- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

PHOENIX (AP) No team has arrived on baseball's biggest stage as quickly as the Arizona Diamondbacks.

This desert jewel of a franchise is in deep hock financially, but has made it to the World Series in only four years with a combination of expensive free agents and a series of player moves that hardly could have worked out better.

Jerry Colangelo, who heads the investors group that owns the team, made a decision after the 1998 expansion year that the team had to win now or face a disastrous drop in attendance.

Colangelo is by nature a man who can't stand to lose, yet he had fallen short of the big prize since he came to Arizona 32 years ago as general manager of the NBA's expansion Phoenix Suns.

"We didn't go out and lose and suffer and do all those things you're supposed to do before you enjoy victory," manager Bob Brenly said. "Jerry refused to follow that pattern. He said, 'Why do we have to wait?' That's why he is the man he is and that's why the players love to play for him."

Brenly spent three years as the Diamondbacks television analyst before becoming manager last December. He watched as Colangelo signed Randy Johnson to a five-year, $62 million deal, and Steve Finley to a five-year, $25.5 million contract, before the 1999 season.

There was more than a little resentment toward the franchise from the staid establishment.

"You just don't see owners do things like that," Brenly said. "I think in a lot of respects that's why people perceive the Diamondbacks the way they do. We didn't pay our dues. We didn't follow the script you're supposed to follow."

Colangelo's tactics resulted in a National League West title in just its second season but attendance figures didn't reach break-even levels.

Season ticket sales kept dropping, and Colangelo went to owners for more cash. With no national television revenue for the first five years, the Diamondbacks lost a reported $48 million in their first three seasons.

The situation made Colangelo want to win now more than ever.

In the middle of the 2000 season, Arizona acquired Curt Schilling from Philadelphia for first baseman Travis Lee and pitchers Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa and Vicente Padilla.

The team faded to third in the NL West, and Colangelo fired manager Buck Showalter, who had guided the building of the team since long before the first game was played.

The finishing touches included Mark Grace signing a two-year, $6 million contract, adding some much needed levity along with defense and steady hitting. Reggie Sanders signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal and resurrected his career. Schilling inked a three-year, $32 million extension.

With the books still bleeding red ink, Colangelo cut the operations budget by $10 million late last year, then asked and got permission from 10 of the team's top players to defer large portions of their salary.

The Diamondbacks didn't just buy an NL title, though.

Catcher Damian Miller was a second-round pick in the expansion draft. Craig Counsell was signed to a minor league contract after he was cut by the Dodgers in spring training last year. Tony Womack was acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh. A scout in Asia spotted 20-year-old reliever Byung-Hyun Kim. Erubiel Durazo was found in the Mexican League.

Then there is Luis Gonzalez, who came from Detroit in 1999 for Karim Garcia and $500,000 one of the most one-sided trades in recent baseball history.

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