05 May 2009

Minority partner Saperstein fires back at Russo

While I would just as soon prefer the A's saga not get played out so publicly in the media, it makes sense for members of the ownership group to circle the wagons when they get attacked. And so minority partner Guy Saperstein wrote into the Trib with a strongly worded rebuttal of City Attorney John Russo's letter last week. Saperstein, a retired Oakland lawyer who contributes to several left-leaning websites, doesn't quite fit the profile of collusive carpetbagger many have bestowed upon Lew Wolff. I will be curious to see if, oh, Zennie Abraham and Rich Lieberman devote as much blog space to Saperstein's letter as to Russo's.

Saperstein ends with a sentiment echoed by this blogger and many others (though not all) throughout A's fandom:
What is most noteworthy about Russo's commentary is what it fails to identify: A single viable stadium site in Oakland. Russo writes a long commentary claiming that "feasible options for a new ballpark" exist, and that it only takes "imagination" to find it, then fails to identify a single feasible option, or indeed, any stadium option.

The time is long past for platitudes and empty rhetoric from grandstanding politicians who aspire to be the next mayor. If you have a secret stadium site and plan that no one else has yet seen, Mr. Russo, let's see it.

The key word there, of course, is viable. I guess we'll find out if it exists in a week. Can't wait.

On a related note - how many more lawyers are we going to hear from? I'll put the over-under at 3.


hamachi said...

I'll take the over!

Glad the A's responded back without sounding to shrill.

Anonymous said...

Nice job on his response--uses facts v. emotion/grandstanding--and he poses the simple question--show us one viable site--

gojohn10 said...

Never heard of Saperstein before. Is he giving a response instead of Wolff simply b/c he is a resident of Oakland? Is this evidence that Wolff is losing his grasp on managering partner?

I think one question is whether the A's view will deem any site in Oakland as inviable. I do agree that for the A's to stay in Oakland, Oakland is going has to "sweeten the pot," as was suggested on the previous thread. I don't think it is fair, but it is likely reality. Ignoring the politics of the situation for a moment, what would it take? EIR, Land and infrastructure improvements? More? Less?

Anonymous said...

gojohn10--not sure how you read into his comments that Wolff is losing his grip...--I would strongly suggests it says the exact opposite--and in fact endorses Wolff's conclusion--Oakland does not have a viable site for the A's---this coming from a city of Oakland resident--as well as a fellow attorney--

EIR and infrastrucutre improvements are an expected contribution from any city---providing the land in some form or fashion so that it is not an out of pocket expense will also be key--as will some additional development benefits to offset stadium construction--the latter 2--land and "attractive" development rights are tough for Oakland--

Anonymous said...

Wow. The discussion between Oakland and the A's/MLB sounds exactly like the discussion in here. The Oakland side makes grand claims and plays the victim card, while the team supporters just want to deal in real opportunities and real solutions. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

If you would use the same criteria for "viable" regarding Oakland locations as you do for San Jose ones it would be a refreshing change. But I won't hold my breath.

Jeffrey said...

This back and forth is quite boring.

If I was the PR guy in charge of responding to Oakland I would do two things:

1. Find an Oakland resident/lawyer to rebut.
2. Make sure I highlighted, in context, that Lew Wolff is still the man at the helm.

Both of those things happen in this letter.

There is also a nice ad homenim attack on the motivation behind the original letter (Russo as potential Mayoral candidate) and a rational appeal to use facts (citing the HOK study and it's ranking of Fremont higher than Oak 2 9th or Howard Terminal).

Dan said...

I think it will take Oakland at least matching if not surpassing San Jose's bid. Which means Oakland needs to find a viable site, get an EIR under way, and the council needs to be unanimous that the support working with the team to get this done. Anything less and they're a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

San Jose is already offering EIR, land, and most likely infrastructure improvements, those are a given. And Oakland needs to not only match San Jose, but beat it by a large margin to make up for the difference in economic potential. It will take a viable site and at least several hundred million dollars in public funds. The difference in economic potential between Oakland and San Jose is that vast.

linusalf said...

one question? if the existing parking lot is un-viable how come the mets, phillies, and brewers built their stadiums in the parking lots....ive been to south philly and spent games at the vet and can tell you that it is a no better neighborhood than where the coliseum is....and in my one trip to miller park, i found that it was surrounded by hug lots and nothing. just asking a few questions, and the only answers i have gotten so far is "just because"

Anonymous said...

