Monday, February 21, 2011

A's Facts and "Conspiracy Theories"

In this never-ending 16-year A's ballpark odyssey, one of the weirder chain of events happened one year apart, in 2005 and 2006. And it helps explain why so very few people trust Lew Wolff and John Fisher.

On March 31, 2005, the day before Wolff and Fisher officially took over the A's, the San Francisco Chronicle had an article where longtime South Bay baseball booster Larry Stone went into elaborate detail to predict what Wolff would do with the A's. Stone said, "Wolff could demonstrate that he tried to make a deal in Oakland and then say, 'I tried, I have to look elsewhere.' We hope and believe that one of the places, if not the only place, is San Jose."

Five months later, Bud Selig gave a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Jose, which was attended by A's president Mike Crowley. The host/emcee of that public event was the same Larry Stone. (Stone also wrote a Chronicle op-ed guest column last year, demonizing Giants owner Bill Neukom and arguing that the A's shouldn't have to pay the Giants anything for moving into their territory, unless it's proven after the fact that it affected the Giants. Good luck with that argument.) Needless to say, Stone has been carrying Wolff's water for at least six years.

Then, on March 12, 2006, San Jose Mercury News sportswriter Mark Purdy wrote a column that exactly echoes Stone's detailed prediction. In early 2006, Wolff had hinted he was looking to move the A's to Fremont. But Purdy, a tireless Wolff supporter, wrote in the column that Wolff really might not be trying to move to Fremont, after all.

By saying he was going to the move the A's into the furthest part of their East Bay territory without actually crossing the border into the Giants' South Bay territory, Wolff was just bluffing, Purdy wrote. Wolff instead was merely going to threaten to move to Fremont and then rename the team the "San Jose A's of Fremont," and then, just before signing the deal with Fremont, he would go to the Giants offering a deal to let Wolff move the A's to San Jose, Purdy predicted.

Purdy wrote that Wolff would say: "Look, if I go to Fremont and call the team the San Jose A's, the Giants get nothing. But if you agree to let me actually move the team to San Jose, you'll get some compensation. How about it?"

Remarkably, Wolff told Purdy he wouldn't rule out any of this detailed hypothetical scenario.

Let's review:

In March 2005, South Bay baseball booster Larry Stone said that Wolff will only make it look like he tried in Oakland and Fremont and then will try to move the A's to San Jose.

In March 2006, South Bay baseball booster Mark Purdy wrote that Wolff will only make it look like he tried in Fremont and then will try to move the A's to San Jose.

Also in 2006, Wolff said that he had spent the previous three years (2003-2006) trying to buy out the Giants so he could move the A's to San Jose.

In 1998, Wolff told the San Francisco Chronicle that if he were running the A's, he "wouldn't spend five minutes on any other city" than San Jose. Wolff also said in the '98 article that he would work directly with San Jose's mayor and its redevelopment agency on a new ballpark. Since taking over in 2005, that's exactly what Wolff has done.

In fact, in his six years of ownership, Wolff has done exactly what Stone and Purdy publicly predicted a half-decade ago.

If any pro-Oakland booster had laid out those detailed scenarios that Stone and Purdy did, they would have been accused of being "conspiracy theorists." But they weren't Oakland's "theories" at all. They were the words of Wolff's biggest supporters, who somehow, someway knew exactly what Wolff was going to do before he went out and did it.

Stone and Purdy may or may not have been publishing Wolff's playbook, before the fact.

But Oakland fans don't need to try to guess or theorize. With Wolff and Fisher so inartfully showing their hand through the years, we'll just stick to what we know.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Quakes Fans Don't Trust Wolff, Either

Lew Wolff has an increasingly big reputation for being a dishonest guy. How large is Wolff's credibility gap with his paying customers?

