16 April 2006

Wolff confronts the rumor mill, Part II

Furthering the effort to dispel any notion of a hidden agenda, Lew Wolff spoke with Merc scribe Mark Emmons and gave a little more insight into the business operations side of the A's. Apparently Wolff owns 12% of the team, a partnership (which I assume includes members of the DiNapoli family) owns 13%, and John Fisher controls the rest.

After the warm-fuzzy stuff in the article, they get down to the ballpark issue, which doesn't reveal anything new on the dealmaking front. However, there appears to be clarification on a number of subjects.

On looking outside the Bay Area:
He will look elsewhere "only if we bomb out here."
Regarding Oakland:
Wolff said he has not closed the door to Oakland, although there has been no sign of meaningful talks in months. He has been in discussions with Fremont and calls the site adjacent to Interstate 880, currently leased by Cisco Systems, "an excellent location.''
Then onto San Jose (emphasis mine):

Then there's the question of San Jose, which has twin hurdles: A ballpark presumably would need voter approval, and baseball gave the Giants territorial control of the market. Wolff, who also has been talking with Major League Soccer about bringing a new franchise to the city to replace the Earthquakes, insists he won't "tilt at windmills'' and fight the Giants' claim.

Added Selig: "San Jose is a dead issue. The thing that holds the sport together is its own internal rules. If you start to break them, you're going to have anarchy.''

But look at this from earlier in the article::
Yet ask Wolff, a prominent figure in San Jose redevelopment for almost four decades, what would be a good next step in the revitalization of the city's core, and he says: "If they could get the A's, that would help.''
After reading the article I had to re-read it again twice. Frankly, I don't know what to think. Some of the OAFC-ers seem to believe that Wolff and Selig are playing good cop/bad cop on this, though Selig hasn't been nearly as visible as Wolff and Selig's given more soundbites to the Marlins' cause than the A's (which is likely a vote of confidence in Wolff, not in Loria/Samson). I find it interesting that those who have dealt directly with Wolff have given a near-universal appraisal of the man as a "straight shooter" or any number of words that are synonyms for "honest." Those who haven't dealt with Wolff tend to have a more cynical or negative view. I've never met Wolff myself, so I can only temper things I've heard as a San Jose local (also positive) with the various bits of circumstantial evidence that exist.

Shrugging my shoulders as always...

One more thing - I've added "Attendance Watch" to the sidebar. In my previous attendance analyses there has usually been a mention of standard deviation. I haven't done that yet with the figures because as the statheads usually say: Two weeks into the season is too small a sample size.


tony d. said...

That quote from Bud Selig (the "anarchy" BS!) is actually old news (pre-dates Wolff's ownership of the A's), as Mr. Emmons obviously did not interview Bud Selig. Why Emmons chose to include it in his piece is beyond me. So I ask you this regards to the resurgence of DSJ, why couldn't Wolff say BART, more housing, or retail? Look, if he's not going to challenge the stupid territorial rights and focus solely on Fremont, that's fine (sad, but fine). But I'd wish he's stop teasing SJ...if we could get the A's that would help? C'MON!

Georob said...

For Christ's sake, Tony. Lew Wolff is not TEASING San Jose! We already know that he has business holdings, contacts, and friends there; what more can you ask of him?

I have no doubt in my mind that if territorial rights didn't exist, that the A's would move to San Jose in a heartbeat.(In fact, Steve Schott would have done it himself and not sold the team) The fact remains that dealing with territorial rights comes with a price tag that someone somewhere somehow has to pay.

Painful as it is to do, you have to put yourself in the Peter Magowan's shoes. Giants attendance is starting to go down, Bonds is near retirement amid contoversy, and he still has a huge debt service to pay to investors who were assured that no other team would locate in Santa Clara County.

And crying about San Jose being the tenth largest city in the U.S. doesn't change that.

tony d. said...

Rob, Rhamesis, or anyone,
AT&T Park has been in existence now for over 7 years...any idea how long P Magowan has to pay off debt service to his investors? Like most of us with mortgages, his debt payment on the ballpark won't last forever. By the way, I wonder how those investors will feel about the A's setting up shop just outside of SCC limits.

Georob said...

