Friday, December 30, 2011

Poole and Kawakami Blast Wolff and Beane

Two Bay Area sportswriters published pieces this week that must have made Billy Beane throw a chair or two.

The Oakland Tribune's Monte Poole wrote a scathing column that offered the harshest criticism yet of Beane and A's owners. Poole wrote:

The con is kaput, the game over. A's ownership, having run out of patience, isn't even pretending to care about competing, much less pleasing its fans. Dedicated first and last to themselves ... They're quitting, backing away from the 2012 season so early and so emphatically that even Pete Rose, the disgraced hit king, has to scratch his head and wonder, once again, what is the definition of "integrity of the game." How can such a naked exhibition of surrender not hurt the game?

Ouch. It's all true, of course, and kudos to Poole for having the guts to tell it like it is.

Then Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News chimed in Thursday night, saying he fully agreed with Poole. Kawakami called Wolff, Beane and John Fisher "thoroughly cynical owners" who have surrendered instead of competing, "like they’ve surrendered in so many other winters."

Double ouch. But Kawakami wasn't done. He wrote:

You know we say teams are going "all-in" when they go for broke in a certain year? Right now, Wolff and Fisher (and Billy Beane) are receding from play and going "all-out." Nothing left, folks! See ya in 2014! They’ve ransacked the A's roster for every valuable thing they could, driven themselves purposely to lousiness, and are daring MLB to let them move to San Jose or watch out, it’ll get worse. Not a great movie, I guess.

Other sportswriters chimed in to agree with Poole and Kawakami. Lowell Cohn wrote a brief blog about Poole's column that was titled, "Oakland A's equal travesty." He wrote:

I love what Monte wrote and I wish I could have written on the A’s this well and this passionately.

Bottom line: Everybody knows that Wolff and Beane are threatening the integrity of the game in a brazen, almost childish, way. How long will MLB's leadership allow Wolff and Beane to taint the game this way?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Ruling, New Rules, New Era

So the day of reckoning has come. On Thursday, the state Supreme Court voted to uphold AB 1X26, which will eliminate Redevelopment Agencies (RDAs), and to strike down AB 1X27, which would have allowed the RDAs to exist but required them to make payments to the state. For further reading, check out this San Jose Mercury News article as well has the Supreme Court ruling. Also, the KQED Capital Notes Blog has an excellent take, as well.

Now, how does this affect the A's in Oakland? On December 9, we talked to Oakland's assistant city administrator Fred Blackwell after Mayor Quan's press conference. At the time, he expected that the ruling on the lawsuit filed by California cities would uphold the existence of redevelopment agencies and everything around ballpark financing would go on as planned. If the cities lost, then they would have to make a payment to the state. Blackwell said that Oakland planned to make its payment and still issue the needed bonds to complete its proposed projects.

From all reports, that is no longer the case. Now it appears RDAs will be dissolved, and raising the money needed for land and infrastructure will range from difficult to impossible in this new climate. It's unfortunate. However, the proposed Coliseum City project may be less affected than other sites for the following reasons:

(1) The land is controlled by the City/JPA; (2) Environmental costs would be lower due to the fact that that site already has a sports facility and no new reports would have to be generated due to "existing use"; and (3) The infrastructure is already in place. Not that it's all there yet, but it's much further along since it has been a sports facility for the last 40 years. While Victory Court is the ultimate win-win for everybody, we are also realists here.

The death of RDAs has serious implications for San Jose as well. Recently the San Jose Redevelopment agency transferred all its assets to the Diridon Development Authority (DDA), which is an RDA of a different color. With mounting legal battles over the land, it's obvious that the DDA was only put together to protect its assets from the state money grab. Any challenger to the San Jose ballpark plan can use today's court decision as ammunition against the stadium plan. SJ backers are also leaning very heavily on Lew Wolff's statement that he is supposedly going to pay for "everything." Well, not only would that be nearly a first for sports owners, but it also would be very questionable coming from Lew. To this date, Lew has never indicated how he intends to pay for any of his stadiums, going all the way back to his "attempts" to build in Oakland, or later Fremont. It's also true about San Jose today (both the Quakes and the A's). Also, Wolff has been the king of trying to squeeze low-ball deals. He managed to low-ball the city of San Jose not once but twice when he got San Jose to fork over $132 million worth of land for just $81 million for the Quakes stadium deal. He also tried to low-ball San Jose State University for a potential stadium site. A's fans everywhere should be very skeptical of this guy.

What happens next? Who knows? The financial landscape is very different now than it was just a few days ago. I assume we are going to get more details and quotes from the A's and officials from both cites in the next few months. We are entering a new era, kids, so hold on.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Recap of Mayor Quan Press Conference

We went to Mayor Quan's press conference today and here's our recap:

No major announcement was expected today, and there was a mixture of new tidbits and some re-hashing of stadium sites, along with few more more details on the proposed expanded Coliseum project.

Quan was joined by Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell, Councilmembers Larry Reid and Libby Schaaf and Let's Go Oakland's Doug Boxer. Quan started by reiterating the city's support for these projects. She mentioned both Victory Court and the Coliseum area (now being dubbed Coliseum City) as viable sites for a new A's ballpark. She said that the city has already done a Request-for-Proposals (RFP in "UrbanPlanningSpeak") for the Coliseum project. As she also spoke highly of the development potential for Victory Court, a city official issued a copy of that site's ballpark economic impact report, which was issued last year.

Quan noted that the City Council has voted to pass previous deal points. Also, she said a letter to Bud Selig and MLB will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. She says that the city has a timeline to complete this A's ballpark project, in earnest, by 2016.

Next up was Fred Blackwell, Oakland's recently appointed assistant city administrator who was head of San Francisco's redevelopment agency for several years. We are glad he is on Oakland's new management team because of his experience in managing large-scale redevelopment plans in San Francisco. Again, Blackwell mentioned the potential redevelopment impact of a Victory Court ballpark. He said that Oakland has the money to make this happen (more on that further below) and that it offers the benefit of costing less to construct because the city owns the land.
Also, its EIR process would be completed more quickly because there already is an existing sports facility there. He also said that the RFP period for the development of Coliseum City is closed and already has received bids from six major developers.

Larry Reid, president of the Oakland City Council, added that he thinks MLB will make a decision soon. Reid's district includes the Coliseum area.

Doug Boxer, head of Lets Go Oakland, talked about the continued support of the business community and the fact that he already has enough corporate suite sales and naming rights sales to make the a new A's ballpark in Oakland a reality.

Following that there was a Q&A. Here are some of the highlights:

* Quan says either site is feasible and can meet a 2016 opening date
* Blackwell says Victory Court EIR not pushed aggressively yet, but can be wrapped up with MLB decision
* Quan has heard nothing of a deal with the Giants. Says Giants can hold up San Jose for 10 years
* Blackwell also reiterates that no General Fund money will be used for either project.

Our thoughts on all of this?

It was good that Oakland officials held this press conference. With Chuck Reed, Lew Wolff and Bily Beane making waves on this issue recently, we applaud Oakland officials raising their voices to remind people how badly the city government and Oakland residents want the A's to stay in Oakland.

A couple of things to point out. One is the Coliseum site. Many Oakland detractors and Wolff apologists will look at Oakland talking about this and predictably criticize it. Look, we know what kind of a world we live in. The recession is still mucking up the economy, which continues to struggle and presents major obstacles for any city's stadium plan. That includes Victory Court, San Jose's site and other cities across the nation. The area between 66th Avenue and Hegenberger Road is close to public transit, offers ample land, doesn't require a long EIR process and, more importantly, is already paid for. If you are a fan of keeping the A's anywhere in the Bay Area you must acknowledge that it's a very solid Plan B. The Phillies built their park in a similar area in Philadelphia and look at the success they have enjoyed.

Onto the Victory Court EIR. Some have questioned Oakland's progress on the EIR. But consider this, every ballpark proposal that Oakland government officials have presented to A's ownership has been dismissed. Oakland may be doing the right thing by holding its cards close to its vest. If Oakland were to get a go-ahead from MLB, then the EIR quickly would be completed in earnest. The funding for it already has already been approved by the Oakland City Council.

One final point about the money that would be used for Oakland's plan. Much of it would come from redevelopment funds. Some of you might be concerned that the state will all destroy redevelopment agencies. However, I asked Fred Blackwell about this at the end of the press conference. He explained that, based on the expected upcoming ruling of a lawsuit filed by California's cities, redevelopment agencies will continue to exist as normal and everything around ballpark financing would go as planned. If the cites lose, then they will have to make a payment to the state. Blackwell says that Oakland plans on making its payment and still can issue the needed bonds to complete its proposed projects. So, any concerns about the death of redevelopment agencies should alleviated.

There still is a long way to go. However, just like the city government, we remain committed to help making this happen. Let's go, Oakland.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two Birds of a Feather

Lew Wolff and his tiny but vocal group of apologists are a funny bunch, but what's even funnier is the company they keep. Take, for example, a recent Susan Slusser blog, in which both Jeffrey Loria and Jerry Reinsdorf spoke in support of Wolff's South Bay plans. Now some of Wolff's cheerleaders are pointing to this as a sign things are changing in Lew's favor.

