Saturday, August 3, 2013

Downtown Oakland's Business Scene Getting Better and Better

Downtown Oakland keeps growing and thriving, and the tech industry is starting to take notice, adding hundreds of jobs soon to The Town.

The Oakland Tribune's George Avalos reports that two small tech companies, and Vigilent, are moving into one of Oakland's most beautiful buildings, the iconic I. Magnin building next to the Paramount Theater. The companies are bringing a combined 100 jobs with them to the building, which is an Art Deco gem.

The I. Magnin building recently was bought for $9.8 million by Tom Henderson, an entrepreneur who also bought the Tribune Tower building. Henderson is going to operate a call center out of the I. Magnin, which will bring 500 additional jobs to downtown Oakland.  Here's what Henderson said about the deal:

"Oakland is a great city, in a great location, and there are a lot of opportunities here. We want to bring a lot of new jobs to Oakland."

Vigilent vice president Christopher Kryzan noted that Oakland's central location is a huge plus and its business scene has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, adding:

"Oakland is a vibrant, changing city. Access to BART and other public transit is very important to us."

That's the thing about Oakland. A decade ago, its economy was stronger than people gave it credit for. Now, after Jerry Brown's 10K program and the Fox Theater renovation helped spur the city's restaurant and entertainment renaissance, downtown Oakland has gotten even financially stronger.

There are big tech companies such as Pandora (not to mention Pixar just down the road in Emeryville). There also are solar giants such as Sungevity. Lastly, there are more people living and working in downtown Oakland and more companies and businesses there now than at any time in Oakland A's history. In short, all the elements are here to support a new A's ballpark along the Jack London Square waterfront, which is just a short walk from downtown Oakland.

Or, as Oakland entrepreneur Chris Pastena told the Tribune:

"People get it about Oakland, they have a passion about Oakland. They see they can have a great lifestyle in Oakland. So people are taking a risk on that growth in the downtown and in Oakland because of that passion."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summary of Knauss/Townsend Interview 95.7FM

Clorox CEO Don Knauss was a guest on Chris Townsend’s radio show on Tuesday.  He spoke optimistically of the possibility of building a ballpark for the A’s at Howard Terminal.  It’s been about 8 years since anyone connected with the A’s has taken a serious look at the Jack London Square area and conditions have changed drastically since then.  
Knauss made several important points about Howard Terminal:  
(1) In 2005, the Port of Oakland needed the Howard Terminal area for its operations.  Today, however, the Port is operating at less than 50% capacity, and its business would not be hurt by giving up the space for a ballpark.   
(2)  The pollution problem has been shown to be much less pervasive than previously thought and would not require an extraordinary expenditure of funds for remediation.   
(3)  A tremendous amount of money has been invested in the JLS area in the last few years.  Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that JLS has blossomed into a thriving restaurant and entertainment venue. 
Townsend pressed Knauss about why Knauss’ group hasn’t made an offer to buy the A’s.  (He has said in the past that there is a group in Oakland that is interested in buying the A’s; unfortunately, Lew Wolff and John Fisher have shown no inclination to sell.)  Knauss said he felt it’s important to respect MLB’s protocol in that regard and to first try to work with current ownership on plans for a new ballpark, although he acknowledged that “getting the team to the table has been a struggle.”  When asked whether Clorox would want to buy naming rights to a new stadium, Knauss responded with positive enthusiasm.
Townsend also mentioned that a vote that will be necessary before any public funds can be spent on a ballpark in San Jose.  He asked Knauss if he believed Oakland voters would approve such spending.  Knauss replied that Oakland and Alameda County have some funds set aside for this project, and, most important, no public vote will be required for those funds to be utilized.
Knauss said he expects that within a few weeks a lease extension for the A’s at the Coliseum will be completed and the Howard Terminal site will be presented to Major League Baseball as a viable option for a new stadium.  With a solid alternative in hand, perhaps Bud Selig can convince his old fraternity brother either to work with Oakland or to sell the team to Knauss’ group.  In either case, the perils of litigation with San Jose would be avoided.  
We couldn’t agree more with Don Knauss: The A’s deserve a world-class ballpark and Oakland deserves to keep the A’s!!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Make the Oakland Fan Pledge

