Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oakland Eateries Hot and Getting Hotter

If it seems like we're always talking about Oakland's hot, buzz-worthy restaurant and entertainment scene, that's because it just continues to grow. And grow. And grow some more. Local and national media have taken notice of Oakland's distinctive flavor, both in the kitchen and outside of it.

Just within the last month new bars such as Miel, Bar 355, and Room 389 have opened their doors, from Old Oakland to downtown to Lake Merritt.

Miel is a sharp-looking tequila bar adjacent to the restaurant, Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana. It's located on 8th Street, near Broadway. Meanwhile, Bar 355 has taken a charmingly weathered space and updated it into a hip lounge at 19th and Webster streets. And Room 389 gives that stretch of Grand Avenue that hugs Lake Merritt, between Broadway and the Grand Lake Theatre, an inviting and much-needed modern watering hole.

In the meantime, new eateries have opened where Uptown meets Auto Row. Nex is located next to the popular Mua restaurant. Both are across the street from Café RandeVu — yep, that’s how they chose to spell it — a restaurant located at 24th and Broadway. Both Nex and Café RandeVu opened in recent weeks.

Also, new cafes keep opening up on College Avenue in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood, just a few blocks away from where Angelina took the kids shopping when Brad was working at the Coliseum last month. Café Zoe opened in June, and Bica did likewise last week.

These new hot spots only add to a culinary scene that was forged by longtime topnotch mainstays like Bay Wolf, Oliveto, and A Cote.

What's amazing is that all of these new businesses are starting during this deep recession, which has decimated the business communities in other cities. Not Oakland. In this wonderful and underrated city, new eateries and cafes and bars keep opening — and thriving. Or as a restaurant consultant told the Chronicle last week: "Oakland has something special to offer. I don't care what Gertrude Stein said. There is a there there."

Friday, August 27, 2010

MLB's Leaked Finances Creating a Stir

Last week, someone leaked private financial documents for MLB teams and the numbers therein proved that the owners for the Florida Marlins and the Pittsburgh Pirates have been lying about "losing money" while they got taxpayers to foot the bill for publicly-funded stadiums.

The info was so juicy and damning, particularly about Marlins owner Jeff Loria and his alleged dishonesty, that Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports penned a scathing column about it.

Meanwhile, MLB is investigating who leaked the information. Whoever leaked it, the report probably means that the upcoming labor battle between owners and players could turn really ugly for the first time since the '94 season, when Bud Selig made the most dubious kind of history by canceling the World Series.

The A's were not one of the teams whose finances were leaked. Those documents would be of interest to local sportswriters, such as Lowell Cohn, who has questioned why the A's keep crying poor when they're one of the richest ownerships in MLB.

We'll revisit this topic more and more in the coming weeks. Until then, check out Neil de Mause's analysis over at Or read national sportswriter Dave Zirin, who offered his incendiary take on the MLB owners in question. This story fits right into Zirin's critical look at the greedy state of sports ownership today in his recently published book titled, Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love.

This is a story that will only get juicier in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cohn: A's Owner Spends on Art, Not Baseball

Lowell Cohn's Aug. 19 column was very critical of billionaire A's owner John Fisher and his brothers. Cohn noted the fortune that the Fisher family has spent on their 1,100 pieces of fine art. The art alone is valued at more than $1 billion. The Fisher brothers, each of whom are billionaires, have loaned their artwork to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. But Cohn compared the Fishers' pricey artwork spending to the penny-pinching ways that they (and co-owner Lew Wolff) run the Oakland A's. Here’s an excerpt:

This is about how the A's greedily take money from the so-called big-market teams, the A's grabbing for revenue-sharing dough when the A's primary owner is one of the richest owners in baseball. Forget that, he's one of the richest men in the world. I'm talking about John Fisher, a billionaire. His two brothers also have stakes in the A's. They're billionaires, too. Not poor.

Fisher's billionaire status is well-chronicled. The San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea reported that Fisher is just one of eight billionare owners in MLB. Coupled with his billionaire brothers, that makes the A's ownership one of the richest in MLB. Also, Fisher's A's play in the Bay Area — the fifth biggest market in the entire nation.

So, when people call the A's a "small-market team," they’re wrong. In the populous, wealthy Bay Area, there are no small market teams. There are only small owners. The Warriors' Chris Cohan was a small owner. Fisher and Wolff are small owners, too. After half a decade of incompetence, apathy, and neglect of the A's franchise and its loyal fans, Fisher and Wolff have more than earned that "small owners" title.

