08 December 2005

Wolff's trial balloon

There are some mighty eyebrow-raising quotes from Lew Wolff in John Shea's Chronicle report on Barry Zito's status:
The payroll is increasing about 10 percent, Beane said, and Wolff, whose focus is building a new ballpark, confirmed it'll go deep into the $60 million range after the A's signed Esteban Loaiza to a three-year, $21 million contract.

"I'm just hoping we get positive fan reaction with our attendance," Wolff said. "Billy continues to field a fabulous team, and I hope fans who didn't support us in the past will start to. It's a very big goal for me. I've got to find out how strong we are in the local market.

"We're trying to put the most quality team on the field. We just don't want to go to the playoffs."
That sounds like a challenge to the A's fanbase. Not that signing Esteban Loaiza is going to equate to 2,000 extra season tickets, but it looks like Wolff is trying in earnest to get more momentum behind the team before the season begins. Signing Loaiza, keeping Zito (which many don't think will happen), and bringing in a name free agent slugger such as Frank Thomas should create some buzz around the team.

Wolff hasn't shown any Jeffrey Loria-like tendencies, so there's no valid reason to believe that he'll conduct a fire sale if fans don't come or if he doesn't get a ballpark deal. There's always the possibility, and A's fans know too well how good Charlie Finley was at ripping his team apart.

The Marlins' Road Show Begins: Vegas Time

Buried in a article about Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria's economic justifications for conducting a fire sale of his roster is a tasty little nugget about Las Vegas. The quote comes straight from MLB COO Bob DuPuy.

Las Vegas is ripe for relocation, but there are concerns from the league regarding betting on baseball. When Las Vegas officials made their pitch to the Montreal Expos, who eventually became the Washington Nationals, the issue of betting wasn't resolved.

"Las Vegas made a very attractive proposal," said DuPuy about the city's efforts to attract the Expos. "There are issues with regards to Vegas indicated during that proposal. [There was] no willingness to take baseball off the books. I know that's a very, very serious issue with the Commissioner."

Taking gambling off the books isn't a complete dealkiller, but it has to be pretty close. As much as the major sports would love to be the first to get a share of the big money that comes to Vegas (and stays there, as the ad says), none of the leagues wants to be remotely associated with gambling. That goes double for baseball, which still has the stench of the steroids scandal all over it. Though I wouldn't be surprised with the notion that if one league were brave enough to enter Las Vegas despite the sport still being on the books, the others would be falling all over themselves to be next.