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12 March 2009

Oakland reaches out to Selig

I have to say that I've found Oakland's letter to Bud Selig the most fascinating news of the week.
In it, Mayor Ron Dellums and Council President Jane Brunner implore Commissioner Bud Selig to appoint a point person to work with the City. They cite Oakland's great history of support for the A's. The letter evens ends with a request to renew urban America:
In these troubling times when everyone is putting their shoulder to the common wheel and President Barack Obama has called on all of us to put the public's interest first, I believe a professional sports league like MLB has an obligation to do the right thing and stand by a city and its people who have historically stood alongside baseball.
It's a bit of a stretch, but it's well phrased. Neither Oakland nor San Jose need baseball to be relevant or vital. Both want it to either maintain or raise their profiles (as did Fremont, or at least its pols).

The more interesting bit is on the first page:
For our efforts to succeed, though, we will need a commitment from MLB and the A's that they will work earnestly with us to design a ballpark plan that will be good for Oakland, good for the team, and good for baseball.

We are naming an A's Stadium Committee comprised of some of Oakland's leading civic leaders who will be tasked by the City to work hand-in-hand with you, the Fisher Family and Mr. Lew Wolff to develop a stadium in Oakland.

In particular, we graciously request that you name a point person from the Commissioner's Office who will work with the city to develop a ballpark strategy that will keep the A's in Oakland.
Those three paragraphs tell us everything we need to know about how Oakland wants to proceed. They want a commitment from MLB and they want to work directly with MLB. That tells me they're going over Lew Wolff's head. They even mention the Fishers, even though John Fisher has generally receded into the background.

Is this really the way they want to do this? Has the relationship with Lew deteriorated to the point of asking him not to be the lead negotiator? I understand how the Miami situation came about, as Jeff Loria and David Samson kept making demands of Miami and Dade County while entertaining an exodus. The end result was that Bob DuPuy came in, told them to stand in the corner, and brokered the deal, which also appears to be on the precipice thanks to hotel tax revenue shortfalls.

I would think that the best way to write a formal letter like this to Wolff. Next, on Opening Day, make a full court press on Wolff and the Fishers. If they don't respond, then you make a plea to Selig. No city is going to put up money for a ballpark these days. If you're aiming to have the A's invest in the community $500 million in a ballpark and possibly hundreds of millions more for ancillary development that your city wants, then sell them on it, don't try to guilt them into it. There's no rush to make a deal at the present and certainly no need to go over people's heads at this point.

Wow, just wow.

40 comments:

Oakland Si said...

do we know for sure that Oakland officials didn't reach out to Wolff first?

I still remember that Wolff told Dellums "don't break your pick on this one"...

Marine Layer said...

We don't know either way. We do know that Wolff said he wouldn't seriously start entertaining any proposals until after Opening day. Considering that nothing has been publicly pitched, this step seems to be a tad premature. For all of the talk about Oakland wanting to work out the details in private, this is a sharp contrast.

Anonymous said...

What this tells me is that San Jose is for real, that MLB has figured out the territorial rights issue and that the Giants might have had something to do with it to help throw a wrench in the plan.

At the end of the day--where has Dellums/Oakland been over the past 3 years--any new progress on sites, how they would pay for the land etc. Don't go asking for a handout and use the guilt trip because you've been asleep at the wheel---come on!

Jeffrey said...

Seriously, I am know Dellums fan. But this is a masterful stroke... this letter isn't written to keep the A's in Oakland. It is written to make the people in Oakland (many of whom are already pissed at Dellums) think that he tried to keep the A's in Oakland.

Anonymous said...

They haven't been asleep during the last three years. Lew Wolff was in exclusive talks with Fremont the whole time.

Oakland respectfully stood out of the way and now that deal is dead. So here they are back at the table.

People have complained that Oakland hasn't done enough to work with the A's to keep them here and now they are complaining about the way they are doing it?

Sounds like anti-Oakland bias.

Anonymous said...

Anti-Oakland bias--hardly--I have been waiting for Oakland to do something for the A's for more than 10 years--nothing-

San Jose also stood respectfully aside while Fremont was in play, but also went ahead and assembled most of the property for the ballpark and completed the EIR--

No reason Oakland couldn't have been doing the same thing--but still no viable sites in Oakland without having to deal with mulitple property owners that will take years to conclude if ever--adn thats assuming they can figure out where to get the cash to buy it---sorry---too late in my mind--Oakland has had its chance and struck out swinging everytime they were up--

Marine Layer said...

