Ted Simons: It is the first day of April and the Arizona Diamondbacks have already had a very curious season. The team played its home opener in Australia, and last night it played its home opener at Chase Field. Joining us now is Derrick Hall, President and CEO.
Derrick Hall: We had our two games in Sydney, they went very well. They were our home games, this is odd. We don't like to lose two home games like that. Then coming back with a traditional home opener last night with the celebration and the bunting hanging around the ballpark. It looked as beautiful as ever. The festivities were wonderful.
Ted Simons: Australia, why open the season there? Looking back, I'm sure it was lot of fun for a lot of folks and eye-opening. Was it worth it?
Derrick Hall: We would have hoped the outcome of the two games would have been different but for us to plant our flag in the sand and expand our brand and help promote baseball as good will ambassadors. There’s been 12 teams that have opened up six different times abroad. I think it was good for us to have that opportunity. It's an emerging market. The participation, the interest and intrigue in baseball is really on the climb in Australia. For us to go over there and introduce ourselves to the fans, let them know who we are, it's help us when it comes to scouting in the future.
Ted Simons: Can you quantify that at a later date, as opposed to now?
Derrick Hall: It felt like home games, they embraced us. They were all wearing D-backs gear; they were rallying behind us at the end. In the future it could equate into talent that we could sign. They know who we are, they want to wear the D-backs jersey one day.
Ted Simons: As far as Spring Training in general, how was attendance at talking stick?
Derrick Hall: Really strong, as a complex, there's been no other one that's had 300,000 in attendance. We’ve now done it four times in a row. Different spring for us, we had to start early when it was colder. We missed the best week of Spring break because we were in Sydney. We did very well and that place continues to click and provide a great experience to our fans.
Ted Simons: Mr. Critic here, but how long can it be a good experience? I remember walking in at the fifth inning, you walk in free and you have a whole row to yourself. It is a whole different beast. Is there a threat now that you could lose a little bit of that homespun, the affordability for folks to go out and catch a game?
Derrick Hall: I don't think so. You have to challenge yourself to remain affordable. Chase Field is now more affordable than Salt River Fields. I'm not sure about the Grapefruit League as much as the Cactus League, but this is a baseball market. They like to watch ASU, the Diamondbacks, and the Cactus League and the fall league play baseball. The interactivity, with the fans and players, before the games start in the backfields, it's important for us. I think we'll see the demand there for a long time.
Ted Simons: Now, can you get the demand over to Chase? You've got Diamondbacks fans spending money in spring as opposed to regular. How do you change it?
Derrick Hall: We have to make sure they don't get enough of their baseball fix through spring training. It's knowing who the players are, getting involved and interested in the product so they want to come over to Chase Field and watch that team. We get that feedback. A lot of people saw their first Major League Baseball game at Salt River Fields. They loved the interaction, they got autographs and liked the experience. They want to see if the experience is the same and it is.
Ted Simons: NFL is just so huge right now, TV, video games, so huge. Baseball seems like it's from another era. Can baseball attract that modern mindset? Or does baseball hurt itself by trying?
Derrick Hall: We really are America's pastime. It's the one game you pass it down, tradition to tradition. We're as healthy and popular as we've ever been. We're an $8 billion industry when it comes to revenues. We're at an all-time high. Our attendance is at an all-time high. What were the three most popular sports 50 years ago and in no particular order Major League Baseball, horse racing and boxing. Today it's Major League Baseball, football and whatever.
Ted Simons: Is there concern that the audience is graying?
Derrick Hall: We're worried about the competition and options and lack of attention span. We have to introduce new technology and make sure the experience at the ballpark is unlike anything you could get at home or with any other sport, and we’re advancing. The network is doing great. MLB advanced media, our online version is doing fantastic. People are watching games online, the subscriptions are up. That's the younger audience we have to appeal to. We have to make sure the older audience are still there. We have to make sure we connect with the younger audience and carry that on into the years.
