Pages

22 January 2006

Chronicle interview with Lew Wolff

Sunday's Chronicle has the most in-depth interview with Lew Wolff seen since Wolff officially became managing partner last April. I'm not going to recap it or attempt to read between the lines this time. Read it and if you feel the need to comment, the link is below.

38 comments:

Georob said...

AthleticsNation has a couple of good discussion threads on this right now, although they DO have their share of "conspiracy theorists" who think this is all BS and that Lew Wolff's intent from day one has always been to move to San Jose.

I'll share here my answer to them which is simply, "Then why is Lew Wolff even wasting his time talking to Oakland, especially with a lease about to expire in 2-5 years?"

Now, if Oakland was offering the A's incentives causing San Jose and others to make better deals of their own, I might buy the conspiracy. But Oakland, for better or worse: has done pretty much nothing.

At this point, I guess we all have to just sit back and wait what type an announcement we'll hear from Mr. Wolff come the beginning of the season.

Anonymous said...

Wolff's seeking the best deal, which Oakland probably can't afford to offer him. He has to talk with Oakland because right now that's where his team plays, and he'd rather not play to lame-duck crowds for 2-5 years. Plus, absent Oakland's failure to step up, Wolff appears to be relocating a team which is profitle, competitive and doesn't suck in attendance. Bad form.

So anyone who think's the A's want to leave Oakland is a conspiracy theorist to you...yet you don't think Oakland can support them either. It's not paranoia to think they're out to get your team if they really are.

Marine Layer said...

I'll put out an argument - maybe it's a straw man, maybe it isn't.

Wolff talked about Coliseum South at some depth, called it the "triangle," which it resembles. He said that there might be a way to build the ballpark at the north lot if the triangle were fully purchased by the Coliseum JPA and converted into parking.

There are 3-4 owners on that property total not including the Malibu gravel lot, which is owned by the JPA. The privately owned land totals around 16 acres, with an assessed value of less than $1 million an acre. We know that land doesn't for assessed value around here so $16 million won't be a likely price. Is it worth closer to $60 million? Halfway?

Wolff hinted at a possibility there. I've asked Larry Reid in the past what is going up at the HomeBase site and never received a response. There are still issues with financing, but it would be a shame a site couldn't be made available because the JPA didn't want to invest (we don't yet know if they are or aren't willing). With the Raiders, A's, and Oakland no longer at each others' throats in court, this may be the best time to make a deal.

Georob said...

To anonymous:

1) Lew Wolff is under no obligation to talk to Oakland at all. Per his contract the A's have to play at the Coliseum for only two more years minimum. Therefore, unless there's still good reasons to stay in Oakland(and there are), I don't waste time with them.

2)Lame Duck Crowds? Most of the A's fan base comes from Southern Alameda County, and they will likely continue to support the team if they move to San Jose(and certainly will if it's Fremont). Therefore, unless the A's go outside the Bay Area, Coliseum attendance shouldn't change that much during its last years.

Therefore, when people claim that Lew Wolff has absolutely no intention of staying in Oakland when his words and actions say otherwise, at best I think they're naive. But if you read some of the anti-Wolff postings on AthleticsNation, "Conspiracy theorist" is not an unreasonable description.

Would Lew Wolff rather be in San Jose? I think so. Would I rather live in Tahiti? Absolutely. And it's gonna take a lot of work for both of those scenarios to become reality.

...especially the Tahiti one.

Anonymous said...

I guess I would fit the "conspiracy figure" theory that georob alleges. I don't so much ascribe it to conspiracy as I do to buiness acumen on the part of Wolfe. He HAS to talk to Oakland first to satisfy anti-trust obligations/issues that will most certainly be raised by the other owners when he presents his plan to move to SJ. He cannot move the team with the permission of the other owners. He therefore must present a case on why he can't stay in Oakland that will mollify the other owners into slapping down Mcgowan's objections. Wolfe is in this venture to make money. I don't think for a moment that he has any philanthropic notions towards the city of Oakland. It's my opinion that market analysis was extensively covered by his investor group prior to one dime changing hands. Moreover, I am of the opinion that Oakland was weighed and found wanting. Wolfe is not even the majority holder in the investment group. It would seem he was brought on board for his SJ connections as well as his relationship with Selig. Really, all the coincedentals add up to a move on SJ. He all but announced he is the "worlds best negotiator" and is looking for someone in SJ to take the initiative to talk to him publicly.