Look no further than the South Bay, where Earthquakes soccer fans are not happy with the newest sketch renderings that Wolff's front office team recently submitted to the city of San Jose, according to Sunday's San Jose Mercury News article. Here's an article excerpt:

The most recent documents ... show stark and rudimentary sketches of the stadium, not the colorful U-shaped version unveiled by team co-owner Lew Wolff to much acclaim at a September 2009 event. ... The latest bare-bones version, however, is alarming soccer fans and skeptics alike. They wonder whether the drawing -- submitted as part of the team's application for a building permit -- is a sign that Wolff is backing out of his support for the stadium.

Quakes president Dave Kaval said there is nothing to the controversy, and that the team plans to build according to the original rendering after March 3, when they will demolish an old factory at the soccer stadium site.

However, the whole brouhaha illustrates just how little faith local sports fans have in the words of Lew Wolff and co-owner John Fisher, whether it's in regards to the Oakland A's or the San Jose Earthquakes.

Maybe that lack of trust exists because Wolff has been caught telling so many lies in the past. Or maybe Quakes fans understandably are still mad that, in 2009, Wolff made comments that insulted the Quakes fan base. Then Wolff openly questioned the South Bay's corporate support for pro sports.

Or maybe it's because of the financial woes of San Jose's city government, or the money troubles plaguing Santa Clara County's cash-strapped coffers, are making fans wary of giving more multi-million-dollar discounts of taxpayer money to Wolff and Fisher.

Or maybe Quakes fans are wondering if Wolff will be as misleading with the remaining acres that San Jose sold to him at a discounted price to develop around the soccer stadium.

Whatever the reason, loyal South Bay soccer fans now seem to see Wolff the same way Oakland baseball fans long have viewed the Los Angeles developer: Someone not to be trusted.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Baseball Oakland Interview with Mayor Jean Quan

We recently sat down for an interview with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan at City Hall. She generously gave her time while discussing several hot topics, including redevelopment, the Victory Court ballpark site, and Lew Wolff's campaign donation to Don Perata, among others.

Here is the interview:

BASEBALL OAKLAND: You made history by becoming Oakland's first female mayor, its first Asian-American mayor and the first Asian-American mayor of a major American city. How does making that kind of national history feel for you?

MAYOR QUAN: You know, the national impact was the only thing I did not expect. Being somebody from Oakland, I was the first Asian to be elected to the school board. I was the first Asian to be actually elected to the City Council, not appointed. And I was the first woman (mayor). And so, I'm used to doing these local firsts. For instance, so this morning I had to get up at 7 o'clock to do an interview on Skype with a reporter in Guangzhou, Canton.

So the two things that surprised me was the international attention that we've gotten. It ran in the the major blogs and front page in Beijing and Shanghai before it ran in the (Oakland) Tribune because of the news cycle. The attention from the White House -- I had been already going to the White House to make presentations. I'd been to the White House for conferences and meetings before, as a national leader of urban schools and representing big cities on transportation issues. The invitation to the State Dinner, though, created a huge flurry of articles in (newspapers like) the Washington Post, interviews, and they said that 356 news outlets ran the picture of (San Francisco mayor) Ed Lee and I walking in. It was sort of interesting -- that kind of phenomenon surprised us and I'm pleased that it's helped raise Oakland's profile as an international city.

BASEBALL OAKLAND: A's fans are excited that you are committed to keeping the A's in Oakland and that you back up your talk with action like when you called MLB the day after you won the election. How will the new ballpark at Victory Court benefit Oakland?

MAYOR QUAN: Well, you know, because of the whole fight over redevelopment, there will be a big question as to whether we're going to have that redevelopment money. Both our (plan) and San Jose's plan require redevelopment funds. Redevelopment in the district in San Jose actually has more economic problems maybe than ours does. So, it's interesting, what deals may or may not be made because of redevelopment. But we don't believe redevelopment will totally go away. And so with that, Victory Court obviously has the advantage that it will bring an estimated 2 million visitors to downtown. And Oakland's downtown is pretty hopping these days. I don't know if you do First Fridays. I was out and I decided to visit the mostly African American galleries on 14th Street and then I went over to the museum.