Ted Simons: Some of that broadcasting success especially is translating to a team in your division that is spending money like there is no tomorrow. I want to take this from a Diamondbacks fan's perspective. How does a fan from the Diamondbacks think we got a chance, when they’re spending some 230-odd million dollars-?
Derrick Hall: $241 million, on opening day, the Dodgers are. We're at our all-time high. And we’re at about $115. That’s a big disparity. I think that makes the fans want us to beat the Dodgers or the Giants even more. We can't worry about what they are spending, we have to worry about doing business the right way. A team like that can afford to make a mistake. We can't recover from that mistake. If you're the dodgers, you write a check for another player and turn the page, we can't do that. We have to still scout properly, draft properly, develop and contain them, control them through arbitration through their early free agency years and build around that.
Ted Simons: It seems you really don't have a choice. If you're playing numbers games, goodness, gracious, they can buy everything and we're lucky if we get -- however, when we do have young talent like the Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Bowers, what's going on? They are gone. What happened to Adam Eaton?
Derrick Hall: He's going to be a terrific player again. We do have so much talent and top prospect which means you have a surplus and an abundance. We have two center fielders, A.J. Pollock and Adam Eaton, and also Cody Ross in the wings, you're able to go get Addison reed. We go out and get a closer with 40 saves. Last night same old story but 40 saves for a team that wasn't very good last year.
Ted Simons: What are the Astros, are they even at $100 million?
Derrick Hall: No, not even close. It would be nice to bring the parity down, the competitive balance needs to be much more evenly balanced. We really need to figure that out through collective bargaining, we really need to. When opening day comes all 30 teams think they have a chance. We know there's really only a handful of teams that have a chance to win. We think we are one of them, but we've gotten off to a slow start.
Ted Simons: Steroid testing, are the new rules in place?
Derrick Hall: Even stricter penalties in place now. It was 50 games for your first offense, 100 games for your second, lifetime after that. You’ve got 81, 162 and a lifetime ban. I've got give credit to the players, too. Because both sides realize it's a problem, we want to have a very clean sport. I think we police ourselves and we're always held to a higher standard, more than the other sports, I'm proud of it.
Ted Simons: There are some that until contracts are voided over something like this, you're still going to get problems. Is it even realistic to think about voiding contracts for offenders?
Derrick Hall: We have to bargain for that with the union, which is a very strong union. The players association is tough, they have been through a lot already to get to where we are. I know they want to do all they can to get to where both sides are happy one day. We are much different today than we were five, 10 years ago.
Ted Simons: Injuries, spring training, early part of the year. The Diamondbacks have been hit with serious injuries that are going to affect the team. A lot of teams are getting hammered. What's going on out there?
Derrick Hall: They really are, it's an odd year. Should we go back to the old ways? I think we're more cautious today than we've ever been. I look at pitch counts and days of rest that we have, technology and medical attention, I think we're better than we've ever been. I just think it's a really strange year. We have four guys that have undergone Tommy John surgery in our club house. There’s years where we don’t even have one.
Ted Simons: Could it be the new normal? The way kids are brought up?
Derrick Hall: Maybe there were more innings when kids were younger and they are just now feeling the effects. I hope that's not the case. The way medicine is today. Tommy John is so advanced so that often times they come back better than they were before in some cases. You look at a young pitcher like Patrick Corbin, it broke my heart to see him go down but hopefully he comes back even stronger, still the ace of our staff.
Ted Simons: We've got about second. You mentioned last night, how do you sell a team? When the bullpen fails it's just horrendous. How do you sell the team?
Derrick Hall: Our bullpen is really one of our strengths. That's why it was odd, what happened last night. I look at that team and the team in the past has struggled to have offense and scoring runs. We’re not going to have a tough time scoring runs. If we can get a year out of our starters like we think we can, remember Patrick Corbin last year, he wasn't even in the rotation yet. So we're going to be just fine.
Ted Simons: I'm going to hold you to that.
Derrick Hall: Good!
Ted Simons: It's good to see you again.
Derrick Hall: Appreciate it.