Here's a more personal way of putting it:

If Selig and Wolff are best buddies as many say, do you think the best way of getting through to one is by showing up the other?

Anonymous said...

Great point ML--smells of a mis-guided desperate move that only enhances San Jose's chances not diminishes them.

Its not as if MLB and the A's haven't been working this issue for many years

Georob said...

Here's another idea: I wonder if Lew Wolff's about to jump ship entirely? Meaning that he sees the whole stadium process frozen indefinitely, and since he was brought in primarily to facilitate a stadium; wants to now instead move on. Presumably the Fishers would remain principal owners, at least as long as the A's stay in Northern California.

But if the A's ownership status looks to be in flux(and Oakland's been through THAT a few times) then Dellums and Co. figure they'd go right to MLB if there's any chance of saving the A's.

I have to say that this may not be as dumb a move as it looks. And frankly, San Jose may want to do likewise, particularly if Wolff's telling them to keep a low profile. Were I a SJ partisan, I'd be very uncomfortable with that, especially since it's not the first time that's happened.

Marine Layer said...

As "in flux" as ownership appears, no ownership tenure has ever been less than a decade. Steve Schott didn't entertain selling until 6-7 years. Sports teams are long-term investments, and ownership groups are approved in part because the principals aren't pump-and-dump types. Besides, you're also implying that Wolff doesn't care much for being an owner. It's clear that he loves the on-field aspect of it.

Rob, I've talked to a lot of the SJ faithful in the last week. They're comfortable with the process now that Wolff and Reed have set the ground rules. I remember that you were advocating for SJ to proactively take on the T-rights problem. That will get them nowhere, because, as with the Oakland letter, it's a way of showing up those in control.

Anonymous said...

Oakland has never had a serious chance at this ballpark. Steve Schott, and now Lew Wolff have always had the South Bay in mind.

How can anyone say "where was Oakland?" You must all have forgotten the $200,000 the City of Oakland spent on the HOK studies and drawings. You must also have forgotten the Oakland civic and business group led by former Council Member Dick Spees, which Wolff gave his back of the hand to, AFTER complaining to the City of Oakland that there was "no one to work with."

Wolff has spat on Oakland time after time. He's lucky he still has a lease to play in Oakland. If it were up to me, he'd be run out of town on a rail for playing his disingenuous games. Is it any wonder they went to Selig? Obviously they feel they cant deal with, or trust, Wolff.

Of course, going to Selig is like going to the guy that robbed you and asking for your money back. This entire thing is a sham. Oakland has already been set up.

Jeffrey said...

I don't know how in flux the situation is. Potentially, Uncle Lew is about to sit in the middle of a bidding war between two cities in his existing market. That is an enviable position.

Cristobal said...

why hasn't the greenbay model ever been attempted by any other community and sports franchise before? at least, if it has, i'm not aware of it. sports is a business of course, but it's just not the same. not when pro teams build up their worth by intertwining themselves with the local community and or city they play in. along with more often then not the use of public money for stadium construction and whatnot, the rules do change. i'm a whole hearted capitalist and business owner myself, but again, when it comes to professional teams, things between buyer and seller are simply different than in a traditional business model.

Marine Layer said...

It's not any community's fault. It's the leagues. Some leagues have it written into their by-laws that publicly-owned franchises won't be allowed. Green Bay's arrangement was allowed to be grandfathered through the current period and there no other publicly-owned NFL teams.

Paul said...

I'll be happy to have Oakland and San Jose fighting for the A's. Both cities are in the Bay Area so either one winning is fine with me. Until now, it seems like Oakland officials have taken great pride in doing everything they can to alienate the A's. Consider:

* Ruining the Coliseum, turning in a football monstrosity after the A's requested baseball-only modifications.
* Firing city manager Robert Bobb after he had the gall to come up with a game plan to build a downtown stadium.
* Keeping the A's in the bottom rung of league attendance for most of the past 40 years.

If Oakland and San Jose want to fight for the A's, I don't care who wins. As long as one of them does.