A $67 million public subsidy for condos, which are themselves a net drain on city resources, over a ballpark and retail? For all the flak doled out for public subsidies of sports facilities, that decision is just an order of magnitude dumber.

Marine Layer said...

The South Philly Sports Complex is twice as large as the Coliseum Complex. It's also built out in a way that each facility has its own separate share of the area parking.

Marine Layer said...

One other thing, SoPhilly also got rid of facilities from time to time. JFK Stadium is now gone, and the Spectrum will follow suit soon. Nothing like that is being considered in Oakland right now.

Chris Kidd said...

As for the arguments that Oakland still needs to provide an EIR and infrastructural upgrades, I refer you back to my entirely new stadium idea, in Oakland, in the last comment thread. EIR and infrastructure needs would be addressed within the 18 month specific plan timeframe for the CESP.

Anonymous said...

None of that would matter if the ballpark was built at the Home Base lot which currently stands completely empty and pretty much shovel ready. No new parking would be needed since the ballpark wouldn't use up any of the existing spaces. And if the A's built a new ballpark at that location, why would any of the existing facilities need to go anywhere?? The Raiders could have the Coliseum all to themselves without losing any parking and the Oracle Arena wouldn't lose any parking as well.

Anonymous said...


I am going to take a leap of faith and assume you are really interested in an answer to your question.

A key factor for the Phillies, Brewers and Mets was "path of least resistance." Building on your existing site solves a lot of problems. That dynamic also exists at the Coliseum site, obviously.

However, the situations in Philly, Milwaukee and New York are all very different than Oakland. Philly and Milwaukee are both one team towns. They don't have to compete with a more glamorous team with a state of the art park just a stone's throw away. As the only game in town, they have a lot more latitude in where they place their stadium; people will find their ways to the games anyway.

Even so, at least in Milwaukee the siting decision was EXTREMELY controversial. Many have theorized that Selig wanted the more remote site over a downtown site because it would allow the team to control ancillary revenue in the immediate vicinity and force patrons to spend more in the park rather than in neighboring restaurants. This seems a big gamble, as the less vibrant location is likely to draw less people over time as the novelty wears off. Personally, I think both teams (but especially Milwaukee) may come to regret this decision.

Also, neither the Phillies nor Brewers are removed from the corporate base of their respective cities the way Oakland is from Silicon Valley. If the A's were going to take the risk and build so far from their target customers, they'd be crazy not to site the park in an attractive location. I'm at the Coli probably 20 or 30 times a year, and I can state categorically the location is a huge negative, not a positive.

The Mets, of course, do compete with another glamorous, local teams. But New York, s a megalopolis with nearly triple the population of the Bay Area. It could probably support a third MLB team fairly easily. With only two teams there, the attractiveness and vibrancy of the site is lot less important. Also, frankly, it's not like the Mets could have built somewhere in Manhattan. They didn't really have a lot of "downtown" options.

Anonymous said...

"If you would use the same criteria for "viable" regarding Oakland locations as you do for San Jose ones it would be a refreshing change. But I won't hold my breath."

We are using the same criteria for viability: "Close to the corporate base and affluent demographic which makes modern MLB go, not too close to a much stronger and more glamorous competitor, in a downtown setting, and convenient to transit."

The problem is, obviously, that site by definition cannot exist in Oakland.

Marine Layer said...

Woah, hold on there. "Viable" to me means the following:

1. Site that can be easily acquired at a reasonable price, with willing seller(s).
2. Large enough to either build parking or close enough to existing parking to handle demand.
3. Near one or more regional (not local) transit links, if possible.
4. Plan cost-effective enough to overcome known disadvantages - this applies to both Oakland and SJ.

bbison said...

The Braves and White Sox took that "least resistance" path as well.

You could probably throw the Yanks in there as well, as parts of Macombs Dam Park were used for overflow parking--call it least resistance by bulldozer.

I was living in Philly at the time the new stadiums were being proposed. While the Eagles were immediately on board with their current location, the Phils spent years kicking around sites in Center City, 30th St. Station/Penn, Chinatown, Northern Liberties--there were a couple of other proposals. There was a long and arduous road traveled that led them back to South Philly.

The decision took so long to make that PNC Park (funded by the same legislation as CBP and the football stadiums) was open for business before they even broke ground in Philly.

Anonymous said...


I think you have to consider "overall economic context" somehow in your definition of "viable." I'm sure there's a site meeting your criteria somewhere in Omaha; I'm also reasonably sure that's not where the A's are going.