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, maybe it also takes a village to save a team we all love. Which is a big reason why we're proud to give our support to Oakland Fan Pledge, a brand new A's fan group and website. [You can find it online at: Their Facebook page is:]

Oakland Fan Pledge, as its name suggests, is asking A's fans to pledge they will buy season tickets for a new A's baseball-only ballpark in Oakland. The group was founded by John Hansen and John Jackson, two die-hard A's fans who say they've been good friends for decades, ever since they met in Oakland as classmates while attending elementary school near Lake Merritt. 

In just a handful of weeks, OFP has received nearly 1,300 pledges, totaling more than $3 million in potential sales (at last count). If you haven't yet, we urge all A's fans to make a pledge and be part of a rising wave of Oakland baseball fans fighting to keep the A's in Oakland.

As Hansen and Jackson wrote on the OFP website:

"We started this website because we wanted to give an outlet to frustrated A's fans who want to have their voice heard in support of the A's ... A's fans are also angry that current owners tell local fans the team has no future in the East Bay ..."

Keep up the great work, John and John. We're confident that this 18-year saga one day will end happily for Oakland and the Athletics. And we look forward to that day when all A's fans can celebrate the A's future in Oakland at a new ballpark on the Oakland waterfront. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Interview with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Part I

A few weeks ago, Mayor Jean Quan sat down with members of Baseball Oakland and A's Fan Radio to answer some questions about the city we love and the future of its sports teams. 

We thank the Mayor for giving us her time. Below is Part One of a two-part interview with Mayor Quan. We hope you like it. 

Question: A truly diverse city has many fabrics: the business community, music, the arts, sports. Oakland is blessed to have all of that and more. How does sports fit into the fabric of Oakland and why is it important for the city?

Mayor Quan: Well, Oakland has been the home to a lot of sports greats. Bill Russell was here just the other day, with the Warriors, for example. The sports tradition in Oakland has been amazing. So you have greats like Rickey Henderson and Bill Russell -- God, there’s so many of them. Curt Flood did so much to change baseball forever, in terms of the free agency clause. You have had some diverse openly gay baseball players who are from Oakland or Berkeley (Ed. Note:. That’s a reference to Glenn Burke, a Berkeley High School star who played Major League Baseball for the Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Dodgers). You have watched Leon Powe, who was an Oakland Tech kid, go to the NBA and enjoy success. And many young women from Mack (McClymonds High) have gone on to other levels of women’s basketball. It’s been generation after generation of sports greats, and Oakland is proud of that tradition. Sports is part of our past. It’s also part of our future.

Oakland is the heart of the East Bay. Becoming mayor and going to a lot more games and meeting fans like you who are so enthusiastic, you really realize that it’s a network that goes far out into the Central Valley, into Sacramento, up to all of Northern California, and they come to Oakland and Oakland becomes like their second home. And I think, more and more, that’s happening to the city, because of our great restaurants, our music festivals. A lot of former residents live on the edge of Oakland but they come home, literally, all the time for music and sports events. It’s a huge part of our economy. Oakland has been economically on the rise. That’s allowed me to hire more cops and to do more improvements in the city. A lot of that is because of the tourism to Oakland, and sports is a huge part of that. What really brought that home to me was the last game of the season last year for the A’s. Some of the naysayers have been saying that Oakland didn’t care, but we did our Sports Week (in October) without a lot of fanfare and so many of you guys showed up. Thousands of merchants put out the (Oakland sports) signs, similar to what we’re trying to do this week. But people were coming to the games. I read in the sports page that we increased the value of the A’s dramatically because of how much attendance went up. Really, I think anyone in baseball who watched what happened that last night (ALDS Game 5) had to have been impressed, where people just stayed for what felt like 15 to 20 minutes to me. They just stayed. The poor Detroit Tigers, nobody was even paying attention to them, nobody could hear what was happening. The fans stood and cheered until the A’s came back out. I think it was one of the most moving events in baseball last year. It totally proves how much Oakland, the East Bay and A’s fans care. So, there’s really no excuses not to stay. We have two prime sites that most teams would die for, and you’ve got the fan base here. All we need now is an ownership group that will step up and work with us on building a new stadium.  