Jeffrey said...

Where was Oakland?

I find it funny that you mention the HOK study as evidence of Oakland's support and leave out what happened in the aftermath: The Mayor fired Robert Bobb for pushing to have a stadium built on the site judged best by HOK. The second best site per HOK, was the Coliseum... Wolff's first ballpark village plan was situated near the coliseum... coincidence?
Third on HOK's list? That's right... Fremont... Warm Springs. Hmmm...

I know that doesn't fit into the narrative of the Oakland crowd. And it doesn't mean that the A's aren't also to "blame" for wanting to leave Oakland.

It's a two street. It takes two to tango. Insert every other "partnership" cliche here. There has been a lack of will on both sides. Maybe Oakland can change that, although I don't trust Ron Dellums to pull it off, at least he won't purposely sabotage it like Jerry Brown.

reztips said...

As has been noted here, this is purely and simply a transparent political move by one of the worst mayors in the USA, Ron Dellums. He knows quite well that he has a bankrupt city with far more important fish to fry. And he realizes that he has become a local laughingstock.

Moreover, the A's owners and Selig are aware that the only time the East Bay fans have EVER really supported the A's was during the LaRussa Dynasty when there were potential Hall of Famers throughout the lineup and pitching staff.

No, Wolff, Fischer and Selig are aware that the sole alternative in the Bay Area which will support the A's is the South Bay. And I'm certain that while gafawing at Dellums' farcical beau geste, these intelligent businessmen will show that they do indeed know the way to San Jose...

bartleby said...

Rob,

So what are you saying: Wolff told San Jose to let him handle communications with MLB because that's the worst way to get T-rights removed, and therefore San Jose should ignore him and go over his head because he's obviously trying to sabotage a possible ballpark in San Jose?

I must admit, I completely fail to follow your logic.

Big Red said...

Too many conspiracy theories on this one. Dellums wants the A's in Oakland, but Ron is an inept mayor and won't be able to get it done. However, the letter is over-the-top in playing up the woeful economy. Dellums is trying to make MLB feel like an A's move to San Jose would be akin to the Hornets abandoning New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

As an East Bay native, I'd love to see the A's in a beautiful Lake Merritt stadium, but it won't happen. Remaining in a refurbished Coliseum would be, to quote the "genius" Sarah Palin, like putting lipstick on a pig.

P.S. I've been reading this blog since 2005 but I've never posted before. Thanks ML/Rhamesis for working so hard on this site. Also, ML, did you ever consider asking Lew Wolff for an interview? Tyler Blezynzki at Athletics Nation has conducted some awesome interviews with Billy Beane and I think Lew Wolff might grant you one. You could definitely ask more informed ballpark questions than the average journalist.

FC said...

ML,

Fast forward to Opening Day. Wolff decides he wants to pursue San Jose. What's the next step for the A's? Do they petition MLB to have the TR removed, and if so, will the voting process simple be a call in vote by the owners? I assume they won't have to wait for the next owners' meeting, whenever that might be.

Marine Layer said...

Thanks Big Red. I've considered asking for an interview and I'm sure I'd get it. Now's not the time. I'd rather wait until he's donned a hard hat and shovel. Then we can talk about the thing I want to talk about most: the ballpark. Everything prior to that is a sell job.

Anonymous said...

The strategy is in place and it is being executed according to plan by San Jose--no guarantee's... but show broad political and public support for the A's in San Jose as evidenced by the council last evening and the newly formed A's to San Jose Support Group that will soon produce polling results that show broad citizen support. Get the site ready. Prepare for a November referendum---update the EIR and acquire the last remaining parcels. Clear site and get shovels in the ground by next spring...opening day April 2013--San Jose A's in downtown San Jose.

Territorial rights are Wolff's and MLB's responsibility. Bottom line--if your an A's fan and you want to see the A's remaain in the Bay Area--this is the last chance under the current ownership, which btw has no plans to change. Oakland is not even an afterthought at this point as you can sense from Dellum's letter to the commish...

Marine Layer said...

FC,

I don't see the A's petitioning for a change to T-rights until a deal is in place. Ballpark financing, compensation for the SF Giants & SJ Giants (yes them too) - all of that has to come first.

Jesse said...