I think it's a 20 year debt service, though didn't the Giants recently petition the City of SF to have their tax assessment lowered to reflect the decline in values? Remember, Pac Bell was built at the height of the Dot-Com boom when everything was going out of sight. (Makes you wonder if the Giants could have even built the stadium in today's environment)

I'm sure no one's happy with the thought of a Fremont stadium, But remember that for much of the 80's, the Giants had their eye on a site near Great America,(as did the A's for awhile) That site would have been much closer to places like Cupertino, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto. Not only are those areas higher income, but also closer to SF and therefore more likely to have existing Giants fans than Milpitas or anywhere east of Downtown San Jose.

The demographics may very well have changed since, but I'm sure the Giants were most interested in protecting Northwest Santa Clara County as opposed to say....Gilroy.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the deal with Cisco is for building rights of housing, condos and retail. This will help finance the ball park. Now, the questions is where? I still believe that Wolff is still going to build it within the city limits of Oakland. Perhaps where the old White Front/Homebase site is. The site is being cleared could be an excellent site for the A's. Or, this one is far fetched, they'll actually find something downtown Oakland. Most of us at OAFC are still hopefull that this will happen.

Georob said...

Wolff uses the word "entitlements" from time to time in talking about how he'd finance a stadium, particularly in Oakland. I guess one example would be if Wolff got the rights to develop and sell properties at the Oakland Army Base. The profit from those entitlements could then finance a stadium with no adjoining development, if I'm to understand it correctly.

Wolff obviously feels that a "ballpark village" is more desirable, but that also requires more land, which is why he prefers Pacific Commons over a smaller site next to a (presumably) future Warm Springs BART station.

I've said from the beginning that Oakland wasn't finished. Between the A's and the Raiders, they've seen over 30 years of overtures by other cities to take away their teams. The A's have never left, and the Raiders came back. And still, the threats live on.

Rhamesis has hinted that once we're past the election season, that we may see progress out of Oakland. They've already extended the Coliseum lease, and are very aware of the obstacles that await Fremont(transit) and San Jose(territorial rights)

Marine Layer said...

I sincerely doubt that Fremont will change Pacific Commons' zoning for Wolff unless the ballpark is built in Fremont. Fremont is in no hurry to develop the Pacific Commons site for any specific purpose. So in that sense, Fremont has the lynchpin.

According to planning docs I've read, the Oakland Army Base has 145 acres set aside for mixed development. The rest of it will be used by the Port or as open space/reclaimed wetlands. Part of that 145 is 70 acres that the Wayans brothers are interested in for their studio. Why 70 acres? Because it may be a studio theme park a la Universal Studios. 30 more acres are being set aside for the Oakland Auto Mall project.

Coincidentally, the Oakland Army Base site would have the same problems as the Fremont site. Traffic could make a bad commute even worse since the site is at the foot of the Bay Bridge. It's also over 1 mile from the West Oakland BART station, about the same distance from Pacific Commons to the planned Warm Springs station. Routing BART north 1 mile to near the Bay Bridge might be possible, but it would be really expensive.

I never wrote much about the Army Base because I had always assumed that converting it into viable development would take a decade or more. Since then I've gotten word that the preparatory stuff may be done this year. I find it richly ironic that Oakland and Fremont denizens and pols may bash each other, but it's Oakland that wants the big box retail that typifies Fremont and Fremont that wants downtown elements like a ballpark surrounded by high-density housing.

tony d. said...

Setting the San Jose record straight:
1) San Jose, 10th largest city in the U.S. with nearly 1 million residents (not crying Rob).
2) San Jose, highest per capita income in the U.S.
3) Area's east of Downtown SJ aren't vast slums or shanty towns (as some would have you believe). Some of the most affluent area's of San Jose are located in the eastern portion of the city (Evergreen, Silver Creek, Diablo foothills).
4) Some homes in the "barrio" can fetch $500-600K on the open market (hint, the residents aren't that poor).
5) Back in 1992, San Jose had a proposed ballpark site for the Giants near Zanker road/Brokaw road (roughly east of SJC).
6) Looking at a map, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, and Palo Alto are much closer to Pac Commons/Fremont than to AT&T Park/SF (for the record, these towns aren't the only South Bay locations where high income citizens reside).