Get serious, folks. Are you so desperate as to associate with these two people? Let's start with Loria. First, he tanked the Expos, who ran a similar operation with the Marlins. He lied about how much money he was making (via Deadspin) and is now the target of an SEC investigation into the (allegedly) shady deals for Marlins Park.

And Reinsdorf? Come on. By crying poor, he managed to get not one but two cites to build him a publicly financed stadium (Tropicana Field was built to accommodate the White Sox, who stayed in Chicago once the new Comiskey Park was constructed for them). He also led the way in forcing Washington D.C. to accept a stadium deal that was 100 percent publicly financed. And be honest -- for all the talk that Cisco Field would be privately financed, in fact, it likely would have several hidden subsidies -- starting with the recent development – where the city is bending over backwards to sell Wolff valuable land for just a fraction of what San Jose taxpayers paid for it.

Before these two crooks are going to dismiss Oakland as being "past its time," first they need to look at their own attendance figures before dismissing our great city.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tale of Two Cities

The A's haven't made any major headlines in the past few days, unless you count the team signing AAAA player Brandon Moss as major. However, two recent moves made in other cities were quite relevant to the A's.

A group called Stand for San Jose (tied to the San Jose Giants Single-A team, which is co-owned by the San Francisco Giants) filed a lawsuit Friday against the city of San Jose, claiming that the City Council failed to comply with state environmental law and city law in regards to the possible discounted sale of land to Lew Wolff for a proposed A's ballpark.

While some have questioned the grassroots status of Stand for San Jose, it bears asking: Is it any less "grassroots" than Baseball San Jose, which solely represents the real estate partners of Lew Wolff?

Meanwhile, Wolff's son, Keith Wolff, also an A's executive, has purchased the Sainte Claire hotel in downtown San Jose. Those who think that Wolff's stadium decisions have nothing to do with his real estate portfolio are fooling themselves.

Also, the San Francisco Giants have opened a Dugout store in Walnut Creek, just a 30-minute drive northeast of the Coliseum. That bothers us. But what really grinds our gears is the fact that the A's owners are blatantly letting this happen and, even worse, doing nothing to compete against it. While spending the past 16 years obsessing about possible stadium locations south of Highway 238, A's owners repeatedly have neglected the fans in their own back yard. Walnut Creek and the rest of the Diablo Valley have been very good supporters of the A's in Oakland. But in the wake of Steve Schott's and Wolff's failure to court East Bay cities, the Giants wisely have taken full advantage and have made marketing in-roads into these areas. In the meantime, Wolff's tiny but vocal group of apologists often have said that the A's should move to the South Bay for the betterment of the "community." It's just too bad that this always translates to "communities other than Oakland."

The good news is there is still time for the A's to regain their foothold in these areas, but it's going to require a new ownership who is committed to making it work in Oakland and the East Bay.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Billy Beane is Lying to You

Billy Beane is lying to you.

In a recent S.F. Chronicle article, Susan Slusser wrote:

Oakland lost money for the first time this century, with an expected shortfall of several million dollars, according to Beane.

This is totally untrue and easily refutable. Oakland lost money? Really? Objective sports economists and journalists disagree.

Like Forbes Magazine, which revealed that last year alone the A's turned a $23 million profit. Also, the A's have averaged a $23 million annual profit for the past three years.

Slusser also blames the A's "woes" on the fact that they raised the team payroll $15 million in 2010. But again, that doesn't add up -- literally. It's as simple as 23 minus 15 equals 8, as in: If the A's are profiting $23 million each year, as Forbes says, then a $15 million payroll bump still leaves them with an $8 million profit. In one year alone.

Or look at CSNBayArea sportswriter Ray Ratto's recent column:

There is nothing particularly new about Billy Beane’s interest in the Athletics’ stadium issue. He’s been telling this one for awhile now ... we can assume that once again, John Fisher and Lew Wolff didn’t actually lose real money ... Why this fiction continues is a marvel of modern mythmaking ...

Then there's this September column where Ratto all but accuses Beane and Wolff of lying:

The A’s are clearly playing the extort-a-ballpark game yet again ... We’ve never believed that, and we never will. The A’s are deliciously profitable every year because of the revenue sharing pixie. ... Nice try, but the smart folks aren’t buying.

Plus, if Beane blows an extra $15 million on players and the team still stinks, isn't that Beane's fault? C'mon, the Tampa Bay Rays have had a lower payroll than the A's for years and the Rays made the playoffs three of the past four years and had a World Series appearance, which Beane's teams have never accomplished.

We're also perplexed why Beane thinks that claiming the A's lost money in 2011 for the "first time this century" makes his point. Assuming he means the first 11 years of the 21st Century ... We have to ask, if the A's have been profitable that whole time, then why have they constantly whined about money and talked about moving the team in that time period? Because a lot of teams would love to have turned a profit each year for the past decade.

Also, consider this ...

From 1995-99, the Giants averaged $20 million annual losses and lost about $97 million combined. That investment paid off beautifully for the Giants, of course, once they moved into AT&T Park in 2000 in their longtime hometown.

Wolff and Beane could do the same thing with the A's in Oakland if they were, you know, actual businessmen willing to invest, instead of what they really are: shady guys playing a fixed economic game, like gambling addicts rigging MLB's equivalent of a casino roulette wheel. It's a dirty game in which exactly two things always lose: the fan and integrity.

Since 1995, Oakland A's fans have put up with a lot of abuse from the team's owners, but few things are as painful to watch as seeing Beane –- a guy we once admired for his perceived loyalty and integrity -- turn completely into a dishonest sellout.

As Ratto wrote: "Nice try, but the smart folks aren’t buying."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thank You

It's that time of year again, the time of giving thanks.

We're thankful for so many things, especially as they relate to our first love, the Oakland Athletics. We're thankful for Charlie O. Finley for creating this marriage of Oakland and Major League Baseball, and we're thankful for Carl Finley for doing the work of 10 men while running the franchise.

We're thankful for Catfish's perfect game, for Reggie's swagger and that big 'tater' off Dock Ellis in the Tiger Stadium All-Star game, for Vida's amazing Cy Young/MVP-winning 1971 season, for the Mustache Gang, for Joe Rudi's on-the-wall catch in '72, for Dick Williams' managing, for Dick Green's glove in '74, for each Rollie Fingers three-inning save, for team vice president Stanley "MC Hammer" Burrell, and for Billy Martin, BillyBall, for every single Rickey Henderson stolen base, and for every pitch Dwayne Murphy took to allow Lou Brock's record to be broken, for Mike Norris Cy Young-worthy year and the other four amazin' A's aces that graced that 1981 Sports Illustrated cover, for Walter Haas and his gracious, generous family, Andy Dolich's savvy marketing skills, the Bash Brothers, Walt Weiss' rookie year, Lon Simmons' humor and professionalism, Bill King's undeniable greatness, Steinbach's All-Star MVP trophy, for Dave Duncan's master stroke of turning Dennis Eckersley into a closer, for Dave Stewart's rebirth, Dave Henderson's smile and the Hendu Bad Boy Club, for the outfield bleacher benches, Tony Phillips' clutch bat and his All-World temper, Eric Fox's grand slam in Minnesota, Bobby Welch's 27 wins and for that beautiful, epic four-game sweep in the 1989 World Series.

We're thankful for Art Howe's laid-back but competitive style while leading the A's to their first AL West title in eight years, for Miguel Tejada's passion, Hudson's fire, Zito's curve ball and Mulder's moxie, for Chavez's Gold Gloves, Lidle's August, Hatteberg's homer, Ramon's walk-off bunt, Frank Thomas' home run trot, Scutaro's cool grace and Kotsay's inside-the-park homer.

We're thankful for the venerable Oakland Coliseum, and Oakland baseball fans, the most resilient and feisty fan base in the history of the sport.

But what we're most thankful for is the city of Oakland; this beautiful, cosmopolitan, unpretentious, rebellious, sophisticated, creative, gritty, courageous, pretty, misunderstood, underrated, thick-shouldered, golden-hearted champion of a city.

Thanks for sticking with us -- and the fight -- for 16 years. This ain't the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Time and Place

The game of baseball will humble you. It especially humbles those who celebrate before a victory is, you know, actually in the books. Just ask Gene Mauch. Or the 2011 Red Sox. Or Dusty Baker and Russ Ortiz.

Given that, it's been strange to see Wolff's longtime cheerleaders do a victory dance this week based on very little information from very few sources other than Wolff's longtime cheerleaders.

Yes,'s Ken Rosenthal had an article Saturday saying that Commissioner Bud Selig recently met with the A's and plans to meet with Giants owners by the end of the month. What Wolff's cheerleaders -- some on the company payroll, some not -- aren't telling you is what Rosenthal also wrote in the same article:

One solution, if the Giants refuse to yield their territorial rights, would be for baseball to purchase the A’s from Wolff, secure a stadium deal in Oakland, then resell the club, sources say.

