Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gammon: Wolff & Fisher Gave $25K to Perata Campaign

Robert Gammon of the East Bay Express reported Monday that Lew Wolff and John Fisher have given a combined $25,000 to a political committee that's supporting Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata.

Why is this important? We'll let Gammon explain:

The move is unusual because Oakland sports team owners don't typically attempt to sway city elections and because Wolff is known for being frugal with his money. The large donations also came after recent statements made by Perata that stopping the A's move to the South Bay will not be a priority if he becomes mayor.

So, as Gammon notes, Wolff and Fisher, who are trying to move the A's out of Oakland and into the South Bay, now are trying to affect who will be Oakland's next mayor. And the one Oakland candidate they are giving money to — Perata — is the one who has been the most ambivalent or outright negative about keeping the A's in town. Hmmm. It's also interesting to note that Fisher and his family have been staunch Republicans and Perata is a longtime Democrat and once one of the most powerful Democrats in California. So, why would Fisher and Wolff donate to the political committee that's backing Perata?

Gammon asked Wolff that question:

In an interview, Wolff denied that Perata's stance on the A's had anything to do with his $10,000 donation, saying he's supporting the ex-senator because he thinks he's the best mayoral candidate. Fisher donated $15,000. "I've known him for years," Wolff said of Perata, "and I respect him." Wolff also said he hasn't been paying attention to what Perata has been saying on the campaign trail.

Oakland Tribune columnist Dave Newhouse said it's unprecedented for an Oakland sports team owner donating these sums of money for the Oakland mayor’s race. Gammon wrote:

"I've been in Oakland since 1964, and I’ve never heard of anything like this," Newhouse said in an interview after being told of what Wolff had done. Newhouse also said that Perata's disinterest in keeping the A's in Oakland "makes more sense" in light of Wolff's attempt to get the ex-senator elected.

City councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Jean Quan are the two candidates who have the best chance to beat Perata. Kaplan and Quan also strongly favor keeping the A's in Oakland. Perata, meanwhile, seemed resigned to losing the A's in a recent interview, according to Newhouse. So, Wolff and Fisher are backing Perata.

Or as Gammon wrote in the East Bay Express article:

... it seems unlikely that Wolff and Fisher would support a candidate who would try to stop their San Jose plans.

The hypocrisy of Wolff and Fisher has become obvious. While they have ignored Oakland residents, A's fans, and the ballpark efforts of Oakland officials, Wolff and Fisher have thrown their money into the Oakland mayor's race, and not to help Oakland, but specifically to meddle with Oakland just to serve their own interests in another city. Wolff and Fisher do not have Oakland's best interests at heart; in fact, they want to take jobs and redevelopment opportunities away from Oakland. The truth is Wolff and Fisher have other priorities than to meddle with Oakland's mayoral race, such as the cash-strapped agency they've partnered with or valuable members of the A's coaching staff leaving the organization.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Market the A's Better, Part IV

We love our Oakland A's, obviously. But we're not so crazy about how A's owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher market the team. Or, in their case, fail to market the team.

Which is why we started our ongoing series: How to Market the A's Better to Oakland and the Bay Area. Part One can be found by clicking here. Part Two is here. Part Three is here. To fill the gaping hole in the front office's marketing efforts, here are more ideas:

Bring back Fan Fest: Tens of thousands of A's tickets were sold at Fan Fest each year. So why did Wolff cancel it permanently in 2009? It doesn't make any sense. Held in late January each year, it drew about 20,000 fans each time, firing up fans and reminding them that the new season was right around the corner.

Expand the Junior A's Little League program: Does it even exist anymore? It probably does. Yet, I almost never see it advertised. In the East Bay on weekends, I often see children from the Junior Giants program — decked out in their mini Giants uniforms. It's smart marketing/advertising — nothing melts an old baseball fan's heart more than seeing kids love the game of baseball. Plus a potential ticket buyer is seeing the Giants logo on the kids' uniforms. In the meantime, where are the A's and the Junior A's program? It's lackluster, like everything else the A's do around their marketing.

Get a local non-cable channel to televise games: When the A's signed an exclusive TV contract with Comcast, they eliminated a large chunk of their viewing audience who have another cable provider, like Direct TV or Dish or no cable at all.

Send the Holiday Caravan to your team's hometown: Last year, Matier and Ross reported that the annual A's Holiday Caravan made seven appearances, with three of them being in San Jose and NONE in the team's hometown in Oakland. Way to be in the holiday spirit. Also, is that really any way to sell tickets?