...good night all!

drummer510 said...

I was wondering, Marine Layer, about the Fairy Land site off of Grand Ave. I know it would make a fairly residential area comercial, and congested, but it is a beautiful site with Lake Merritt, Grand Ave. with it's shops and restuarants, Lake Shore with much of the same, Downtown is right there, BART stations are only a couple blocks away, and 880 is right there. I don't know if you have thought about this as a potential site. I was lookin at the Google earth where you can see satelite images of earth, and I was comparing the size of the Fairly Land area Peninsula to the current Colesium and they seem to be similar size.

By the way I really enjoy your blog, and respect that you mention OAFC for better or for worse.

Homer Plate said...

Get your opinions heard !

This issue is the "SPORTS SPAT" question in the Oakland Trib/Hayward Daily Review/Tri-Valley Herald/Fremont Argus this week ---

Question: Thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the A's in Fremont?

They're going to print a bunch of reader opinions in the paper on Friday 4/21.

Just click on the form

or send to

You can also vote in their poll at
(scroll down to the SPORTS SPAT)

Marine Layer said...

Thanks, drummer510. I agree that Fairyland would be a most picturesque site, but politically it would be a nonstarter. No politician in Oakland, San Jose, Fremont, or Omaha is going to give a valuable public resource like a public park to a private firm just so that they can make money for themselves, even if it was the A's AND Wolff said he'd pay for everything, no strings attached. If it was surplus land that wasn't being used for anything, that'd be another story. There's no way to replicate Fairyland anywhere else in Oakland, and it happens to be situated in a perfect place surrounded by well-established residential neighborhoods. I wouldn't get my hopes up.

swirlinabc said...

But what happened to the talk at the other end of Lake Merritt at the Henry J Kaiser Convention Center? That to me would be perfect. Walking distance to BART, easy freeway access, stunning view to the outfield.

Marine Layer said...

HJK is not going anywhere. It's a landmark, which will make it just about impossible to demolish. The land is also too small. I tried to do a ballpark overlay a while back and nothing really fit unless either 10th or 12th streets were swallowed up. The plot that HJK sits on is going to get smaller as the 12th St reconstruction project is completed, since the street will be widened.

Jeff said...

This is exactly why "conspiracy theorists" gain traction. Wolfe is definatley sending mixed signals to folks who are inclined to pay careful attention to what is said and what is not said. Between Selig and Wolfe, they seem to be implying that the onus is on SJ to take some sort of action to cause MLB to re-evaluate their territorial rights clause. This is why people become cynical concerning the actions of franchise owners.

I like Wolfe, I think that he will be a positive influence concerning the future of the A's, though that does not neccessarily include Oakland. But I still maintain the old axiom, "Follow the money" is in full force and play. And SJ is where the money is at. Fremont may be close enough, or it may be leverage. Time will tell. But I wouldn't be a bit surprised if obstacles start falling like domino's.

Georob said...

The reality is that territorial rights ARE negotiable. The problem is at how high a price and how to do it in a manner is fair to all parties involved. Tony can waive his San Jose "10th Largest City in the US" pom-poms all he wants, but the truth is that it's going to be a tough sell to a lot of MLB owners.

Which puts Bud Selig in a bind. As it stands right now, San Jose is off-limits; and when Selig says so, he's telling the truth. But he also knows that there is a way to work around it, and when he and Lew Wolff drop hints about San Jose possibilities, they're also telling the truth.

Throw in the fact that at least 50% of those who post here think that both these men are a "lying sack of crap" (to quote the song on Stephanie Miller's Air America radio show) and you have your conspiracy theories.

And Tony, where did you get that "City with highest per capita income" stuff? I Googled the phrase, came up with several lists and San Jose didn't even show up. You're going to have to do a better job if you're going to make a convincing argument to Major League Baseball.

Georob said...

Let me throw in one more point: I live in Fresno, and according to the latest data, there are SEVEN SMALLER cities that have a MLB team (KC, Atlanta, Oakland, Miami, Minneapolis, Arlington, and Anaheim)

But the LAST THING I'm going to campaign for is a Fresno team. Heck, we're barely keeping the AAA Grizzlies thanks to the Giants' non-existent farm system.


jrbh said...