I agree Paul, 100 percent. Oakland, San Jose who cares, just keep em close.

I like hearing that Oakland is shaking things up, thats how you get stuff done sometimes.

I'd rather see Oakland make the wrong first step than take no steps at all because at least they find out where they stand then adjust.

Georob said...

San Jose's just happy now to be back in the game, so of course the fans there are content to "just be quiet." We'll see how they feel a year from now if nothing's happened.

I'm sorry, but I don't see anything wrong in a city wanting to promote itself. Frankly, it's just good business and MLB should realize that. I mean, Selig used to sell CARS for Christ's sake!

Obviously there's politics involved any time you get involved with a bunch of sports owners. But if it's more important to not "ruffle feathers" or "show up" anyone, then I have to say that this validates the theories about MLB being a cloistered fraternity just wanting to protect its anti-trust exemption.

If my idea seems "off the wall", I apologize, but who'd have thought six months ago that BOTH Oakland and San Jose would be active again. The truth is that much has changed in the last six months and as a result, many are(to quote Lew Wolff) "looking at their options".

What those options are only Wolff knows. And you have to wonder if one of those choices includes redirecting his focus to other projects, as much as he loves being an MLB owner. If he actually owned a bigger chunk of the team, I'd see ML's point.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why this is such a negative thing. The city of Oakland hasn't cared trying to keep the A's for years. With all the problems it has, I am not sure now is the time but I do like that they finally seem to care a little bit. This all goes back to Jerry Brown. Mayor Moonbeam had some far fetched plan that people would actually want to live in Uptown without a stadium and then nixed the brilliant HOK plan for the area. I don't usually buy into the new ballpark doing wonders for a city theory, but if there was ever a city that was in dire need of a downtown ballpark it was Oakland. However, since that will not happen I still think that Oakland fans deserve the A's in a new ballpark in Oakland. I think that going to MLB, regardless of if it was over Wolff's head, at least they are showing some initiative to keep the A's in Oakland. Wolff's previous plan in Oakland was just a way to pretend like he was going to keep him there, he is an SJ guy and wants them in the South Bay. If the Mayor is willing to fight for them I am on board.

gojohn10 said...

I just watched the CBS 5 segment on San Jose and the Oakland MLB letter (seen here).
One item that interested me was an interview with David Chai, Ron Dellums' chief of staff. He says:

"One of the things we want to do is establish, formally, with MLB is that we have every intention in coming back around and making a full play at keeping the A's here in Oakland. They just need to know that first and foremost there are guidelines, there are rules, there are all kind of implications that get too detailed, but the main part of that is to say, look, MLB we are very serious about keeping the A’s in Oakland."

Should the A’s move, I wonder if Oakland will use this letter as some kind of legal groundwork to sue the team and MLB. That is what Chai’s statement implies to me.

I have to say that this letter has actually made me more pessimistic about the A’s staying in Oakland. It seems to me to be the city of Oakland’s equivalent to Wolff’s 66th avenue stadium plan.

Anonymous said...

Sue on what grounds? It's a business which can locate anywhere it wants provided MLB approves of it. Look no further than the Seattle Supersonics leaving Seattle---anything that Seattle can do--nope.

A's won't be violating their lease agreements with the Colisieum as those go to 3-single year agreements thru 2013. Oakland has had 10+years to figure this thing out---what has changed that makes Oakland a via option again---nothing--at the end of the day Dellum's letter is nothing more than a desperate attempt to try and leverage the media into creating a sense that Oakland had a viable plan and San Jose is stealing the A's....not going to resonnate with too many people who know all to well that Oakland has struck out looking every time they had the chance to address the ballpark situation.

FC said...

ML,

The A's would have to believe they have a good chance of being granted access to Santa Clara if they are going to put forth all of that effort first.

Seems like a chicken or the egg scenerio.

Jeffrey said...

Lew has answered with a press release... sure don't sound like he is thinking about selling, or staying in Oakland.

Anonymous said...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 13, 2009





STATEMENT BY OAKLAND A’S MANAGING PARTNER LEWIS WOLFF

REGARDING OAKLAND A’S VENUE:





“We have fully exhausted our time and resources over the years with the City of Oakland, dating back to previous A’s ownership.



