Sunday, July 24, 2011

Not Exactly a Reality Show

We're about two-thirds through another A's losing season and, though we will stick with them through thick and thin, it's pretty clear that the A's need to make some major changes to revive this struggling, once-proud franchise.

We've often called for new ownership. That would be ideal. Short of that, a new attitude by A's owners Lew Wolff, John Fisher, Billy Beane and Mike Crowley would do wonders. Stopping the constant "woe-is-me" whining routine would be the best place to start.

But the biggest change Wolff & Co. have to make is to start accepting reality. Face it, Wolff's plan all along was to move the A's to San Jose -- that's been well-chronicled. But he never dealt with the reality that he can never do that because he doesn't own the Santa Clara County market. The Giants do.

In the grand scheme of things, is that fair? Probably not. But in the world of Major League Baseball -- where an ethically challenged commissioner makes $20 million per year, where A's owners do the bare minimum and accept $30 million each year in handouts, where the sport is run by a cartel of owners because it's the only legal monopoly in the nation, where the Yankees' stockpiled championships in the mid to late 1950s while using the Kansas City A's (perhaps illegally) as their own farm team -- when has "fair" ever ruled the day?

Unfair, quite notably, has been the REALITY of the business of Major League Baseball for decades. In fact, we're not sure if "fair" has much to do with any business and its employee compensation. Look at a movie star like, say, Tom Cruise. He's probably worth $500 million (just guessing). He probably owns at least five homes, and maybe more. Is it "fair" that he is so wealthy for doing such a trivial job as entertaining us, while workers who are more important to our daily lives make so little? Two quick examples: Public school teachers instructing our children or a mechanic who makes sure the car that you just bought for your teenager will run okay and not break down in a bad neighborhood. Their annual wage is just a tiny fraction of Cruise's salary for just one movie. Is that fair? Nope. Not fair at all.

Now, let's say you're one of the employees in those important but overlooked professions who wants a new house. What if you knocked on Cruise's door and said, "I know you own this house, but I really want it. You should give it to me for nothing or for a steep, steep discount, because at the end of the day, you'll still have four other houses and all your wealth to fall back on. And the region will be better off with me being a little happier and wealthier. Deal?"

How far would you get with that strategy? Not very far. How much sympathy would you garner from the public with that argument? Not much.

People would say, quite rightly, that that's not how this world works. If you want something nicer, you have to pay for it. And if the thing you want isn't for sale by its owner, then that's the breaks. To use the dreaded cliche, it is what it is. And that you should deal with reality.

There are 10-year-olds who have the concept down. Unfortunately, the A's owners don't. Wolff and Fisher have refused to deal with that seemingly simple reality from the get-go. Wolff and Fisher really, really want what the Giants owners already own and have owned since the early 1990s: the territorial rights to Santa Clara County.

That was the reality for nearly 15 years before Wolff and Fisher bought the A's, so they should not have been surprised about it. For whatever reason (and wouldn't we like to know exactly why), Wolff and Fisher thought that the territorial rights could and would be changed for them. Or maybe they just never dealt with reality.

That's weird.

Here's where it's gotten even weirder. Wolff's apologists for years have lectured most of the A's fan base -- the majority of which wants the team to stay in Oakland -- about approaching this whole debate with "facts and not emotion."

The problem for Wolff and his tiny but vocal group of supporters is that they have never been willing to deal with the biggest fact in this whole equation: The A's owners do not own what they want the most and, even worse, it is not for sale and seemingly never has been. Strangely, Wolff has said publicly there is no Plan B besides moving to the South Bay.

So ... to sum up: 1) Plan A was an unattainable pipe dream that was never feasible or sensible, given the legal landscape of teams' territories and the business history of MLB. 2) And there is no Plan B.

Interesting. In the real world, if you ran a business like this, how long could you do it this way before getting fired? "Not long," is the answer.

So, to find a solution to the A's problems, it seems clear that Wolff and Fisher either need to change their ways and work with their home city. Or get out of the way and let someone else do it.

That's the reality.

1 comment:

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