Question: Why do you think Oakland has been recession-proof when it came to
restaurants/bars/cafes even after the economic collapse of 2008, and why does that success continue today?

Mayor Quan: Yes, the restaurant and entertainment industry has gone very strongly because Oakland is a place where the arts are happening, and where new restaurants are happening. But the overall recession hit us pretty hard. Jobs and our property tax values went down.

But what’s happening now is that everything is on the upswing. For instance, in terms of selling homes, for several weeks last year, Oakland was the fastest turnaround market in the country. That is, houses listed for sale were for sale for less than 14 days and owners were getting multiple offers. So, finally, the real estate sector got stronger, but we’re not quite caught up (to pre-recession levels). But what has taken off is the combination of the arts and the other entertainment venues, which includes sports. Obviously, it would be a lot more if we had a downtown baseball stadium, the impact on the local economy would go up even farther.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian last year had a cover that asked, “Is Oakland cooler than San Francisco?” And they said, “yes,” and the reason why is because San Francisco has priced working-class families out of the city and has priced artists out of the city. Whereas Oakland is pretty much – in our government we’ve tried to have a balance of housing. We have housing for low-income, working-class, middle-class and high-end people.  We actually like that diversity. It’s why so many artists and immigrants live in this city. So, it’s affordable for immigrants. We’ve become the most diverse city in the country. We and Long Beach are head-to-head to be the most diverse. We’re a city that speaks 120 languages. For the restaurateurs, many of them also have restaurants in San Francisco. What many of them say they like about Oakland is that, first of all, it costs them half as much to open a restaurant here than in San Francisco. Also, their workers live nearby instead of living in Oakland and having to go to San Francisco, and that there is a very sophisticated and very diverse audience for your restaurant. Some restaurants in San Francisco are high-end, but they are just for tourists. Whereas here in Oakland, they can appeal to an audience that likes more authentic food, so if you’re having a Cambodian or Lao or Mexican restaurant, it’s a much more authentic meal. It’s not made for a tourist from the Midwest who is staying in San Francisco for a convention. It’s made for people who may actually be from those countries and for people who are pretty sophisticated in their eating, who travel a lot. So, that combination makes, I think, Oakland’s restaurants some of the best, and cheaper than San Francisco’s.        

Question: In envisioning Oakland's future, what are the top two or three things
that most excite you about the city's potential?

Mayor Quan: I think this is Oakland’s time. We’ve been overlooked. And we have this amazing array of neighborhoods and open spaces. Let’s take the Coliseum for example … No one is ever going to build – at least not here on the West Coast, where land is so precious – stadiums that are just stadiums anymore. They’re going to be total destinations. And so, what was bad in the past is good for the future. We have a lot of acres out at the Coliseum, so we see there’s going to be housing, there’s going to be retail – though some people argue about what kind of retail and they’re worried they will compete with other areas for retail. But, I actually think there’s a lot of room for everyone to grow. I think, because the airport connector will be open there, there’s a lot of interest in maybe doing a hotel there.

I’m hopeful that some of the new sports facilities can double for convention activities – not like the downtown convention center, but, you know, for the big shows, the really big concerts. Therefore, you can build a really great stadium without the public having to spend its dollars because the concerts and the other kind of convention-type activities will actually bring more business than the original sports. I was in Dallas and I looked at the Cowboys stadium and they were basically saying they make much more money off the non-Cowboys events, that it’s become a center for a lot of activities in Texas.

Question: Oakland sports fans are a little frustrated at having to deal with the uncertainty of maybe or maybe not having a team to root for 5 or 10 years from now. What can you tell them to reassure Oakland residents and the city's fans regarding what your office is doing to retain the sports teams?