Cohn continued about the Fishers:

I'm told the entire collection is worth more than a billion. Poor? Is the A's ownership poor? Oh, I know what you're thinking. The fancy art represents the Fishers' personal money, but the A's don't generate squat.

Please. Team owners should be sportspeople. They should love the game and have passion for the game like George Steinbrenner did, and they need to spend money to make money. The Fishers had no trouble buying all that art, shelling out big bucks for the art which brings in no income I can see. But the Fishers have trouble shelling out the going rate for a shortstop or a first baseman or a left fielder. When it comes to that, they're too poor.

Cohn’s new column echoes two recent blogs, in which he ripped Fisher and A's ownership. The veteran sportswriter ended this latest column just as stridently as he started it:

If the A's had to write their personal philosophy, it would go something like this: "We are committed to producing a below-average product and blaming it on Oakland and the Giants. We plan to suck until they let us move to San Jose. Then we'll be a real work of art. Just wait and see."

What's interesting is how Cohn's disgust at Fisher & Co. is almost unanimously supported by A’s fans in the blog's comments section. Many other Bay Area sportswriters agree, too. Unfortunately, Oakland fans have had to deal with ownership like this for 15 years, ever since Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann bought the A's from the Haas family in 1995. Schott was a disaster.

The Fishers, who have been almost invisible as team owners, have been as bad or worse than Schott. But we'll let Cohn have the final word on John Fisher and his brothers:

They should get out of the baseball business and sell to someone who loves ball more than art.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kaplan Talking Oakland Sports Wednesday at Linden St. Brewery

In case you haven't noticed, the race for the Oakland mayor's office is heating up. As Oakland residents and A's fans, we understand the importance that the Mayor's office will play in deciding the A's future in the coming years.

So, we're more than a little interested in what all 10 of the mayoral candidates have to say. At 8pm next Wednesday (Aug. 25), Rebecca Kaplan will be discussing the future of Oakland's sports teams at Linden Street Brewery, located at 95 Linden Street in Oakland.

Kaplan is an Oakland City Council member and a candidate in the mayor's race, which will be decided on Election Day, this Nov. 2. At Wednesday's event, Kaplan will pitch her ideas for using the retention of the A's and all of Oakland's teams for economic development. While we are not endorsing any candidate at this early stage, we are enthusiastic about this event. Linden Street Brewery is one of our favorite spots, and it's one of Oakland's homegrown business success stories. In addition, we are glad that the A's issue is being discussed in the mayor's race.

We also encourage the other Oakland mayor candidates to hold similar events on this issue that's so near and dear to the hearts of Oakland residents. In the weeks and months leading up to the election, we'll be sure to make space at Baseball Oakland for all of the candidates and their positions.

Until then, we look forward to this event and to the future political leadership that will lead Oakland into the 2010s. For more information, click here. Or go to the Facebook event page here. Look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wolff & Fisher Never Tried

Here at BaseballOakland, we've written a lot about civic events, such as the Oakland Running Fest, Oaklavia, Best of the East Bay Party, the Art Murmur and First Fridays, and on and on. The high attendance at these events shows that Oakland is an active community with a lot of civic pride and that residents have the ability to spend the money to make these events a success for the promoters.

One group of people has been mysteriously absent from these events: The Oakland Athletics. While the A's are a private business and are under no obligation to participate in anything, that hasn't stopped the Raiders and Warriors from taking part in events here in Oakland. The Raiders and Warriors are smart to do so. It builds community, it shows that the teams care, and most of all, it sells tickets to sporting events and boosts their TV ratings. Likewise, the Giants across the bay have their logo attached at the many events that they sponsor in San Francisco.

However, the A's have usually shown up in just one city, San Jose. Over the weekend, the A's were a key sponsor for the San Jose Jazz Festival, according to the San Jose Mercury News. This caused us to scratch our heads a little. Why avoid Oakland almost all the time, but come to San Jose?

Here's a quote from the article:

Speaking of power, the Oakland A's and owner Lew Wolff made a big impact on the festival, too.

Willow Glen businessman Michael Mulcahy, who co-chairs the local grass-roots group that wants to bring the team to San Jose, represented Wolff at Mayor Chuck Reed's Jazz brunch Saturday morning at the Silicon Valley Capital Club.

