Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Long, Disturbing Tradition Continues

Recently, there was an article written by Ken Rosenthal that bothered me. And, since it continues to bother me, I now feel the need to get it out of my system. But, if you have no interest in non-Reds issues or those issues that take place outside the chalk lines, then you may want to skip this one and move on to read about Henry Rodriguez. But, now that you have been sufficiently warned, let's sally forth.

First, a little context is required, so we need to take a quick stroll down memory lane. Major League Baseball has a very long history. Almost as long is the history of the baseball media acting as the propaganda arm of the owners.

Back in the good old days of the game, baseball writers almost invariably sided with the owners. There are numerous reasons for the coziness of owners and writers, here are a few that leap to mind:

First, baseball writers were somewhat dependent on owners for access, as technology had not yet opened up the game to the extent it has today.

Second, owners frequently treated baseball writers better than their own players. Baseball owners understand the importance of good press in keeping both the turnstiles spinning and the players under their thumb.

Third, the fact that the origins of baseball largely predated the rise of organized labor meant that the power of the owners vastly outweighed that of the players. So, perhaps it's not surprising that the media naturally favored the owners.

All of this is simply the long way of saying that baseball writers have long been biased towards the owners. If you've been a fan of baseball during any of the collective bargaining sessions, then you are familiar with the old saying that "baseball players are lucky to be making so much money for playing a game." That has long been the talking point used by owners to drive down player salaries. It's a line they have consistently fed to the media, which was only too willing to disseminate it to the fans. And, frankly, it has been very effective for the owners. Ever wonder why fans complain about baseball player salaries, but no one complains about actor or musician salaries? Why do people complain about Jayson Werth's contract, but not about Tom Cruise earning $20M a picture or Barbara Streisand earning millions for performing a mere handful of concerts in Las Vegas?

I would argue that the disparity is largely due to baseball fans having been conditioned by the owners via the media. Fans have been conditioned to view the players as being fortunate to be paid for playing a mere game, rather than as individuals who should be compensated in accordance with the revenue they generate for their employers. In short, throughout the history of the game the owners have consistently and effectively utilized the media to frame the issue for their own benefit.

Even today, after all the gains made by the MLBPA, the media still favors the owners. Perhaps not surprising, given the financial disparity between the two sides. Baseball players may be rich, but owners are wealthy. In the end, MLB owners are still capital, while the MLBPA is still labor. And, in today's day and age, it's not surprising to see the media favor the deeper, frequently corporate, pockets belonging to the owners.

In this article by Ken Rosenthal, the issue isn't between owners and players, but rather between an owner and a fan base. Regardless, Rosenthal wastes little time in writing a one-sided argument in support of the desires of the Oakland A's ownership group.

Here is the complete article:

"A's need to get moving, or else

Free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre was the player the A’s wanted most this offseason. They made him an initial offer of five years, $64 million and later raised their bid to six years, $78.6 million, according to major league sources.

Yet, they never stood a chance.

Beltre, like most star players, wanted no part of Oakland. No part of the Coliseum. No part of a franchise that has ranked in the bottom five in home attendance in each of the past five seasons.

The solution for the A’s is simple — in fact, the simplest of any struggling franchise in the game today. The team needs to move to San Jose, a more populous, prosperous city 40 miles south of Oakland.

“If we want to be successful in the game, we’ve got to take advantage of situations that are right in front of us,” says Scott Boras, the agent for Beltre and several other top players. “And this is one of them.”

Yes, Boras is speaking partly out of self-interest; a stronger A’s franchise would possess greater spending power and help drive the market for his players. But a stronger A’s franchise is in the game’s best interests, too.

No longer would the team be a revenue-sharing recipient. Franchise values would increase as the industry grew more robust. Baseball could move on to other problems.

So, what’s the holdup?

The Giants, of course.

The Giants, who hold territorial rights to San Jose’s home county, Santa Clara, only because the A’s were kind enough to surrender them in the early 1990s, when the San Francisco team was exploring a move to the area.

Appeasing the Giants will not be easy — their owner, Bill Neukom, took over the club in 2008 with the knowledge that San Jose was part of the team’s territory. He understandably does not want to lose sponsorship opportunities or diminish the value of his club in any way.

Well, baseball developed a blueprint for solving such a problem in March 2005, when it reached an agreement to move the Montreal Expos into the Orioles’ territory in Washington, DC. The deal created the Nationals and guaranteed the Orioles at least $130 million a year in revenues and a sale price of at least $360 million.

The A’s/Giants conflict, in some ways, should be easier to resolve — the A’s already exist in the Bay Area, while the Nationals did not exist in Washington. The Orioles/Nationals arrangement also included the formation of a new regional television network. The Giants and A’s already maintain deals with separate Comcast entities.

“The idea that we’re here, sitting on our hands and not letting this franchise get going is detrimental to the game,” says Boras, who grew up in Elk Grove, Calif., near Sacramento.

“A few franchises need to be evaluated and examined. Oakland can immediately improve and become a success if moved to San Jose. You would then have two well-run and successful franchises in the Bay Area.”

Neukom, like Orioles owner Peter Angelos, is an accomplished attorney. Baseball surely would not relish a prolonged, contentious negotiation with the Giants, but if that’s what it takes to fix the A’s, so be it.

Other low-revenue clubs are much more challenged.

Teams such as the Pirates, Royals, Padres and Reds believe that winning will solve their problems. Well, winning didn’t work for the Rays and Indians, who failed to generate appreciable revenue increases during periods of recent success.

Now both clubs are stuck: The Rays can’t get financing for a new ballpark, and the Indians are trapped in a city with a diminishing population and corporate base.

An NBA team can relocate to a city as small as Oklahoma City, but a major league franchise must be in a market strong enough to support 81 home dates.

Name a better possibility in North America than San Jose, where a 32,000-seat park for the A’s is all but ready to go.

“If we had approval from baseball, it would take six to nine months to finish our drawings, then a maximum of two years to build,” A’s owner Lew Wolff says. “So, I would say 30 to 36 months.

“The city has purchased most of the land. We are willing to give the money to buy the rest of it if they don’t happen to have it. As far as financing, it will be done through debt and equity. We’re not waiting for any kind of bond issues or government help, which we can’t get anyway.

“In some ways, that makes it more difficult. But in some ways, it’s simpler. We don’t have to go to anyone.”

Absent public financing, the A’s are confident the ballpark would pass a citywide ballot measure. The team in 2006 struck a 30-year naming-rights deal with Cisco that would provide $4 million annually. Its new multi-year agreement with Comcast SportsNet California also will help with financing, Wolff says.

Commissioner Bud Selig formed a committee in March 2009 to study the A’s ballpark options. Wolff says it is his understanding that the committee’s work is now done. Selig, through a spokesman, declined comment.

Meanwhile, the A’s remain in limbo, plodding along in Oakland. Franchises in baseball’s other two-team markets — New York, Chicago and Los Angeles — share the same geographic territory. The Bay Area is different. The population in the Giants’ territory, Wolff says, is twice as large as that in the A’s territory.

“The whole thing is really ludicrous,” Wolff says.

For all their obstacles, the A’s have built an intriguing club, one that might very well contend in 2011.

Their young pitching staff last season led the American League in ERA, and general manager Billy Beane has spent the winter making improvements through trades and modest free-agent signings.

The A’s failure to sign Beltre for the second straight offseason, however, illustrates the difficulty the team faces in landing premier free-agent talent.

A year ago, Beltre spurned a three-year, $24 million offer from the A’s to sign a one-year, $10 million deal with the Red Sox. This time, he went to the Rangers for more money than the A’s offered — five years, $80 million.

His decision could help determine the outcome of the AL West race.