Thanks for the interesting history on the Phillies. I wasn't aware of it, but it certainly makes sense to me that the Eagles would be a lot more enthusiastic about that site than the Phils.

"Big parking lot" sites are great for NFL teams. There aren't enough games for an NFL team to contribute meaningfully to downtown life, plus the tailgating tradition works against that anyway. On the flipside, being integrated into a real neighborhood is a true asset to a baseball team.

The Coli site is great for the Raiders, lousy for the A's. Viva downtown San Jose!

Marine Layer said...

Anon - Criterion #4 includes economic context. An economic comparison is difficult to make without solid, really granular data. Right now we're just making guesses as to impact.

dogfather said...

ML/V -- The Vet is now gone, too.

/sniff! (I saw Mulholland's no-hitter there)

Anonymous said...

From an economic perspective we know that corporate sponsorship is one of the key revenue generators--looking at top 1oo Fortune 500 companies located in California 50 are located in the SF Bay Area-
28 are in SCC, 12 are in SF, 4 in SMC and 6 in the East Bay--add this factoid from the SF Gate-"In 1970, two years after the A's moved west, the population of Oakland was 361,000, while San Jose was only at 204,000. Today, Oakland has barely budged at 372,000, while San Jose is the nation's 10th largest city, just reaching 1 million.

Who in their right mind wouldn't want to locate in San Jose?

monkeyball said...

Whoa, hold on there yourself, ML. Let's apply your "Viable" criteria to both Fremont sites:

1. Site that can be easily acquired at a reasonable price, with willing seller(s). OK, check, for the first site. Warm Springs ... well, sorta.
2. Large enough to either build parking or close enough to existing parking to handle demand. Well, the big box retailers felt otherwise. As did the Warm Springs-area residents.
3. Near one or more regional (not local) transit links, if possible. Nope for site #1. Sorta/kinda for site #2.
4. Plan cost-effective enough to overcome known disadvantages - this applies to both Oakland and SJ. In 2005, yes; in 2008-9, no. It's not, though, as if no one could have foreseen the macro and sector troubles coming.

Crywolffisher will apply whichever criteria will work for whatever site they're most avidly pursuing.

Marine Layer said...

Not disagreeing with you, monkeyball. Ownership has at times chosen to ditch one or more criteria when convenient. #4 is simple cost-benefit analysis considering all factors.

Still, these are common sense principles that should be used when evaluating a site on paper, which is what the task force, blue ribbon committee, and the A's will be doing. It's not as if Oakland will emerge in six months, let alone one week, with a wonderfully packaged site wrapped up in a bow. All of the ugly stuff may not be evident until further study and outreach are conducted. Monday morning quarterbacking is the easiest thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Interesting letter, from an interesting source no less. Talk about circling the wagons. Apparently Lew is not to be used as a spokesman in Oakland city circles. This makes sense as he's become somewhat of a polarizing figure....more like a boogeyman come to steal the team away.

All the talk about where the A's where will eventually land is sort of silly. Even Lew doesn't have the authority to make this decision. We should be focused on what the other owners are saying or not saying. They're the ones who will decide. My own opinion is that they will vote their own pocketbooks when push comes to shove, so I'm betting we will see the San Jose A's long before we see a new park in Oakland. The old saw still applies, "follow the money".

dogfather said...

Anon 3:50 -- clearly, your data demonstrate that Oakland is poised for a Major renaissance, while SJ has had its brief moment in the sun.

Get in on the ground floor, you A's!

Anonymous said...

Along the lines of what ML stated: they not only can ditch criteria, they can pretty well do whatever the hell they choose to relocate to San Jose if they please (pending approval from MLB). They don't need our permission or testimony regarding tradition or "we have a site near the water" rhetoric. The A's are a private business operating in an anti-trust monopoly, and there isn't anything any of us can do about it.

Oakland said...

I realize this is a San Jose/New Stadium booster site, and my view will not be a popular one... but...

I have a friend whom I took to an A's game back in 2001, her first professional baseball game. I mentioned the fact that the A's wanted a new stadium, and her reaction was "Why?". Obviously that is just one person's opinion, but still an interesting viewpoint.

The best question that should be asked is WHY do the A's need a new stadium. If your response is "because they need corporate buyers for their seats, then I would like to congratulate you on being the newest member of the Milorad "Rod" R. Blagojevich delusional state of being club, please pick up your bad hair wig and jogging suit on your way out. The corporate river of dollars has dried up, and it is going to be a very long drought. Sure you might get SOME corporate FAN's, but you are going to alienate a lot of your paying customers in the process (see Yankees).