Fresno is bigger than Miami and Alanta? Really?

Selig's reputation as a "...bag..." comes the old-fashioned way: he earned it. Anyone who trusts him is either crazy or too stupid to live. And I don't mean that as hyperbole.

peanut gallery said...

I assume he's talking about the city-proper, not the metro area. Not sure about Atlanta, but Miami itself isn't a very large city.

And what's wrong with Selig? I like the way he has...ack...ack...thud.

tony d. said...

My apologies Rob,
San Jose actually ranks 2nd in the nation based on the median household income of $71K...second only to NYC! San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale combined have the 3rd highest per capita income in the U.S., behind SF/Oakland and an area back east (presumably the NYC region).
Still not bad!! $$$$$

tony d. said...

Here's my theory on the Onus...."You want to play ball San Jose? Get the land for a ballpark, finish your EIR, and get rid of Ron Gonzales! Then perhaps we'll bring Magowan and Co. to the table."

drummer510 said...

Im sorry but Fresno also has the largest hick population in the U.S. They might wanna consider building a monster truck arena, or nascar raceway b/f for building for baseball.

Jeff said...

Not to beat a dead horse, but there has been a remarkable string of "conincidences" that seem to imply that things are other than they seem. The folks in Oakland are right to feel that they never had a legitimate shot at keeping the A's. And frankly, the minimal fan support the city has shown the team in the past doesn't justify the A's staying. I am aware that there is dedicated hard core fan base, but they lack sufficient numbers. Selig has maintained that the A's should have never moved to Oakland in the first place....and I can see his point. The demographics didn't justify two teams in such close proximity in the first place. I think he is acting on his initial assupmption and plans to spread the teams apart. The logical place is the south bay area, both in terms of population and potential revenue streams.

I still believe that SJ has not layed all its cards on the table. I have to believe that there are reasons that the BSJ site hasn't been updated in months, yet the site remains active. That's not likely to be true if the supporters have given up belief in the chance to aquire a team. The city itself continues to develop plans in spite of statments made by MLB reps. That makes no sense unless they have information that the rest of the public doesn't. These people aren't doing the things they are doing just to amuse themselves. They are smart influential people, not the sort likely to waste their time on meaningless projects.

As far as the territorial rights are concerned....there existence is the only logical reason I can see for all the manuevering. Rob is right when he says they are formidable, but they are not insurmountable. If the city threatens to make a legal issue out of the "rights", they will collapse in short order. That doesn't mean Mcgowan won't be paid off, but he won't recieve the windfall that others seem to think would be his due.

Question ML, do "territorial rights" exist in any other MLB market? Or is the bay area the only bifurcated market in MLB? That sort of thing matters. I think the Chicago and NY markets predate the ideal of TR's, so why is SJ the only city in the nation that is precluded from ever having its own team? Are there any other cities who are discriminated against in this manner? You can see where this is going.....

Anonymous said...

That's just beautiful, drummer. Let me guess, you get all upset when people draw broad conclusions and belittle the city of Oakland don't you? Like so many of the OAFC crowd, you won't stand for it when applied to your town, but feel free to sling it at others. Of course most of you would rather see the A's in another state rather than one inch outside the Oakland city limits, so maybe I shouldn't expect any better.

Jeff, we're the only two-team market with designated territories.

Georob said...

Baltimore-Washington technically has territories but the two cities, despite being 50 miles apart, have long been looked at as two different markets by the media, census bureau, and others. Cities on the East Coast are older, denser, closer together, and date back to a time when even 50 miles was considered a big deal.

I would guess that if MLB ever decided to put teams in New Jersey and/or San Bernardino(Rhamesis' income data from several months ago supports it)that territories would be drawn to keep such upstarts from wanting to move too close to either NYC or LA, respectively.

But who wants to be the commissioner that tells George Steinbrenner that he's losing "Joisey" (or asks how much it would cost MLB to pay him off)?

jrbh said...

We may be the only market with "official" territories, but if the Mets tried to move to The Bronx, or Harlem, or the Meadowlands, or the White Sox tried to build a ballpark next to Northwestern University, that would change in a hurry.

It'd be interesting to see what would happen, though, if the Angels got it in their heads to *really* be the Los Angeles Angels.