“You talk to players,” Boras says, without referring specifically to Beltre. “It’s not the city. It’s not the team. It’s the ballpark. And there are no fans there.

“When teams recruit against the Oakland A’s, they say, ‘Why do you want to play in an empty park?’ It’s not about the organization. It’s not about ownership. It’s about locale.”

Earlier this offseason, Lance Berkman rejected a two-year offer from the A’s to sign a one-year deal with the Cardinals. When the A’s do land free agents, it’s usually because the players want to be in northern California or lack better options.

True, the A’s signed designated hitter Hideki Matsui and relievers Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes this offseason, but none is an elite talent. The team’s outlay for the three in 2011 will be about $13 million combined.

For Beltre, the A’s were willing to guarantee six years, but at $12.8 million per season, not $16 million. After Beltre signed for that price with the Rangers, the A’s added Balfour and Fuentes, bringing their 2011 payroll to nearly $70 million.

Imagine how much stronger they would be in San Jose.

The three other AL West clubs — the Rangers, Angels and Mariners — play in terrific markets with terrific parks. The proposed 32,000-seat stadium in San Jose would be the smallest in the majors. But the A’s average home attendance would almost double if they filled the park, and premium seating and luxury suites would provide additional revenue.

It’s time. It’s past time.

“In the end, this is hurting baseball,” Boras says. “It’s depriving baseball players and baseball fans of a successful franchise. That’s wrong. We need to correct that.”

The solution is within reach."


In this article, Rosenthal basically frames the issue as follows: "The A's need to move to San Jose in order to survive." A better, more fair statement of the issue would be that "the A's need a new ballpark in order to thrive."

Of course, the restated issue would not operate to completely exonerate the ownership group of their responsibility for the A's financial situation, which seems to be the primary goal of the article. And, to achieve this goal, Rosenthal relies on a number of questionable statements to support his already shaky premise.

I have more than a few problems with his article, but here are a few of the issues that bother me the most:

Issue #1: For some odd reason, Rosenthal goes to player agent Scott Boras for a quote on the Oakland A's situation, even though he readily admits that Boras speaks solely out of self interest.

What insight could Scott Boras possibly have on the viability of baseball markets or the tricky topic of financing a baseball ballpark? None whatsoever. Boras has a significant interest in seeing the construction a new revenue generating ballpark for a previously revenue challenged organization. Of course, Boras doesn't care where that park is constructed, only that it gets done. He simply wants more money for his clients and himself. For him, it doesn't matter if the ballpark is in Oakland, San Jose, or Jupiter, just so long as it increases the revenue of the organization, because both he and his clients will ultimately get a cut of that new and improved revenue stream. However, Rosenthal attempts to use Boras' comments as some type of support for the premise that the A's need to move to San Jose.

Issue #2: Rosenthal includes Lew Wolfe's argument that "the population in the Giants' territory is twice as large as that in the A's territory." This is a completely and intentionally disingenuous statement. Let's get real here, both the Giants and A's draw fans from the same exact area. The extent of the Giants' territorial rights is that the A's cannot construct a ballpark in San Jose. However, while the A's are forbidden from constructing a ballpark in San Jose, there is NOTHING to prevent the A's from drawing fans from all over the San Francisco Bay Area, just as they always have. This is a market that has long supported two MLB franchises and can continue to do so without difficulty in the future.

Here is a look at the attendance figures over the past few decades for A's and Giants:

Decade: Oakland__San Francisco__Difference
1980s:__15,812,748____13,292,023_____2,520,725
1990s:__17,639,449____17,935,020_____(295,571)
2000s:__20,824,961____34,703,654____(13,878,693)

In the 1980s, the A's outdrew the Giants by ~2.5M fans. In the 1990s, the Giants outdrew the A's by a paltry ~300K fans. And, of course, in the 2000s, the Giants attendance exploded and they outdrew the A's by ~14M fans. Of course, the discrepancy in the 2000s has nothing to do with Oakland's viability as a baseball marketplace. It has everything to do with the opening of Pac Bell Park in San Francisco prior to the 2000 season.

The only problem with the Oakland market is simply that the A's owners have refused to step up and privately finance a ballpark IN OAKLAND. The truth is that the A's were on the same exact footing as the Giants until the 2000s. At that point, the Giants reaped the benefits from stepping up and privately financing a ballpark. Since that point, the Giants have become the premier organization in the area, just in case last year's World Series championship failed to drive that point home. In short, the Giants demonstrated their loyalty to the fans and their commitment to their market by using their own funds to build a ballpark. The A's have not.

The real problem here is the A's ownership. Here's a fun fact, the A's majority owner, John Fisher, is one of 8 billionaire owners in Major League Baseball. Again, let's repeat that for emphasis, the A's are owned by a billionaire. They could easily finance their own ballpark, which seems to be about as risk-free an investment as an owner could hope to find. Lew Wolff is the face of the ownership group, but Fisher is the majority owner. Regardless, the A's have failed to invest in the community and fan base. Instead of being willing to privately fund a new ballpark in Oakland, the A's have dragged their feet, complained and bashed the Oakland market, and tried to get a ballpark in a location, San Jose, that they know to be off-limits.

I suspect that, if we were to pull back the curtain and see the true motivation of Lew Wolff, then his desire to build a ballpark in San Jose has more to do with the opportunity to develop the real estate surrounding the proposed ballpark site than any alleged weakness in the Oakland market. Given that history has conclusively established that a new ballpark in Oakland would enable the A's to compete on equal footing with the Giants, there must be some other reason for Lew Wolff to be desperately trying to move to an area that he knows is completely off-limits.

Issue #3: Rosenthal writes that "the A's remain in limbo, plodding along in Oakland" without mentioning how the ownership group has intentionally operated to keep itself in limbo. Major League Baseball ballparks are sound investments in their own right, but owners are always looking to extract the most public money, grants of land, and tax breaks from municipalities that they possibly can. Reds fans saw this firsthand with the construction of Great American Ballpark, which was done with significant public money extracted in part with a promise from the owners to increase payroll. Well, we all know how that panned out for the fans.

Even short of financing a new ballpark in Oakland, the ownership group could have invested more heavily in the team and the market. They have chosen not to do that to any appreciable degree and, not surprisingly, the result has been an alienated fan-base and declining attendance. One small example is that the organization has canceled FanFest in favor of a Fan Appreciation Tailgate to be held in the parking lot before an exhibition game on a weekday. The owners have completely scaled down their commitment to the Oakland market, seeming to prefer the use of a scorched earth campaign to ensure that they have no other alternative than to leave town.


Final Thoughts

Overall, I simply expect better out of Ken Rosenthal than this. A national writer should do more than just parrot the self-interested arguments of a baseball ownership group. Major League Baseball works in Oakland. It has for decades and there's no reason it can't continue into the future. For that to happen, the A's simply need to build their own ballpark in Oakland. If the A's actually committed to the market, rather than badmouthing it in an attempt to move to a different city, then baseball in Oakland could flourish again. It's not the market, it's the ballpark. And, the ballpark is something that is well within the control of the A's billionaire ownership group. Of course, you'd never know that from Rosenthal's article, which continues the long, disturbing baseball media tradition of swaying public support in favor of the owners.

62 comments:

  1. I just forgave you for the whole 1990 WS :)

    Great blog post! You just summed up beautifully everything an A's fan has been feeling and saying for the last 15 years since the beloved Haas family sold the team.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anon,

    Glad to hear that 1990 is now water under the bridge! I was actually at Game 4 of that Series, so I've seen Oakland at its finest. And, I've been to games there midweek when the crowds are sparse. Regardless, I know Oakland is a great market for baseball.