Maybe we could work out a territorial rights agreement on Tahiti....if I get Barbados

Anonymous said...

Perhaps somebody who thinks SJ is a foregone conclusion could answer me this ...

Why in the world would Steve Schott, a south-bay guy who openly talked time and again about his desire for the A's to move to the south bay, bail out of his ownership stake and sell to Wolff if he thought there was even a remote chance that Selig would allow the A's to relocate to San Jose? In my mind, he'd at least retain a significant ownership stake to at least be associated with the team in his own back yard. Schott is way more associated with the south bay that Wolff is. I'm thinking that Selig has told both Schott and Wolff that there is no way the A's go to SJ (which he's say publicly many times) ... Schott gets the message and bails out. To Wolff, I'm thinking he's said, "try to see if you can get anything in the east bay, if not, let's back up the trucks and move on out ... to vegas/sacramento/etc."

tony d. said...

Last anonymous,
I would argue that Steve Schott burned his bridges with MLB/The Giants because of his adamant desire to relocate the A's to Santa Clara. Schott openly challenged the Giants territorial rights in many a commentary...probably pissing off Selig and Magowan along the way. Wolff, on the other hand, has been pretty cordial about the whole situation. While deep inside he probably thinks the territorial rights are a bunch of crap (which they are), he's not openly challenging them like Schott. I think it also helps a possible A's move to SJ that Wolff is close friends with Selig and Rheinsdorff. If, and unfortunately for this SJ partisan it's a big IF, Wolff decides to pursue SJ, look for him to be the supreme diplomat with the Giants/Magowan, MLB, and SJ.

Jimmy Jam said...

Re: Why would Schott sell to Wolff if Selig would allow the A's to relocate to San Jose?

I don't remember the details so please correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there an issue regarding Hoffman's share of the A's? I thought it had something to do with Schott wanting Wolff to buy out Hoffman's stake in ownership, but Hoffman not going along unless Schott sold his stake in the franchise as well.

Also, while not significant I do think Schott has a very small stake in the current ownership group.

Marine Layer said...

jimmy jam, you are correct on both counts.

Anonymous said...

All the conspiricy theories out there are really quite silly. The A's aren't going anywhere and the new ballpark will be built in Oakland. Why? Because there is simply nowhere else for them to go...

-Portland won't pay for a stadium as their mayor emphatically stated recently.

- Las Vegas and Pro sports will never happen as long as there is gaming

-San Jose will never be negotiated as long as Selig is in office, no matter how fraternal he is with Wolff

-San Antonio, Norfolk, Charlotte, and whatever other small time city metioned would be about as desireable and profitable as putting the team out to sea.

Oakland can sit on their hands and wait for a better deal because they know the A's have no other options. The new digs will eventually (and by eventually, I mean eveeeennnntually after the threats of move, claims of poverty, and political posturing on both sides have worn themselves out) be put on one of the colisuem sites, North, South or West, with an abbrieveted development project, of course, because the first proposal was pure fantasyland.

tony d. said...

Oakland, East Bay, South Bay partisans...put your personal issues/wishes aside for a minute and try to think as a businessman. When $an Jo$e baseball leaders present (sometime this year) to Lew Wolff the land at Diridon South, as well as entitlements to surrounding land/parcels, what will he do? Dismiss $an Jo$e's offer entirely, abide by the insane territorial rights and continue to wait for Oakland to stop sitting on its hands? Or does he negotiate with MLB/The Giants for the rights to $J? Wolff is the "worlds best" negotiator. All bias aside, does anyone have any thoughts?

Kevin said...

Anonymous,

Heck of a gamble on Oakland's part don't you think? If Oakland really wants the A's to stay wouldn't it be better to work with them and develop a stronger relationship. Oakland's inaction has got to leave Wolff with a bad taste in his mouth, regardless of how all of this turns out. They obviously know about his concerns regarding corporate support in Oakland. Why not be a little more positive and help promote interest in the A's. Instead they do nothing.

The next 6-8 months should be very interesting. Will Oakland call Wolff's bluff? Will Wolff burn his bridge with Oakland and move on to Fremont/Alameda County, San Jose or beyond? Nothing is a guarantee. We shall see.

Anonymous said...