You know, it's just amazing how many people are coming out to downtown, and if you could add baseball to that mix, the whole downtown would be energized, particularly the restaurants and Chinatown and the Lake (Merritt) are so close to the proposed stadium that I think it makes the whole downtown entertainment zone much larger and more diverse. I think it would be perfect for the mix in the next century of the kinds of fun entertainment activities that you have in downtown Oakland. We have a major lake, we have the estuary activities, we have major theaters and jazz clubs, and we have this large, large, large variety of museums and art galleries. So, it would be a perfect addition to that. So, yes, I think that if it's built, that it will probably generate enough traffic for another hotel in Jack London Square, specifically that it will up the restaurants that are struggling in Jack London Square itself, and probably give a boost to Chinatown, too. Any kind of stadium structure these days will have major retail. So, all of those are things we need as a city to do well.

BASEBALL OAKLAND: Do you feel that Victory Court can be a kickstart to the Oak-to-Ninth project and to Jack London Market?

MAYOR QUAN: We focused on that one (ballpark site) because it's the one that Major League Baseball seems most interested in. Some people believe the other Jack London site on the other side is also doable. But we mostly talked about Victory Court because the city owns something like 40 percent or 50 percent of the land because of the fire (department) activity out there.

BASEBALL OAKLAND: The Eat Real Festival is held each year at Jack London Square near the Victory Court site. What are some of the other revenue-generating uses that could be held at Victory Court in the baseball offseason?

MAYOR QUAN: Yes, there is not only that festival, but there are other events that are constantly going on at Jack London, and when you build the Oak-to-Ninth (development) on the other side, it will extend the bay trail. There's talk of an outside amphitheater along the trail, and a lot of other activities. When Oak-to-Ninth is finished, there is supposed to be a long lawn area very similar to Crissy Field (in San Francisco) in size. So, I think it will make the bay trail and all of those sorts of activities along there much more interesting.

Obviously, Jack London is also known for -- it's often where we have our 4th of July, it's where we have the (Christmas) tree lighting. If the ballpark was started there I think the food court (at Jack London Square) would finally get going. They've actually built the food court, but in this economy it's been hard for them. I think they need 80 percent commitment, but I think they have gotten only to about half so far, so they haven't been able to open.

BASEBALL OAKLAND: What can you say or do to reassure business owners at the Victory Court site that they will be treated fairly if their relocation might be necessary for the project to move forward?

MAYOR QUAN: I think we're negotiating with them now. People don't know much about these processes. But we always pick outside appraisers. We're required by law to have outside appraisers to estimate what the value of the land is. Usually in a situation like this, people hold out for more than the amount that the appraiser asks for. It's clear that if you just don't want to move at all, that's problematic. But we're hoping -- and I know Nancy (Nadel) is worried about them -- we have a lot of food industries that are taking off like Peerless, etc. They would get top priority for moving. We have space along the estuary, headed toward Ignacio's district, and we still are filling in the Army Base. Looking at what's there, we're pretty confident that we could find other places for those businesses.

BASEBALL OAKLAND: Have you spoken recently with MLB's so-called Blue Ribbon Committee and, in your opinion, how is that process going?

You know, I can't say about the so-called Blue Ribbon Committee other than we've really been talking to them, and we have hired our own negotiator, which we had not done in the past. So, we're hoping to get a better deal, first of all, and then secondly, somebody who has a record of finishing these (deals).

BASEBALL OAKLAND: What was your opinion of Lew Wolff's and John Fisher's campaign donation to Don Perata during the mayor's election race?

MAYOR QUAN: The donation to Don Perata (laughs) -- a waste of money, I guess. You know, it explained to a lot of us -- we were pretty shocked during the (Oakland) Tribune interview, I mean, I don't know if you read the Tribune endorsement. They really didn't like me that much, but they really didn't like Don. But the one thing that shocked us all was how he just basically said, "It's a done deal." He wasn't going to waste any time or effort (on the A's). It sort of surprised us all. But maybe the contribution had a role in it, who knows.