Oh, my ... well, that sounds quite different than a "done deal for Wolff," doesn't it?

Simply put, Wolff and Billy Beane -- surely on the advice of a high-priced paid media consultant -- are trying to pull the ol' Jedi Mind Trick; which is: 'If we say what we want to do as if we're actually doing it, and we say it with confidence enough times, then after a while people will just assume that that's what we're doing, regardless of the facts.'

In other words, fake it 'til you make it. The problem with that is when Wolff and Beane say their South Bay stadium plans are "shovel ready" they are lying. Let us count the ways:

1. The Giants aren't budging. Larry Baer has said many times that the territorial rights they own are non-negotiable. On Tuesday, Giants spokeswoman Staci Slaughter told the Mercury News about the Giants' stance on territorial rights:

"We have had that position from when Peter Magowan was the president and managing general partner, and it will remain the same with Larry as well."

2. AT&T still owns two large parcels at the site, including a big swath of land nearly right in the middle of what would be the stadium's field. What's to stop AT&T from delaying the project for at least two years by forcing Chuck Reed to eminent domain the site? Who's paying for those legal fees? Then again, at which stadium is AT&T the main corporate sponsor? Oh, right.

3. How can the Diridon site be ready when San Jose is legally required to have a public vote on the project? That's a vote they are not guaranteed to win and it's at least several months away. Also, MLB owners have to be wary of setting a precedent by removing the legally binding territorial rights, only to have South Bay residents vote it down. That's a lose-lose for all the owners.

4. Lastly, don't forget that San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has threatened to sue Major League Baseball if they try to manhandle the Giants on this issue.

And that's the short list of concerns.

Don't get us wrong -- we're looking forward to a resolution to this issue, too, especially as fans who've been treated poorly by A's owners since 1995. But we're not going to count our chickens before they're hatched. Informed baseball fans know what this game does to you when you do that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

To a Great Manager

Here at BaseballOakland, we always celebrate and take pride in our history and tradition. That, of course, includes the Mustache Gang winning three straight World Series titles, the four-game sweep of the cross-bay rivals in the 1989 Fall Classic and the record-breaking 20-game win streak in 2002. We can go on and on about this storied ballclub that is the Oakland A's and we celebrate everything and anything about them.

The 2011 season ended last week with the St. Louis Cardinals capturing their 11th ring (two ahead of the A's, and deservedly so). Cardinals manager (and former Oakland A's great) Tony LaRussa is calling it a career after 33 seasons, in which he won six pennants and three World Series rings. One of those titles came right here in Oakland in 1989, and it was the most lopsided World Series in the history of the game. In Oakland, LaRussa spent 10 years, earning three American League pennants and one World Series titles. He posted a .542 winning percentage during his tenure with the Green and Gold.

We would like to congratulate and celebrate LaRussa's career by dedicating this blog to him. Tony LaRussa was a great fit for Walter Haas's ownership, which gave back to Oakland and the whole East Bay community. LaRussa still resides in the East Bay and is involved within the community.

Some day, we hope to have another great manager like LaRussa was here in Oakland. Until then, we will continue to celebrate the Oakland A's tradition and rich history. Best of luck, Tony, and thank you for the great memories. We look forward to your Hall of Fame speech.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dodgers May Be Sold Soon -- Is Wolff Interested?

With all the recent talk about the land Wolff may or may not buy in the South Bay, it should be noted that the area that truly impacts the A's future might be in Southern California.

That is where the Los Angeles Dodgers' epic legal battle with Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig is taking place. For months, rumors have flown that Lew Wolff will become the new Dodgers owner, once MLB buys out current owner Frank McCourt.

Here's where it gets interesting: Last week -- according to Bill Shaikin of The Los Angeles Times -- U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross postponed the trial for a month to give time for McCourt and MLB to reach a settlement. McCourt's divorce becomes final on Nov. 14, which has been a major hurdle. Once that's out of the way, and if and when MLB reaches a settlement with McCourt, then MLB likely will own the Dodgers and could sell the team to whomever it wants.

That new Dodgers owner could be Wolff, according to one theory, especially if Selig is seeking to do his old frat buddy a favor as a "makeup call" for Wolff not getting what he wants with the A's. If Wolff is not allowed to move to the South Bay, he likely will want to sell the A's. It could cushion that blow if Selig hand-delivers him the Dodgers -- a very valuable asset and one of the most storied franchises in sports.

The devil is in the details, of course. Some say that the cash-strapped McCourt needs to sell the Dodgers for $1 billion just to break even with all his debt. Forbes Magazine recently placed the Dodgers value' at about $800 million. Selig and McCourt probably need to agree on a sale figure somewhere within that range.

If Wolff becomes the Dodgers owner, how great would it be if the A's are sold to a new local owner who would start working with Oakland officials on a new Oakland ballpark? For the first time since 1995 we might have a real owner who wants to "StAy." And win.

Wolff has denied interest in the Dodgers. Then again, he denied wanting to fire Bob Geren ... about two weeks before the A's fired Bob Geren.

With territorial rights not likely to be changed, this is not as far-fetched a scenario as Wolff's apologists would have you believe. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LaRussa vs. Washington: What Might Have Been

This World Series, pitting the St. Louis Cardinals versus the Texas Rangers, is a bitter pill for informed Oakland baseball fans.

It's hard to watch the teams' two skippers, Tony LaRussa and Ron Washington, without thinking, painfully, of what might have been had either man been allowed to stay with the A's organization, as they wanted to.

While this week's World Series is LaRussa vs. Washington, it also could be known as Steve Schott's incredible cheapness vs. Billy Beane's ego and arrogance.

See, LaRussa wanted to stay with the A's in Oakland after the 1995 season, even though the Haas family had sold the team to Schott and Ken Hofmann. But Schott didn't want to pay LaRussa's then-salary of $1.5 million. The Haas family actually offered to pay LaRussa's salary, out of pocket, in order to keep him in Oakland, and Schott, ever stingy, was more than willing to keep LaRussa on someone else's dime. But LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, seeing that Schott was ready for a roster fire sale, left for St. Louis.

But Schott wasn't done getting rid of fan favorites and future Hall-of-Famers. He fired announcer Lon Simmons because he didn't want to pay his salary. Simmons, who spent decades calling Giants games before he joined the A's, was re-hired by the Giants and eventually was given the Hall-of-Fame's Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting. But Schott wasn't done hurting the franchise. Before the 1997 season – just a year after Schott had chased LaRussa away -- the A's traded Dennis Eckersley to St. Louis. Then the A's traded McGwire to St. Louis during a season in which the talent-free roster finished last in the AL West and lost 97 games. Then, amazingly, Schott and Hofmann sued Oakland and Alameda County for "hurting their attendance" by renovating the Coliseum for the Raiders. Logic would dictate that Schott's terrible public relations and fire sale of A's stars led to lower attendance. But Schott and Hofmann weren't "the buck stops with us" kind of guys. They blamed others for their mistakes and sought to take public tax money through a lawsuit to prove their debatable point. That was the late 1990s, and LaRussa, who still lives in the East Bay with his wife in the offseason, has been a Cardinal ever since. Sadly.

Fast forward to 2006, when manager Ken Macha took the A's to the ALCS, the farthest they'd been in the postseason since 1992. Strangely, Billy Beane rewarded Macha with a pink slip. With the A's manager's job now open, A's players, fans and the news media all clamored for Beane to hire Ron Washington. "Wash" had been the team's longtime third-base coach and was the fielding instructor whom Eric Chavez credited for turning him into a Gold Glove third baseman.

Everyone wanted Washington to be the A's new skipper. Everyone except Beane. For some reason, Beane interviewed Washington and then waited. And waited. And waited some more until Washington was hired by the Texas Rangers as their new manager. With Washington out of the way, Beane then hired Bob Geren and we all know how that went.

Now, five years after Beane made that huge mistake, Geren was fired after failing to earn a winning season and Washington is getting ready to manage his Texas squad to its second consecutive World Series appearance. Can a baseball general manager make such a glaring personnel error and still keep his job?

Beane keeps blaming the Coliseum and "the market" for his team's failures, but the reality is that both LaRussa and Washington -- 10 years apart -- wanted to stay with the A's in Oakland at the Coliseum.

Washington and LaRussa are getting ready to enjoy one of the highlights of their baseball careers and we in Oakland are left to wonder what might have been if it weren't for Schott's stingy, shortsighted ways and Beane's inability to see that he had great manager right in his own locker room.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beane's Decisions Working for Rangers, Not A's

Hey, remember when most people -- A's fans, players and local media -- were excited for the A's to hire Ron Washington as manager when the job opened after the 2006 season? Instead, Billy Beane hired his wedding best man, Bob Geren. Five years later, Washington is on the verge of taking the Texas Rangers to its second consecutive World Series appearance and Geren is, well, the guy who had four consecutive non-winning seasons and somehow kept his job until the A's players appeared ready to mutiny.

