28 March 2009

Lew better have a thick skin

Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.
- Warren Buffett
I reference the Oracle of Omaha not to bring up his home city again, though I once spent 10 minutes there over a decade ago during a brief stop on Amtrak's California Zephyr line. Rather, it's important to keep the nation's current economic malaise in perspective. Whether the recession ends at the end of this year or next year, it's unlikely that we'll see a shovel in the ground for a ballpark anywhere in the Bay Area by then. Which means that no one has to raise any funds or issue any bonds by then. Which makes all of the media's constant allusions to the wrecked economy moot. The next time I want financial advice on a personal or governmental scale, I won't be posting to a sports columnist's Facebook wall.

Yet that won't stop the critics from hammering away. This weekend, three columns have been devoted to Lew Wolff's various foibles, from Gary Peterson, Ray Ratto, and even Huffington Post contributor Stephen Kaus. I agree that Wolff should simply STFU on much of the San Jose talk until it's time to deal in earnest. After all, that's exactly what Wolff told San Jose, so it certainly wouldn't hurt for him to heed his own advice. It's hard for me to believe that Wolff isn't stung by some of these critiques, but if he's already picked out his media cheering squad, he simply may not care. Still, not everything has to be played through the media. If that's the way he wants to play, he'd be advised to don a suit of armor.

However, these owners, these rich guys all have something you and I have far less of based on the past 9 months: the ability and means to do long-range planning. Even though Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway lost a mindboggling $11.5 billion last year, the man is by no means destitute. Neither are Lew Wolff or John Fisher. They don't have to worry about their 401k accounts dwindling to peanuts while killing their retirement plans. They don't have to worry about their employer, say a newspaper, going bankrupt, thus forcing them to figure out a different way to freeload off the gameday spread at various sporting events. They can look ahead to a couple years from now when the environment is better for big stadium plans. We all think short term because we're forced to, because that's what the circumstances dictate for us. Them? Not so much.

So could we please stop it with the economy crap? No one's building anything right now, or even a year from now. When it's time to talk turkey we can see how the economy and market respond. Until then, it's a red herring.


Anonymous said...


BRK.A owner since 1991 and keep adding to it. Everyone should too.

One of the great Buffett quotes (who stole it from a country western song) of all time is, "when your phone is not ringing you will know it's me not calling." That's Lew Wolff to Ron Dellums and Ignacio de la Elevator Shoes.

People, including all the fish-hacks like Fat-Ray Ratto, are underestimating Lew's and Jon Fisher's desires.

Lew has thousands of reasons he wants this ballpark built in San Jose; family, other investments, other owners (10+ others) are all over the downtown SJ landscape in business, real estate, etc.

Fisher, on the other hand, has a real hard-on for Giant's mngmt, including Larry Baer. Fisher used to be a minority owner with Baer, MacGowan and all of their clowns. Fisher thinks he got screwed by them (a story that will one day see the light of day). Fisher wants nothing less than to return the favor and what better way to do so; San Jose.

Fisher would have been satisfied with Fremont (right next to SCC border without having to pay any $ for rights), but hey, we can't always get what we want - sometimes we can get more than we want. That's precisely what we are about to see unfold in front of our eyes.

Lew says we will know by end of 2009 season or sooner. Look for sooner. Bud doesn't have any bigger fish to fry right now other than the economy. And what better time to pitch this than in a down economy with MLB suffering 9-10% in reduced attendance. Like this blog stated earlier, the miracle of confluence of events, or perfect storm has occurred for SJ.

MLB, the business, will do what is in the best interest of baseball - which just so happens not to be in the Salinas' Giants best interest.

Anonymous said...

ML---agree about the overuse of the economy card but disagree with you that nothing is gonna happen for several years---lots of shovel's in the ground are required to get a site in order--roads moved, utilities relocated, infrastructure in place, etc---may not be the actual footings for a ballpark but none the less will be the inital phases of the ballpark development and it will definetely happen sooner than later---provided that the T-rights issue is resolved in a timely fashion-

Jesse said...

Watching a little to much Flip This House Lew? Hey Wolff, if youre so damn good at longterm thinking, why couldnt you see the bubble bursting. Whyd you try to play Flip That Commercial Property? Long range my BUTT, he had the foresight of an over zealous first time home buyer 3 years ago. He was even asked during the Nov 2006 press conference about the possibility of the deal not working and his answer was snarky as hell. He said something like "what if prime goes to 9.5, I dont deal in what ifs, the reason its going happen is because its good for the community" Probably shouldve dealt in some what ifs, and he probably shouldve taken a damn vote.

Hey Lew, check this out dawg. You watched strike one on Oakland, you swung hard and missed on Fremont. Your next move better be a hit, or you're OUT. Back to the minors.

Marine Layer said...

