D'backs thrilled to keep playingPosted: Friday August 30, 2002 9:44 PM
PHOENIX (AP) -- The Arizona Diamondbacks, with the best record in the majors and by far baseball's biggest increase in home attendance, were relieved they will get to defend their World Series title.
"Both sides recognized that this was Armageddon, and no one wanted to see that happen," Diamondbacks managing general partner Jerry Colangelo said after baseball's players and owners struck a deal Friday averting a strike.
Only a few thousand tickets remained for Friday night's series opener against the San Francisco Giants, where Randy Johnson would be seeking his 20th victory. Club president Rich Dozer predicted the team's fourth consecutive sellout at Bank One Ballpark.
"The minute it was announced that there was a deal cut, our phone lines were jammed," Colangelo said. "In the first two hours of sale this morning, we sold 2,500 tickets, mostly for this weekend's games."
Attendance at the ballpark is up 432,000 this season, and Dozer predicts the team will draw at least 3.2 million.
"As players, we're thrilled to death that things can get back to the field," said Arizona player representative Craig Counsell, who appeared with Colangelo at a news conference, "and specifically to us worrying about defending our world championship. That's ultimately what we love to do as players."
Colangelo said the Diamondbacks stood to lose "tens of millions of dollars" if there had been a prolonged strike, $10.5 million in advance ticket sales alone. That doesn't include the cost of trying to rebuild support after the walkout.
Counsell said the players were aware of the fans' anger.
"Both sides felt it," he said. "The passion has been felt from the fans, and there's no question the fans have had an impact on helping this process move along."
Counsell said he found the fans' anger inspiring "because it showed how much they care about the game."
Teammate Curt Schilling felt otherwise. The persistent criticism annoyed him.
"When my dad got mad at me when I was a kid, I knew there was a lot of affection there but it never inspired me," Schilling said. "You saw the signs. You read the articles. You guys wrote the articles. I just got tired of that. When you're the target of all the anger, it's hard to find the passion sometimes."
"We went out of our way to concede on things that we'd never thought of doing before," Helling said. "From our side, we truly looked at this the whole way as trying the best we could to get a deal done."
Colangelo would not talk about the specifics of the deal or how it would affect the Diamondbacks. However, it appeared that the team would have to pay in revenue sharing but would not be subject to the new luxury tax.
"Where we fall in terms of revenue sharing, so be it," Colangelo said. "My issue in all of this was for the betterment of the league and the industry, not what impact any agreement would have specifically on us. That would have been selfish."
As managing general partner of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, Colangelo was instrumental in that league's most recent breakthrough contract agreement. But he was mostly on the outside in the baseball talks.
However, he said he was on the phone constantly over the past two days and had spoken to commissioner Bud Selig three times during the night and early Friday morning.
Schilling said other owners would do well to learn from Colangelo.
"If there were more owners like Jerry we would have a lot more cooperation," Schilling said. "We would have a lot more partnership in marketing and bettering the sport."
The most significant aspect of the agreement, Colangelo said, was the players' willingness to alter the system for the long-term benefit of the game.
"Our guys wanted to play. They wanted to play in the worst way," he said. "Yes, they are members of a union, and yes they have to do what they have to do. But I believe our team had a significant role in at least sharing a strong opinion about what should be done and how it should be done, and our fans should be aware of that."