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Threats Are No Way To Do Business, Says Diamondbacks Owner Threatening To Move

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 31: Arizona Diamondbacks principal owner Ken Kendrick and president Derrick Hall talk on the field prior to Game 4 of the 2023 World Series between the Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Tuesday, October 31, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It is one thing for a woebegone franchise to threaten to pull up stakes. It's still galling, don't get me wrong, when a John-Fisher–type points to all the empty seats that are empty because he won't spend money on a good team that people want to watch, and says he needs a new ballpark, there or elsewhere. But it makes sense on at least the level where you can believe, if you squint hard enough, that he has no money; it is, to use the parlance of the stupider internet users, the mythical "poverty franchise." (Note that it does not logically follow that taxpayers must be the ones to bail out the unsuccessful local business.)

It is another thing entirely for a dormant franchise to wait until the team is good, and has a bright future, to start making threats to move. It is cynical and thuggish: Enjoying your winning team? Shame if something happened to it. And it works. The Orioles, after a decade in the wilderness, are now worldbeaters-in-waiting, and used that leverage to unlock $600 million in public funds for stadium upgrades. The Bills are getting a shiny new stadium with nearly a billion dollars from a generous New York State; call it The House Josh Allen Built. Here, the actual balance sheets go out the window—these teams are making money and are going to make more money—and it becomes a matter of pure leverage. Fans don't ever want their teams to leave, but they and thus also local lawmakers are that much more desperate when that team is a contender and they're locked in on every game. Taking advantage of this is a tactic available only to owners who don't mind coming off like assholes. Which is to say, all of them.

So it was on the day of the first full-squad workouts that the Arizona Diamondbacks triumphantly began a season of hope, following up their World Series appearance by sending owner Ken Kendrick up to the lectern to twist some arms and pry open some wallets.

Welcome back, fans! Kendrick is cranky that Maricopa County has thus far declined to give the Diamondbacks a few hundred million dollars to complete ballpark renovations. While claiming he wants the team to stay in Arizona "forever," he was not so subtle about using the D-backs and their recent on-field success as a cudgel.

“There is likely to be, in time, an expansion of our sport to a couple of additional cities,” Kendrick said. “Cities are letting MLB know their interest; their interest in getting a team is specific. They would be happy with a brand new franchise, but they would certainly be very happy, you know, with, frankly, a successful, existing franchise.

Arizona Republic

This gives the game away. The Diamondbacks are successful because they make money. They're fresh off their first pennant in 22 years, they finally have a long-term franchise player in Corbin Carroll, and they draw—24,000 fans per game last season. They also happen to already be in the 11th-largest media market in the country; they would make less money in Nashville or Charlotte or wherever. Kendrick knows this. He does not want to relocate. He merely wants the threat of relocation to get him some free money. That it comes off as if he believes he deserves it for finally fielding a competitive team, which should be the baseline? Well, he can live with what you think of him, as long as you give him your money.

Stadium financing is somewhat fraught in the region. The nomadic Coyotes are still scuffling to find a way to stick around. And Kendrick, who was an original franchise owner, has been around long enough to remember how ownership had to shell out $111 million of its own money (the horror!) to cover cost overruns on Chase Field, after a political battle over financing so nasty that one county supervisor was shot by a man upset over the tax increase to fund the ballpark.

The thing is, the Diamondbacks already have a way to raise the money they want. In 2021 the state legislature passed a bill defining Chase Park as a special tax district, allowing the team to charge an extra nine percent tax on anything sold there, with the tax going toward stadium improvements. But Kendrick said Monday he does not want the cost to fall on Diamondback fans—the people who actually use the stadium—with the implication being that he'd rather renovations be paid for by everyone, including Arizonans who will never attend a game.

And if they don't get what they want? “There are other cities that would covet having Major League Baseball," Kendrick said.

You can't win as a fan. Front office puts out a stinker that's not worth spending your money on? They'll threaten to move somewhere else, where fans will be more grateful. Team is good, and you like watching them play? They'll threaten to move somewhere else, because they know how attached you are. Call out this tactic for what it is? Get chided by an owner for accurately describing the extortion. “I don't think, in the world that we live in, threats are the right way to do business," Kendrick said Monday. "We’re community people."

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