BASEBALL OAKLAND: Has Lew Wolff contacted you personally since you were elected Oakland mayor?

MAYOR QUAN: No, the only time I've talked to Lew Wolff was when I was first elected to the City Council. We were at some kind of meeting, and someone introduced us and I asked him, "Mr. Wolff, what can we do to get you to stay in Oakland."

And he said, "Well, you need to give me about 60 blocks around the Coliseum."

And I just smiled and said, "So, I guess you really aren't very serious about staying in Oakland."

Because at that point the city had been trying to eminent domain three businesses in downtown for Uptown. It had taken them over a year. So even if we were willing to kick out 60 blocks of businesses and homes, it would have taken about 100 years at the rate the city was going. (laughs)

So it didn't seem -- he just sort of smiled and that was about the extent of our conversation.

BASEBALL OAKLAND: Tell us what you think about Gov. Brown's proposals about taking cities' redevelopment money?

MAYOR QUAN: I don't think redevelopment will die. I'm on the League of Cities. I think the lawsuits alone will keep -- because of the language of Prop. 22, if you looked at that carefully -- will keep us in courts forever, and I think Jerry wants the money now. I think there will be some deal. They're holding this up, they want a share of our redevelopment money. I don't know if they really want to kill the whole thing. I think they didn't know what redevelopment did. All they wanted was to raid the money. And because of Prop. 22 -- I mean, I heard all sorts of things, like they were going to kill redevelopment, then take the money and then give it back to us and call it something different to get around Prop. 22. I don't know, but there's clearly enough money in the Oakland redevelopment fund to help do this (new ballpark). We may debate over how much of it we want to spend on the ballpark. Clearly, private owners like with Pac Bell (Park) will have to step up because I don't think the city will give them all of our redevelopment money.

I don't think we necessarily have to execute it (protecting redevelopment funds) before the date. We're prepared to, anyhow, if we have to. But our lawyers are telling us we don't really have to pull the plug right now.

BASEBALL OAKLAND: We would like Oakland to envision a pedestrian/bike linkage from Oak-to-Ninth to Victory Court to Jack London to Downtown to Uptown and Lake Merritt. Do you envision the Victory Court site as being excellent for bicyclists, as well as auto traffic?

MAYOR QUAN: I think the trail -- I mean, there's a bay trail and it's going to be there. So, I think you're going to see that. That part of the bay trail is required in the Oak-to-Ninth agreement for them to do their side. I'm guessing when we do the stadium, we would do our side. We pretty much require, as each lot on the estuary or the bay gets developed, that that owner as a condition of their development has to do their share of the bay trail. As you know, there's no state or federal funding for the bay trail, so we include that in every agreement we've done so far, so this would not be an exception.

BASEBALL OAKLAND: Right, and the concept is that we're trying to get linkage not only from that end, but all the way up to Uptown and Lake Merritt, as well.

MAYOR QUAN: Well, I mean, we have a lot of bike paths here, and then you've got the shuttle. So, if you look at the Bike Master Plan, there are bike lanes throughout the downtown. And the bay trail would be the main one along the water, I think.

BASEBALL OAKLAND: The dream of many Oakland sports fans is this: An A's ballpark at Victory Court revitalizes Jack London Square, which serves as the Super Bowl village when a new Raiders (and maybe 49ers) football stadium at the Coliseum Complex revitalizes that area and puts Oakland into the NFL's Super Bowl hosting rotation. How does that vision sound to you?

MAYOR QUAN: Wolff clearly could have made some money by taking the land accumulated around the Coliseum and developing it. But he wanted literally 300 acres, I guess, in Fremont. I think he told me that he needed to make $300 million. So, there wasn't enough right at the Coliseum site to make that much money.