    I have a lot of respect for the loyal fans that show up at the games. They don't attend because its fashionable, they attend because they love it and they know the game. That contingent of fans that sit out in the leftfield bleachers banging drums and waving flags would do ANY organization proud.

    The problem with the A's is the ballpark, not the market. The ballpark went to the birds when they decided to construct Mt. Davis to lure the Raiders back. That completely ruined the park for baseball. And, of course, no one sits there to watch the Raiders, either.

    In the final analysis, the A's just need a new ballpark and an owner willing to embrace the market. If the A's constructed a ballpark in Oakland (Jack London Square??) with private money, then the franchise would flourish. The fans would return and they could compete on evening footing with the Giants once more.

    Instead, you have an owner that would rather bash his own market in an attempt to escape it. Given that the problem is the ballpark, not the market, it's safe to infer that Lew Wolff has an ulterior motive for his plans to move the team. A new ballpark is what the A's need, not a new market.

    In short, it would be a damn shame if the A's are allowed to leave Oakland. The fans deserve better and you'd be hard pressed to find a better market.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment and the kind words!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the excellent article regarding our situation here in Oakland. You have basically nailed my feelings about my beloved A's with this sentence- "If the A's actually committed to the market, rather than badmouthing it in an attempt to move to a different city, then baseball in Oakland could flourish again."

    roscoe

    ReplyDelete
  4. Roscoe,

    I feel your pain. It's tough to watch what has transpired there in Oakland. It's even tougher to see the media actively passing along these types of owner created tall-tales.

    I remember Lew Wolff complaining to the media about the Oakland Coliseum when the bottom was falling out of the housing market and the economy in general. While the global economy was in free-fall, Wolff was advocating for the construction of a new ballpark. How much better off would the franchise have been if he instead said something to the effect that:

    "I know times are tough right now for people out there, but we believe in our fans and this market, so we are committing to building our own ballpark in Oakland with private money."

    Such a decision would have immediately placated the fans and convinced them that investing their time, money, and passion in the A's was once again worthwhile. Instead, the owners want loyalty, but offer none in return.

    It's just a frustrating situation, made even worse by the media spinning these owner created narratives. Fortunately, in this respect, newspapers no longer have a monopoly over the channels of distribution for news, so you can find counterpoints to articles like the one written by Ken Rosenthal.

    Anyway, I certainly wish the Oakland fans the best and hope that MLB doesn't buy into Wolff's argument. The fans deserve better.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lark, thank you so much for your brilliant deconstruction of the A's stadium situation!! I've been involved in this drama since 1998 and this is the single best piece I've read. You should send it to every one of the MLB club owners.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Spot on and 100% genuine to the core. It's "OAKLAND'S A'S"...We DON'T know the way to San Jose.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anon,

    Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it. Hopefully, the drama ends with a new ballpark in Oakland. Given that Wolff and Selig are old friends, I almost expected Major League Baseball to pull the rug out from under Oakland by now, so maybe it's a good sign that they haven't.

    If I had any clout with the owners, then I'd definitely make this argument to prevent Wolff from trying to relocate the franchise from a viable market. Oakland has long supported the A's and the fact that they are trying to leave such a strong market is borderline unconscionable.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anon,

    Hopefully, you never have to learn the way to San Jose. Surprisingly, maybe the biggest obstacle to Wolff getting his way is that the Managing General Partner of the rival San Francisco Giants is a well regarded attorney. It seems doubtful that the Giants will give up their territorial rights without a protracted and costly legal battle. Ultimately, that may be enough to deter Selig and company from rubber stamping a move to San Jose by the A's.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  9. GREAT article! Being an A's fan has been increasingly frustrating over the past 15 years, and to hear the media keep spouting the same "San Jose is a MUST" drivel is driving us Oakland fans up the wall! 3 words: Jack.London.Square.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I greatly appreciate your thoughts about the A's. While building a new stadium, regardless of where it is, will help the A's, I think the real problem is with Lew Wolf alienating the fans.

    First of all by not wanting to build a new stadium in Oakland even though there is a viable plan to do so currently on the table. And as far as funding, the MLB report about a new stadium in Oakland concluded that Oakland was better prepared financially to build a new stadium than San Jose is. By doing this he is insulting the loyal fans that come out to support the team.

    Secondly he continually trades away quality players for mere prospects. Such as the year he got rid of Rich Harden, along with half the pitching staff. By doing this he doomed what I believe would have been a playoff run that year. It's hard to get excited about a team that trades away players as soon as the become quality players.

    A new stadium would definitely help, but the ownership needs to either start showing the fan base it's appreciation, or sell to someone who does.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "If the A's actually committed to the market, rather than badmouthing it in an attempt to move to a different city, then baseball in Oakland could flourish again. It's not the market, it's the ballpark. And, the ballpark is something that is well within the control of the A's billionaire ownership group. Of course, you'd never know that from Rosenthal's article, which continues the long, disturbing baseball media tradition of swaying public support in favor of the owners."

    From your keyboard to true fans of baseball everywhere!

    Generally speaking, the sports media should be ashamed with themselves for how they have perpetuated the myth of the Oakland Athletic's woes. It's been disgusting to witness the slow motion (years long) train wreck unfold, realizing that most people (and I am including many fans of baseball in the bay area) have bought into the myth -- hook, line & sinker.

    I suppose it's far easier to lap up the spin put out there by the owners and their proxies than it is to do a little research and try and find out if there is more to the story than what's being spoon fed by to them by these "journalists".

    Wake up people! It's not the alleged lack of A's fans that is the issue, it's the owners motivation for embarking on a campaign to deliberately drive A's fans away - as a means to an end - that is the real issue. It's an affront to baseball fans everywhere.

    Go A's!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Lark11,

    Just wanted to commend you on this. I'm a biased A's fan so take that for what it's worth, but I think it's an incredible piece of Baseball writing. I couldn't agree with you more, and now will stop by to read the rest of your blogs. It's obvious I'll get more out of them than I will reading National writers:)

    Cheers,

    Michael P.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Yes the Giants ballpark was privately financed, but local corporations payed for half of it. Corporations in the East Bay haven't come forward to help finance the stadium as they did for the Giants. A measly 500k has been put forward, about 1/3 of what my local community raised to build a football stadium for the high school. Yes Fisher is extremely wealthy, but how did the wealthy get wealthy? It sure wasn't by 500m dollar charities. Yes he can pay for it himself, but there isn't really any return on investment when paying for an entire stadium. Baseball is a business first.

    One other thing. SJ corporations HAVE come forward to help finance it, just as the Giants stadium was.

    ReplyDelete
  14. You left out one important fact.

    There was a ballpark proposed by ownership just North of the current stadium. It would have taken the festering hellhole that is a welter of burned out warehouses, closed factories and flea markets, and turned it into a "destination". All they needed was some administrative help from the city, not financial, administrative (i.e. permits, help getting land, zoning, etc).

    Jerry Brown, then Mayor, did not see how it would benefit _his_ interests, so he did nothing. When it came to using eminent domain to clear out an area for his buddy to build _him_ a luxury condo downtown, it happened quickly.

    Follow that by the corrupt, incompetent, senile, and possibly retarded, Ron Dellums. Unless he, and his cadre of cronies got greased, and greased good, it would not happen.

    It is not like the A's ownership was trying to pull an Al Davis maneuver where the City and County would be on the hook. Nope, they made it clear early on, it was going to be self financed.

    After Oakland officials screwed them, time and again, they tried Fremont. Pretty soon the petty dictators of Fremont caught on to the Oakland way to kill a project.

    Unless Fisher and Wolff sell the team you will never see a new stadium in Oakland. At least not for the A's.