Mayor Quan: Well, you've already heard my metaphor. I feel like I came into the game as a pinch-hitter in the 9th inning. Maybe now, a baseball park at Howard Terminal will be much more beautiful than where Forest City is now (in Uptown), so maybe some things turned out right. Nobody predicted the Warriors were going to take off so early, I thought I had a little more time to work with them. That’s a hard site (that the Warriors are trying to build on in San Francisco), so I’m hopeful that they will come back. I feel like the Raiders want to stay and that we’ve been negotiating in good faith. They put some money into the exploration that we have to do to move forward. I feel like there is a lot of interest by foreign investors, in particular, in either stadium, the use of EB-5s, to help with the infrastructure of the stadiums. I think we have people interested in investing if we can just get people to agree on a location and a design. I can’t get people to invest unless they have a clear business plan and a clear schedule to pay them back.

I’ve done everything I could – from even a few months before I became mayor -- to try to catch us up. I think we’re relatively caught up. At least we will be by the end of this year. We’ll have two sites that are pretty well vetted for any kind of team – one at the Coliseum and one at Howard Terminal. So, I think we’re relatively caught up with anybody by the end of the year. When we’ve done our due diligence and our EIRs, we’ll see that the Coliseum is ready for development. It’s a question of what and who – whether we’ll have a one-team, two-team or three-team scenario there. 

And I think, by the end of the year, the fate of Howard Terminal will be very clear. And I’m confident that if baseball wants to be there, that we can make a deal for baseball to be at Howard Terminal. That would be great for downtown. That would be great for Jack London Square. There is huge business enthusiasm from companies that have stepped up for that scenario. 

I think things are looking good. It’s taken a while. Like a lot of things that you’re trying to change in a city, it takes a little bit to catch up and get prepared. But I think we are where we need to be right now.           

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Three Baseball Oakland events during Opening Week in April -- and you're all invited

Ever since the 2012 season ended on that cold October night at the Coliseum, we know you marked Opening Night -- April 1, 2013 -- on your calendar. You can't wait for Oakland A's baseball to start up again, and neither can we.

Which is why we've planned a week-long slate of A's baseball festivities, to celebrate the world's best game in the great city of Oakland. Here's the lineup:

MONDAY, APRIL 1 -- Opening Night Tailgate
1 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
Oakland Coliseum Parking Lot

FRIDAY, APRIL 5 --  Friday Night Road Game TV "Tailgate"
5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Caña (Cuban Bar & Restaurant), at 530 Lake Park Ave. in Oakland
Watch A's vs. Astros on TV with Baseball Oakland and friends, as we enjoy great Cuban-flavored food and drinks. (Word on the street is that Caña is Yoenis Cespedes' favorite Oakland hangout.)

SUNDAY, APRIL 7 -- Watch the A's on the Big Screen at The New Parkway 
11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at The New Parkway Theater, at 474 24th Street in Oakland
"Moneyball" isn't the only chance you have to watch the A's on the silver screen.
Watch A's vs. Astros on a big movie screen at The New Parkway, which is also a restaurant that serves food and drinks (yes, they have beer) in the theater while you watch the game.

All A's fans are invited to all of these festivities. See you there!

Let's go Oak-land!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lawsuit threats, leaked stories no way to sell A's tickets

Opening Day, that grand old baseball tradition, is coming to the Oakland Coliseum in less than a month, and we couldn't be happier. Unfortunately, another A's tradition is arriving soon; one that started under the Lew Wolff/John Fisher regime: Wolff whining about not getting his move to San Jose. He usually follows it with complaints about attendance and the stadium, followed by yet another threat to move the team. That has always baffled us. Does Wolff really think an off-season of threatening to kick loyal fans in the gut is the best marketing strategy? After nearly a decade of employing that failed method, how's it working out for Wolff and the A's?

The A's stadium issue came to a head (again) over the weekend, when the Mercury News' Mark Purdy wrote a column featuring San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo. The councilman threatened to sue the Giants over the Santa Clara County territorial rights that MLB says the Giants own. Liccardo was playing bad cop. That hostile threat was followed by Wolff playing good cop, as he clarified where he stood -- kind of -- by releasing a statement:

"We are a part of the MLB partnership and will continue to respect the Constitution and agreements that govern our participation in MLB. We seek our needed new venue based solely on the merits of the move and the benefits to MLB, the A's and our fans and sponsors."