Bring back A's Dugout stores: During the Haas years, the A's had an A's Dugout store in downtown Oakland. Steve Schott got rid of it when he and Ken Hofmann took over as owners in 1995. Again, it provides a physical presence in the community where merchandise and tickets could be sold. Bring it back, and not just in Oakland. With retail space rents way down, put an A's Dugout store in surrounding East Bay towns, as well as in the biggest towns in Marin, Solano, and Sonoma counties.

There are many more marketing ideas for reaching out to fans and corporations to sell A's tickets. If you have any ideas, please e-mail them to us at baseballoakland@gmail.com. Keep 'em coming, and we will, too. Someone has to.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mercury News: A's San Jose Deal in Peril?

Friday morning brought news that might be a deal-breaker for Lew Wolff's years-old plan to move the A's out of Oakland. At the very least, the news revealed Wolff's double-standard regarding Oakland in his stadium quest.

First, let's look at what Tracy Seipel of The San Jose Mercury News wrote:

San Jose's redevelopment agency is in such rough financial shape that its leaders now say they may not be able to buy the last parcels for a downtown baseball stadium for the Oakland A's.

Despite the bad news, Wolff gave optimistic quotes: "Whatever issues we run into, we will figure out how to get them done."

But neither Wolff nor San Jose officials gave specifics on how the cash-strapped redevelopment agency's problems might be solved. Seipel wrote:

... he (Wolff) and agency officials both said no details of a possible land purchase by Wolff had been discussed ...

Regardless of what happens next, Wolff has revealed yet again how he has one set of rules for Oakland, and another set of rules for the cities to which he’s tried to move the A's. It also refutes the lie that Oakland leaders haven't worked to keep the A’s. The truth is, Oakland officials frequently have tried hard to reach out to A's owners like Wolff and former owner Steve Schott.

The problem is, whenever Oakland officials tried to work with Wolff, he would throw up roadblocks by giving weak excuses. More than once, Wolff has said, "Oakland has too many other priorities" to take care of before solving the ballpark problem. Yet, when it comes to the severe economic problems of cities he’s trying to move to, such as Fremont a few years ago or now San Jose's nearly broke redevelopment agency, Wolff's attitude is the total opposite.

"There isn’t a redevelopment agency or city or federal or state government that isn't in some form of disarray at this point," Wolff told the Mercury News on Oct. 14 regarding San Jose’s economic woes.

In Oakland, Wolff's attitude is: "Sorry, you have too many other priorities."

In Fremont and San Jose it's: "Whatever the issues are, don’t worry we’ll solve them."

(By the way, I’m not knocking Fremont or San Jose at all. Those are fine cities in their own right. Baseball should be bringing this region together. Sadly, Wolff's stadium machinations instead have been dividing A's fans.)

There are other examples of Wolff's blatant Oakland double standard. He often said Oakland is "too built up," but in fact one study says Oakland has more than 1,200 vacant acres of land. Wolff also ruled out the Coliseum site because of some vague problem with the site’s “utilities.” Yet in his favored South Bay site, a large PG&E substation for some reason is considered no big deal. At the complicated East Oakland site Wolff proposed just a few months before moving on to Fremont, Wolff said that a newly constructed BART station was "a must" for the site to work. Yet, in Fremont and San Jose, Wolff has treated those sites' lack of a BART station as no big deal.

It's been 12 years since Wolff was first quoted as saying that he would move the A's to the South Bay. It's been seven years since he first joined the A's front office and started actively trying to move the A's out of town. After all those years of trying — and failing — Wolff has been ruining a once-great franchise and he’s been turning off thousands of loyal fans. In short, most of the problems the A's have are of Wolff's own doing.

Wolff often whines of being "held hostage" by territorial rights. As usual, Wolff has it backwards. A's fans are the ones who've been held hostage — by Wolff and his never-ending pipe dream of moving the team out of town. If the Mercury News Oct. 15 article proved anything, it's that all these years later, Wolff really isn't that much closer to making that fairy tale a reality. In the meantime, one of pro sports' greatest franchises — The Oakland Athletics — continues to wither in Wolff's hands.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bike Oakland

Among the reasons I chose to live in this fine city are Oakland's growing urban core and the fact that it is becoming a hotbed of new transit-oriented development. We believe that keeping the A's here in Oakland, especially closer to the center of town and near transit options, would be a cornerstone for Oakland's ongoing urban renaissance. So, it should come as no surprise that Oakland has had an explosion of biking in the past year, with a reported 18 percent increase of bicycle use as a regular form of transit (myself included.) In fact, Oakland is even developing its own creative bicycle culture. Including organizations such as Oaklavia, the East Bay Bike Party, and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland's "Bike-in Movies," it is astonishing how much the bicycle is transforming Oakland.