    You have the Oakland officials to thank for that.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anon^ You're talking about two different sites. The uptown site would've been an urban setting in an already developed area. Jerry Brown killed it, built condos instead. Several years later, with a new owner and a new mayor, Lew Wolff proposes the North Coliseum site. Basically turning all the warehouses into a Ballpark village with retail, restaurants, etc. It would've required the relocation of dozens of businesses. Some question whether Wolff knew it would fail to to the unfeasability of it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great article! Thanks for the good work. I've been an A's fan since they got here in 68, and live in Oakland! Yeah this ownership really gives us a bad rap!
    Thanks for the support!
    Jacquie in Oakland

    ReplyDelete
  17. Currently Oakland has a mayor, city council, planning commission and redevelopment agency that is generally supportive of a downtown Victory Court ballpark. That was not the case when Jerry Brown was mayor. Lew Wolff fails to acknowledge that politically things have changed in Oakland. Instead, he is focused on San Jose and only San Jose. It is my belief that if Lew cared about this community he and John Fisher would take a second look at Oakland.

    roscoe

    ReplyDelete
  18. David Baker

    I'm not sure what you mean by there being a viable plan in Oakland currently on the table. You must be talking about the Victory Court site. The site is mostly owned by private businesses. Businesses that don't want to sell, and would need to be relocated. Could be very expensive just to acquire the land. Put that on top of the fact that Jerry Brown is getting rid of redevelopment agencies. There's not a whole lot of time to get that site ready.

    Also, about the A's trading away their players back in 07. Really? Dude, that team sucked. Look at the roster. They had Swisher, Harden(injured), and Haren. The rest of the roster was garbage. The team was also expensive. They had Zero payroll flexibility, Zero farm system, and a mediocre team. Had Beane not rebuilt, the A's would be in horrible shape. That was Beane's call, not Wolffs.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This is such a great post. It basically sums up all the feelings I have inside about how this whole situation has been treated here in Oakland. This is instantly being posted on Facebook and forwarded to all my fellow A's fans and family. This shows that there ARE still real baseball fans out there that aren't totally hypnotized by the media and take what they say as the truth.

    One thing you might want to add into "issue 3" is that another thing the "new ownership" has done was take away the Spring Training trips for the long time season ticket holders. The old ownership, under Steve Schott, used to reward it's long time season ticket holders and fans with a trip down to the Cactus League to see our boys play in Arizona and even hold a party so the fans could connect and meet the players. Now the organization is even alienating the most dedicated fans who are giving them money, the season ticket holders.

    Well, your post was a joy to read. Thanks again for writing this.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have to tell you, this post has more research faults than Rosenthal's article. You really should be more informed on the nuances of MLB ownership and new stadia development. There is only one privately financed ballpark in MLB. Private financing is not the norm even amongst billionaires. It takes more than money to build a stadium, available land and location are more difficult to acquire than money sometimes.

    As far as Oakland attendance, they may have filled the coliseum at similar numbers to candlestick when the A's were the better team, but the mean attendance figures have never been much above average. The two teams play all of 11 air miles from each other. That is the closest of any two franchises in MLB. When there is little to no corporate support for the A's in Oakland but the Giants are thriving just a stones throw away, it only makes sense to try to move 45 miles farther from your NL rival. Just having a beautiful new park doesn't solve revenue sharing( aka, mlb wellfare )issues. You don't have to look any further than Pittsburgh for evidence of that.

    The one part of your post I can agree with is the marketing. I do believe marketing has been scaled back in an effort to help publicize the need for a ballpark. It hurts the fans but this is a business working toward a more stable future. I don't think ownership planned on it taking this long to get a new park in the pipeline.

    As a lifelong A's fan I appreciate your interest in this great team but I would appreciate a bit more knowledge of the topic before you post.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Oakland tossed the A's aside, in favor of the Raiders, years ago. And we're supposed to feel sorry for them? San Jose would be a fresh start in a larger, much more prosperous city. It'll will take the San Jose A's to restore the team's glory.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Gotta love the passion of A's fans! Lots of good comments here, so I'll pick up where I left off. Hopefully I can keep the Anons straight

    ReplyDelete
  23. Anon,

    Thanks for the kind words. I agree. Jack London Square would seem to be a very good fit. Not sure about the available land, but I'm sure it could get worked out. That would provide a nice boost for Jack London Square and a beautiful spot for the new ballpark.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  24. Mr. Baker,

    I agree that there has to be something more to ownership's motivation. Oakland has long supported the A's and a new ballpark would solve all the problems. So, why does it make sense to bad mouth the market in an effort to relocate to an area that is completely off limits? It just doesn't make sense.

    As for the A's selling off their players, I tend to agree. The A's really seem to have gone down hill in the past (roughly) 5 years. From the outside looking in, I think the Danny Haren trade and the loss of Bill King are the two big precipitating events.

    I understand the A's strategy of focusing on the cost-effective production provided by players in their first 6 years of service time, but you HAVE to have a few players with whom the fan base identifies. In short, you need a face-of-the-franchise, as most fans need a connection with the players rather than simply "rooting for laundry" (as Seinfeld would say).

    Unfortunately, the A's choice to be the face of the franchise turned out to be the most injury prone player in baseball this side of Rocco Baldelli. If Chavez had stayed healthy and become what Beane envisioned him to be, then maybe things would have turned out differently.

    Given the lack of continuity in the 25-man roster, the trades of Haren and Harden, following so closely on the heels of trading away Hudson/Mulder/Zito, really seemed to hurt. The A's undeniably got a great deal on Haren, but trading both he and Harden away seemed like the last straw for the fan base.

    Unfortunately, the A's also lost the late, great Billy King. Even when the A's where churning players, they always seemed to be first class when King was around. To a certain extent, he gave them the consistent identity that they lacked on the playing field. So, to me, that hurt the franchise.

    Anyway, my $.02. Thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  25. Anon,

    I think you stated it better than I did. As for media, I agree. I was really frustrated or even insulted by Rosenthal's article. It was just so blatantly one-sided and misleading. I really expect better, especially from a member of the national media like Rosenthal. The duty of the press is to inform the public, but here is seems like Rosenthal's goal was to persuade the public. Maybe he thinks he's helping break the logjam, but I think it was a misguided piece.

    As for the campaign to deliberately drive the fans away, I hate to agree, but it really seems like that is what's happening. Maybe the organization really is cutting costs solely in an effort to maintain profitability, but do any A's fans doubt that the A's are making a healthy profit on an annual basis? I'm curious.

    For me, if the Pirates can make a profit each and every year, as the recently leaked financial date revealed, then I would be very skeptical about any claim that the A's are not profitable. Somewhere in the back recesses of my mind, I seem to recall that the A's recently received a revenue sharing check of $32M. If they are receiving that type of money each year, then I doubt they are in the red. But, you guys are closer to it than I am, so you probably have a better feel for it.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  26. Mr. Pettersen,

    Thanks for the kind words, I do appreciate it! Stop by any time.

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  27. The mere fact that this is a clearly objective, unbiased and well-informed opinion piece written by a fan of another team is reason enough for it to be plastered all over the walls of every MLB decision-maker's office. You recognized the amazing lack of objectivity in Rosenthal's piece. (I thought he was okay before, but I'll never read a thing of his again.)
    Truly great article. As a die-hard OAKLAND A's fan, I cannot thank you enough. And seriously, if there is anything you can do to get this out there where the powers-that-be can see it, please do so. All of us here in the East Bay appreciate it.