The Fremont plan was long term. 10 years of development. They were trying a new form of stadium financing. The bubble burst and undercut the plan. Not many economists truly saw this coming, let alone developers. There are plenty of things to blame on Lew, most of them PR related. The bubble isn't one of them - most of his development projects are hotel and commercial, not residential.

As an aside, while I know Lew reads the blog from time to time, I have no idea if he reads comments.

Ray Ratto said...

Enjoy the blog very much; very thoughtful and reasoned analysis in mmany ways. But my weight and current employer notwithstanding, I think there is a larger point here, and that is that San Jose's electorate and political hierarchy have never shown much fascination beyond lip service with the idea of any baseball stadium in the town or even the county. It seems to me that even when the economy rebounds in however many years it takes, the debts run up over past years, not to mention whatever money the state tries to take from local development funds, must first be dealt with. In addition, the notion that even partially public financing of stadiums typically benefits the team more than the city (a lesson learned hard in Oakland with the Raiders) remains a huge stumbling block in many voters' minds, which is why Sacramento is resisting the Kings, their onmly pro team, so much.

Whatever motives you wish to ascribe to Fisher and Wolff (and I agree the stick-it-to-Magowan-angle is underplayed here), I still think San Jose is a harder nut to make than merely the immediate economic problem, and that there is a greater likelihood of Fisher and Wolff, unwilling to wait as long as it is going to take for such a project to win hearts, minds and wallets, looking to sell when times get better than trying to sort out the thicket of San Jose electoral politics.

And I certainly wish to apologize to anyone for not being in better shape.

Marine Layer said...

Appreciate the nod. My quip about gameday spreads was not intended to focus on anyone's weight - I'm not one to talk as I have a few extra el-bees - it was to take a jab at freeloading. That's neither here nor there.

The argument comes down to looking at a political reality from two different angles. Some look at San Jose and think the uphill battle will come with selling the idea of a ballpark with some amount of public money baked in. I look at that idea as a complete nonstarter thanks to the city's charter and now the economic situation. If the City and the A's are foolhardy enough to pitch such an idea, they do so at their own peril and it will be roundly defeated. The principals have to be aware of this since they were here when the charter was changed and were present through the Arena's construction and the defeat of the Giants stadium proposal.

On the other hand, if they want to come up with a creative means to get this done without public money, then it should be reviewed without prejudice. Mayor Reed has even shown his preference for a public vote even though it may not be required just so that the result has the will of the people behind it. Do Wolff/Fisher have the will to tough it out through that political battle? Only they know that for sure.

IMHO, Wolff's had a championship parade route running by the Fairmont San Jose in mind since he was hired by Schott/Hofmann, and he wants to see it through.

Zonis said...

Ray, you can not say that San Jose has done nothing to facilitate a team eventually moving to the city-they have done a lot, the chief of which is to acquire the land needed for a stadium as well as complete the EIR, the two biggest obstacles to a team moving to San Jose, baseball or otherwise.

Also, I doubt that Public Financing will be brought into the discussion. I think the most likely form of that we'll see will be something in the form of a tax break, or the City being given control of the stadium with the A's receiving a very cheap 30 year lease.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't disagree with Ray more---LW has shown long term committment to making it happen for the A's in the Bay Area--and like Zonis said San Jose has done a significant amount to be ready in case the call was made. To use what happened in SJ back in 1992 and say that this reflects upon SJ today is a joke--how many times did SF defeat ballpark measures and low and behold they were able to build one-

What would be refreshing from someone like Ray who has trashed everything that LW has tried to do-whether it be Fremont or SJ--is to promote the SJ solution---which is very similar to what the Giants did in SF---or is Ray one of the ones that would love to undermine the A's to get them out of the Bay Area leaving only the Giants---humm--I am pretty sure I know which way he leans--

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks that a ballpark in San Jose in this economy will be viewed as a "priority" is smoking some good stuff. The problem here is that Lew Wolff has an unrealistic and exaggerated view of his importance to society at this point in time.

The average person in the Bay Area doesn't give a fig about Lew Wolff, or, his little pursuit of his little boutique ballpark just so that he can have a parade go by his empty hotel in San Jose.

Wake up Lew, this is not a high priority issue at this time. Shut TFU, put a decent team on the field in Oakland, and play baseball. You exaggerate the denigration of your ballpark in Oakland. You want to see a real dump, go to Boston.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:17-

Fenway's a dump? WTF are you smoking? Oakland by any reasonable standard is an outdated relic that doesn't serve baseball nor football well.

And of course you bring up the economy again---why should you care what LW wants to do with his money or anyone else's money---bottom line--open up SJ and let LW decide how he wants to invest his money---but quit hiding behind that it is a horrible economy---and therefore nothing should happen---for some people a horrible economy is an ideal time to invest--

Anonymous said...

anon 1:17,
leaving a deformed Football stadium for a baseball only stadium IS a priority. comparing MT. Davis to Fenway is apples to oranges...cmon now!