Now, how does this relate to the A's? According to the 2010 Oakland Bikeways map image (click here for it), the Victory Court ballpark site is literally SURROUNDED by bike routes. As seen during Eat Real Festival, Art Murmur and even Art and Soul, Oaklanders are preferring to bike to large-scale events, as opposed to using the car. Victory Court is right smack in the center of these events, offering easy bicycle access to most points in Oakland. I currently live in North Oakland and ride my bike for the majority of my inter-Oakland travels. If the A's were to take a cue from the Giants and offer bike valet at the stadium (run by the SFBC), many people would take full advantage of this, offering a greater incentive to go to games and easing traffic by taking cars off the road. Imagine eating brunch at the beautiful Lake Merritt Hotel's Terrace Room and still being able to take in a 1 p.m. afternoon game. Or biking to Beer Revolution and then zipping down 3rd Street afterward for a night game. The bikeability of Oakland would make attending A's games much more fun for fans while allowing a greater opportunity for business growth in Oakland.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mayoral Candidates on Oakland Sports

I wanted to take care of this blog yesterday, but my second team, the Phillies, had a rather busy day yesterday and I got caught up in the excitement. Now back to the subject at hand. Dave Newhouse profiled the Oakland mayoral race's front-runners, Don Perata, Rebecca Kaplan, Jean Quan and Joe Tuman, and their opinions on sports issues here in Oakland.

The first thing that was discussed was the possibility of renaming the "Golden State" Warriors the "Oakland" Warriors. Quote from the candidates:

Perata: "Unless they carry your name, their value is limited to the community. That franchise has been a wreck, but it's the 11th most profitable franchise in the NBA. This is a good market for them."

Tuman: "I go to their games, by the way. The impact of not calling the team 'Oakland' is to reinforce this negative image about the town, that there's something bad about branding with 'Oakland.' I would push for it, but I'm not going to pay for it."

Kaplan: "Oakland has a psychological problem, where we expect too little. I would absolutely push for (the 'Oakland' Warriors), but I wouldn't do just that. If you look at why Oakland doesn't make money off sports, it doesn't have the ancillary businesses on site -- no places to make money for the city."

Quan: "I would push for it. The Warriors are my favorite team -- I like fast action. But we need stronger ties between the team and the community."

All the candidates agree on this issue, although for different reasons. But BaseballOakland agrees that the time has come for the Warriors to adopt the name of the city in which they have been playing for more than 30 years.

The next question was about keeping the A's in Oakland.

Quan: "I think this (city) is the soul of Major League Baseball -- great diversity, ethnically and income-wise. I met Lew Wolff after I got elected. He didn't say 'girlie,' but almost. There's not a transit-rich (baseball) site that's more ready to go in the entire Bay Area than 'Victory Court' (in Jack London Square). We own most of it, and could develop it as an entertainment (center)."

Kaplan: "I love the A's. Lew Wolff felt (Mayor) Jerry Brown didn't care. The A's could succeed here very well. I believe we could have a football and baseball stadium on the Coliseum site. We own the land. San Jose is not a done deal. They have a local law that requires a ballot measure, and they did not put it on the November ballot. So there's a window of opportunity here."

Tuman: "I'll be blunt. In professional sports, it's 'show me the money.' ... I won't spend a dime of public money on keeping the Oakland Athletics here when I can't pay for police officers or keep the streets safe. I'm not saying it can't work, but let's be objective."

Perata: "I probably know a little more about this stuff than most people. I was part of two Raider deals that both failed. We got held up; we really did -- by both (the A's and Raiders). We got rid of the Coliseum board and then politicized it. ... In retrospect, it was a disaster. I don't think the A's are going to stay here. We can't play in this game, putting up the money. We haven't been smart with our franchises.

Quan has always supported Victory Court and the Oak-to-9th development. Rebecca Kaplan has made transit-oriented development a major part of her platform. She has long advocated for placing Oaklands' teams near transit and development opportunities so that Oakland can retain tax revenue from fans spending in neighborhoods around its sports facilities.

The one thing causing some confusion is Perata's pessimism. This could stem from the fact that Lew Wolff has refused to acknowledge Oakland's recent efforts. Getting some input from the A's will be a difficult task for any candidate because Wolff has nothing but tunnel-vision to points south. One thing to remember is that some of Perata's biggest supporters such as John Protopappas, Phil Tagami and Michael Ghielmetti have also been major players in keeping the A's in Oakland.