The A's were a festival sponsor, and Mulcahy explained that their support allowed organizers to give away 2,000 tickets to East San Jose community groups that wouldn't have been able to afford the price of admission

So San Jose community groups are eligible for sponsored admission by the Oakland A's, but not Oakland groups? Wouldn't it be a nice gesture to sponsor 2,000 tickets to Oakland community groups to this weekend's Art & Soul festival in downtown Oakland? Especially considering that former A's bat boy MC Hammer will be performing.

What really grinds my gears about this is that this all files in the face of the dubious "I tried in Oakland" argument that Wolff/Fisher have been trying to sell to us over the years. From 2003-2005, when Wolff was "trying" in Oakland, the A's did little-to-none such outreach to the Oakland people. However, from 2006-2008, Wolff and the A's did a number of civic events in the Tri-City area and in San Jose, when he was trying to get Fremont site wrapped up.

Since then, of course, Wolff has focused entirely on the South Bay. Then again, it shouldn't surprise us. As the sign says, Wolff and Fisher never tried in Oakland.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"B" Shuttle Would Serve New A's Park

A new free shuttle serving downtown Oakland has started running on Broadway Street, going from Jack London Square to Uptown.

Any of the shuttle's Jack London Square stops are just a handful of blocks from the new waterfront ballpark sites identified by Oakland officials. And you can be sure that the free shuttle will expand to include a ballpark stop as soon as the A's choose one of the sites.

When a new A's ballpark is built on the waterfront, the shuttle will be yet another form of public transit that will ease stadium access for A's fans. The Oakland waterfront sites — especially Victory Court, located just south of Jack London Square — already are served by Lake Merritt BART, a ferry boat pier, an Amtrak station where Capitol Corridor and ACE commuter trains stop, and two freeways.

Until then, the free Broadway Shuttle — already nicknamed "The B" — arrives at each stop every 10 to 15 minutes, and it runs from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M. on weekdays. The shuttle also will make stops in or near Chinatown, the City Center, the Kaiser Center, Old Oakland and Lake Merritt. The eastern-most stop is at Grand Avenue and Webster Street, where Uptown meets Auto Row. The western-most stop is on Embarcadero West, between Broadway and Franklin streets, at Jack London Square. Late-night and weekend service probably will be added soon to serve Oakland's burgeoning nightlife and restaurant scene.

Using clean diesel fuel, "The B" will be an environmental hit by removing 350 cars from downtown Oakland each day, and by removing five tons of greenhouse gases per year.

In other words, the bus shuttle could be a future green option for the Green-and-Gold.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Local Sportswriters Tired of Wolff's Act

Last Friday, sportswriter Monte Poole wrote a column criticizing A's co-owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher.

Poole ripped Wolff and Fisher for being "brazen about their restlessness, even expressing a measure of contempt for their situation and insensitivity toward the most loyal core of their clientele. That would be the fans who accounted for more than 2 million in attendance five consecutive seasons (2001-05)."

Then Poole suggested that, as the roadblocks preventing them from moving out of Oakland continue to mount, Wolff and Fisher might get so frustrated they'll just sell the team instead. Poole added:

"Here is where we pause for robust cheers from die-hard fans in the East Bay ... these fans want nothing more than to see the A's go to folks willing to restore fan interest with baseball, rather than development, in mind. That would mean committing to Oakland."

We agree with every word. But it's not just us, Monte Poole, and the 41,000-plus A's fans at Let's Go Oakland who feel this way. Many other Bay Area sports scribes recently criticized Wolff and Fisher for being bad owners.

Like South Bay resident Ann Killion:

"The A's, in contrast, have run off most of their fans. ...Wolff's marketing strategy has been to not so subtly let potential ticket buyers know that they would be foolish to go to games at the rundown Oakland Coliseum. And the fans are listening. The A's aren't just losing their existing fan base and tradition, they've lost an entire Bay Area generation, who think that fun-plus-baseball means going to a Giants game."

Or Ray Ratto at

" ...the A's stopped promoting their team as the cool kids table the way they did in the '80s. ...they've been telling people Oakland is a sinkhole for five years now, and as the Giants discovered in the '80s, when you tell people not to come out until you have a new place, they'll start to agree with you. They A's can fix all these things, but it takes a will and a capacity to spend money and energy to change the perception. They did it once, they can do it again. But they have to want to."