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Troy,

    I'm not sure I follow. From my understanding, Pac Bell Park (or whatever they call it these days) cost $357M, of which $170M was a loan from Chase Manhattan Bank, $70M from the sale of charter seat licenses, $102M from the sale of naming rights/sponsorships/other sources, and $15M in tax increment financing by the city's redevelopment agency. Also, I was surprised to see that the Giants are leasing the land on which the ballpark was constructed.

    So, why don't you think privately financed ballparks work? The Giants are proving that it works. They are paying ~$17M each year to service the debt. And, I think they have to do that for 15 or 16 years. After that, then the ballpark is free and clear. If you build a ballpark properly, then is it unrealistic to expect it to last 30 years? 40 years? More?

    Once the park is paid off, then expenses will fall resulting in higher profits or more money to plow back into the organization. If the park lasts for 40 years and it's paid off after 20, then how is that not a good investment?

    Obviously, wealthy people don't get that way by giving money to charity, but I fail to see how a privately financed ballpark is a poor investment idea? Clearly, it's not as good as an investment as getting a massive subsidy from the government, but that doesn't make it a poor investment.

    For one, it's practically risk free, as the franchise exists in a cooperative league. It's not a straight free market system whereby the Yankees seek to increase their market share and run everyone else out of business. Quite the contrary, the Yankees need the other teams. Add in the fact that league wide attendance has never been stronger and it seems like a sound investment to me.

    As for corporate dollars, while the economy has slowed, are corporations suddenly going to stop buying advertising, naming rights, and luxury boxes? They haven't so far across the league, so I'm not sure why a park in Oakland would be any different.

    Anyway, my $.02. Thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  29. Anon,

    Well, I can't speak to the local politics, so I'll leave that to you. I find it hard to believe that the local government would strenuously oppose a ballpark that is to completely financed with private money. It would seem that they would get all the benefits of the new park (jobs, somewhat revitalized area of Oakland, national press/recognition, etc) without having to pay for it with taxpayer money that could be more justifiable spent on education, etc etc.

    Personally, I would think that a motivated owner could get it done. If the Giants can get it done in a complicated political environment like S.F., then couldn't the A's get it done in Oakland?

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm not sure there's much that a motivated billionaire can't do.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  30. Jacquie in Oakland,

    Thanks for the kind words. From an outsider perspective, it seems like the fans haven't gotten the owner they deserve. Hopefully, things change for the better in Oakland.

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  31. Roscoe,

    I agree on the changing municipal government. How long ago did Jerry Brown announce that he was running for governor? You would think that the ownership would foresee the changing cast of characters and make another run at it.

    Maybe the owners have had a tough time of it with Brown and company, but I think it's a rather strange course of action for Wolff to go around bashing the ballpark and the market. It doesn't seem to advance his cause of relocating and only diminishes his current situation.

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  32. Troy,

    I agree that blowing up the Haren/Harden/et.al team made sense from an operational standpoint, especially given the lack of impact talent down on the farm, but breaking up that team seems to have really demoralized the fan base...at least from where I sit. Beane traded away the star players once too many times.

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  33. Anon,

    Thanks for the kind words. One of the great things about technology these days (facebook, blogs, twitter, etc) is that it provides a forum for fans who share a common interest. Now, there is a way for fans to discuss issues and form opinions that run counter to those expressed in the mainstream media.

    I'm sure there are those out there that agree with Rosenthal. And, there are already a few in this thread that disagree with me. Regardless, differing viewpoints frequently lead to substantive discussion of the issues. And, substantive discussion can help change or strengthen people's viewpoints. In short, dissenting points of view are frequently valuable.

    As for your point about canceling the trip to spring training for season tickets holders, that's a great one. I would have included it, but I was not familiar with the program. It seems like an ideal way to strength the loyalty of the fan base, so cutting it is a very good example of how the actions of the ownership group are weakening the brand.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  34. Anon,

    Thanks for the comment. I'm not sure where I see the research faults that you reference, but I appreciate the constructive criticism nonetheless.

    For me, it's not a question of faults in research, so much as it is an understanding and acceptance of "imperfect information" on the subject. I went into the article with the belief that research wouldn't produce 100% indisputable facts, so the article wasn't written in such a way.

    Obviously, this is an issue that involves baseball finances, billionaire owners, politicians, and backroom negotiations. In short, there is no way we can get a 100% clear picture of what is happening behind closed doors. Baseball organizations are private entities with no obligation to open their books to public inspection. Baseball owners will always speak to advance their own interests. Politicians are not exactly known for being upfront and honest. In short, it's impossible to know what representations were made by either the ownership group or the politicians in the negotiations/discussions. So, there will necessarily be a need for inferences and a measure of speculation.

    I am actually well aware that public financing of ballparks, arenas, and stadia has long been the norm. However, I am also aware that many economists are beginning to strongly question the notion that using public money to construct sports facilities is a sound policy. For example, Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College and prominent sports economist, has written books and articles disputing the notion that new ballparks bring about increases in employment or operate to raise per capita income. In short, it is highly questionable whether new ballparks have any positive economic impact on a community. As a result, it is very difficult to justify expending public monies to subsidize billionaire owners.

    In addition, I would argue that privately financed sports facilities are going to become much more frequent. Perhaps even the norm. As a result of the global economic meltdown, most, if not all, governments seem to be running significant deficits due to an unexpected decline in revenue. As everyone knows, some combination of cuts in spending and increases in taxes will be necessary for these governments to resolve their deficits. In this environment, how many governments are going to be able to justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new sports facilities?

    As for privately financed sports facilities, add the New Meadowlands Stadium (privately financed by Jets and Giants), Nationwide Arena (Columbus Blue Jackets), General Motors Place (Vancouver Canucks), and Staples Center (Lakers, Clippers, and Kings) to the list. I'm sure there are more out there.

    Sports owners continue to extract public money from local governments by threatening to leave town for a better offer. However, California seems to be on the leading edge of the trend rejecting requests for public money for construction of sports facilities. In light of current economic conditions and the questionable benefits to the public from the construction of these new sports facilities, it seems to me that the days of the public funded sports facility are numbered.

    As for attendance figures, I'd be astonished if the Bay Area can't support two baseball franchises. And, personally, I don't see how the move to San Jose does anything to alter the balance between the Giants and the A's. Both teams draw from all over the Bay Area and both seem to fit a certain niche of the fan population. Seems like an ideal situation to me.

    As for the distance between the two, maybe I'm wrong, but I thought the Yankees and Mets were less than 10 miles apart.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment. I'll try to up my knowledge of the subject in the future.

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  35. Anon,

    I agree, Oakland pretty well screwed over the A's to welcome the Raiders back to town. Whoever was in charge of approving Mt. Davis should be out of a job.

    If you are planning any type of renovation of an existing ballpark or construction of a new one, why wouldn't you go to HOK Sport? They designed the best of the new retro parks and should be the gold standard around the league. If anyone knows what works and doesn't in a ballpark, it's HOK.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  36. Justin,

    Thanks for the comment!

    As for Rosenthal, he usually does a pretty nice job, but I was really surprised when I read that article. In fact, it stuck with me for so long that I had to write this article as a catharsis. Maybe he meant well, but it just really didn't sit well with me.

    I wish I had the type of clout where I could make a difference on this issue with the powers that be, but writing this up and firing it into cyberspace is probably about the extent of my pull. But, who knows, public opinion is powerful, so maybe if enough people make their voices heard we can reach a critical mass and really make a difference on the issue.