By the way, did Beane take accountability for his glaringly bad Geren-over-Washington decision. Nope. Days after firing Geren, Beane blamed the media for creating a negative tide against the bumbling skipper. In a recent three-part interview with Athletics Nation, Beane continues to make excuses for the disappointing 2011 campaign, as well as the past half-decade of A's losing seasons. Beane continually blames the "stadium situation" or the "market." In reality, the biggest reason for the A's demise is Beane and his many, many bad decisions. Even worse, he never holds himself accountable and sets a record for making excuses.

For example, when Geren got fired, news reports revealed that many free agents didn't want to come to the A's because of Geren's bad reputation in the clubhouse and ownership's league-wide reputation for not being committed to winning. But that hasn't stopped Beane and Lew Wolff (and their increasingly desperate apologists) from blaming the city of Oakland and the Coliseum for their woes.

Sorry, guys, it wasn't the Coliseum that traded Andre Ethier for 1.5 seasons of Milton Bradley; nor was it the city of Oakland that traded Tim Hudson for three stiffs now out of baseball; or Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street for what ultimately turned out to be the aging prospect, Michael Taylor; or Nelson Cruz (who has become the star of this year's postseason) for the likes of Keith Ginter. We repeat: Nelson Cruz for Keith Ginter. Wow.

But the most glaringly bad Beane decision is his choice of Geren over Washington, and Washington made it clear in a recent John Shea article that he wanted the A's job:

"If I took this team over when I went to Texas, I believe the same thing we did in Texas, we'd be doing here," said Washington, referring to Oakland. "Billy (Beane) had that chance. I'm not saying he didn't want me, but he went in another direction, and another team wanted me."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dickey: If the Rays can do it ...

Last Wednesday, the last day of the regular season, was the most exciting sports day of 2011. With the Red Sox and Braves in a free-fall, it opened the door for the Cardinals and Rays to sneak in the playoffs on the last day. The AL chase was especially exciting because baseball fans enjoyed two dramatic wins, with the Red Sox losing in the ninth and the Rays winning in extra innings, each within minutes of each other. It reminded us yet again why baseball is the best sport in the world.

Glenn Dickey Compares A's and Rays

Venerable Bay Area sportswriter Glenn Dickey compared the Rays, who have made it to the postseason for the 3rd time in 4 years, to the A's who have failed to make the playoffs since 2006. Every thing about the Rays situation is worse than the A's. Worse stadium. Smaller market. And toughter division. Yet are coming out on top. Perhaps if you have management committed to winning instead of complaining and dreaming of fantasy stadiums in other cities you get results. We used to have that here. Moneyball was all about that. Too bad it doesn't exist anymore.

Furthermore, Dickey compares the A's to the 90s-era Giants, who were also in a worse situation than the current A's. Quote:

The ownership group agreed to take losses while the team was still playing in Candlestick Park to build a competitive team for the new park. They did that, with a team that reached the World Series in 2002, the third season in the new park, and should have won it.

And, while they were at Candlestick, they also put a lot of money into refurbishing the place as best they could, better restrooms, more spacious concession areas.
In contrast, the Wolff/Fisher ownership has done nothing but pursue a strategy aimed at eliminating the Giants’ territorial rights so they could move the A’s to San Jose. The word carpetbagger comes to mind.

This doesn't get talked about enough. For all of Lew's whining and all of his apologists defending him, how come the Giants made it happen and the current A's don't? We think Wolff's desire to move the team is not to strengthen the A's future, as he claims, but rather a get-rich-quick real-estate plan that benefits only Wolff and Fisher.

Rumors and Innuendo

A ton of rumors have been floating around the Internet about the A's situation. Here at BaseballOakland we promise not to post on rumors. Sure we have heard our fare share too, but we stand to discuss only real news when it becomes available.

Let's go A's! And keep them in Oakland!

P.S. BaseballOakland writer linusalf also says, "Go Phillies!" We think he's crazy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

No Willingham? Then Beane's Not Willing to Win

Well, that was fun while it lasted.

A lot of us were cheering "Moneyball" over the weekend, basking in the rare spotlight that the Brad Pitt movie brought to our Oakland A's. Tired of all the Lew Wolff-fueled cynicism, most of us allowed ourselves a little naive optimism and wondered if the A's would be smart enough to use the movie to reach out to Bay Area fans to whom they've done so much to chase away. You know, use all that Hollywood star power to sell a few tickets next year.

But you know the obvious punchline: "Why start now?"

We saw the movie Friday night, cheering with fellow Oaklanders at Jack London Cinema. But by Sunday morning, the honeymoon was already over when we read Susan Slusser's article, featuring this headline: "Stadium problem could preclude signing Willingham."

Two days later, Slusser had the same kind of article on Coco Crisp's expected departure.

Yep, Beane and Wolff never seem to miss a chance to rain on their own parade.

Slusser quoted Willingham's agent Matt Sosnick and wrote:

... general manager Billy Beane told Sosnick that spending decisions are on hold until a decision comes down about the A's stadium situation.

"... we were told they have interest in bringing Josh back, but before they did anything, they want to see what happens with the stadium," Sosnick said. "Josh and I both made it clear he'd like to stay, but at this point, I'm pretty sure he'll test the free-agent market."

Looks like Beane and Wolff are trying to sell the same old lie -- known in these parts as the Steve Schott Special -- that the A's just can't afford to keep or attract free agents because they're "stuck" at the Coliseum. Problem is, that statement is completely false. In fact, it's so demonstrably false that it insults every A's fan's intelligence. Let us count the ways:

1) In 2001, Jason Giambi really wanted to stay with the A's but Schott wouldn't do the deal, using the lame excuse that he wouldn't agree to a no-trade clause.

2) During the 2003 season, they didn't even bother to make an offer to Miguel Tejada, but during spring training, Schott made darn sure to make Tejada's imminent departure a reason to cry poor and blame the Coliseum. Of course, a year later they paid Jason Kendall roughly the same salary Tejada would get in Baltimore, only Kendall gave the A's just a fraction of Tejada's production.

During this time, Beane shrewdly stayed above of the fray, which allowed us to pretend for a while that he was above Schott's dishonesty. For a while, anyway.

3) After the 2004 season, Tim Hudson really wanted to stay with the A's. At the Coliseum. In Oakland. But when his agent publicly complained about not getting an offer, Beane traded Hudson within days.

If you doubt that Hudson wanted to stay in Oakland, check out his post-trade quote in a Slusser article:

"This sucks," Hudson said by phone Thursday evening, his voice cracking with emotion. "It just sucks. ... Right now, I'm sort of overwhelmed. I don't know what to think, I'm just trying to get my bearings."

And there's this quote from a different pre-trade article:

"Billy knows my heart is still in Oakland," Hudson said. "I want to play there, I love my teammates. ... The fans have been great to me. He knows my first choice is to stay in Oakland ... I just hope they find a way to figure something out to keep me around."

4) Now, Willingham and Crisp.

That's a lot of free agents who wanted to stay in Oakland, contrary to what Wolff and Beane have said. And they're saying it again. But here's Josh Willingham, the team's best slugger in half a decade, saying he wants to play for the Oakland A's at the Coliseum at the same prices they paid Jason Kendall five years ago. Crisp's agent seems open to him staying in Oakland, too. But Beane and Wolff won't do it. Their desire to stay pokes a Frank Thomas-size hole in Beane's argument that he can't keep free agents. In reality, it's not the Coliseum or Oakland. Beane and Wolff are just refusing to compete. They've completely stopped trying to win or sell tickets or attract new fans or even keep longtime ones. Beane and Wolff apparently are only in one business: To move the A's to the South Bay. And they've been failing at that one for nearly a decade, too.

Other sportswriters agree with us. Check out Yahoo Sports baseball columnist Ian Casselberry, who wrote:

Regardless of whether or not MLB approves a move to San Jose and a fancy new, revenue-producing ballpark, shouldn't Beane and the A's still try to put together the best team they can? If the team's best hitter wants to stay and is willing to sign for an affordable $12 million per year — a second-tier salary for a player of Willingham's production — how can there be any expectation that the A's will compete next season?

Or CSNBayArea's Ray Ratto:

The A’s are clearly playing the extort-a-ballpark game yet again, and now they’ve moved on to direct shoe-squeezing with the players ... We just don’t believe that’s the hangup. We’ve never believed that, and we never will. The A’s are deliciously profitable every year because of the revenue sharing pixie. They could pay Willingham out of that. They are also not hamstrung by the ballpark, because they are the ones who control that department. ... In short, the A’s reason for not engaging Willingham really isn’t the park, but they want it to seem that way. Nice try, but the smart folks aren’t buying.

