15 February 2006

Check out Athletics Nation

On AthleticsNation Blez just posted a fantastic interview with Lew Wolff. This is the second interview Blez has snagged with Wolff. A couple of points to consider:
  • How many blogs or other fansites get real, non-fluff interviews with team owners? Blez obviously deserves credit for being regarded highly enough to merit the Q&A sessions with Wolff and Beane.
  • Wolff also deserves credit for understanding the educated, oft-hidden hardcore fanbase that prowls the net. Even if you're a cynic, it's a fantastic PR move.
That said, there's something I've been wanting to get off my chest for the last few weeks. As I've learned more about the process and the complexity involved in getting a ballpark deal, it's become clear that any thoughts of a conspiracy theory are offbase. Especially in the A's case. There are too many factors and obstacles that can derail a deal for a conspiratorial plan to work. The different cities involved (including those outside the Bay Area) all have significant issues to overcome if they want to talk ballpark with the A's. If there was some real guarantee of a predetermined outcome it could make sense, but a dealmaker like Wolff knows better than to put his eggs in one basket. Too many things can go out of control as well. Example:
  • Remember the big downtown LA hotel that Wolff's urban development company was building? Wolff had to pull out last month due to rising costs. The project is now being helmed by a partnership of AEG and KB Home, who plans to build condos in some of the areas where hotel rooms were planned. Wolff is still on as an advisor, but the big bucks will go elsewhere. Think about that. Over the last several months, Wolff signaled to LA pols that costs were rising on the project. Hurricane Katrina may have sent everything through the roof. Instead of killing the deal, all parties got together to work out a plan to get the project built. It meant that Wolff had to step aside, but it looks like it will get done. In the case of an A's ballpark, Wolff won't be able to step aside, but we should expect that he'll be upfront on the costs involved, even as partners or plans change.
I've even been guilty of fomenting conspiracy theories at times, but that's been more to promote discussion of the issues than anything else. The process is not at some advanced stage, far from it. However, things can move quickly, and that should be expected the closer we get to Opening Day.


Georob said...

Well, your last piece on just how much income it takes to support a MLB team really tells the tale, Rhamesis. The plain truth is that there just aren't many relocation options left for baseball, unless they want to compensate the NY and LA owners and create a couple of three-team markets.

And frankly, San Jose may not be the big untapped market everyone makes it out to be. If it were, I have to think that Bud Selig would have worked out something with the Giants long ago. Now of course he still might, but I think not until every other alternative scenario has played out.

Bottom line: Oakland still has a stadium in a great location(transportation-wise, that is). That alone gives them a lot of power and leverage. Granted, the day will come when they'll have to deliver, but those that prefer to "write them off" are being very shortsighted.

The best thing about Lew Wolff is that he clearly understands the one thing the A's must do now. And that's win a championship or get as close as possible.

Let's hope it's this year.

Kevin said...

Wolff: "The ability to manuever around the Coliseum area we're still looking at. As you know, we're looking at Fremont and other places."

Did I missing something or is this the first time Wolff has acknowledged looking outside of Oakland. Up unitl now, his stated position has been to give Oakland, and only Oakland first crack at a ballpark.

After reading the interview, it really doesn't look good for Oakland.

oaktowngreen said...

I really hope the A's can find a home in Oakland. Its such a great location for the rest of the bay area to experience MLB at its best. I am from Marin and have been an A's fan since I was a little kid watching the A's rise to glory in the late 80's and have so many memories. If the A's do have to move I would hope FREMONT is the place of choice...if that doesn't work out I wouldn't mind too much to see the A's in SAC. There is something about San Jose that is just awful...just as awful as Vegas. I don't know what it is exactly. Its too bad the whole RAIDERS situation turned out to be soooo awful. We have city leaders that are defensive to any stadium issues now and we have a ball park that has the charm of a refridgerator box. The Colliseum could have been rennovated to be an amazing, gorgeous park to todays standards. I love this franchise...probably too much. I have faith in Wolff...its a tough job and he is being realistic. The Fremont Athletics of Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area...might be the best solution. (SIGH)

The Cactus Leaguer said...

Georob - no offense, but if you are counting on the "no viable markets" argument alone, you will end up losing the A's.

While it's true that that there are no prime, slam dunk markets, there are several markets that are quite capable of generating as much or more revenue than the A's are getting now, especially with a modern facility.

