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Settlement of Chase Field lawsuit could mean a new ballpark for the Dbacks soon

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Over a year ago the Arizona Diamondbacks sued Maricopa, County Arizona to get out out — or to alter — the terms of their lease for Chase Field. Specifically, they asked for the removal of a clause in their lease with the county which prevented the team from talking to outside stadium groups until 2024 and prevents them from leaving the ballpark until 2028.

Underlying the suit was the Dbacks’ beef about the size and upkeep of their cavernous downtown Phoenix ballpark. Not that everyone was being honest about the specifics of the beef. The Diamondbacks claimed that the county must make over $100 million in necessary capital improvements to the ballpark. The county claims that the 20-year-old ballpark is fine, and that the club merely wanted cosmetic improvements to the park and a reduction in the number of seats in the 48,500-seat stadium in order to increase ticket prices and revenue.

There was considerable acrimony leading up to the filing of the suit, with some Maricopa County officials — uncharacteristically for local government when dealing with a professional sports team — digging in their heels and telling the club to pound sand and live with their contractual obligations. Since the filing of the lawsuit, however, things have been quiet.

Now things are resolved:

According to the [settlement] memorandum, the county would pay no new public money toward stadium upkeep. The Diamondbacks would take control of the Chase Field, keeping revenue from all events at the stadium, and immediately be allowed to explore relocation or rebuilding.

The baseball team must play at Chase Field through the 2022 season. Then they’d be permitted to move to another facility in the county without penalty.

There would be penalties assessed between $5 million and $25 million if the team left the county before 2027.

This seems . . . pretty fair? The Dbacks want a new park — or to have Chase Field made into a new, larger revenue generating park — and the county doesn’t want to pay for it. Under this settlement the Dbacks have an ability to get that new park faster but the county is essentially washing its hands of the team, telling them “good luck.” Yes, it seems like the team is getting a bit of a gift in short term revenues, but the county is saving upkeep money. Everyone is avoiding potentially five years of the team being a lame duck tenant, allowing everyone to move on with their lives faster.

Of course, this also means that the Dbacks are going to actively work for a new ballpark now and will begin working the suburbs and Native American authorities around Phoenix against one another for a fat park subsidy. The Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale — and on which the Dbacks’ spring training facility sits — is a likely candidate, as are Mesa or Chandler or any of the East Valley burbs. None of the communities in the area seemed eager to give money to the Coyotes hockey team, but baseball plays better in Phoenix than hockey, so who knows.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see if there is a will to lay out money for the Dbacks. Or if the Dbacks will, in fact, have to take the drastic step of [gasp!] laying out money for themselves.

Giants release veteran right-hander Jeff Samardzija

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants released veteran right-hander Jeff Samardzija on Saturday, a day after he returned from a lengthy shoulder injury and rehab.

Samardzija, an 11-game winner in 2019, was designated for assignment and placed on unconditional release waivers days before his contract was to expire.

The 35-year-old pitcher signed a $90 million, five-year contract with San Francisco in December 2015, but spent much of his Giants tenure sidelined by injuries.

“I usually sit on the bench for a few minutes before I get ready to go. Sitting there was definitely a little emotional. You take for granted all those times before you’ve done it,” Samardzija said of reflecting Friday. “You’re just always going to be there and you’re always going to have that opportunity. I think we all know time goes by real fast. Sitting there looking at the stadium, it’s tough. I’ve had a lot of fun here, very much enjoyed my time. It’s been a first-class organization. I was just taking it all in.”

Samardzija allowed a two-run homer to Fernando Tatis Jr. among his three hits surrendered in three innings of Friday’s 6-5 loss to the Padres. It was his fourth start of 2020 and first appearance since Aug. 7. He was 0-2 with a 9.72 ERA this season after significant time at the club’s Sacramento alternate training site trying to recover – a challenge given there were no minor league rehab assignments to get ready.

The Giants weren’t going to have a start for him if they make the playoffs.

“I really respect the way he prepared for yesterday’s start,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I thought his stuff came out better than I’d seen in a really long time. I thought he was especially competitive. In that game it kind of unraveled quickly and we went to our bullpen early but at one point I thought he was going to be able to carry us deep into the baseball game. I’m proud of what Jeff accomplished here with the Giants and I have no doubt that he’s going to attempt to continue his career and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him to go out and do really well going forward.”

Samardzija won 11 games in 2015 for the Chicago White Sox, marking his first double-digit victory total in his initial eight major league seasons before a career-best 12 wins in ’16 with the Giants.

He spent the second half of the 2014 season pitching in the Bay Area with the Oakland Athletics following his trade from the Chicago Cubs.

Samardzija said he plans to pitch in 2021, which would be a 14th big league season: “100%, without a doubt,” he said, not ruling out a return to San Francisco if that were to work out.

“It’s always an honor to play for the Giants,” he said.