Want to know the most disappointing part of this? We A's fans really, really want to believe in the Billy Beane of the early 2000s. But that guy doesn't exist anymore, assuming he ever did. Unfortunately, after Wolff gave Beane an ownership stake in 2005, he has been more and more willing to toe the company line. It's called "selling out." And Brad Pitt won't be making a movie about it -- unless he plays the role of the bad guy in that story: Billy Beane.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Oakland Shines Bright at Moneyball Premiere

"Moneyball" created a buzz in downtown Oakland on Monday. Movie stars like Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman, along with current and former A's ballplayers -- from Jemile Weeks to David Justice. It also brought out the bleacher bums and their tailgating equipment, with some arriving at noon just to see the workers set-up a mock stadium for the red carpet (which was green). They waved their flags high and proud. As stars started to show up, you could hear the chants "Let’s Go Oakland," "Keep the A’s in Oakland" and "Lew Wolff sucks" when the owner showed up. Here’s the story from Oakland North.

The premiere was scheduled to start at 6 p.m., so that's when folks started going into the Paramount. The people who did not have tickets stuck around downtown and enjoyed the Oakland night life. Bars and restaurants had "Moneyball" specials all day and night: from Luka’s Tap Room to The Layover to the new Make Westing bar next to the Fox. Those all are great places and are just a few in this thriving city that was rated #2 on Newsweek’s "Top 10 Can-Do Cities in America."

Now imagine the scene before and after a game around a ballpark at Victory Court, near Jack London Square, where there are great top-notch restaurants and bars. The "Moneyball" premiere was just a glimpse of what Oakland's nightlife scene could be if the A's were to build a stadium here. After the premiere, stars and ballplayers walked towards the Fox Theater for an afterparty. Some even stopped by the local bars. Imagine that happening in Jack London Square every time the A's are in town. How great would that be?

Oakland was on the big stage Monday night and it shined brighter than the stars. The diversity of this City was there, the fans were there, everyone was there and we will continue to be there -- all we need is the A's to join us! The premiere created a buzz for one day and a stadium could do it for many days to come.

"Moneyball" opens in theaters everywhere today, September 23rd , 2011.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A's News Round Up

It's been kind of a slow summer, but in the past month the news has really picked up.

First of all, we would like to thank Jorge Leon, Oaklandish and the Green Stampede for the wonderful event they co-hosted honoring the late Glenn Burke last Wednesday. Oakland Local had an excellent write up on the evening.

Last week, another Lake Merritt Station Area Plan meeting, where conceptual ideas on how the area could be redeveloped, was held. We previously discussed this in April 2010, and March 2011. We were unable to attend the meeting last Monday, but we are reviewing the PDF of the presentation and will try to have a write up ASAP. You can download them by clicking here. The PDF is rather large (23 mb) but covers a lot of the plan.

Victory Court and the Lake Merritt area across the freeway from each other and whatever happens with the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan will affect the Victory Court area, and vice-versa.

Last Thursday, news leaked out that the A's were switching their bleachers ticket policy, changing it from open general admission seating to assigned seating. Naturally, this was not well-received by A's fans, who had been used to general admission seating for more than 40 years. BaseballOakland essentially was put together by friends who sit out in the bleachers, so we weren't too happy about it, either. But, there's good news. The A's reversed course and will keep the bleachers general admission, according to the Keep the Bleachers General Admission Facebook page.

Now let's work on those damn tarps ...

Also, you may have heard that Bill Neukom is stepping down as the Giants' CEO and managing partner. We don't talk much Giants on here (for obvious reasons) However, many South Bay partisans see this as an opportunity for the A's to move out of Oakland. Not so fast. Larry Baer, a longtime Giants executive and the new managing partner, remains just as committed as his former boss to preserving the Giants' territorial rights in the South Bay.

A's manager Bob Melvin has been given a three-year contract extension.

Lastly, Moneyball premiered Monday night at the Paramount Theater in downtown Oakland ... but more on that later. It was a great night for Oakland.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Vote for Bill King (2011 Version)

It's time to vote for Bill King again for the Ford C. Frick Award, the Baseball Hall of Fame award for MLB TV/radio broadcasters.

If you're reading this blog then you already know what a broadcasting legend King was. You already know he was an A's play-by-play announcer from 1981 to 2005 -- from BillyBall to Moneyball. He was hired by the Haas family and for 15 years he and Lon Simmons (a previous Frick Award winner) were the A's announcers, forming one of the Bay Area's best all-time broadcasting duos. Ken Korach (also a great announcer) replaced Simmons in 1996 and worked alongside King until his death in October, 2005. King was 78.

What is there to say about him, really, other than this: A's fans miss Bill King. A lot. We miss him more than we can probably put into words. (As do Raiders and Warriors fans, by the way.) The best part of the Monebyall movie trailer is hearing Bill's excitable voice calling Scott Hatteberg's winning home run in Game 20 of the streak. In the clip he succinctly and perfectly describes the incredible finish as: "Just plain crazy!"

King was one of a kind. He was a true maverick, unfailingly genuine and uniquely honest in the booth. In an industry increasingly filled with homers and sanitized company men, King went against the grain and always approached his broadcasts with integrity. He also had unparalleled talent -- with a golden voice and an ability to deliver the perfect description at a rapid-fire pace. He could be eloquent and make an obscure, only-Bill-King-like reference. And he could be profane, fiery and off-color. He was simply irreplaceable.

Jane Lee of quoted a few of Bill's colleagues in her recent article:

"I've voted Bill No. 1 on every ballot I've had," said Lon Simmons, King's longtime broadcasting partner. "When you think of play-by-play, you have to think of Bill King as one of the best there ever was. He certainly has all of the qualifications."


"The depth of knowledge, the passion, the crisp description, the attention to detail, the command of language -- Bill was a master, like Mozart or a Rembrandt behind a microphone," said Ken Korach, the current voice of A's baseball.

So vote every day for Bill King at this Facebook page until Sept. 30. It really is a travesty that he has yet to win the Frick Award, even six years after his death. He received the most fan votes in 2005 and 2006 and still, inexplicably, has not yet won.

For him to be snubbed again would be, in the words of a wise man, just plain crazy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sungevity Doubles Office Space at Jack London Square

Last week, Blanca Torres of the San Francisco Business Times reported that Sungevity is doubling its office space at Jack London Square and plans to have as many as 400 employees in Oakland by the end of the year.

Sungevity, a solar panel leasing company, signed a lease to occupy 68,000 square feet in two buildings -- at 55 Harrison St. and at 66 Franklin St.

Andrew Birch, Sungevity's CEO, said staying in Jack London Square is a big factor in the company’s success. Here's an excerpt from the story:

"Sungevity aims to be the leading solar business in customer experience so building a team that can deliver is the key to success," Birch said. "The location here allows us to get the best people."

The waterfront location offers a scenic environment, proximity to amenities and access to a variety of transportation options, said Susan Hollingshead, the company’s vice president for human resources.

Sungevity had been shopping for up to 100,000 square feet of office space and Jack London Square offers more space for growth.

"We do have options on a couple of other floors in Jack London Square," Hollingshead said. "It is our intent to make this location our headquarters and our home for the foreseeable future."

To sum up, Sungevity had the vision to make Jack London Square its home, and they were rewarded with success and a growing share of the market. Now, we need A's owners who are wise enough to see that making Jack London Square their new home will have the same positive impact on the franchise.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

John Shea Defends Oakland Fans

John Shea, the Chronicle's baseball writer, defended Oakland baseball fans against Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson's anti-A's-fan rant last week. Wilson made wisecracks about recent A's attendance.

But Shea wrote:

... there's no doubt he (Wilson) knows little about A's history and how they outdrew the Giants 17 times in their first 25 times in Oakland. Fast-forward to 2011, and it's not the fans' fault the A's are heading for a fifth non-winning season, or that Mount Davis sucked all the quaint out of the Coliseum, or that the upper deck is tarped, or that FanFest was canceled, etc.

Shea then equated the A's the with the Giants, echoing what Andy Dolich said in a recent Oakland Tribune article. Shea noted that not that long ago it was the A's who were the Bay Area darlings, winning a World Series in a nice ballpark, while the Giants were losing games and fans in a chilly, unpopular stadium. Shea wrote:

Once upon a time, the A's were close to drawing 3 million, and now they're struggling to get half of that. It's reminiscent of the old Candlestick days, when the Giants struggled at the gate but had a legendary core of fans that kept the team breathing.

And leave it to Oakland-born and Alameda-raised Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies All-Star shortstop, to say it best:

"When I was growing up, they (Giants fans) weren't always packing the house, but the people who showed up at Candlestick were loud and crazy. All that's changed is the number of people showing up to the games."

Shea concludes by noting that one other thing has changed: the venue. Namely, depressing Candlestick Park was traded for popular AT&T Park. He wrote:

Of course (more Rangers fans show up to games). It's a superior ballpark and houses a superior team ... But the venue doesn't make the fans. The venue simply helps bring 'em out.

And we can't wait until that new venue is a sparkling Oakland ballpark near Jack London Square.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Analysis of Interview, Vols. 2-5

Last week was a busy one, so we're a little tardy with our analysis of Parts 2-5 of Lew Wolff's interview with Marine Layer. All five parts of the interview can be found at

Check out our take on Wolff's comments in Part 1 of the interview by clicking here.

