance) nor hit (Melvin Mora, Blum, Nady, etc.) nor grit.
When the Oakland Athletics wanted to make their attendance numbers seem sharper, they slapped tarps all over Oakland Coliseum to limit the total attendance. If CEO Derrick Hall tried that, he'd cause a shortage in the tarp industry so severe that Gallagher would have to cancel his next two tours. (Which sounds lovely, actually.)
Instead, Hall needs to take the dramatic step of moving all the home games to Salt River Fields and Mixed-Use Development to Create a Destination for People Who Find Glendale Too Challenging at Talking Stick. The 8,000-10,000 people who will put up with Melvin Mora's purported defense also will put up with 110 degrees in the shade. The park's obviously popular. 10,000 is an awful lot closer to capacity there.
Plus, Hall could encourage everyone not wearing a uniform to take advantage of free samples at the air-conditioned Yogurtini in The Pavilions after the third inning. Of course, that will empty the stadium even before Mike Hampton's first injury, but that's the true beauty of the move: the baseball doesn't matter at Talking Stick. It never did.