Following the bizjournal's logic, you'd need to contract a dozen teams and/or move them to NY/LA/Chi.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate what you have to say on this issue M/L, but I have to wonder if the term "conspiracy" is being flagrantly tossed around. The fact of the matter is that Wolfe is first and foremost a buisness man, and a good one to boot. I take it as a given that he is at heart an honest man. However, that does not preclude him from creating a business with contingencies and a clearly defined process. I sincerely believe that he is honest when he offered Oakland first shot at keeping the A's, albeit with conditions. The first of those conditions is that the A's WILL have a new ballpark. That the A's remain in the Coliseum was NEVER an option for the city of Oakland. I believe that Wolfe is smart enough to know that the city would most likely never be able to build a coalition that would make building a stadium in Oakland a viable option. So being a good business man, he has naturally planned for option two. That is where we are at now in my opinion. I am pleasantly surprised to now believe that Fremont WILL get an honest shot at securing the team. The last poster was absolutely correct in pointing out that this is the first time Wolfe has dipped his toe in the water concerning relocating the franchise. Every word that falls from his lips is carefully structured, and has had the desired effect of not antagonizing fans or politicians concerning moving the team. He has gradually built up momentum for just such an event while simultaneously surpressing "community outrage".

For the record, I honestly like and appreciate what Wolfe is trying to accomplish. I just feel that moving the team has been in the cards from the beginning. Me personally, I would be perfectly content for the team to remain in Oakland and play at the Net. It's affordable and a pleasant experience. I am however a realist, I see what has been going on in MLB over the last ten years concerning stadia, so I know that staying is not an option. I sincerely believe Wolfe will accomplish his goals with a minimum of pain for all parties. But not for a moment do I believe he has laid ALL his cards on the table.

jeff said...

The last comment was mine, I didn't intend on being anonymous...

Marine Layer said...

Sooner or later I'll post a gigantic Visio chart showing all of the different relationships and decisions that have to be made. Then heads will explode.

Whatever happens, we're not going to know the whole story. MLB is now carefully constructed to keep everything in house.

Rob, San Jose is the untapped market that most everyone thinks it is. Believe it. Wolff did mention SJ in the interview, did he not?

What would be interesting is if the A's won another WS. Winning two in six years hasn't helped the Marlins, but would winning one help the A's?

jeff said...

I can only imagine the shear complexity involved in such a huge undertaking as building a ballpark, much less the one that is envisioned, with retail and residential components. I have no doubt that charting such an endeavor will be eye popping. I hope to see it soon. By the way, how is the Fremont blog coming along? I am really looking foward to it.

For the life of me I cannot comprehend how anyone doesn't understand the enormity of the SJ market. If it weren't such a lucrative market, why would Mcgowan be so determined to ensure that they do not recieve their own team? I also have not doubt in my mind that if push comes to shove, SJ will easily clear out his objections, especially if it becomes a political matter. In fact, I can't imagine a better way to unify the city and it's populace by fomenting a fight with MLB, especially one involving an outside force hindering economic development. SJ is a HUGE demographic metropolitan area which can do doubt muster significant political pressure if aroused.

Funny you mentioned MLB's proclivities for maintaining internal secrecy. I have been reading quite a bit about the history of MLB, and you certainly hit the nail on the head with that comment.

Kevin said...

I asked the commissioner for something the other day and he said, "You haven't even been in a year yet." I said, "Well we've put in about five years' work in one year, so I think we deserve it."

Any guesses as to what Wolff was asking? We could speculate all day on this one, but here's a few of my thoughts.

Let's say for the sake of discussion that Wolfee asked Selig about SJ, or even LV or Portland. Selig's response of "you haven't even been in a year yet" would seem to indicate that there hasn't been any backroom deal worked out to allow the A's to move to SJ. Why would Wolff even need to ask, if something had already been decided.

Wolff's comment "so I think we deserve it." would seem to indicate that maybe he was asking that the All-Star game be held in Oakland. Doubtful that will happen any time soon given that the Giants will be hosting the game either this year or next.

Maury Brown said...

+++ Sooner or later I'll post a gigantic Visio chart showing all of the different relationships and decisions that have to be made. Then heads will explode. +++

Isn't it amazing to work directly within such a project? It's research on another level. Rhamesis, would it be fair to say that getting all the variables to line up is more complex than you understood it before?

tony d. said...

A little off the subject (OK, way off the subject)...but does anyone know what happened to the Baseball San Jose website? The site's been dead since the Selig speech of September 05, and now the BSJ icon has been removed from the "Featured Items" of the City of San Jose website. Any ideas anyone? This could be viewed as good news for those who don't want the A's in the South Bay. Thanks for keeping the blogging alive Rhamesis!