We recognize conditions have not changed. Letters to Major league Baseball offer nothing new or of any real substance. Outside stimulation to have us continue to play in an aging and shared facility may generate press and “sound-bite” opportunities, but do not provide any tangible alterations in the circumstances we face.



We understand the facility continues to cost the city of Oakland and Alameda County millions of lost dollars per year. Sadly, the business and corporate base of the city of Oakland was very limited when we purchased the team and has eroded since. Our attendance and low number of season ticket holders (both one of the lowest in Major league Baseball) also continues to decline; even when our on-field performance produced play-off participation.



We appreciate the sincere interest of Mayor Ron Dellums, Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Gail Steele and local citizen Sherman Balch, as the very few people that have offered encouragement and in-depth understanding about our situation.



Our goal and desire for the organization is to determine a way to keep the team in Northern California. That goal has not changed.



We have no interest in covering old ground again, as we need to move forward in finding a future home for our team.”

Zonis said...

so the tl;dr for the press release basically is;

been there, done that, not happening in Oakland.

Anonymous said...

End of story for Oakland...I can only hope that the partisan Oakland fans finally realize that there is one last chance to keep the A's in the Bay Area---and that is San Jose--time to get beyond the should of... could of...would of...and support the effort to build the A's ballpark in San Jose.

Dan said...

That sound you just heard was Oakland leadership getting pimp slapped in the face by the A's ownership. And frankly Oakland's leaders just got what they deserved. They are not offering anything tangible, just the usual talk that comes out of the Dellums administration. Come back when you have a completed EIR, a plot of land, and some corporate and civic backing for a new stadium...

Zonis said...

Dan! That is totally unreasonable! Its not like any other city has something like that ready... I mean, aside from San Jose... and Fremont Pre-Economic Collapse...

But its not like they had any time to prepare! I mean, outside of the last 20 years...

But its not like Oakland chose another team over the A's! They chose the A's to come first!... behind the Raiders... and the Warriors...

FC said...

Wow, talk about slamming the door in Oakland's face. This strongly worded response makes me think that Wolff is pretty sure he will be granted access to San Jose. If there were some uncertainty, he would have left the door open to possibly staying in Oakland.

Looks like Wolff is going "all in" with San Jose.

nathan said...

I love how Lew, Gap boy, Schott and Hoffman "Exhausted all efforts" to get a stadium deal done in Oakland. Really, Lew? When was that? When you floated that brilliant scheme to put your baseball village between 66th and High? A plan that everybody, including you, knew had no chance. You know why people don't go to A's game's Lew? Because of stuff like this. I used to average 20 games a year. But, I stopped because of YOU, LEW! Because you weren't straight with us. You say we didn't draw during some playoff runs. Not true. We outdrew many teams with new ballparks during the Art Howe/Ken Macha years, including your boyfriend Bud Selig's new home for the Brewers. Schott & Hoffman were playing there virtually rent free. Just like you, Lew. Oakland isn't blameless either. Jerry Brown couldn't care less about keeping the A's. But, don't kid a kidder Lew. You had no intention of staying here. And since Oakland's so bad, let's do Lew a favor and not renew his lease in 2011.

Cristobal said...

funny to think that if the option were available, it would be cheaper to buy the team itself as opposed to the cost of building an entirely new stadium.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't anyone...including my fellow Oaklanders as well as our fellow neighbors in San Jose learned to realize that LW's word means nothing??? If I recall back in 2006, he made it pretty clear that San Jose was no longer an option for the A's as well (see link below). He even said that he's very certain that his team would be moving to Fremont...and now look. "The Boy Who Cried WOLFF" seems to be loosing his credibility these days in the Bay Area. If we were smart...we would come to realize that the bottom line is, nothing is guaranteed until GROUND IS BROKEN!!! Which by the way won't be happening anytime soon or for at least a couple more years.

I have also learned from some city insiders is that Oakland is not interested in Lew Wolff, but more so with MLB and Commissioner Selig to help get a new stadium built.

All I can say to everyone including Oakland and San Jose is...keep hope alive!

http://www.bizofbaseball.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=111:wolff-san-jose-no-longer-an-option-for-as&catid=41:facility-news&Itemid=56

Anonymous said...

The good news is that the slimes from the OAFC can whither away and die now. Thank goodness. The world already feels like a better place.