So, Wolff's statement -- we are left to guess -- was intended to let Selig and fellow MLB owners know that he has no intention of encouraging a city of San Jose lawsuit against the Giants or MLB. We think that's what he meant, anyway. Because he had an opportunity to explicitly say, "Sam Liccardo. Bad. Lawsuit. Really bad." But Wolff didn't explicity say that. Instead, he chose to keep it vague, letting the implied threat hang in the air -- which couldn't have played well in the Commissioner's office. The whole Liccardo/Wolff dance is probably the second worst version of Good Cop/Bad Cop we've ever seen.

Ray Ratto, the CSN Bay Area sportswriter, covered this issue with a column Monday. Ratto made special note of Wolff's and Fisher's incompetent handling of their attempts to move:

"They have hitched their wagon to the laughable strategy of letting commissioner Bud Selig do the heavy lifting, which he doesn’t want to do while he is still in the corner office. They have convinced themselves that a verbal endorsement from Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is worth the carbon dioxide with which it was expelled. And they sit and wait for someone to bail them out of their predicament while making a revenue-sharing profit every year with a debt-free operation."

Meanwhile, A's fans are made to suffer, unnecessarily. After all, this is March, right in the thick of the blind optimism of Spring Training. On Twitter, we've seen tons of A's fans excitedly say they can't wait for their A's season tickets to arrive in the mail. This should be the time that Wolff and the A's are cashing in on that hopeful enthusiasm, turning optimism into profits by selling hope in the form of A's game tickets. Instead, Wolff is selling the same tired whine about his stadium pipe dream. There is no doubt that Wolff's constantly negative media drumbeat is depressing A's attendance in Oakland at a time when it otherwise would be easy to boost it.

Maybe someone should file a lawsuit about that.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

On Tarps and Other Bad Ideas

The Oakland Raiders' announcement Wednesday that they are planning to tarp off Mt. Davis and a few other sections -- reducing capacity by more than 10,000 seats -- was a shocker. When A's owner Lew Wolff did the same thing after the 2005 season, A's fans instantly ripped the idea and, if anything, that criticism has only intensified in the intervening years. It's as if the Raiders' front office saw what Wolff did and surmised: "It's a terrible idea that will anger the fan base, polarize opinion about our fiscal competence, unleash suspicion about our future plans and suppress attendance, so ... let's do it!!"

Gallows humor aside, what are the Raiders doing here? Actually, check that. The first question is, what is Baseball Oakland doing here, mining the unfamiliar (for us) terrain of the business of NFL football? Good question, because since we formed this group we have intentionally stayed away from this topic. See, half the founding members of BBO are die-hard Raiders fans. The other half are not. So, we have decided to focus on the topic that unites our group -- keeping the A's in Oakland. But, the Raiders' tarp announcement is something we must address. It's a complex issue, and the Raiders' intentions are not exactly clear. Speaking on behalf of the Raider die-hards in our group, it appears the differing options the Raiders are exploring here can be summed up as:

1. BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Amy Trask is being honest, and the Raiders are just making a shrewd decision to ensure that they sell out games and keep home games on TV. The Raiders sincerely want to stay in Oakland and this announcement is an equally sincere effort to sell out the Coliseum consistently in a 2013 season when the team is not expected to win many games. Not to be overlooked is the fact that they are lowering ticket prices, which is a good sign that the team understands how frustrated Raiders fans are after 10 consecutive non-winning seasons with zero playoff appearances. 

2. SECOND-BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Amy Trask is being honest. But by imitating Lew Wolff's tarp idea, the team is making a well-intentioned yet bad decision that will hinder ticket sales.  

3. SUSPICIOUS BUT CUP-HALF-FULL SCENARIO: The Raiders are not happy with stadium progress and this is a shot across the bow to let Oakland know that they want to get more serious about building a new stadium at the Coliseum complex at 66th Ave. & Hegenberger. There are lots of reasons for Oakland boosters to have hope but the clock is ticking.