Check out the Press Democrat's Lowell Cohn:

"The A's are always crying poverty. That's when they’re not crying small market team. We're supposed to feel sorry for them. ...The principal owner is John Fisher. John Fisher is a billionaire. The A's never should cry poverty because the A’s are very rich."

The next day, Cohn openly questioned Wolff's and Fisher's integrity and honesty:

"The A’s used to make money. The A's used to have big crowds. The A's used to win and be a factor. The current ownership, which doesn't seem to care about making a good team, has done many things to cut down on crowds and cut down on success. Have they done these things intentionally? I wonder. ...The Fishers are not sportspeople. They are businesspeople. They have the wrong attitude to own the A's."

And we haven't even gotten to local sports veterans, Art Spander, Dave Newhouse, and Glenn Dickey, and other local media, who also wrote very critical columns about Wolff and Fisher this summer.

What happens next for loyal A's fans is anybody’s guess. But the list of Bay Area sportswriters who are getting fed up with Wolff and Fisher has gotten long and it only continues to grow.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A's Have Strong Record at Coliseum

Lew Wolff has said that the A's need a new stadium because it will help them win more games. In recent years, Wolff has even blamed the "atmosphere" at the Coliseum for hurting the team's ability to win.

As usual, Wolff's comments are not backed up by fact. First, Wolff is more responsible than anyone for creating the Coliseum's atmosphere. If he doesn't like it, he should point fingers of blame directly at a mirror.

More importantly, his claims are not backed up by cold, hard numbers. Here are some examples. After this latest home stand that concluded Aug. 8, Oakland's 34-24 home record at the Coliseum is neck-and-neck with teams that play at AT&T Park, Citi Field, Petco Park, Target Field, and Fenway Park — you know, all those kinds of stadiums that Wolff says he needs for the A's to win. In fact, the A's are winning at an even better clip than many other MLB teams who play in new ballparks — we’re looking at you, Milwaukee, Anaheim, and Houston.

And don't forget that during Oakland's great run from 2000-2006, the A's home record at the Coliseum often was No. 1, or second only to teams like the Yankees.

Which is why it's so strange that Wolff keeps blaming the Coliseum for his own mistakes. It's yet one more example of many where Wolff says one thing about the A's, but the facts say quite the opposite.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Travel & Leisure: Jack London is "Next Great Neighborhood"

Last December, Oakland officials announced they'd identified two new waterfront ballpark sites near Jack London Square: 1) Jack London North, and 2) Victory Court. Both sites are in or near Oakland neighborhoods that are thriving with new restaurants and nightlife.

But don't take our word for it. These are the opinions of national reporters and experts, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Now, Travel & Leisure magazine is just the latest national publication to take notice of Oakland's thriving entertainment scene. Hot off the presses is Travel & Leisure's August issue, featuring Oakland restaurant successes such as Pizzaiolo, Brown Sugar Kitchen, and Commis. It also mentions places set to open soon, like Plum in the Uptown district and the Jack London Market, which will be Oakland's answer to San Francisco's Ferry Building.

Most telling is a section that declares Jack London Square as "The Next Great Neighborhood." Reporter Oliver Strand writes: "A stretch of once decrepit waterfront has been transformed into Jack London Square, now Oakland’s go-to district, with a series of landscaped promenades, converted loft apartments, and an ever increasing number of restaurants."

Nestled within this neighborhood, of course, are the waterfront A's ballpark sites. The Jack London North location has great potential. But even better is the Victory Court site, which would connect the Oakland waterfront and the Estuary to Lake Merritt and downtown, which are just a handful of blocks away. Also, Victory Court's public transit access and transportation options are excellent: it's near Interstates 880 and 980/24, and it's just a few minutes from Lake Merritt BART, the Amtrak station where Capitol Corridor and ACE commuter trains stop, and the Jack London Square ferry boat pier.

All of these factors will make an Oakland waterfront ballpark as good as the Giants' AT&T Park — or even better.

As Strand writes, the thriving Jack London Square area is one part of Oakland's "new, edgier identity thanks to emerging neighborhoods, a buzzing nightlife, and a renovated waterfront that promises to become one of the most ambitious gastro-destinations in the country."

A new ballpark will make the Oakland waterfront one of the best sports destinations in the country, too.