Why do we analyze Wolff's interviews? Put simply, we believe Wolff would ruin the franchise by moving the A's out of Oakland. And if Wolff is using false pretenses to justify the move, then, well, he needs to be called on it.

We found 12 Wolff quotes in Part 1 that were either totally false or were opinions that we strongly disagree with because they lacked basic factual support.

Below, we continue listing Wolff's factual inaccuracies throughout the rest of the sitdown. Here's our take on Wolff's comments in Parts 2-5:

In Part 2, Wolff said:

We can go and lose $30 million a year like the Haas family was doing but we're not gonna do that.

That's false. To his credit, Marine Layer made space in the published interview to correct Wolff, noting that the Haas family, in fact, lost $6 to $10 million per year during their last few years as owner. That's just a fraction of what Wolff tried make readers believe. (It's also just a fraction of what the Peter Magowan-led Giants lost in San Francisco in the years before AT&T Park was built.)

In fat, according to MLB's Blue Ribbon Committee report from 2000, the Giants averaged $20 million losses and lost about $97 million total from 1995-1999. It's not like Magowan and Baer were worried about it, either. They looked at it like an investment.

Perhaps Wolff's comment was an honest mistake. But Wolff has a disturbing pattern of throwing out wildly inaccurate numbers as a supporting argument on why he "has to move" the A's. Whether you call it a mistake, normal hyperbole or a blatant lie, there is undeniably a pattern and every time Wolff does it (and he's done it a lot), it reminds us why he has such little credibility with fans and a usually laid-back Bay Area sports media that has turned on him.

Wolff's erroneous "$30 million loss" claim reminds us of last year's interview with Athletics Nation, in which Wolff tried to claim that the A's didn't sell out their 2006 ALCS home games. But that was another false claim by Wolff: A simple check of showed that Coliseum attendance for Game 1 and Game 2, the only ALCS games played in Oakland, were indeed sold out.

What may look like an isolated honest mistake starts to pile up into a long list of inaccuracies that would misinform the public if they were not fact-checked.

When asked about who has it worse on the ballpark front, Wolff or Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, Wolff said:

I've decided that mine is worse than his.

Really?! Yes, the Oakland Coliseum has its flaws and it needs to be replaced with a new Oakland ballpark. But ... worse than Tropicana Field? Really?! The Coliseum, the host of six World Series in an 18-year period, is worse than Tropicana Field, a sterile dome with artificial turf that was outdated five minutes after the Rays' first home game. Really?! The Coliseum, centrally located in the Bay Area with every public transit amenity except a ferry stop, is worse than Tropicana Field, the dome that has a roof and catwalks hit often enough by fly balls that Bob Melvin said it had "pinball machine-type stuff (that) is a little bit of an issue ..." Really?! Tropicana Field is better than the home of Catfish's perfect game, Vida's no-hitter, Reggie's eight Oakland seasons, Rickey's stolen base record, Braden's perfect game, BillyBall and four World Series winners? Really?! ... Really?! (With apologies to Seth Meyers.)

In Part 3, Wolff compared the Giants and A's to rival burger joints, saying:

(If) your SF McDonald's is worth $10 million and the Oakland McDonald's is worth $100,000.

Wolff's analogy doesn't pass the smell test because Wolff himself is the biggest reason why his "McDonald's" is worth so much less than San Francisco's. For many years now, Wolff (and Schott/Hofmann before him) have told all his customers that his "McDonald's" has terrible food, is in the wrong location and they shouldn't bother coming because they're going to be gone soon. And even when his customers ignore his warnings and come to his "McDonald's" he rewards them with terrible customer service. If Wolff, John Fisher and Mike Crowley actually worked on improving their "McDonald's" or on finding a new location within their home city, then it would be worth nearly as San Francisco's "McDonald's."

Wolff said:

I look at Dodger Stadium and it looks almost empty sometimes.

Yes, this is the damage that can be done to once-great franchises when terrible owners like the McCourts are allowed to buy a team. In L.A., the owners are rightly blamed for the franchise's sorry state. Yet, in Oakland, Wolff and his apologists don't think he should take any blame for the sorry state of the A's and how much it has declined on Wolff's watch. For some reason, Wolff blames the stadium and the city for his woes, but he blames McCourt the owner for the Dodgers' woes. That's a clear double standard.

Wolff said:

First, I looked at the Coliseum, because there was nothing downtown ... This is where I read the older (sports) writers, they're living in the past. A lot has changed for Oakland since then.

Yes, someone here is living in the past, but it's Wolff, not the sportswriters. Oakland's downtown once was struggling and moribund. But in recent years, it has enjoyed a renaissance and now is thriving with dozens of new restaurants, bars, cafes, and new businesses. Wolff is the one with the misperception based on outdated data, and it would be very sad if A's fans were punished by having the franchise make a bad business decision that hurts the franchise because of a misperception of Wolff's, who hasn't adjusted his regional view to accurately reflect Oakland's new, very positive changes.

Wolff also said:

The last year the Haases owned the team they had the highest payroll in baseball and drew 1.2 million.

This is misleading. What Wolff doesn't tell you is that this was 1994, a strike-shortened season. The A's only had 56 home games that year. (Note: To his credit, Marine Layer provided the proper factual context with an editor's note on his website.) Attendance numbers in 1994, and a few years thereafter, were down for EVERY team in MLB. Attendance got especially bad for teams whose new owners immediately started talking about moving the once-thriving franchise, like Schott did when he took over the A's in November, 1995.

Wolff said:

Aside from the market being -- Oakland used to have several major corporations, doesn't have them any longer.

This is false, on many levels. First, the new Oakland has a possible tech-company renaissance bubbling, according to reporter Blanca Torres of the San Francisco Business Times. Last month, Torres wrote: "Oakland is ... slowly becoming (a tech company hub) thanks to firms like Pandora, Sungevity, Lucid Design Group,, Xantrion, Bright Source Energy, Skytide Inc., Livescribe .." Couple them with old-school corporations like Clorox and Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, and Oakland has a more-than-solid corporate base that several other MLB cities would love to have.

Given that fact, it's weird that Wolff often feels the need to publicly insult his team's home city on this issue. It's even weirder that he's so inaccurate about it. Even stranger is that he then seems perplexed why the local media (again, usually a mild, forgiving bunch compared to other regions) criticizes him. Who else besides Wolff thinks you can insult your customers' home town with comments that are also wildly false, and not face some heat about it? Also, Wolff likes to mention the corporate-base issue about Oakland -- and only Oakland -- as if there's a wall around the city. For example, San Francisco clearly can't support the Giants by itself -- otherwise, the Giants wouldn't be fighting to keep other cities and counties in its territory. They draw their annual 3 million fans (and corporations) from ALL over the Bay Area, not just San Francisco. The Oakland A's could do the same if they were run properly. But Wolff pretends to believe that by building a new park in Oakland, he will somehow be forced to draw fans and corporations from only Oakland. Tell that to Oracle (of Oracle Arena) or McAfee, Network Associates or -- all corporations from non-East Bay cities that happily have given their money and name to Oakland sports facilities.

Wolff's comments above, and the point he wants to make with them, are not even close to being true. But Wolff keeps saying them. And then he wonders why people call him a liar.

Wolff also said:

Other owners haven't been able to do anything in Oakland (build stadia), either. We're not the only one.

That's false. In the 1980s, Oakland stadium officials successfully worked with the Haas family to add luxury boxes to the Coliseum for A's games. (Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson had a similar deal set with Al Davis in 1980, which would have kept the Raiders in Oakland, but NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, letting his rivalry with Davis get the best of him, illegally interfered with the negotiations. The NFL had to write Davis a court-ordered $17 million check in the mid-1980s after Davis' lawyers proved Rozelle's interference. But that's another blog for another day.)

Since 1995, when Schott-Hofmann bought the A's from the Haases, Oakland officials have tried hard to work with the A's owners. But Schott-Hofmann -- and then Wolff and John Fisher after them -- have done nothing but talk about moving to the South Bay, while refusing to work sincerely with Oakland and Alameda County officials. Want proof? Check out our timeline on A's ownership actions since 1995.

Wolff said about trying to get the territorial rights to Santa Clara County from the Giants:

I think everything can be settled. But you can't do it if someone's not willing to cooperate.

Painfully ironic, because that sentence also explains the frustration most A's fans feel about Wolff and his stubborn refusal to work with Oakland city officials on a new Jack London Square ballpark.

In Part 4, Wolff said:

I think our marketing group may be one of the best in baseball because they have such a challenge. It's fun to be at the Coliseum, but I don't know (beyond that). We try everything.

First, let's focus on the positive. We agree on one thing: A few promotions this year have been fun and an improvement on past efforts. The recent true doubleheader and MC Hammer Bobblehead/'80s Day were creative promotions that had fans buzzing the next day. And they've copied a few of other teams' good ideas, such as community events like "Irish Heritage Night," etc. Let's give credit where credit is due. Secondly, we bet the A's marketing group works very hard.