The top 3 teams in attendance last season all played in "Old" stadiums (and neither was in Boston or Chicago). 3 of the top 5 so far this season are in old stadiums (granted one of those is Wrigley). Of the 6 teams below the A's this season in attendance, all 6 are newer than the Coliseum (the oldest being Kaufman Stadium that just complete a massive renovation). It should be completely obvious to anyone not blinded by the A's propganda that a new stadium is not a cure all and not a guarantee that attendance will go up. Sooner or later that new car smell wears off and then what you are stuck with is overpriced corporate seating with few if any corporate buyers interested in your product (if you were able to find many to begin with).

I have been to Turner Field, Petco Park, Fenway, Pac BC&T Park, the Old Tigers stadium, the old Busch Stadium and Yankee Stadium, and Wrigley. So I have seen the new and the old... and what I can tell you about all of them, is that they all had 3 bases and home plate, an infield, an outfield, and lots of seats for fans. If you want an "experience" then go to Disneyland. If you want a view, then go sit on a mountain or a beach. If you want to see a baseball game, does it really matter if the concrete that made the stadium is 40 years old instead of 14 months old? The arguments for a new stadium have absolutely nothing to do with the game of baseball (see Pittsburgh), nor does it translate into wins and losses (See Devil Rays, 2008).

The fact that Wolffe wanted to move the team to San Jose since before he owned the team has to be one of the worst kept secrets in sports. His cries of "We tried in Oakland" might as well be "The Sky Is Falling!", because both statements contain about the same amount of truth. His "idea" of a "Ballpark" village was laughable anywhere he might have tried it (even in that utopia that is San Jose), but the plan he presented for the area around the old Coliseum Drive-in was pure comedy. Remove dozens of businesses that more than likely wouldn't be moving without a fight, build housing in that area, and a new BART station for this whole thing, and oh yeah, I need an answer in 10 month's. I guess it would have been too obvious that he was not serious about attempting anything in Oakland if he had only given the city 10 days.

Oakland said...

Why is it that no one is taking into account that no matter how Lew tries to worm his way around it, almost any project he does (probably even a stadium in the Coliseum parking lot) is going to face a showdown at the ballot box? I will be shocked if certain parts of the population doesn't come out against a stadium being built. Any stadium the size that the A's are asking for is going to have a significant impact on city resources, even it is just providing cops for security and traffic control, as well as all the additional traffic that will be brought to the city.

Also, I would have to question where the "viable locations" in San Jose would be? Do they have easy access to regional transit and freeways?

Marine Layer said...

This thread, and the last one, have reached "we've all heard these arguments before" territory. It isn't necessary to rehash every single talking point over and over again just because you haven't voiced it yet. Bring something new everyone, or these threads aren't long for the world.

Marine Layer said...

Oakland, do you read this blog with any regularity? You'd have answers to your questions about San Jose if you did.

Just in case you didn't: San Jose has one specific site that is considered viable in downtown near the Diridon Train Station and HP Pavilion. It is near freeway exits and has much of the traffic info/control measures already in place. It needs additional parking to handle baseball demand, which is possible due to Diridon being a high speed rail hub. San Jose is also getting ready to put the stadium on the ballot in some form, sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

Oakland, Very well said. I agree with everything you said regarding the NEED for a new ballpark.

Take a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates as an example of a franchise with a beautiful ballpark which is virtually empty every night.

This the "Coliseum is horrible" propaganda is just an excuse to relocate the franchise. If the A's need a new ballpark, what about the Toronto Blue Jays who play in a huge sterile facility with mismatched pieces of artificial turf as their playing field.

Marine Layer said...

You may believe the Coliseum is perfectly adequate for your needs, which is fine. However, you are not the casual fan that the A's need in the Bay Area. There are not enough of you to get the A's to significantly reduce revenue sharing. As long as the A's remain in the Coliseum, they will remain on MLB welfare.

The casual fan sometimes comes when the A's are winning. In 2006, they didn't. This is Major League Baseball, not minor league, not college, high school, AAU, or little league. It's more than three bases, a plate, and a mound. It is about glitz and glamour. It always has even during previous lean times. The stadium will either enhance the experience or detract from it.

The Pittsburgh example is an exception to the rule. It's a small Rust Belt market that is by nature a football town. The Bay Area should be able to acquit itself better than that.