Anonymous said...

I was a fan of Lew Wolff from the beginning but am now growing very weary of his bluster about Oakland having zero options available and now all his cagey talk about San Jose etc...

At this point I wish Wolff would sell the team to someone who has Oakland and the East Bay as a priority. Are their options available right now? No, not with the economic situation as it is. But the future is not the present and I think Wolff would do well to STFU, wait and see exactly what the Raiders are doing in the next 2-3 years and then make a plan.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:21- ever heard of Clay Bennett and the Seattle...I mean OKC Thunder? Good luck finding an ownership group that will buy the A's and keep them in Oakland---unless you find a deep pockets philantropist willing to take it in the shorts by staying in Oakland..other than that no one else is going to make the business decision you hope for.

Funny how you refer to "his cagey" talk about SJ while others are trying to nail him for being too forthright about wanting to move to SJ---if your an A's fan that wants them to stay in the Bay Area your hoping that Wolff is successful---otherwise the Giants will prevail and make us a single team---which would be a real crime from my perspective.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:17- the average person in the Bay Area could care less about a ballpark in the bay area.....tell that to the 25% of union construction workers who are out of work right now---and see if they agree with you---from an economic development perspective pumping $500M into a construction project and putting people back at work to help restore the economy is a priority!

Think its time that you woke up--not LW--

Anonymous said...

"The average person in the Bay Area doesn't give a fig about Lew Wolff, or, his little pursuit of his little boutique ballpark just so that he can have a parade go by his empty hotel in San Jose."

What makes you think his hotel is empty, other than your childish urge to take a potshot at San Jose? Wolff is not from the South Bay so there is no inherent bias in his actions. He merely wants to do business there. If SJ was not viable, he would not be making a push for it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 500 million would go along way in helping Oakland's economy. That's another thing that gets me. Oakland gives labor for 40 years and when it's time to make a 500 million dollar investment, the neighbor down the street gets to profit. Don't you think Oakland's economy needs that 500 million dollar investment more than San Jose? And what about the lie that MLB is interested in inner city communities? Lies, all lies. MLB is interested in the fat cats from Los Gatos.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon 5:03---putting people to work with the $500M benefits the Bay Area--not just SJ or Oakland---I don't think that construction workers live only in SJ-

Grow up man---your like a little kid throwing a tantrum--the victim mentality gets old---

Anonymous said...

5:03, why don't you stop teasing us and just call Wolff an outright racist? That's where your ridiculous extrapolations are headed, right? Now he's not simply leaving Oakland, he's forsaking "inner cities?" We all know that code...

Anonymous said...

Hey, Rabbit Ears Ratto reads this blog. Wow!

Hey Ray let's hear your take on the Fisher wants to screw Macgowan story. Now that's a story. Come on, let's hear it.

Also, your analysis of the current SJ City Council and County of Santa Clara Sups is completely outdated. Don't be surprised if you start hearing some very aggressive politiking coming from all the politicos in Santa Clara County, including but not limited to those mentioned above and the remaining mayors and council within SC County limits. Talk about bad PR....I can hardly wait for the Neukom/Baer's idiotic response.

Come on Ray, let's hear it.

Anonymous said...

Ray 9:31A

Apology accepted. Mix in a salad and a real story with facts next time.

Anonymous said...

Ray's strongest point is this:

"It seems to me that even when the economy rebounds in however many years it takes, the debts run up over past years, not to mention whatever money the state tries to take from local development funds, must first be dealt with."

The time it takes for monetary workout after the recovery could throw a monkey wrench into Lew's plans (or at least a delay). I largely agree with ML's post about the current economy being overplayed. But let's keep in mind that the money spigot (ie: construction bonds and lending) isn't going to be turned on full blast right away. Will Lew be in position to wait it out? I certainly hope so.

Jeffrey said...

On the flip side-

Now might be the BEST time to build anything.

From the article I linked above:

On the carpool lane project on Interstate 680 from Fremont to Milpitas, the three contracts awarded last month totaled about $88 million — compared with the $136 million Caltrans anticipated.

Fremont BART extension is estimated at $200m. What do you think it will really cost?

Anonymous said...


hamachi said...

anyone talking about the new poson the chron?

about MLB making a committee to look into a new stadium for the As

Anonymous said...

It sounds like it's not over for Oakland after all...

Commissioner appoints committee to study Oakland situation

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:09P

Put down the crack pipe - this spells GAME OVER in OAKLAND and GAME OVER for Giants T-RIGHTS. The GIANTS are right now hovered over the fireplace, wringing their hands, trying to put a number on their last ditch effort to get some money out of this.

Here comes the Wool over your eyes Oakland beeeatches.