Now, the cold reality: Promotions are different from a marketing plan. Thus, the A's overall marketing is and has been very bad for many years. But again, that falls on ownership, not necessarily the marketing department rank-and-file. Look at all the factors that fall under Marketing: advertising budgets, advertising message, community involvement, TV/radio announcers, ability to get local newspapers and TV news to cover your ball players for human interest stories, game promotions (see, it's just one part of many), having a year-round radio home on the dial, among others. Wolff is right about one thing: His marketing team has a big challenge, but it's not because of the Coliseum or Oakland. The biggest challenge they face comes from the owners, who have put a losing product on the field for half a decade, discouragde them from investing in the team by always talking about moving the franchise, and always give fans terrible customer service once they get to the Coliseum.

Wolff said about his famous general manager:

Billy has kept us competitive, and he doesn't get as much credit as he should, but that leaves us in the middle of the draft. So where other teams get higher picks --

Beane doesn't get enough credit? C'mon, he has enjoyed the praise of a best-selling book (and now a movie with him played by Brad Pitt) about him that made him an internationally known name, and maximized his role in the A's success from 2000-2002, while minimizing a lot of other A's employees who contributed to it: names like Sandy Alderson, Art Howe, Rick Peterson, Grady Fuson, J.P. Ricciardi, and many others. He still enjoys all that credit, despite 2011 being the team's 5th consecutive non-winning season.

Wolff's second point about the A's draft slot placement shows he doesn't understand the unpredictable nature of drafting and evaluating talent in MLB. Where you draft in the first round (early, middle or late) shouldn't kill your player personnel efforts -- a draft is judged by your overall annual haul of young players. Tim Hudson, the A's best starting pitcher since Dave Stewart, for instance, was a 6th round pick in '97. Nick Swisher, the 16th pick of the 2002, was very good A's pick right in the middle of the first round. That middle-round placement didn't stop Swisher from becoming an Oakland fan favorite and a good pro player (who Billy Beane traded away, unfortunately).

Wolff said:

I can't keep asking Billy and his guys to (deal with being a low-revenue, low-payroll team).

Wolff doesn't have to. He does have other options. He could work hard for the first time since becoming owner to actually raise revenue (and payroll) for his team. He also could get his front office to stop driving down attendance by complaining about the Coliseum; to market the team better and not let great announcers get away like Greg Papa, Marty Lurie and Lon Simmons did; to instead keep all the concession stands open so fans don't miss three innings by waiting in line forever after walking halfway around the ballpark just to get a hot dog and a drink. That's the short list of things he can do. There are others.

Also, Wolff is on record as saying that, even after building a new ballpark, he plans to keep the payroll as low as possible. In a 2007 article in a Florida newspaper, Wolff said: "It will be business as usual. We have a staff, led by [GM] Billy Beane, that is very, very bottom-line oriented. Billy loves doing it that way. Frankly, it's more fun."

Wolff talked about the front office's failures at free agency:

And we sat down with Adrian Beltre ... and we offered somewhere over $70 million ... Scott (Boras) said, "No he's gonna get $90 million." ... We left and thought, "That's not what he's getting." And then Texas paid him.

Well, this is a head-scratcher because this story actually supports Wolff's critics' point of view about him. A free agent ball player took an offer that was $20 million higher than Wolff's and Beane's offer. It's the oldest sports business story in the book.

Wolff also blamed Oakland and the Coliseum for why Lance Berkman spurned them for a slightly less lucrative deal with St. Louis. But players spurn teams all the time. Last off-season, Cliff Lee took less money to play for the Phils instead of the Yankees. Years ago, Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens rejected the Yankees to play in their hometown of Houston together.

Plus, Wolff doesn't mention that A's slugger Josh Willingham has repeatedly said he would like to sign a long-term deal to stay in Oakland with the A's. Or that the A's were able to sign free agents like Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour. Or that former A's -- from Tejada to Giambi to Chavez to Hudson to Zito -- all said they wanted to stay in Oakland rather than leave or be traded.

Also, Oakland Tribune beat reporter Joe Stiglich quoted player agents in January saying that Beane's complaints about the Coliseum were "overblown." Stiglich quoted an agent who said about the players: "What is frustrating for them is that none of them believe that they can win (with the A's)."

Wolff said about the A's long-struggling offense:

We're starting to look at our air-conditioning (the marine layer). Why do they hit .280 (somewhere else) and then come here (and not hit)?

See the pattern here? There's never any accountability for their own decisions. It's always someone else's fault. Funny, the cool air around the Coliseum didn't keep the A's from hitting and winning from 2000-2003.

Wolff said:

Going into 2007, after we got to the ALCS ... we had less season ticket sales going into 2007 (than in 2006). How is that possible

Here's why: First and foremost, Wolff spent all of 2006 and the off-season before 2007 constantly talking about his desire to move to Fremont. The A's fan base, many of whom still bear the scars of the Raiders leaving in 1982, were turned off by the talk. That's on Wolff, not the fans. Instead of building on the great 2006 season and building on the great winning history the A's have in Oakland, Wolff kicked dirt in the fans' faces by talking about damaging that history with talk of franchise relocation, which is especially painful for Oaklanders.

Also, in 2006 and 2007, Wolff raised ticket prices AND tarped off the third deck. We know fans hated the tarps from the beginning because they were quoted saying as much in this S.F. Chronicle article.

In 1999, when the A's finally contended for a playoff spot for the first time in seven seasons, they enjoyed a bump of nearly 300,000 fans in attendance. In 2000, they won the AL West and enjoyed another bump of nearly 400,000 fans, and drew more than 2.1 million fans. Why did the A's draw so well then, but not for Wolff in 2007? It's because Wolff was making major P.R. mistakes, as listed above.

Wolff talked about the territorial rights the Giants own in the South Bay:

Santa Clara County was nobody's territory at one point

Yes, but that has changed. Wolff seems to have trouble understanding and coming to terms with a very basic economic principle: ownership. Like this concept: The San Francisco Giants own the territorial rights to Santa Clara County and have done so for 20 years because A's owner Walter Haas gave it to them. End of story. The organization once owned it. Now it does not. Furthermore, when Wolff and John Fisher bought the A's in 2005, they knew which territories the A's did and did not own. For some reason, Wolff and Fisher seem to have a sense of entitlement about an issue that is pretty cut-and-dry.

Likewise, the Peralta family 160 years ago owned almost the entire East Bay. Today, they own very little of it. Why? Because a variety of forces (lawsuits, the government, squatters, debt) forced them to sell most of it. The Peraltas once owned almost 45,000 acres in the Bay Area. Now they don't.

Pretty simple, right?

Now, what if a Peralta descendant knocked on your door tomorrow and said, "I want your house and property and, even though I'm a billionaire, I'm going to give you nothing for it because, well, it used to be ours and I just really, really want it." What would you tell that Peralta family member and how many F-bombs would you drop during the conversation?

It'd be a ridiculous request, right? Yet, it's almost the exact same demand that Wolff and Fisher are making in regards to ownership of the Santa Clara County territory.

When comparing A's-Giants to other two-team markets, Wolff said:

And we're further from the other team than any other.

This is not true. The Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles have that claim.
(Again, to his credit, Marine Layer noted the factual correction on his website.)

In Part 5, when comparing the San Jose site to Oakland's, Wolff said:

San Jose went and acquired half the property or more, which is good for us because they're committed ... Starting now, somewhere else? Forget it, it's not gonna happen.

This is Wolff at his most disingenuous. Let's summarize: He has refused to work sincerely with Oakland from the beginning. And simultaneously, it's clear (from various articles that we've linked to) that he has worked with San Jose from the beginning. Don't believe us? You can see the factual verification at these links:
a) Here
b) Here
c) Here
d) Here
e) and Here.

And that's the short list of links. How is he being disingenuous?

Wolff went out and quietly created the very set of conditions that he now is citing as the reason why he "must" move the team. It's the most cynical type of self-fulfilling prophecy.

When talking about a new stadium, Wolff said:

We want players to look up and have the stands filled. As much as they shouldn't care whether it's one person or 50,000, they do care.

But, of course, Wolff doesn't want the stands filled. If he did, the A's front office would be doing almost exactly the opposite of what they've done under Wolff's watch, because, as noted above, almost every move Wolff has made since becoming owner has depressed attendance. If Wolff wanted more fans, then why did he cancel FanFest? Why is A's billboard advertising nonexistent? Why don't they work harder at community outreach? Why is customer service so bad at the Coliseum? Why ... well, you get the picture. See above for more examples on this.


And that's a wrap. If you made it all the way through this, then you're our kind of Oakland A's fan. Until then, keep the faith. The facts are on Oakland's side in this fight. One day, this thing is going to turn around in Oakland's favor, and when it does, we can get back to enjoying the kind of thrilling moments that made us all A's fans to begin with ... like this Oakland baseball moment.

Let's go, Oakland.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Analysis of Interview, Vol. 1

A's managing partner Lew Wolff sat down recently for an interview with's Marine Layer, who is breaking up the sitdown into five parts. Part 1 was published Monday.

As we did with Athletics Nation's interview with Wolff last year, we're going to correct any errors and refute any factually incorrect statements that Wolff makes about the A's, their stadium situation and the cities involved.

