Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fear Strikes Out (Again)

Maybe Lew Wolff should become a regular on the TV show "MythBusters."

That's because Wolff has given many reasons for wanting to move the A's out of Oakland, but none of them hold up once you look at the underlying facts. Wolff keeps trotting out "reasons," but they're really just baseless myths.

Here's one of Wolff's favorites: "If we don't get a new stadium in [City X], then we'll have to move out of California."

Wolff said that repeatedly during the three years (2006-2009) when moving to Fremont was his focus. Wolff didn't get his ballpark in Fremont. And guess what? The A's still didn't move out of state. They are still playing in Oakland and Wolff hasn't even tried to make do on that passive threat to move the club out of the Bay Area.

Now, he's trying the same scare tactic in a different city. Wolff has been saying that if he can't move the A's to the South Bay then he’ll, you guessed it, have to move the team out of California. Surprisingly, some Wolff apologists are repeating that line ad nauseum, wringing their hands nervously, and telling Oakland fans that they should just go along with Wolff's scheme, or he’s going to move the team out of the Bay Area.

Forgive us if we don't believe Wolff. First of all, there's nowhere for the A's to move. This very deep economic recession has ensured that. But even in a good economy, all of the potential cities have fatal flaws that would kill any relocation attempts there. Check out the cities in question:

*Sacramento is fighting for its life just to build a new arena to keep the NBA's Kings, making a $500 million ballpark too pricey for the Central Valley city.

*Portland is undersized, too close to Seattle's market, and just lost the minor-league Portland Beavers after its own lengthy debate over a proposed new stadium deal that eventually fell through.

*Oklahoma City is the 45th biggest media market in the nation. The Bay Area is the 5th. So, let's see if Oklahoma City has enough staying power to support the NBA's Thunder through their current honeymoon period. There's already speculation that Kevin Durant might "pull a LeBron" and leave Oklahoma City for a big city team.

*Las Vegas is run by the billionaire casino owners, who don't want to forfeit the millions in annual revenue that would be lost by taking just one MLB game off the sports book board each day. (Under current law, if Las Vegas had its own baseball team, bettors would not be allowed to bet on any games in which that team played. No bets? No profit. At the end of the day, the house always wins.) With baseball's longtime (and not always successful) fight against its own gambling scandals, will any MLB Commissioner get in bed with Sin City and its mobbed-up mayor Oscar Goodman, a lawyer who defended Vegas gangsters and has plans to open a Mobster Museum near the Vegas Strip? Plus, a Las Vegas Sun article quoted Goodman as saying that an American League team recently told him that the Vegas market "is not big enough, our media market is not big enough and our economy is in such a state that they're not interested in considering us at this time."

*San Antonio is too close to Houston's Astros and the Rangers in the Dallas/Arlington area to add a third Texas team. Also, San Antonio's hot climate (along with Las Vegas' and Oklahoma City's) would make a retractable roof almost a necessity, adding at least another $100 million to construction costs.

Yet, with zero places to move, Wolff still has threatened to move the A's out of state if he doesn't get his way. He's just playing the fear-mongering game that most owners play when they want a new stadium. Or as Ray Ratto wrote about Wolff in 2008: "And to alienate the fan base with a threat that he cannot carry out for the foreseeable future is just plain daft."

The Bay Area today is the 5th biggest media market in the country and one of the wealthiest. It's predicted to get even better. Surveys have shown that in just 15 years, the Bay Area will leapfrog Philadelphia and Chicago in terms of population. So by the year 2025, the Bay Area will trail just New York and Los Angeles in terms of media market size.

After 43 seasons of Oakland and San Francisco sharing the Bay Area's baseball market, why would MLB leave this populous, thriving market just when it’s about to get even better? That doesn't make any sense. There’s another hint that the threat of making this area a one-team market isn’t true and is just a baseless threat. The hint? Lew Wolff suggested it. And when Wolff says something, it almost always isn’t true.

At best, Wolff is just offering another myth that can be easily busted.


V Smoothe said...

FYI, the Rangers manage to play in a hot climate without a retractable roof.

Baseball Oakland said...

Thanks for the comment, V. You're right about the Rangers. At the same time, the Rangers' ballpark was built 16 years ago, one of the first "retro" ballparks to follow Camden Yards. A new Texas ballpark for baseball almost surely would follow the trend of newer Texas stadiums (for both baseball and football) that were recently built, each of which has a retractable roof — Minute Maid Park in Houston in 2000; Reliant Stadium in Houston in 2002; and Cowboys Stadium in Arlington in 2009.

V Smoothe said...

I have never been to Reliant Stadium. I enjoyed Minute Maid Park (which I always still call Enron Field) okay the few times I have gone, but it does seem to lack a certain charm. Not that charm is most important thing in a baseball stadium or anything or has anything to do with rectractable roofs, it's just that there's nothing particularly special about that stadium. I don't ever look forward to going there.

I have always enjoyed seeing Rangers games, however. Even when it is miserably hot outside. I never thought the fact that it was outdoors hurt the experience. More excuse for cold beverages, right? Plus, it cools down enough at night to be tolerable most of the time. I would image Vegas gets pretty cool at night, right?

I could see baseball in San Antonio before I could see it in Las Vegas, I think. People tend to forget about it, but it is the seventh biggest City in the US. And when you look at San Antonio and Austin together, that's more people than in Dallas and Fort Worth combined.

Troy said...

Can you show me these quotes by Wolff?

Baseball Oakland said...

Thanks for your post. Yes, we can show you quotes where Wolff is threatening to move the A's out of California. Here's the quote and the link (which can also is found in the blog text above).

Quote: "We're trying to figure out if we can," he said, when asked about getting a BART extension for the proposed Fremont ballpark. "If we can, we will. If we can't, we won't. Of course, then, we wouldn't be in California any more, either."

Link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/21/SPF8132046.DTL

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