4. WORST-CASE SCENARIO: The Raiders want to move from Oakland and, just like Lew Wolff and John Fisher did before the 2006 season, this new tarp announcement is just a craven, cynical attempt to depress attendance, stigmatize the stadium experience and justify a move to NFL brass and local and national media. (You know, the ol': "See, we have to move, look at those tarps. They're Exhibit A of the problems we're facing in this market.")

What's the reality? If we had to guess (and it's definitely a guess), we would say reality is closest to Scenario No. 3, but truthfully we really don't know. The Raiders' tarp announcement probably might indeed be a well-intentioned but serious error in judgement, much like drafting JaMarcus Russell.  

But wait, some of you are bound to ask, why are you giving the Raiders the benefit of the doubt but not Wolff/Fisher and the A's? Well, there are many good and compelling reasons for the difference in reaction.

That is because Amy Trask and Mark Davis are saying (and frequently say) they want to stay in Oakland and that they like the site where the Raiders currently play. Wolff, by comparison, has almost always said the opposite, going out of his way to insult A's fans, the city of Oakland and its market viability while using weak justifications that are so easily disproved that, frankly, they insult our intelligence. Also, the Raiders are lowering their ticket prices while adding the tarps, which is a sign they might be sincere about getting as many game sell outs as possible at the Coliseum. In contrast, Wolff RAISED ticket prices in 2006, when he added tarps to the Coliseum. Also, Wolff has covered third-deck seats that had good field visibility, while leaving upper-level bleacher seats open, even though they have obstructed views. Each of those non-fan-friendly moves have only created more suspicion about Wolff's intentions.

Though Al Davis generated his fair share of negativity, he also frequently praised Oakland fans, speaking glowingly of "The roar of the Oakland Coliseum" and how it sent chills down his spine during the team's glory years, when the team had 13 years of consecutive sellout Coliseum crowds. He also won championships and did much to get the Coliseum built and put Oakland on the nation's pop culture map. Did Davis also waste a lot of the goodwill he amassed in Oakland by suing the city and county and by his increasingly erratic behavior at near-annual press conferences? Yes, that's painfully true. But at least he built up that social capital for him to spend. In short, despite his flaws, Davis gave at least a little something on which fans could hang their hats. By comparison, Wolff came to town and immediately tried to destroy the bond between the team and the city. And, like his ownership's negative effect on A's attendance, it's been downhill from there.

As long as the Raiders and Oakland officials keep trying to work together, we'll keep giving them the benefit of the doubt. With Wolff and Fisher, they never really tried, did they? Someone should make a meme about that.

To be clear, we're not saying the Raiders have been perfect. Their 10-year playoff drought led to a drop off in attendance last year when the season went bad fast and early. In the previous two seasons, Raiders attendance actually was great; the Coliseum was sold out for nearly every game and on TV in 2010-11, based on just a hint of a rumor of making the playoffs. The last time the Raiders made the playoff was 2002. Given how poorly the Raiders were received in L.A. once the novelty wore off by the mid-'80s (there's a reason why Davis tried to move back to Oakland as early as 1989), and given the generous loyalty shown by Oakland fans the past 10 years despite many below-average football seasons, we're flabbergasted that another move is even being considered.   

At the end of the day, you are reading Baseball Oakland, and we'll continue to focus on just that -- baseball in Oakland.

But before we leave the topic of the Raiders, we ask you to consider: We've had major uncertainty over the A's home situation for nearly 18 years. The Raiders have been hinting of moving their team (whether in Oakland or L.A.) since 1979 -- that's 34 long years. We Oakland fans should be weary and discouraged by this kind of shabby treatment from our owners. But we're not. On the contrary, we are energized and fired up to keep fighting -- in ways big and small -- to keep our teams in this great, underrated gem of a city. We're not predicting victory -- that would be foolhardy -- but we are promising to continue to fight back for this city we love. In spite of all the insults hurled at it, Oakland indeed does have the fans and corporate support and all the other essential factors needed to remain a viable pro sports market. Oakland also has an abundance of things most cities would love to have; the things you can't buy or measure. Oakland is a great city teeming with soul and with a heart as big as Bill King's vocabulary.