Anonymous said...

Baseball San Jose website is as dead as the notion to bring the A's to the south bay ever was. I believe the A's should look east to Sac-town where they could have a ballpark for the fraction of the cost of a new one (expand Railey), a bigger fan base in a growing market and a tv-radio mkt to themselves.

oaktowngreen said...

The A's in SAC would be cool. I like them better in Oakland...but SAC is a great up and coming city. Hot as Vegas in the summer...but oh well...

Marine Layer said...

Once again, please refer to my post on Sac for an explanation on why moving to Sac won't be easy. It covers the expansion option as well.

The BSJ site is dead because BSJ is decided to go with a different strategy. The ballpark study is still going forward. That's all I'll say about that.

The Visio chart idea was mostly tongue-in-cheek, but I wouldn't mind putting one together after this is all over (knock on wood).

jeff said...

"They decided they wanted to go with a different strategy."

And we wonder how these conspiracy theories get
The plot thickens yet again, intrigue is will it all end?

I can't help but recall a quote by Wolfe in a local paper a few years ago. He said that he wouldn't even consider a location other that SJ for relocation of a team. Can he have reconsidered those words in a few short years? I keep looking at maps of the Fremont area in light of Wolfe's stated aims, especially the BART extension and the proximity of Warm Springs to the Santa Clara county line. Is it possible to get any closer to SJ without actually being there? The Giants may in fact be left in the cold. Fremont is beginning to look a lot less like the "kissing your sister" option and beginning to look like a really hot distant "cousin". Tune in next month for the conclusion of "wait till next year on opening day" act in the ongoing drama. Will Oakland be jilted? Is there really a doubt at this point in time?

old blue guy said...

The only conspiracy is that of MLB with the Giants to keep the A's out of San Jose. Yes, the A's might be able to pay the Giants off a la Baltimore-Washington, but then there is the issue of the ballpark itself. I am a voter in San Jose. I gladly voted against the Giant San Jose tax-payer funded stadium initiative in the early 90s and I would do so again. This, even though I despise the Giants and really like the A's. Taxpayers just should not be paying the freight for millionaires. And a lot of people in San Jose agree with me.

I have previously opined that Fremont is the ideal location for the A's. First, and foremost, it deals with the Giants' so-called territorial claim. It also locates the team in a prosperous growing community located equidistant between San Jose and Oakland. I think this is the best solution available if the A's are going to stay in the Bay Area. Call 'em the Silicon Valley A's.

Face it, Oakland is never going to be able to support a new ball park. The city has too many other needs. Plus there is the bad taste remaining from the Raiders giveaway.

Speaking of the Raiders. The Coliseum is not only a woefully dated baseball facility. Try football, too. I see the Raiders moving on when they get a chance, maybe even back to L.A., which could easily support them. And now there's talk of a new stadium.

The ultimate horror story for Bay Area fans is the departure of both teams from Oakland. What would be really nice would be to see some innovative thinking by some of the mega-millionaires around here. How about a joint A's-Raiders complex (two parks) in Fremont or Union City? An Alameda County initiative? I was in Pittsburgh last Summer to attend a wedding. My daughter and I killed an afternoon by visiting the new Pirates' and Steelers' facilities. Wow. These were built by taxpayers in Allegheny County for about a billion. Lots of them are PO'd. Compared to Alameda County, Allegheny is way poor.

I'm not suggesting taxpayer funding for these facilities. There is a lot of money in this area. Why not get a lot of good business minds working on this? It's too important to be left to politicians.

jeff said...

interesting proposition old blue guy. SJ will be relegated to obscurity as far as sports franchises go if your attitude is the prevelant one among voters. No large facilities get built without some modicum of support/payment by the public. A sports venue is in fact a public venue, and as such, has an inherent value to the community. Are you saying that the owners should assume ALL the risk and SOME of the reward if they build a stadium? After all, will SJ still collect property tax on the venue? If they stand to profit should they also not expect to share in some of the financial burden? Perhaps your right, SJ will NEVER be a metropolitan area worthy of professional franchises. It costs to play, which has been a truth from time immemorial.

old blue guy said...

Well, Jeff, you ask some good questions. The reason I am so against public financing of stadiums is that the only jobs that result are basically minimum wage. And the only others who benefit are those who have restaurants and bars close to the stadiums. What exactly do fans, i.e., taxpayers, get out of the deal? Civic pride? Closer commute? Hey, man, if civic pride's your deal, I'm not going to argue with you. I'm just going to observe that a lot of water's gone under my bridge and civic pride isn't a real driver in my life. Further, I don't live and die with any sports team. Yeah, I root for 'em, but five minutes after the final out I'm on to other things.