It's clear that should we build a new stadium, that people are now looking at the Staples Center model where you have a combination of hotels and retail as a part of the sports venue. I was just down in San Diego with the League of Cities and I was looking at the stadium (Petco Park) that they put into the Gaslamp District. I thought it was interesting how they left the historic buildings and built the stadium around it, and used it as an alternative entrance. I also thought it was interesting how they had a little public space where people, if they were willing to stand, could just see the game from the side -- whatever they call that area. And I was at a fundraiser inside the stadium at night. I liked the idea of the stadium boxes being able to be used for events. Although, where this (Victory Court ballpark) is going to be there are going to be a lot of great restaurants. A lot of great restaurants have moved into that area, and there's going to be the (Jack London) food court.

So, I think that that probably would fit in pretty well with the revitalization of the Coliseum Complex. We've had a lot of people study that area. It's been a combination of a place for the car dealerships to go because car dealerships aren't surviving in downtown kinds of locations anymore. They do better when they have lots of space. Many of our car dealerships, big ones, are out there (near the Coliseum). But they've wanted to have big box in that area, too. So, it could be a combination of big box, traditional retail, something to do for the wives who don't want to watch the games, I don't know. (laughs)

BASEBALL OAKLAND: Is there any way we can take better advantage of that ramp between the Coliseum and BART? The land that's there, those are businesses that if they could be relocated, and then you could put something with a little bit more of a retail flavor there that could take advantage of those thousands of people who use that corridor.

MAYOR QUAN: People are talking about all of those things, clearly, if they redo the character of the stadium in and of itself. I think we haven't done a good job in planning or integrating any of the area down there. So, for instance, even with the new BART connector, they have reserved the space and we're actually buying the land around the area. They haven't planned the secondary stop between the Coliseum and the airport that we would see as the natural place for additional office buildings and hotels, so that there we would have our own hotel conference center. Right now, we have a little one with the Hilton, but most major cities like San Francisco and L.A. have a whole set of hotels near their airport just for people who fly in for conferences and leave. So, I think one of the problems is that the port commission and the city economic development leadership haven't been closely linked. So, I'm being very careful before I appoint the next series of port commissioners to make sure there's closer coordination with the city.

BASEBALL OAKLAND: Thank you so much. We appreciate the time.

MAYOR QUAN: Thank you. Good luck with your site.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ricky's Sports Theatre & Grill's Fundraiser on Wednesday

Ricky and Tina Ricardo, owners of Ricky's Sports Theatre and Grill in San Leandro, have always been about at least two things: Bay Area sports teams and helping the East Bay community.

They also have always been very, very supportive in keeping Oakland's pro sports teams exactly where they belong -- right here in the great city of Oakland.

So while Ricky and Tina have been giving for years, here's your chance to join them in giving back and having fun while meeting some celebrities in the process. This Wednesday night (Feb. 16), Ricky's big-screen TVs will show the premiere of "Survivor" on CBS. It's the show's 22nd season. Meanwhile, patrons can make a tax-deductible donation to CB Survivors' Standup to Cancer, or to Grassroots Soccer, which has the goal of fighting HIV through education.

The party Wednesday night starts with a meet-and-greet for "Survivors" contestants from past seasons at 6:30 p.m.. The show's premiere broadcast begins at 8 p.m. The past "Surivors" who are scheduled to be at the Wednesday event include Yau-Man, Chad and Marty from Survivor: Nicaragua." There also may be appearances by Brook Struck, Mary Sartain and Coach Wade.

At the end of the night, there will be an auction of "Survivor" memorabilia.

"We appreciate the opportunity to host what will be a great event that will also benefit two great community organizations," Ricky Ricardo said.

In 2005, Sports Illustrated named Ricky's "The #2 Sports Bar in America" and last year MSN ranked Ricky's No. 2 in its list, "Top 10 Sports Bars in the U.S."

Ricky's is located at 15028 Hesperian Blvd. in Leandro. For more information, call 510-352-0200.