I really don't think its wishful thinking that they will stay in the East Bay, I just think is practical...They won't get a better deal with the same population support as they would in Oakland...San Jose would be the only other possibility, and the territorial rules will never let that happen. Selig has said a billion times that it's not negotiable, so have the Giants, and Wolff has acknowledged it as well.

Its not really a gamble for Oakland, when the A's don't have any other options. That said I think Oakland will be helpful through the process as long as it doesn't involve public funds. Some of the powers at be, Harry Reid and DeLafuente, have already expressed interest development potential and will work with the A's on this. Its just going to be a garbage truck of politcal and finacial hagling before there is any resolution. The Giants went through this for years with SF, and look what they have now...

tony d. said...

Last anonymous,
You can't compare San Francisco's situation with Oaklands! No way is Wolff going to privately finance a ballpark ala Magowan. And no way in hell does any part of Oakland resemble or come close to South Beach. Look, if Oakland get's its act together and put's together a viable ballpark plan, GREAT! And more power to them. But it's ridiculous to think that Wolff will wait around forever!

Anonymous said...

To Tony D.

Where is Wolff going to go? What city can take the A's?

Anonymous said...

You are greatly mistaken if you believe this is a bluff by Wolfe. Lew isn't even the majority owner....he is the spokesman for a consortium. Do you really believe that the team changed hands and the new owners suddenly decided on a venue change? No....this has all been worked out beforehand. I believe that Oakland had a legitimate shot at the team.....12 months ago. There time is now done. On to plan B. Wolfe may in fact locate in Fremont. I don't think that is realistic though. From the very beginning these guys have known the market demographics. If SJ....the third LARGEST city in California decides to plant their foot in MLB's rearend about territorial rights, they WILL win. No way is MLB going to risk going to court against them. Honestly, do you see 28 owners willing to risk their anti-trust exemption in order to defend Mcgowan? Aint gonna happen. I have always thought SJ was the prize the A's are after. At this point I think Oakland is finished. Step one is finished. Fremont will get cursory looks....and herein could be the most serious challenge to Wolfe. If Fremont comes up with a sweetheart deal, then Wolfe may be stuck....if he see's it that way. But I trust in Lew's ability to find problems with any Fremont sight. Now it's off to San Jose...and see how fast the "obstacles" disappear.

tony d. said...

Where would the A's go if Oakland continues to play hard ball with them? As a SJ ballpark supporter, I would like to think that Wolff and Co. will look to San Jose. But as Georob and others have stated numerous times, a lot has to go right before I get season tickets to Diridon Park. Fremont, Sac, or even Portland could also be looked at (Seriously though, I don't think any of us want to see the A's leave the Bay Area). Second, the last post was right on about Wolff being the "spokesman of the consortium." The reality is that billionaire John Fisher is the true owner of the A's. And his dad, Gap founder Don Fisher, was an original partner with Peter Magowans Giants (remember the "Gap" advertisements in the outfield gaps at the Stick, Pac Bell Park?). This leaves me to believe that the real A's owner has probably already had dialogue with Magowan/The Giants about the South Bay. Why they keep trying to work with a city that's sitting on its hands is beyond me. In closing, with Fishers/Wolffs combined billion$ and title of "worlds best negotiator," maybe a move to SJ isn't out of the realm of possiblities.

Georob said...

"This has all been worked out beforehand".....

Call them the Elders, The Chosen Ones, or even the Council Of Jedi Knights; but somewhere somehow, a powerful and mystic group posing as Baseball owners convened in a high temple. Whereby it was agreed upon that Oakland's time had passed and that no matter what transpired THEIR WILL WOULD BE DONE! And at a time of their choosing would reconvene in the emerald city of Saint Joseph(San Jose)at which point they would see the Messiah. And Glory BE IT WOULD BE GOOD.

Makes as much sense as a lot of what's been posted here, doesn't it?

And no, I didn't get this off the A's old radio station :)

Anonymous said...

Dude, conspiracy 101: unlikely allies seemingly working against their own interests for a hidden agenda is a conspiracy. Like-minded partners making easy choices to earn lots of money is everyday business.

San Jose is the best risk/reward payoff for Wolff+Fisher, the Giants, and MLB...easily. Oakland and Fremont can offer relative chump change; Vegas offers way too long odds. So why is it conspiracy mongering to observe that A's ownership knows this and acts accordingly at every turn. Sounds more like simple observation to me.

murf said...