And those are things you can't cover with a tarp.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Oakland has outperformed S.F. when owners, parks were equal

A's attendance at the Coliseum is much stronger and more positive than the common perception. Yes, we want the A's to get a new ballpark and there have been ups and downs over the decades for the A's, just like the vast majority of MLB franchises. But if your argument is the A's must leave Oakland because attendance is not ideal right now, then you would be moving about 2/3 of MLB teams at various times in their history.

Even the Giants, who are riding high right now? ... you might ask. Our answer: ESPECIALLY the Giants. That's because when the A's and Giants shared the Bay Area market from 1968-99 and enjoyed mostly equal footing with their respective owners and stadiums, Oakland clearly outperformed San Francisco at the box office. In fact, from '68 to '92, it wasn't even close, as the A's outdrew the Giants in 17 out of 25 seasons (17 to 8).  

Why do we care?

It's important to note that anyone criticizing Oakland for its attendance history is not accurate. They are distorting the statistics by looking at A's attendance in an extremely (and perhaps intentional) narrow vacuum. No, the more accurate answer is found by studying the issue in its proper context -- that is, the history of Oakland AND San Francisco attendance when nearly all things were equal between the two teams' ownership groups and their once-similar multipurpose stadiums while sharing the same market. In other words, the 1968-99 era.    

We first looked at this issue with a blog entry last September. Here's a second look at the key stats:  

The Giants' attendance from 1968 to 1999 was remarkably awful. For single seasons, the Giants:
  • Drew more than 2 million fans only three times.
  • Drew above the National League average only once.
  • Drew above the National League median only twice.
  • Never drew better than 4th among National League teams, and they did that only once.
  • Finished in the bottom third among National League teams in 23 of 32 seasons.
  • Finished at least third-to-last among National League teams in 15 of 32 seasons.
By comparison, from 1968 to 1999, the A's:
  • Drew more than 2 million fans six times. (Twice as many times as the Giants)
  • Drew above the American League average six times (Much better than what the Giants did in the National League)
  • Drew above the American League median at least seven times. (NOTE: You could argue it occurred nine times, but in two seasons, they're just slightly above the borderline, so to be generous, we'll toss those seasons out. Seven times is still way more than what the Giants achieved in the National League.) 
  • Outdrew the Giants 17-15 in those 32 seasons, and outdrew the Giants 17-8 in the first 25 seasons they shared this market.
  • Drew 2.9 million fans in 1990, setting a Bay Area single-season attendance record that held for a decade. The New York Yankees did not reach that milestone until 1998, eight years AFTER Oakland accomplished this.
The point is, if the Giants can go from being one of the worst MLB franchises in attendance to one of the best -- almost overnight -- then so can the A's in Oakland. After all, the Giants' attendance was mostly awful for more than 30 years in San Francisco, until they moved to their new ballpark in 2000. Yet, the Giants owners took a leap of faith that paid off beautifully for them. 

Given the statistics noted above, the same thing could easily happen for the A's in Oakland. That marriage between pro baseball teams and the city of Oakland should be celebrated, not discarded like a pair of old Herb Washington cleats. Oakland's baseball tradition goes way back to the late 19th Century (the Wide Awakes, and the Colonels) and through the early 20th Century (the Oaks, and the Larks) to the Oakland Athletics of the last four-plus decades. 

In short, in a sport that thrives on tradition and nostalgia, there is absolutely no reason to throw away 45 sensational years of great tradition and green-and-gold flavored nostalgia of A's baseball in Oakland. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reality Checks Pile Up for Wolff's Stadium Pipe Dream

Hey, remember that recent report that featured an angry Lew Wolff complaining about how slow the three-person committee is moving? Wait, sorry, that was a TWO-YEAR-OLD Bloomberg News article. In that piece from March 1, 2011, Wolff ranted:

"It's so ridiculous to me ... They've had time enough to explore anything. We're getting close to the point Bud is going to make a decision."