    It's a complicated issue and I don't want it to seem otherwise. Even if the A's were to step up and privately finance the ballpark, they'd still probably need some public money on infrastructure improvements around the park. And, in the current economic environment, maybe that just isn't feasible, though I suspect there are ways to make it work. Regardless, the way the ownership group is going about this issue is really sad. A's fans and baseball fans in general deserve better from the media and the owners. Maybe someday we'll actually get it.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  37. Great objective piece of writing, Lark. You da man (or woman)!
    As an Oakland A's fan for 40 years, it would truly break my heart if they move to San Jose. We've put up with 2 lousy owners for the last 15 years, trading fans favorite players, always bashing the stadium and lack of fans. Poor, bare minimum marketing and one foot out the door, smelling greener pastures in San Jose, has depressed attendance even more. I hope Bud Selig does the right thing and give Oakland it's chance to build the shiny new stadium they deserve.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Oakland is a dying city. The A's are the least of their problems. Years of inept leadership are finally taking its toll. It has high unemployment, violated crime, and is heavily blighted. You have to ask why SF and SJ have managed to prosper the last 20 years and Oakland has only slid backwards. Don't talk to me about tradition. Traditions change. San Jose is a fresh chapter. A change to return to their former glory. And San Jose would be a better custodian of the team than Oakland has been. If you can put your regional alliances aside, and truly think about what's best for the team, San Jose has to emerge as the best choice. The Giants would like nothing more than the A's to just whither away at Mt. Davis or go away all together. And Oakland clearly lacks the resources to get a new ballpark done. Sorry, but that's the reality of the situation. Its San Jose or die for the A's.

    ReplyDelete
  39. ^You are off-base for a few reasons. Firstly, the area of Oakland that the city is proposing they move is experiencing a rather grand renaissance. More and more young, educated, and increasingly wealthy people are moving into the JLS/Lake Merritt area. A new ballpark in a dead part of this growing area would fit well and only enhance the betterment.

    Secondly (and more importantly, in my opinion), you are forgetting that many of the A's fans do and have come out of the rest of the East Bay (myself included) - which itself holds a huge portion of the entire population of the Bay Area metro area. I don't have the numbers in front of my, but I would assume that the East Bay area holds a number of people similar to that of the entire South Bay area. Think places like Concord, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Danville, Dublin, Orina, Lafayette, Antioch, Pittsburg, Brentwood, San Ramon, Dublin, Pleasanton, Martinez, Benicia, Vallejo, and ever further east, Stockton and Modesto. Most of the A's fans in this area will not be willing/able to make the drive to San Jose; thus, the team will probably lose out on tens of thousands of current and potential fans (emphisis on potentional - many baseball fans around here are on the fringe, and will support whatever team is closest).

    A new stadium in Oakland is not only viable, but also ideal. The only reason the plan that the city has proposed is not moving forward is because the owner is a real estate guru, and he can probably serve to make more with a residential development in San Jose (that I will concede). But the team itself (attendance, attracting free agents, etc.) would do as good, and probably better, with a new stadium on the waterfront in Oakland.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Also, I heard mention of the fact (by another poster in a different forum) that there are a decent number of people who make the drive from the Sacramento area to watch the A's play. Reason for this, Sacramento is home to one of the most successful (arguably THE most successful) triple-A teams in baseball - the Sacramento Rivercats. They happen to be the A's primary feeder team. So, they drive down an hour to watch their players perform at the highest level once they're called up. Chances are, they won't be willing to make the two-hour plus drive from Sacramento to San Jose. This number would probably increase if the A's had a stadium that was actually comparable to the Rivercats, too. While a move an hour south would cut out an entire portion of actual and potential fanbase.

    ReplyDelete
  41. ....and I was wondering when the "Oakland is a dump/San Jose streets are paved with gold" crowd were gonna show up in here. Take that nonsense back to the newballpark message boards (Pretty sure ML is here, so to him I'd like to say that I actually do visit the site frequently for the most up to date ballpark news...despite the slant).

    Anyways, while the pro A's to SJ crowd constantly harps on tired stereotypes, Oakland has quietly (well, quietly to the people who choose to criticize from afar) revitalized quite a large portion of the city where a stadium at victory court would simply be the cherry on top with or without a stadium. Nobody can dispute that sj has the money to make a run at any huge project it chooses, but don't at the same time say Oakland is unable (or even worse, insinuate that they are unworthy) to get this, or anything done. Moves are being made on both fronts off camera so I'm not ready to concede anything until a shovel hits the ground. Go A's.

    Born and Raised, (and occasionally wakes up) in Oakland.

    ReplyDelete
  42. OK,

    I read all of the comments.

    No mention of The California League.

    The Single A San Jose Giants have the undisputed territorial rights to San Jose.

    What of their loyal fans?

    San Jose ranks about average, fifth or sixth, in attendance in this ten team league. San Jose should demonstrate their ability to support a team by supporting their team. Where will the Baby Giants go if MLB comes to town?

    And you San Jose residents posting here, how many times did you get out to Municipal Stadium last year?

    ReplyDelete
  43. http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/index.jsp?sid=t476

    ReplyDelete
  44. One of the leaders of the Oakland Raiders deal was Don Perata ... the man that just lost mayor race. Oakland now has Mayor Jean Quan who has supported Victory Court and has contacted MLB about her willingness to fight for the A's.

    The problem isn't with Oakland ... it's with the A's ownership.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Oakland is not a dying town. Far from it. Downtown's the best its looked in years. Developers like it and have built condos/apts. all over. Sales are a bit sluggish due to this bad economy, but San Jose's gone through the same thing in their downtown. Infact, Oakland is so built up compared to really dying towns like Detroit, that finding the 15-20 acres for a ballpark has been a challenge, but Victory Ct. is still viable and will be one of the coolest in the MLB if Bud allows it.

    ReplyDelete
  46. @Anon 11:11 AM - I didn't know you had to pledge your allegiance to Oakland at the door in order to post here. Must've missed that. But I understand that the last thing an Oaklander wants is a debate over the merits of both cities.

    @Anon: 11:19 AM - Look no further than the Sharks at HP. They sell out about 98% of their games. Cisco Field will be a block away. So you do the math. And FYI, I love the SJ Giants, take my daughter all the time. But what's that have to do with anything? I still want the A's in Silicon Valley.

    In general though, I'd say that I don't know (or care) if Oakland is a dying city. But I do know that Oakland is FAR behind San Jose in the stadium process. Blame that on whoever you want, but it is a fact. And ironically, Oakland's own former mayor may be the final nail in the coffin for Oakland's effort. Oakland should've started 2 years ago, but they didn't. Meanwhile, SJ have been steadily buying up all the land they need. They're pretty much done, Oakland just got started. No arguing with facts.

    I understand how East Bayers feel about the A's leaving but I also understand that this is the nature of pro sports. Big fish eat little fish sometimes. San Jose had its own Earthquakes taken away to Houston. It sucked. Had nothing to do with the fans, which were very enthusiastic. But it happens. As I recall the Raiders left LA to come back to Oakland. And who here doesn't think that if given the chance SF wouldn't try to snatch the Sharks?

    As for all this talk about tradition, the previous poster is right: traditions change. Sucka, but true. No one's crying for the A's to go back to KC or Philly, right?

    ReplyDelete
  47. Interesting thoughts all the way around.

    I can certainly understand why people living in Oakland are arguing in favor of the A's staying put, while people in San Jose are arguing for the A's to move to the South Bay. Both cities have a lot to recommend them.

    But, for me, the determining factor is the long, successful track record of the A's in Oakland. Moving a franchise is a very serious step and one that can leave a lasting scar on a community. Just ask the people in Brooklyn. For me, it's an absolute last resort option for those instances where the franchise can simply no longer survive in their current market. And, the A's currently fall well short of that standard.

    It shouldn't be an available option for those owners who simply want a more advantageous deal or who are most interested in reaping the ancillary financial benefits that come from a new ballpark in a new market.