The two baseball teams that to me are the exemplars for the sport in California are the Dodgers and Giants. Each team built and owns their own stadium. I was a kid in L.A. when the Dodgers moved there. L.A. bent over backwards for them, but would not pay for the stadium. The Chavez Ravine site resulted from a sweetheart deal, one condemned by a whole lot of folks, but the city pitched in and the Dodgers paid for the stadium. The rest is history. The Dodgers are arguably the most valuable of all sports franchises—because they own the venue. The Giants are in the same position.

I have no problem with cities helping out with sweetheart deals when it comes to land and the like. It's done for corporate America everywhere. So, yeah, taxpayers may take a minor hit. But I'm not aware of any occasion where a city has paid to build the plant where Apple, Intel or a car company wants to relocate. And the local workers will get a hell of a lot more benefit in wages from these kind of deals than they will from a sports stadium. Correct me if I'm wrong here.

And, BTW, after having lived in San Jose for 16 years—filthy lucre drew me here and I will soon leave—I have to say that San Jose is not a quote big league city unquote. There may be close to a million people here, but it's just a big suburb with no real city identity. Oakland—albeit far smaller—is much more akin to the traditional image of a major league city. Which is why, IMO, the A's might really rather stay in Oakland. This is also why the Angels struggled for so many years in Anaheim or Orange County (no city) and why the Rams ulimately relocated to St. Louis. Maybe ya gotta have a real city to support professional sports teams.

tony d. said...

Jeff, you're right about that quote from Wolff a few years back...does a man completely change his stance after only a few years? As Rhamesis stated to me a while back, Wolff even bought into the Warriors back in the 90's with the sole intention of moving them to SJ (there were problems with Sharks ownership at the time, as the Warriors are obviously still in Oakland). Sorry for feeding into the "conspiracy theory" R.M. As for the definition of a "city," I've heard many on this and other blogs refer to SJ as "one large suburb" or "a suburb on steriods." Do we have any urban planning grads in the house?! What really defines a true "city?" Perhaps if SJ had 50-story skycrapers and crime-ridden housing projects we'd qualify as a "city." Give me a break people, SJ is a true city through and through...enough of that nonsense!

jeff said...

Great reply old blue guy, but I think you ultimately prove my point. You're argument concerning Anaheim is dead on. The Rams left and the Angels struggled, but look at them now. Is there any doubt that they are full players as far as cities go? How much of their identity as a city revolves around the sports franchises the still retain? Not to mention Disneyland. The question for SJ is, are they willing to take the next step in building their own identity as a major city? Truth be told, it is SJ and not SF that should dominate the region. SF is an acronysm, a product of another time. While it's still a world class city, the future belongs to SJ if she is willing to sieze it. Technology is remaking the world and is in the forfront of all industries. Tech can be looked at as SJ's version of Disneyland. SJ needs to build structure that unify the citizenry around the city. Sports venues are the very things that can help establish regional identity.

I think that what Wolfe has in mind is something along the lines of what LA did for O'Malley in LA. The city will have to be a partner is any endeavor to build a ballpark or it will not happen. They will also have to assume some sort of financial risk, or provide some sort of financial incentive. The question really is, will SJ assume the role destiny has provided? Will it always be an expansive suburb, or will it assume the role of leadership within the Bay area? Questions indeed for the voters to answer. Civic pride I suppose is laudable, but the real reason to pursue the A's would be demonstration that the city has arrived as a force to be reckoned with.

Filthy Lucre is the source of much motivation....and much misery. Hope you got all you can carry and go on to live happily ever after....wherever it is that people go to live happily ever after!!!

tony d. said...

Before living happily ever after everybody, check out todays SJ Mercury News/B Witt article (The Valley) and the SJ Redevelopment Agency website. News regarding the acquisition of land parcels for a possible SJ ballpark, as well as renderings (it appears to be a backwards Jacobs Field at Diridon/Arena). I know many of you here are anti-SJ and think we're wasting our time with this whole venture, but you gotta at least credit SJ for trying...if only Oakland had the will like we're showing down here! 3 parcels down, 5 more to go!!

jeff said...

It appears that SJ has no intention of letting MLB dictate who gets what. I wonder what incentive they have for continuing to gather resources neccessary for a ballpark? Perhaps they know something the rest of don't?