Just about two years later, still no decision.  

Maybe we confused that with the article on how the next MLB owners meeting might have the A's stadium issue on the agenda? Oops. That article wasn't this year, that was last year, in early 2012. (And, nearly a year later, there's no decision.)

Maybe it was that recent Mark Purdy column in which he didn't quote Wolff directly but said that "there is word that Wolff and his ownership partners are getting antsier" about the long wait for a ruling on territorial rights. Wait, sorry again, that wasn't recent. That column was written THREE YEARS AGO, on Jan. 28, 2010. 

Surely you remember that Tweet by Bob Nightengale, USA Today's national baseball writer:  

"All signs and top #MLB sources say that the #Athletics will be granted permission by Feb to move to San Jose."

My bad, that wasn't so recent either. Nightengale wrote that 13 months ago, on Christmas Eve, 2011. His prediction, of course, never came true. 

Why? Because when it comes to the A's moving out of town, these rumors NEVER come true. For nearly four years now, in fact, there have been endless rumors and news reports of an "imminent decision" about the A's from MLB. Nearly four years later, obviously, there's still no decision. Which appears to be THE decision.  

That's the cold reality. The vast majority of A's fans want the the team to stay in Oakland. Yet, we A's fans get lectured a lot about the need to be "realistic." Well, here's the reality: We're just weeks away from one of the most ignominious milestones in Bay Area sports history -- the 4th anniversary of MLB's three-person committee on what to do with Lew Wolff's & John Fisher's A's. 

What's the delay? 

Wolff and Fisher want something (the South Bay territorial rights) that does not belong to them and never will be for sale. After four long years, that's been made abundantly clear. So, we must ask: When are Wolff and Fisher going to start being realistic? When that day comes they will realize, finally, that their plans to move the A's are little more than a pipe dream and they are holding the franchise hostage while they live in denial about it. 

In the meantime, Wolff and Fisher cling tightly to the franchise, making a big annual profit by dealing endlessly with rumors but not reality. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wolff still 'the most hated' Bay Area sports owner

Last May, the San Francisco Chronicle's Al Saracevic famously wrote that "Lew Wolff is the most hated man in Oakland."

Harsh words. But as it turned out, Saracevic may have been optimistic. About six months later, ESPN the Magazine published their sports franchise rankings and it wasn't pretty, as it pertains to Wolff and other A's owners. ESPN listed the Oakland A's as the 98th best franchise, but that score would have been better if A's owners hadn't dragged down the final score with their lousy ranking.

Where did the national publication rank Wolff and co-owner John Fisher? 121st. Yes, that's 121st out of 122 teams. Only the Maloof brothers, then-owners of the Sacramento Kings, fared worse. ESPN ranked Wolff as "... the second-most loathed owner" among all sports team owners in the U.S. and Canada. Then the magazine described Bay Area baseball buffs as "a fan base that can't stand him."

Other national publications have taken notice. The New York Times' reporter Ken Belson last spring wrote the following about Wolff:

"The strategy has led fans to accuse Wolff of trashing the current A’s to prove that operating in Oakland is untenable. Fans resent that Wolff has put tarps over the upper deck — even during the 2006 playoffs — and shuttered concession stands. Handmade signs that say 'Slumdog Billionaire' and 'Don’t Take Our A’s Away' now show up in the stands."

 The same New York Times article noted the cause and effect between Wolff and Fisher becoming owners in 2005 and the instantly negative effect their ownership has had on attendance:

"For much of the 1980s and early 1990s, the A’s routinely outdrew the Giants; as recently as 2005, the A’s drew more than 2.1 million fans. The next year, Wolff and the Fisher family took over the team, and attendance has fallen ever since ..."

Or, as Saracevic wrote about Wolff and his mismanagement of the A's stadium situation:

"This is no way to run a ballclub, folks. ... Find a way to get a beautiful new stadium built in Oakland. If you can't do that, sell it to someone who will."