08 April 2005

Rick Hurd's Q&A with Lewis Wolff

In the CoCo Times interview, Hurd inquires about Wolff's relationship with Selig:

CCT (Hurd): You mentioned at Friday's press conference that Mr. Selig approached you about buying into the A's. Would you have been as enthusiastic about it were it not for your friendship with him?
Wolff: Well, he helped me get involved because he knew me, and he knew Steve and Ken and what their situation was. What you have to remember is you can't really get involved in baseball unless the commissioner lets you. My friendship with him was not the big issue. The big issue was that with this particular team, the downside risk isn't that huge, but the upside potential is.

CCT: But it seems like without a ballpark solution, this franchise is stuck. Mr. Selig has expressed doubts in the past about whether this is a viable two-team market, and he's made his stance that the Giants own the territorial rights to Santa Clara County clear on numerous occasions. So how do you respond to those who might say your friendship with him and your choice to buy into the A's is a sign the franchise may be headed out of the Bay Area?
Wolff: Well, I've never heard him discuss the market, and the issue I think I made pretty clear at the press conference. We're going to focus on Oakland. We're not going to do what-ifs. If people want to focus on that, fine. There's 30 owners in this league, and I'm sure Bud is closer to a lot of them than he is to me. So I think that's a lot of hogwash really.

Then Hurd went further into the ballpark issue:

CCT: Clearly, finding a ballpark is the franchise's No. 1 issue. You've said you won't give daily updates, but for the record, can you tell us where you are in that process right now, and where you'd like to be a year from now?
Wolff: No. I want to be consistent on that statement, and I just don't think I need to do that. The real estate industry is the one area where I really know how to operate, and I just don't feel that's what I want to do. Otherwise, every real estate broker in the world will be lighting up my phone. I'm not trying to hide anything. It just wouldn't serve any purpose to comment on it at this time. That's not to say we won't have things to say as this process continues.

: The ballpark aside, you talked Friday about "thinking outside the box" with regard to operating this team. What other ways are there to grow revenue given the franchise's current state?
Wolff: We're exploring those things. I'm going to have a series of discussions with (Crowley). We think that there are, but we're not sure. We're only into this three days.

: In 1992, when Peter Magowan headed an ownership group that bought the Giants and kept them in San Francisco, his group faced many of the same problems the A's do now. How similar do you think your current situation is with their old one?
Wolff: I love the ballpark. I think times are different, and a lot of different things have changed since then. But they've been able to prove that a great ballpark in a downtown area does a lot for a community. At the same time, they tried to do it with 100 percent private money. That's very difficult, and I'm not sure you could get anything built today entirely on private money. But I was at that park on Opening Day a few years ago, and it was just wonderful. I think if we were able to do something like that in Oakland, it would have a very high impact.

CCT: What has changed?
Wolff: That's an entire discussion in itself. But the economic and political landscape are always changing.

Wolff's responses are carefully constructed as to not give the appearance of a commitment to any one idea (site, funding sources, timeline). The proposal(s) will come along soon enough. One refreshing thing I can see from Wolff's press conference and interviews is that he doesn't seem to be the type who will negotiate through the media. He's doing his necessary rounds with the media, then he'll go right back into silent mode. The quote confirming the lodge mentality of the commish and owners is unexpected, though not surprising.