I'm curious as to why most here keep commenting on Oakland, San Jose, Fremont and Las Vegas, but don't comment on Portland? Portland is every bit as feasible as these other cities, and there is a pretty strong baseball contingent there. It doesn't really matter what the mayor says. What matters is what the voters say, if what were talking about is public subsidies. It doesn't take the mayor to get an initiative on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

The mayor of Portland was responding to polls which was heavily one-sided on nay for a new venue...So the public has spoken there...

Marine Layer said...

As seen in Oakland, an unsupportive mayor can seriously hamper a pro-stadium effort. If someone as prominent as a mayor is misinformed or unwilling to change his stance because of the prevailing political winds, the damage he/she can do to a pro-stadium takes much less effort than it takes for a pro-stadium group to clean up or fight that damage.

Portland has great organizations going for it and got a lot of legwork done when SB 5 passed. But it lacks a star or galvanizing figure to lead the charge, to give Portland the kind of high profile and media attention Vegas has. Without that role properly filled, Portland will continue to fly under the radar.

Anonymous said...

Lest it be lost in the shuffle: ML, your point about the Home Base triangle and JPA is very relevant. When we hear City-County's reply, I bet it will include that site.

Anonymous said...

I think people are forgetting about Sacramento here. With relatively low outlays since a stadium already exists there, the A's could stay in Nor Cal, retain some of their east bay fans and get a growing region all to their own in Sac-town! All they have to do is add some capacity to the river-cats yard and be done with it. It makes much more sense than anything else I've heard here.

The Sacramento Athletics ... it has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

Georob said...

It would be a risk, but San Jose's efforts could be helped tremendously if Mayor Ron Gonzales got on the public bullhorn and decried the Giants' territorial rights as the horseshit that it is.

All the other two team markets actually "share" the entire market.(And as close as they are, Washington and Baltimore are considered separate markets by the census bureau and media outlets)

Of course the last thing San Jose wants to do is anger the commisssioner. But if(as so many have speculated) San Jose is where MLB would truly like to have a team, then it would be in their best interests to not have public opinion turn against them.

Suppose someone like Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman was running San Jose.
What do you think HE would do?

Marine Layer said...

If it were as easy as slapping a couple of extra decks of seats onto Raley Field and then declaring it a major league stadium, I'd agree with the Sacramento move. It isn't that easy. I explained it more thoroughly in my "What about Sacramento?" post from last August.

Georob said...

The Sacramento area DOES have a lot of A's fans, most notably Tyler Blezinski of Athletics Nation. And having the Rivercats certainly helps. But when someone says that they'd gladly travel to Sacto for a game, they probably either live near there or go to games once or twice a year.

But could it sustain 30,000 fans per game over 81 dates? Doubtful.

But should the A's stay in Oakland, the Sacramento fan base is still one to cultivate. And if they could schedule exhibition games there, or even a series that would otherwise not draw well in Oakland (say, a mid-week April series against Tampa Bay) it would be a good marketing move.

tony d. said...

I'm sorry Sac A's fans...but a move there would stink to high heaven! The A's leaving the Bay Area would be the ultimate capitulation to San Francisco, The Giants and Peter Magowan. Really now, I don't think any of us would want to see that happen. If Oakland can't get its act together, and the stupid T Rights to my hometown are truly insurmountable, then I will gladly jump on the Fremont bandwagon...THE A'S MUST STAY IN THE BAY!!

Anonymous said...

Here are my "odds" of where the A's will end up ...

Oakland ... 25%
San Jose ... 10%
Fremont ... 10%
Sacramento ... 25%
Las Vegas ... 15%
Portland ... 15%

Hardly a scientific study, but if you believe my weightigs, the A's are more likely to relocate out of the Bay Area (55%) than stay (45%). The only thing Oakland has going for it is the fact that they play there today. Political climate and corp support are not in their favor. The only way San Jose makes it is if every other suitor on the list above does not come through. MLB does not want to change territories for the A's - it would open up a dangerous precedent and there's nothing in it for the other owners. Fremont is a remote possiblity (see Oakland re: corp support). Las Vegas has the finances and mayoral support, Portland is intriguing, and Sacramento has the advantage of proximity to the Bay Area and a ballpark that might be MLB ready with a low level of investment.

Anonymous said...

To Gerob:

Hilarious post....but your impudence has been noted (and forseen) by the council. You will be tracked down and punished accordingly.