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Oakland Restaurants Keep Opening and Thriving

Oakland's entertainment and restaurant scene, already red hot in 2009 and 2010, continues to heat up even more in 2011.

Diablo Magazine spotlights several new Oakland restaurants and bars that soon are coming to the Uptown district. The East Bay mag also compares Oakland's incredibly burgeoning nightlife to that of the borough of Brooklyn in the Big Apple.

They're not the first to compare Oakland to Brooklyn, but the comparison has probably never been more accurate. Both areas are coming back strong with tons of new development and new residents, and both are overflowing with a rich baseball history and tradition.

Now, three Brooklyn guys who started the Weatherup bar back east are opening a new Oakland bar at 17th St. and Telegraph Ave., across the street from the Fox Theater. It's unclear what the bar's name is going to be, but it's going to have a floating island bar, an outdoor patio and two Bocce courts.

Also scheduled to open soon is Bar Dogwood, which will be at 1644 Telegraph, also near the Fox.

Already opened is the new downtown bar/restaurant at 14th & Webster called Disco Volante, which has great drink specials and live music almost every weekend.

Also, as Diablo notes, Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe will open a new eatery inside the Fox. Rudy's is co-owned by Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt -- the local boys live in Oakland and rumor has it that their practice space is in a warehouse in Oakland's Jingletown neighborhood.

Also, a new four-star restaurant, Plum, owned by gourmet legend Daniel Patterson, has opened up at Franklin Square, near Grand and Broadway in Uptown. And next to Plum will be The Punchdown, a natural wine bar.

Flora, one Oakland's hottest restaurants, looks like something out of an old Humphrey Bogart movie. Now, its owners are planning to open Xolo Taqueria two doors down, and in-between Flora and Xolo will be a new 2,000-square-foot bar, according to Diablo.

The Temescal neighborhood, already revitalized in north Oakland with popular spots like Pizzaiolo, Bakesale Betty's, Barlata, and Burma Superstar, is getting a new restaurant in mid-February. It will be called Homeroom. Check it out here.

And in Rockridge, Rich and Rebekah Wood (of Wood Tavern fame) recently opened Southie just a few doors down from Wood Tavern.

A new Italian restaurant, Baia, is coming to Old Oakland, the great downtown neighborhood nestled between Jack London Square and City Hall. (And just a crosscourt pass away from the Warriors' hoops training facility.)

All of these new hotspots come on top of Oakland's recent successes -- whether it's new places like Commis and Boot & Shoe Service or old standbys like BayWolf and Oliveto.

And check out the locations for all of those new restaurants -- they're not only opening, but also thriving in very different neighborhoods all over Oakland: Temescal, Old Oakland, Rockridge, Uptown, and Downtown.

There's a true renaissance going on within The Town. It's just one of many reasons why Oakland is our favorite city in the world and a place we proudly call home.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

T-R-U-T-H from Cincinnati

Lark11, the blogger at RedLegs Baseball, posted an excellent blog last week that analyzed a lazily written, pro-Lew Wolff article by Ken Rosenthal.

Lark11's blog entry basically eviscerated Rosenthal's piece and the pretzel logic the baseball reporter used to justify Wolff's baseless whining that he must move the A's to compete.

This is demonstrably false, as Lark11 showed. Facts are stubborn things. And the facts surrounding the Oakland A's business situation support Oakland's side, not Wolff's. Check out some excerpts:

"In the 1980s, the A's outdrew the Giants by 2.5 million fans. In the '90s, the Giants outdrew the A's by a paltry 300,000 fans. ... in the 2000s, the Giants outdrew the A's by 14 million fans. Of course, the discrepancy in the 2000s has nothing to do with Oakland's viability as a marketplace. It has everything to do with the opening of Pac Bell Park in San Francisco prior to the 2000 season."

But Lark11 was just getting warmed up:

"The only problem with the Oakland market is simply that the A's owners have refused to step up and privately finance a ballpark in OAKLAND. The truth is that the A's were on the same exact footing as the Giants until the 2000s. At that point ... the Giants demonstrated their loyalty to the fans and their commitment to their market ... The A's have not."

