Monday, October 31, 2005

Welcome to Phoenix, Stat-Boy (or whatever your name is)! 

Dear Josh Byrnes,

On behalf of the Arizona Diamondbacks community of blogs -- a small, huddling mass of people crowded around the back door bumming a cigarette -- welcome to Phoenix. You have been selected to replace the only General Manager the Diamondbacks have ever known. To be honest, this isn't really like replacing Pope John Paul II or FDR, but you probably knew that.

If this were a movie, my role here would be played by Christopher Plummer or Donald Sutherland, a tossed-off glorified cameo of indiscriminate quality (could be good, could be crap). Or perhaps more like the Will Ferrell character in Wedding Crashers, retiring at the top of his game, which was sort of a bad one, when you stop to think about it. And was there a better 20 minutes of moviegoing this year than the start of that movie? Shame the rest of the movie sort of petered out from there, isn't it?

But I'm getting off track here. This isn't a movie, this is a tired trope of journalists and bloggers -- the open letter to the New Guy In Town -- and I'd better get going.

First things first.

The best Mexican food in Phoenix is at Carolina's Mexican Food, conveniently just a couple miles southeast of the ballpark. I will not brook any disagreement on this. (I personally can't avoid the Oaxaca Special, but your tastes may vary.)

Oh, this is supposed to be baseball-related?

I wouldn't presume to tell you how to do your job -- shocking, I know, for someone who writes his thoughts for free on the Internet -- but I'll make the following requests:

1. Don't trade Gonzo -- don't even try. I've said many times before that Luis Gonzalez is my favorite Diamondback. That's not why I'm asking you not to trade him. I'm asking you not to trade him because whatever you get in return won't be worth the aggravation and fan disgust. Gonzo is the tangible link to the 2001 World Championship team, very visible in the community, and generally considered to be a nice guy. His declining skills won't generate much interest from other teams, but trying to generate that interest will just irk a fan base that does not need another reason to tune out. Plan a bunch of retirement-related functions and soirees that make it clear to the fans (and to Gonzo) that the team has no intent on having him around after 2006.

2. We need pitching. You, uh, know that already. I just wanted to convey to you how desperately we need pitching. Keith Foulke in 2005? Would've remained on the Diamondbacks staff all year. We'd've been overjoyed to have him here.

3. We're not idiots. OK, you're probably a bit sensitive to the use of the word "idiots," but I'm talking about the fans. There's lots of talk about Phoenix fans are fickle. But even after a 51-win season last year and an uninspiring 77-win campaign this year, Arizona still ranked 20th in baseball in average attendance. (That would be a difference of less than 300,000 fans below the World Champion White Sox.) Over time, you can build an even greater bond with the team. It will take time, but it can be done. (Now, the press, who automatically tagged you stat-boy nerd, as if being scouting director for the Indians was just some sort of internship, is another matter.)

So, good luck finding a house and remember, any time you want more free advice, I'm happy to provide it.