It's okay to love the Coliseum for its history and its quirks. It's a new era, and the team and its fans deserve a better venue befitting its team.

Jeffrey said...

oh here comes the "coliseum is perfectly fine" delusional statement. Isn't it time to close off comments on this thread about yet?

gojohn10 said...


If the A's and deserve a stadium befitting their team then the Coliseum and this team deserve each other ;)

Anonymous said...

gojohn10--don't agree with much that you post but you hit the nail on the head--wtf is wrong with them? BB magic is wearing thin--

Anonymous said...

since mlb network was launched on cable, and its free on my cable company so i watch it. since watching that i have noticed just about all ballparks have so many empty seats on these day games. there is definatly less than 10,000 people at many weekday games during this part of the season. 80+ home games in a season is a ton of games and alot of people dont go to basebal, like all the time an all. so parking, this and that, economics, its a near dead zone at baseball games say about 2/3 of the time.

Bill said...

Just curious, but how many of you here are actually season ticket holders? A major plague of the team is the lack of regular support. I'd be curious to know if the most vocal folks here actually support the team by investing in it through season tickets.

Anonymous said...

I am an East Bay native and a very proud resident of Oakland. I attend 40-45 games each year and I am not a season ticket holder. I usually purchase all my tickets the day of the game. As a matter of fact, I just got home from tonight's game and I was at last nights and will be there tomorrow night as well.

Oh and since I attend so many games each year and basically move all around the Coliseum(meaning I don't sit in the same section for every game), I do socialize a helluv a lot with other fans and I would have to say that way more than half of the people I meet are from Alameda/Contra Costa Counties. Hardly anyone I talk to comes from the South Bay.

Anonymous said...

Southbay season ticket holder--shared with other southbay residents--do I go to all the games---no--give away alot because 2+ hours to a unattractive yard isn't all that exciting---all I can tell you is the excitment is building for the A's in SJ---I talk to LOTS of folks who can't wait for the A's in SJ--and who will buy season tix in Oakland to ensure they get priority in SJ---just need a final deal to be announced--

Anonymous said...

I posted the last comment and I just wanted to be clear that I understand that living closer to the park makes it much easier for me to attend games. I was just stating the facts and for the sake of discussions. I'm not trying to say I'm better than anyone else who's not from the East Bay or Oakland.

LeAndre said...

Oakland, I'm glad you have strong support for the team, but the A's certainly do need a new ballpark...the big difference between the coli and the other ballparks you mentioned is none of them currently share a stadium with another pro team. This is a big turnoff. And if you don't think new ballparks gain any success, just take a look right across the Bay.

Anonymous said...

the new ballpark site will be downtown oakland.

that is my perdiction. and a great choice.

san jose giants needs its own team in which there are/is room for 1 more mlb team in the american league west, al is 14 teams and nl 16 teams.

san jose needs the bart station, not the oakland airport connector project.

i would give san jose the a's (or antoher team!) with the bart station. that is ok too.

im thinking downtown oakland revitialization project, which i have seen to work.

Anonymous said...

East Bay citizen isn't a season ticket holder but South Bay resident is...speaks volumes to the future of the A's!

Anonymous said...

Wow, anon 2:06, that's great! With all the large swaths of available land downtown, Lew will have his pick of the litter!

Anonymous said...

check out "A's/Wolff" Best Options,, 5-4-'09

Rich Lieberman
SFGate Media Commentator

Anonymous said...

R. Lieberman--what bothers me the most is that you advocate the path of least resistance even though the ability to attract fans and associated economic impact/benefits of ballparks like the Colisieum are much less than those built in a downtown core. Isn't the definition of insanity to do the same thing again and expect a different result? Why would Wolff/the A's ownership group choose to invest thier money in a parking lot surrounded by freeways and a run-down industrial area in Oakland? Would you invest your own money here? I know my answer to that question...and if I won't than I don't expect LW to.

You also gloss over what the blue ribbon committee is doing now---and refer to lawsuits that will take place and keep the A's out of San Jose--any idea why these lawsuits didn't happen when the Nationals moved to DC--even though the Orioles and Angelos were against it? Ahhh--because MLB owners cant sue MLB owners---and if Oakland wants to sue SJ--maybe than can call Seattle and ask for some advice...that suit ended pretty quickly and the Sonics ar now in OKC--

Also, to my knowledge the Marlins stadium is moving forward--unless something has changed this week