The blogger notes that A's co-owner John Fisher is a billionaire, one of only eight billionaire owners in all of MLB. He then reveals his suspicion of what Wolff's true endgame plan may be:

"The real problem here is the A's ownership. ... I suspect that, if we were to pull back the curtain and see the true motivation of Lew Wolff, then his desire to build a ballpark in San Jose has more to do with the opportunity to develop the real estate surrounding the proposed ballpark site than any alleged weakness in the Oakland market."

He adds:

"Rosenthal writes that 'the A's remain in limbo, plodding along in Oakland' without mentioning how the ownership group has intentionally operated to keep itself in limbo."

Finally, Lark11 finishes as strong as the Big Red Machine did when sweeping the Yankees in the '76 World Series:

"I simply expect better out of Ken Rosenthal than this. A national writer should do more than just parrot the self-interested arguments of a baseball ownership group. Major League Baseball works in Oakland. It has for decades ... If the A's actually committed to the market, rather than badmouthing it in an attempt to move to a different city, then baseball in Oakland could flourish again."

It's nice to see that some things are so obvious about Wolff's & Fisher's ownership that they can be seen as far away as Ohio.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wolff's & Fisher's Legacy: Letting Great Announcers Go

A's owners have chased announcer Amaury Pi-Gonzalez from the team and, sadly, it looks like the team won't have Spanish-language broadcasts in 2011. The Wall Street Journal did a recent story about Pi-Gonzalez's frustrating 2010 season dealing with the A's front office.

Unfortunately, it's nothing new. Lew Wolff is just carrying out a pathetic tradition of ownership penny-pinching, incompetence and terrible product marketing that goes back to 1995, when Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann bought the team and immediately tried to run it into the ground.

Schott and Hofmann chased legend Lon Simmons out of the A's broadcst booth right off the bat. Then, to save a few pennies, they lowballed great broadcaster Greg Papa, who bailed from the A's in October 2003, just six months after Wolff joined the A's as a team executive.

Then Wolff and Fisher let Marty Lurie go to the Giants last year when they failed to guarantee his job or support him as he negotiated his pre-game show contract with KTRB. Lowell Cohn wrote at the time: "I don't believe the A's understand what a treasure Marty is." They didn't value Marty, and now Giants fans get to enjoy Lurie's great broadcast before every game.

Now, Wolff and Fisher have let Amaury Pi-Gonzalez go to the rival L.A. Angels just months after he was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame. Once again, Wolff and the A's front office are bungling another chance to reach out to a large sector of the Bay Area market.

Then they wonder why A's fans aren't fired up to spend money on their product. Sell the team, Lew.

Pi-Gonzalez now an Angel

Well, that didn't take long.

Add Amaury Pi-Gonzalez, an Spanish-language broadcaster who worked his first A's game in 1977, to the list of great announcers that Lew Wolff, John Fisher and Steve Schott let get away.

A reliable source has told us that Pi-Gonzalez has taken a job doing play-by-play in Spanish for the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team, and he will be at the mic starting this spring for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Pi-Gonzalez wanted to stay with the A's, even though he had to take a pay cut last year as the broadcasts were taken off the air during the season and placed on the Internet.

"I have never had this happen to me in the middle of a season," he said. "It is an insult to the fans, to the Hispanic community."

It gets worse. The A's didn't even guarantee him that they're even going to have Spanish-language broadcasts at all this year. That's right -- the A's would be the only professional team in California not to have Spanish-language broadcasts, Pi-Gonzalez told us in a recent interview.

He added: "... the A's would like to keep our broadcast in Spanish, yes, as long as someone else puts it on the radio ... as long as someone else pays for it."

Once again, loyal Oakland A's fans suffer because the team owners do little but offer a weaker product. Same old Wolff and Fisher, same old cheapskate ways, and same old incompetent result.