Ron Agostini

Moorad is raising Arizona

When Jeffrey Moorad celebrated a successful contract-signing in his former life -- his two decades as a sports agent -- a quiet dinner with family or friends usually sufficed.

So imagine his shock when the Arizona Diamondbacks clinched the National League West title last month. His comfort-zone party was replaced by champagne stinging his eyes and dripping down his cheek as he tried to stagger through a TV interview.

Moorad, 52, the Diamondbacks' CEO, had been introduced to baseball's ritual celebration. By the way, he liked it. A lot.

"I can't wait for the next," he said.

Clearly, Moorad has grown more at ease as he ends his third full season at the top of Arizona's front office. More than a few baseball power brokers cringed when he crossed the no-man's-land between sports agentry and the "Dark Side," management. He wasn't the first to switch, but he was the first to claim a stake in a team. Owners feared he'd give away trade secrets. Agents wondered how they would deal with someone who knows firsthand all their tricks.

Well, not only has Moorad succeeded, he's efficiently molded the Diamondbacks into one of baseball's most appealing teams. Who would have thought the Diamondbacks would be, at this point, only four wins away from a berth in the World Series?

Name another graduate of Downey High and Modesto Junior College who's risen to the top of baseball's pecking order. These are good days for Moorad, who's clearly enjoying the view from his new angle on the game.

"It's a great feeling for everyone in the organization and across the state of Arizona and especially for us who live and die with each win and loss," Moorad said during a telephone interview last week. "The problem with winning is it makes you a little greedy."

Greed wasn't a concern, of course, when he made the move in August 2004. The Diamondbacks, world champions only three years before, were en route to 111 losses. They had lost direction and were clueless on how to correct course.

To the rescue came Moorad, the super agent, the numbers whiz kid, the Robin to Leigh Steinberg's Batman for 20 years. It was odd only to the people who didn't understand one basic truth about Moorad -- he always coveted ownership. He and investors tried without success to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000. Sitting in the big chair of the CEO, his adversary for years, was his target.

And now we know why. Moorad's measured and stay-the-course business style seems a better fit in the front office than in the agent's often volatile and here-today-gone-tomorrow world. He's made it work in both arenas, of course, but there's no question he's better suited for his current status.

"What I'm most proud of is my style of using a steady hand. I try not to get too high or too low," he said. "There are some in the front office who are a little more emotional. I believe in a business plan that we put in motion a few years ago."

There are no secrets here. Moorad steers the Diamondbacks' financial ship while he leaves the baseball to the baseball men, including his selection of General Manager Josh Byrnes. He's also leaned hard on his expertise to sign free agents such as third baseman Troy Glaus and others. The Diamondbacks, who were outscored in spite of their 90 regular-season wins, are well-positioned for the future with such young prospects as Chris Young, Justin Upton and Stephen Drew.

It's Moorad's lifelong passion for the game, combined with his across-the-board familiarity with executives and players, that has most surprised the skeptics. There have been no conflict-of-interest complaints and, further, his experience as an agent has given him a better perspective than most old-school owners.

"In this business, it's more of a marathon. There's a long ramp-time to building an organization," he said. "It's a process rather than a project. I'm sure we'll have bumps in the road along with way. It's a big ship to turn. We're beginning to turn it."

Moorad's days of rooting for clients are gone. He's a team guy, an organization guy, a guy who must pinch himself to make sure it's all true.

"I'm having a great time," he said. "Winning makes it more fun, of course."

Indeed, the agent in charge of a franchise wasn't such a bad idea, after all. As far as the champagne shower goes, he wouldn't mind more practice.

Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or 578-2302.

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