One quick note: We don't like being negative, believe it or not. All we are is a group of baseball fans who just want to talk baseball and root for our team. But our favorite team is in danger of being ruined. And we're not going to let hugely inaccurate statements, specious arguments and very flawed logic about A's off-field history and the city of Oakland go by without a fact-based rebuttal.

Without further ado, here's our take on Part 1, free of charge:

In answer to the first question about the ballpark development process, Wolff said:

So we had an idea that if we brought a new ballpark to Oakland or any place, we could say to the community, "You don't have to write a check , but we'd like to entitle property for residential" -- not for our developer. The reason this escapes everybody is because nobody's going to take their time to look into except you.

Not true. The reason why Wolff's entitlement process has been understood by so few people is that Wolff has never taken the time to fully explain the process.

Check out this excerpt from Patrick Hoge's S.F. Chronicle article on Wolff's Fremont plan from 2007:

Wolff has proposed that Fremont rezone the land around the stadium and allow him to develop a "ballpark village'' with 2,900 units of housing, mostly townhomes, and a retail development comparable to Santana Row in San Jose.

But another excerpt from the Hoge column is even more telling:

Wolff did not provide details about how he plans to pay for what he said would be a small ballpark of roughly 32,000 seats.

In Fremont, Wolff never did provide Hoge or the city's residents much details in a public setting. They just were never fully provided. Besides, it's still not clear why these entitlements are necessary for a ballpark in Oakland or Fremont, but not in the South Bay.

Wolff also said:

With all the delay and difficulty in both Oakland and Fremont -- Oakland in the sense of land availablity because it's a built up city ...

That's false. In October 2009, a report was issued stating that Oakland has "1,200 acres of vacant and underutilized public land." Plus, even if Oakland really is too built up, remember that ANY major metropolitan city is built up. Yet, stadiums and large projects get built all the time in cities with fare more density and less land than Oakland has.

Wolff also said:

I think I told you before -- I don't have the book with me -- that it takes me one hour, forty-five minutes to go through everything we did in Oakland. Even though somebody has a sign in RF saying, "Lew liked, he never did anything." That person hasn't come and sat down and asked, "Tell me what you did do?"

Actually, he did meet with you, Lew. That fan is Jorge Leon. And he left his meeting with you feeling unimpressed with your answers and efforts. (Here's Leon's take on that meeting.)

Then Wolff talked in detail about various Oakland sites, incuding his "North of 66" plan, the impossibly ambitious East Oakland plan he introduced in August 2005, but quickly ditched. Here are some excerpts:

Even though some of the areas look blighted, as soon as you say we're trying to build a ballpark there, immediately the land values go way up. ...I drove through there (around the Coliseum) and it looked pretty blighted. All I wanted to do is start a dialogue with 50 property owners or 30. Except for one or two people, nobody wanted to even discuss it.

Don't those two thoughts from Wolff contradict each other? In other words, here's what we don't get: If Wolff was so concerned (as he states above) about driving up land prices if he reveals he wants to buy it for a ballpark, then why did Wolff publicly announce his "North of 66" plan in August 2005 before buying a single parcel of land there in East Oakland? It's just one more excuse he gives that doesn't really add up.

Also, even though Wolff announced the plan in August 2005, at Fanfest the following February, David Forst and Billy Beane were already talking about Fremont. Also, according to a 2006 East Bay Express story:

"... Wolff was introduced to Cisco CEO John Chambers in the fall of 2005 by former A's co-owner Ken Hofmann. Wolff and Chambers quickly began discussing a deal for the 143-acre Cisco-Catellus property, to which Cisco still held the rights."

So he makes the big Oakland announcement in August, and just two or three months later, he's seriously looking at Fremont and talking to Cisco. Does Wolff sound like a guy there who's serious about Oakland?

Wolff also said:

I also didn't expect them (Oakland) to just draw a line around six blocks and say, "Oh there's a ballpark."

Simply not true. Oakland officials and others have done much, much more than that. Unfortunately, Wolff has refused to sincerely work with Oakland officials on a new ballpark.

Wolff also said:

If someone flew in from Mars and you were going to put a ballpark somewhere and one was already in San Francisco, where would you put the next one?

Interesting hypothetical (that Wolff got from a Monte Poole column last year written in defense of Oakland as a baseball town). But still just a hypothetical. Getting back to the reality of the situation, the fact is that Oakland has been the A's home for 44 seasons. And history shows that when the owner makes a commitment to Oakland and merely tries to be competitive, then A's fans respond positively with attendance that matches or exceeds the Giants', and the team thrives.

Wolff later said:

I didn't want to be the owner who says, "If you don't do what I tell you we're moving to San Antonio." ...I don't think that's the way to do one of these things. I still don't think that's the way to do it.

That's not true, Lew. According to this S.F. Chronicle article from September 2008, you said to an A's Booster Club crowd:

Instead of just saying, 'If you don't have a BART station, you can't survive,' we're trying to figure out if we can. If we can, we will. If we can't, we won't. Of course, then we wouldn't be in California any more.

That's clearly a threat to move the team out of state. And we're not misinterpreting anything. Ray Ratto wrote a column the next day criticizing Wolff for making the threat. Ratto wrote: "And to alienate the fan base with a threat that he cannot carry out for the foreseeable future is just plain daft."

Wolff also said:

If our entitlement program worked in either Oakland or Fremont we would've been there. ... As much as I love San Jose I wasn't thinking about San Jose at the time at all.

In short, Wolff wants us to believe that from 2003-2005, he was looking only at Oakland, and from 2006-2009, he was looking only at Fremont. But if that's true, why did San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed say this in a May 10, 2011 letter to Bud Selig regarding Wolff and the A's: "Even though a lot of time has passed, seven years to be exact, since the A's first considered moving to San Jose, we remain enthusiastic ..."

Seven years ago was 2004, right around the time that Wolff says he was trying to work with Oakland. Hmmm.

Also, if Wolff was working only with Oakland during those years, why did Wolff (according to this 2006 article) say that he had given up on moving to the South Bay because he had spent the previous three years (from 2003-2006) trying to buy out the Giants for the territorial rights to San Jose?

Also, San Jose has not done any of its ballpark work on its own because Wolff was talking about San Jose as far back as 1998, as this Chronicle story shows.

Also, A's blogger White Elephant Parade wrote in a March 2011 blog that San Jose leaders started their ballpark process in 2005 by banking land in an "undercover" way. White Elephant Parade discovered that tidbit in this 2006 Almaden Times Weekly article in which Baseball San Jose chair Michael Mulcahy, who is related to Wolff's business partners and A's minority owners, is quoted.

Wolff also said:

There have been huge demographic changes since the Bash Brothers and the A's drew X attendance. Back then the population of Oakland was probably twice what it is today.

This is not true.
(Note: To his credit, Marine Layer noted on his website that Wolff was factually incorrect with this statement.)

Also, the facts also dispute Wolff's overall point that Oakland isn't populous enough to be viable. Since the Bash Brothers of the late '80s and early '90s, Oakland today is actually a much wealthier and safer city than it was during the successful LaRussa/Canseco/McGwire years. And if the A's can draw 2.9 million fans in 1990 (Oakland accomplished this before the Yankees accomplished it in New York, by the way) during a rough economic time in the city's history, then they certainly can match or exceed that success now in 2011 when Oakland is enjoying a renaissance in many areas.

Wolff then added:

St. Louis is the city where I came from, and the city used to be 800,000 people, it's 300,000 now. There used to be ten, twelve major company headquarters there. Now there aren't any except Anheuser Busch ... There's been a shift.

If Wolff is comparing Oakland to St. Louis, then he is making the Oakland boosters' main point. St. Louis is considered by most to be a great baseball town that feverishly supports the Cardinals and gets great attendance. Wolff seems to be saying that Oakland isn't viable because it's like St. Louis, which is one of the most viable baseball towns in the country. Following Wolff's train of thought: if Oakland is just like St. Louis, then it is -- or has the potential to be -- a great baseball town.

Wolff also said:

Even if there were a site in Oakland ...

But there is a site in Oakland. Wolff would know about it if he hadn't stiff-armed Oakland leaders back in March 2009. People forget that the formation of the three-member committee to study the A's situation started back then because Wolff wouldn't work with Oakland leaders, who then went over Wolff's head to Commissioner Selig.

Lastly, Wolff said:

Give me Robert Moses for one year and I'll have a new ballpark anywhere you want. (laughs) ... This great metropolis (New York), that great ability to create, we don't have that today.

Robert Moses, huh? It's a strange reference because Moses' work in recent years has been largely viewed as negative. He demolished large swaths of urban areas and his idea to build freeways in previously thriving neighborhoods has made him the target of blame for the damaging flight to the suburbs and the decline of cities from the 1950s to '70s. He also did the Brooklyn Dodgers no favors. That Wolff looks back on Moses with nostalgia is, well, kind of silly.

Well, that's it for Part 1. We'll tackle Part 2 tomorrow.