    One great thing about Bud Selig and MLB these days is the reticence to relocate franchises. He has shown a willingness to assist in getting a ballpark constructed in an existing market, but has thus far been unwilling to relocate franchises.

    I don't see the wisdom for MLB in shedding a viable market simply because ownership has been unwilling to sufficiently invest in it to make it work. Even if there have been difficulties for ownership in getting on the same page with local government, that shouldn't be sufficient justification for relocating. There aren't that many markets out there to support an MLB franchise.

    In the end, if the A's had built the track record and tradition of success in San Jose, then I would advocate keeping them in San Jose. However, they have done so in Oakland and there is no reason for them to relocate to a different market.

    And, all these one-sided arguments made by the ownership and through the media in support of the "need" to move are just insulting. Baseball has worked in Oakland and it can continue to work in Oakland. If it didn't or couldn't, then I'd support moving to a new market. But, that's not the case and all these disingenuous arguments being floated out there aren't going to change that.

    If Wolff wants to move the A's, then I'd need to see a legitimate, well supported argument establishing the reasons for it. Maybe a case can be made, but I have yet to see it. And, on such a massive issue as this, I would think you'd lead with your best argument, so I tend to doubt that a valid argument really exists.

    If Wolff wants to rip the A's out of Oakland and away from the loyal fans, then he'll need to do better than what was presented by Rosenthal. Until then, I support keeping the A's in Oakland.

    Thanks for all the comments!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  48. One more quick thought, I've heard from some complaining that I'm telling the owners how to spend their money. In actuality, I'm not, I'm just arguing that they shouldn't be allowed to use taxpayer money to build their ballpark.

    I'm not suggesting that billionaire Fisher needs to tap into his own private funds, simply that the A's need to secure their own financing to obtain the necessary construction funds. The Giants ownership group didn't have to tap into their personal funds to construct Pac Bell Park. Rather, they just saddled the Giants organization with the debt obligation, just like the vast majority of businesses in other industries have to do.

    If a business in another industry wants to construct a new facility or expand its operations in any appreciable manner, but lack the capital reserves to do so, then they either sell equity shares (e.g. stock) in the company to raise money or they incur new debt obligations (e.g. bonds). How many of those businesses effectively seek/demand public money from taxpayers to finance their construction?

    If financing a ballpark doesn't make viable economic sense for the ownership group, then why does it make economic sense for a municipality? I think that's a reasonable question, especially in light of recent studies indicating a limited, at best, economic impact for the community due to the construction of a new park.

    Overall, I'm not telling Fisher how to spend his money. That wouldn't be appropriate, just as I don't think it's appropriate for him to tell taxpayers how to spend their money.

    Anyway, just a few more thoughts.

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  49. Seriously?
    Wolff spent several years trying to get a privately-financed stadium built IN OAKLAND, first as a team consultant and later as the team's new owner. It wasn't his fault the then politicians had no interest in keeping the A's in town, so he took his efforts outside the city to Fremont, then SJ. I personally don't care where they play in the Bay Area just as long as they keep the name, Oakland A's.

    But it looks like the city of Oakland once again dropped the ball, missing an opportunity to use a new A's ballpark as an anchor for redevelopment and revitalization, now they're scrambling to get into the action.. And by the way, the Jack London Square site is far from perfect. It's nearly a ghost town with vacant store fronts left and right. It's blocks and blocks away from a BART station. Who wants to walk through that sketchy part of town after a night game. Oakland, for those of you that don't know, use to be the murder capital of the USA. I'm sure the city can still be found in the top 10 in most years. The city has a major image problem. What sane businessman/investor would want to sink $400M in a high crime city? Oakland was most recently in the news for restaurant robberies. Yes, a band of thugs walked into restaurants while patrons are trying to enjoy their dinner getting robbed at gun point. Can you see that happening in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf or Union Square? Exactly! There is a reason why the dot-com boom leap frogged Oakland. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.. Unfortunately, it's San Jose of BUST.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Truth Hurts,

    Interesting. If you don't care whether they play in the Bay Area, then why do you care about them keeping the name "Oakland A's"? Would existing Oakland A's fans even WANT the team to be identified as the "Oakland A's" if they relocate to San Jose? Would San Jose be content for them to be identified as the Oakland A's?

    Jack London Square may not be a perfect location, but I'm not sure there actually IS such thing as a perfect location. I remember reading complaints about the neighborhood in which Pac Bell Park was being constructed. It seems like it has worked out rather well. As for the crime rate, sure, that's not a positive factor, but other big league cities have comparable crime rates (e.g. Cleveland, Detroit, etc). Most professional sports teams are located in large markets and large markets frequently have their share of crime.

    Anyway, interesting comment! Thanks for sharing it.

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  51. "
    Jack London Square may not be a perfect location, but I'm not sure there actually IS such thing as a perfect location. I remember reading complaints about the neighborhood in which Pac Bell Park was being constructed. It seems like it has worked out rather well. As for the crime rate, sure, that's not a positive factor, but other big league cities have comparable crime rates (e.g. Cleveland, Detroit, etc). Most professional sports teams are located in large markets and large markets frequently have their share of crime."

    Ok, let's be real here, Lark. In 2010, San Jose (pop. 1 million) had just 20 homicides, while Oakland (pop. 400K) had 90 --and that was down from a high of 123 in 2008! Yes, every large market has crime but you can't shrug off Oakland's stats. They're a very serious problem --one that simply doesn't exist on anywhere near the same scale in SJ.

    Also, consider that at one of the Cisco Field walking tours put on by the SJRDA, the RDA tour leader said that MLB was very interested in what the whole experience would be like for fans from getting out of their cars or trains all the way to the stadium. He said that was a major MLB concern and I can't imagine that bodes well for Oakland. The previous poster is right, a walk thru JLS can get sketchy.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Anon,

    I've never heard of any violent crime taking place in or around the Coliseum. In fact, I thought I read that most Oakland murders are concentrated in a few neighborhoods, but I don't have any expertise on that. One would think that whatever place is selected for a new Oakland ballpark would be SAFER than the Coliseum. Add in the revitalization effect surrounding a new ballpark and, I would imagine, a typically significant police presence to ensure safety at A's games and I don't foresee a problem.

    I'd certainly agree that, if we were starting an expansion franchise, the crime stats certainly weigh in favor of placing the franchise in San Jose. However, the A's aren't an expansion franchise, so the crime rate isn't enough to sway me to the SJ side.

    As a Reds fan, I'm very familiar with the type of talent generated by the Oakland marketplace. Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan, Vada Pinson, and others all came out of Oakland. Given baseball's declining number of African American players, removing the franchise from Oakland certainly wouldn't help Revitalize Baseball in the Inner cities (RBI).

    San Jose certainly does right by the Sharks, but the A's belong in Oakland in my book.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  53. Lark,
    I really appreciate your posts on this subject. You are so spot on. I'm so tired of these Oakland haters bringing up crime stats every chance they get. St. Louis leads the country in violent crime but it doesn't stop fans from flocking their great venue. San Jose has 9 murders this first month, half way to their 20 last year. So much for the safest big city stat for this year. The community there wanted Oakland's police Chief, due to many internal problems with their cops. And for such a rich town, they're as broke as Oakland, cutting back services and pay for city employees.

    Oh, yeah, also, you can't forget Rickey Henderson and Dave Stewart who came out of the "O".

    ReplyDelete
  54. Oaktown A's: Why is citing crime stats hating Oakland? It is what it is, buddy. Oakland is a high crime city, even if its only a few neighborhoods, Its a fact and a factor in the pursuit of a new stadium. San Jose has seen an unusual uptick in murders this year. (Oakland has had 12 so far.) In fact, SJ, SF, and Oakland ALL have. The point is is that its unusual for San Jose, and sadly typical for Oakland.