It's really not so much a "conspiracy" in leagal terms. Selig has a long history of forcing city's to build parks for his kids to play in. He has been quite successful at it too. At the end of the road we come to Oakland. It's likely he knows that he is literally beating a dead horse here. In passing he talks with his good friend Lew about what is possible and what is not in the world of MLB. He also informs him of what can be said and not said at certain times. Lew siezes on this information and begins to put together a consortium to buy the A's. He is not discouraged from doing so from his good buddy Bud. Momentum is established at this point and things will naturally play out as was forseen young jedi.

The Giants will get their pound of flesh, so I wouldn't expect them to whine to long or to loud. How much does Mcgowan still owe on SBC? Perhaps a revenue sharing venture which will help him make the strokes on his park will take the wind out of his objections. Have you noticed the Giants are unusually quiet about the whole affair? Sure, he quips about territorial rights every now and then as matter of pro forma. When the time comes, he expects to be paid.

Anonymous said...

Magowan "quiet" on the issue??? Perhaps you've had your head in the sand, my good man. On the contrary, he's openly stated time and again that he's not open to the issue of compensation or negotiation on the issue.

Anonymous said...

Last annonymous guy....

I know that he has voiced objections in the past....are they as strident as they once were? At any rate, his objections are probably not considered insurmountable by Wolfe. At least they shouldn't be considering some of Wolfe's statement. I know in 1998 he stopped a potential move by the A's to SJ, but much has changed since then.

tony d. said...

A lot of anonymity going on here...to one of the many, a "dangerous precedent" was already set when the Expos moved to within 35 miles of Baltimore/Camden Yards (in a hypothetical A's move to SJ, they would be moving 35 miles FURTHER from the Giants). Also, explain to me how the Expos move "benifited" all the other MLB owners (other than Angelos)...are you an "anonymous" Maury B.? And Please don't give me this crap about an A's move to SJ would mean an MLB team could relocate across the street from Yankee Stadium...that's a bunch of nonsense!! Look, the stupid T rights were probably granted because MLB saw SJ as simply another suburb of Frisco! Heck, one of my co-workers from Gilroy thought SJ was the 10th largest city IN CALIFORNIA! Now that the powers that be realize that SJ is a major US city with unrealized $$ potential, it's quite possible they will revisit the insanity that is the Giants territorial rights.

Georob said...

I'll make this prediction. Even if the A's end up staying in Oakland, the whole "territorial rights by county" concept will eventually go away.

It was a well intentioned but misguided attempt to help the Giants after numerous ballot initiatives to build a ballpark in SF failed. Remember, Walter Haas and former Giants owner Bob Lurie were on very cordial terms, if not close personal friends. And even though Lurie was selling to Magowan by that point, Haas felt obligated to do the Giants(and San Francisco) a favor.

Had anyone been able to see this coming, I don't believe for a second that Haas would have signed off on it. But at that time, the A's had come off a run of World Series appearances and the attendance reflected that. Oakland appeared safe.

If anything, the Giants may very well have been afraid of San Jose trying to attract a THIRD team to the Bay Area, an idea that still might make sense to some Santa Clara County businesspeople.

The Giants market themselves as a Bay Area, if not a Northern California team. The A's(whether they be in Oakland or San Jose)must do the same to be truly successful.

And even though it may take over an hour to drive 20 miles, the Bay Area is really one region. MLB's territories should(and someday will, I predict) reflect that.

The Cactus Leaguer said...

ML has it pretty much nailed on where Portland is at. And whomever said that Portland does not want MLB is nuts. The only poll commissioned in recent years was at 70% yes to MLB, not to mention all of the other data about TV ratings, market size, support for the Mariners, etc. Portland needs an Oscar Goodman or a Jerry Colangelo type to galvanize the troops, that's all that's missing. Oh, and they also need a team that's ready to move (which there isn't... yet).

Jazzbo Fun said...

I do not understand why the A's do not build a ballpark on the hill atop Lake Merrit where Children's Fairyland and the Bowling Greens currently exist. Childrens Fairland should be relocated near Knowland Zoo/Park anyways. And the lawn bowling crowd is (how do I say this in a PC way) getting smaller every year. The ballpark at Lake Merrit would be close to 19th Street Bart, is publicly owned, is near restaurants and shopping (Lakeshore/Grand) and near the downtown-Oaksterdam bars). Please someone tell me why we cant have a ballpark right there? Please!

Jazzbo Fun said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jazzbo Fun said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.