    As for the economy, who isn't hurting these days? But San Jose, even with budget cuts, is a far more lucrative market for the A's than Oakland. A good or bad economy doesn't change that.

    As to Lark's point about Coliseum safety, I agree. I don't feel unsafe there per se. That said, I leave as soon as I can because there's no reason to stick around; no restaurants, bars, hotels, etc. All of that is already in place in San Jose--and in a very safe environment.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Oaktown A's,

    Thanks for the kind words. The disingenuous arguments that are being presented to, and put forth by, the media just got under my skin.

    As for the crime rate, I tend to agree. Most major markets have their share. Oakland may be a tick worse, but I'm not convinced it is, or should be, a significant consideration. Obviously, everything factors in, but I'm not sure it tips the scales in any appreciable manner.

    I forgot that Rickey and Stew came out of Oakland. Gotta love Stew. Eric Davis was hands-down the coolest player in baseball, but Stew had a firm grip on the 2nd spot on the list. His demeanor on the mound and intimidating stare into the catcher were awesome. That's how I want all Reds pitchers to go about their business. Not to mention he constantly unnerved and defeated the Rocket. Stew was a stud.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  56. Anon,

    Agreed. The crime rate is a fact. Obviously, Oakland has more, and a higher rate of, murders. So, you do have to factor it in, but does it weight that heavily in San Jose's favor? Maybe I'm wrong, but San Jose has never struck me as having a booming nightlife. It seems like a corporate town that empties when the sun goes down. But, I'm not an expert on that by any stretch. And, I don't think the the bursting of the high-tech/internet bubble has helped SJ in any way.

    As for Oakland's nightlife, how can you say that??? Isn't that (in)famous Hof Brau restaurant still there? That's always seemed like a rocking place! ;)

    Oakland and San Jose both have their respective advantages and disadvantages, but San Jose simply can't offer enough to overcome the decades of history and track record of success that the franchise built in Oakland.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  57. Lark,
    Sam's Hof Brau closed at least 10-12 years ago. It's torn down, gone. I miss that place. Great sports memorabilia on the walls, decent food, nice staff. The area around the Coliseum is pretty much fast food and a bunch of mid-price motels/hotels. The Dome theaters and the Hyatt across the freeway were torn down 10 years ago too, replaced by a Walmart, In and Out Burger, WingStop and Raiders Image sports store. There's a Lexus and Toyota dealership over there too. So the area is looking a little better, but is still kind of blah.
    Uptown has really come a long ways, with a restore Fox Theater, and thats where everyone was hoping the A's would build a new yard, but the previous owner wasn't interested and either was former mayor Jerry Brown. Sad. But it is what it is.

    As for San Jose, they have some night life downtown, with a bunch of restaurants, clubs and bars. Sharks fans love the arena so close to stuff. The A's park would be across the street from the arena, but I hope it never happens. Victory Ct. has a nice ring to it, and I'm still hopeful it will happen

    ReplyDelete
  58. Oaktown,

    Sorry to hear about the Hof Brau. I never went inside, but it seemed like an Oakland landmark/institution.

    Thanks for the update on the respective communities. I'll be following the ballpark issue as it unfolds. I'm hoping it works out for the best. Though, Victory Court does have a nice ring to it.

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  59. Reds guy, do you realize that most A's fans don't even reside in the city of Oakland. We live throughout the Bay Area, mostly East and South Bay. This A's fan lives in San Jose and can't wait for Cisco Field to open in downtown San Jose.
    So respectfully, I think you're way off with your opinion. Oakland had its chance to keep the A's and blew it. San Jose will be much better for the team, and with the exception of a few rabid "Oakland-only" folk, the fanbase is excited.
    By the way, do you know the reason why the largest city in the Bay Area is currently "off limits"? Because the MLB Giants were supposed to move to San Jose. They obviously didn't move, so San Jose will be freed for the A's soon.
    Single A Giants? Are you kidding me!? San Jose is a Major League City now (more so then Oakland).

    ReplyDelete
  60. Anon,

    Yes, I do realize that, which is why I wrote the following:

    "Let's get real here, both the Giants and A's draw fans from the same exact area. The extent of the Giants' territorial rights is that the A's cannot construct a ballpark in San Jose. However, while the A's are forbidden from constructing a ballpark in San Jose, there is NOTHING to prevent the A's from drawing fans from all over the San Francisco Bay Area, just as they always have. This is a market that has long supported two MLB franchises and can continue to do so without difficulty in the future."

    I understand why, as a San Jose resident, you would want the A's to move to San Jose. Just like I understand why Oakland residents want the A's to stay. Personally, I don't think there is anything wrong with the Oakland market that can't be fixed by a new ballpark. The desire to relocate the A's is being driven by more than just baseball considerations. And, I have real problems with the way they are going about it.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete
  61. I grew up an A's fan because Giants players were always whining. A's teams, despite a lack of talent sometimes, played their hearts out. I used to love the Coliseum. Yes, the distances to the action were a drawback. But it was a flaw we learned to live with. Then the Raiders came back. Now it's just a concrete monolith with foul lines. A new/different stadium would be wonderful.
    And another thing that I got from living in the bay area was this. The Giants reside in one of the most famous cities in America. They have a reputation just from their current address. I think that plays to their favored status (in the bay area) as much as having arrived first. The A's franchise would have died in Oakland long ago, but for their storied success. A move to San Jose could give them an opportunity to develop a new reputation, and find PLENTY of corporate sponsorship. I just don't see them surviving in the bay any other way.
    Regarding your article, you may be right about Rosenthal and the A's ownership. I enjoyed reading it. But I still say the SJ A's are the way to go. Good luck to your red legs, even though you killed us in Oakland last year during interleague games.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Anon,

    Thanks for the comment. I don't agree with all of it, but it was well stated.

    Maybe you can help me understand the corporate sponsorship argument on which the pro-SJ contingent so frequently relies. Personally, it doesn't strike me as being valid. Corporate sponsors want to be associated with a first class, winning organization. To me, that is far and away the most important criteria driving the decision to invest corporate dollars.

    For example, if you look at the list of major sponsors for the Giants (Yahoo, Coca Cola, Bank of America, Visa, Chevron, Oracle) on the below link, then I don't see many that are based IN San Francisco.

    http://www.forbes.com/lists/2008/33/biz_baseball08_San-Francisco-Giants_339175.html

    It seems to me that companies are willing to "travel" a bit for their sponsorships, just so long as they are associated with a desirable product. If true, then why would the corporate dollars be there for a new ballpark in San Jose, but disappear if the new ballpark was built in Oakland? In fact, isn't the Golden State Warrior Arena the Oracle Arena? It seems like Larry Ellison has little problem funneling his corporate dollars into Oakland and the Warriors aren't remotely close to a first class, winning organization. The corporate sponsorship argument just seems inconsistent and illogical.

    To co-opt a Field of Dreams quote, "If you build it, they will come." Setting aside the current state of the economy (which is an issue wherever the park is constructed), I see no reason why corporate sponsorship dollars wouldn't flow into a new ballpark in Oakland.

    As I wrote somewhere above, I think the Oakland market would respond in a huge way to an ownership decision to reinvest in the market. If ownership committed to Oakland, then I think the fans would return that commitment. Instead, ownership has seemingly decided to reduce its investment to force its way out of town.

    I agree with you that a fresh start is needed, but, to me, a new ballpark represents a fresh start. It signals a commitment to the market where it is constructed. I just don't see an argument that convinces me that San Jose is the better option. Anyway, that's my $.02.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

    ReplyDelete