Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wolff Calls on McCourt to Sell Dodgers

In a Los Angeles Times article by baseball scribe Bill Shaikin, Lew Wolff has called for Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to stop his lawsuit vs. MLB and to sell the team.

The A's owner mostly was speaking in defense of his old U. of Wisconsin fraternity member, Commissioner Bud Selig, who McCourt has criticized in public comments and in court documents. Here's what Wolff, who lives in Los Angeles, told the Times:

"For anyone to seek to diminish Bud's accomplishments in order to rationalize their own actions is, in my opinion, ludicrous and hugely disingenuous."

A Dodgers spokesman declined to comment on Wolff's words. Wolff added:

"My hope is that the Dodgers will be sold to a party that will restart this great franchise, and that Frank and his family will benefit from a positive sale. But to try and equate or compare what Bud Selig has done with the administration of the current Dodger franchise is unsupportable."

What does that mean for Wolff, who was rumored last off-season to be interested in leaving the A's and buying the Dodgers? Is he trying to make nice with Selig so the commissioner will rule in his favor?

Shaikin must have asked those questions, because he writes:

Wolff said he did not speak out as a way to curry favor with Selig ... and (he) said he had no interest in buying the Dodgers.

But it is interesting timing. Just as it appears that Wolff's goal of moving the A's is stalling, he throws himself right into the thick of the Dodgers mess.

We personally would love to see Wolff and John Fisher sell the A's and buy the Dodgers. On one hand, Wolff keeps denying that he's interested. Then again, he said Bob Geren was doing a "terrific" job ... about two weeks before the A's fired Geren. So, anything is possible, really.

Stay tuned.

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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Little Leagues and Big New Stadiums

Yesterday, we summarized recent events, but here are some other Bay Area sports stories you might have missed.

Oakland team heading to Babe Ruth World Series (11-year-old division)

We posted on our Facebook wall about a local youth baseball team that qualified for the 11-year-old Babe Ruth World Series but they needed to raise funds to go. Well, it looks like they found the money to make it happen, thanks to the generous East Bay community. Good luck over the weekend, kids!

SMG's Coliseum contract up, goes out to bid

SMG Management, the event management firm running the Coliseum, has been under fire for its operations of the facility. In 2008, an audit pointed out several shortcomings in the operation of the Coliseum. According to Robert Gammon and Ellen Cushing of the East Bay Express, it looks like the Coliseum's Joint Powers Authority (JPA) will offer the new contract up to bid. This is a good thing. Oakland and Alameda County deserve better returns on their stadium/arena investment than they have been receiving. Hopefully, with a new operator, can see a glimmer of the glory days of the privately led Coliseum authority which ran it from 1966-1995, when its board was stocked with business/community leaders such as George Vukasin and Bob Nahas.

Shared NFL stadium?

The Chronicle reported this morning that talks of a shared stadium have occurred between the 49ers and the Raiders. This makes a lot of sense for taxpayers. While new baseball parks can cost between $400 to $600 million, a new football stadium in Northern California could run as high as $1 billion (or more). That's a sum money that no California city has to spend on sports. For obvious reasons, we would prefer that this new Raiders/49ers stadium be built at the Coliseum site -- with the A's at Victory Court -- and for it to be tied in with the redevelopment of the Coliseum/Hegenberger corridor that Oakland Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Larry Reid favor. Unfortunately, if a shared stadium were to happen, one city will be left with the short end of the stick. Our site being, and not, we are not as well-versed in the business amd politics of the NFL, but hopefully a solution can be worked out that benefits taxpayers as well as Raiders and 49ers fans.

Thanks for checking in and reminder to join us Friday afternoon/evening at GO Bar in Oakland!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Around the Horn: Baseball and Non-Baseball Items

Hello, A's fans and thanks for following the blog. Be sure and join us on Friday at the GO Bar, at 736 Washington St. in Downtown Oakland, to watch the A's take on the Yankees in the Big Apple. Should be a good way to meet and connect with other fellow Oakland baseball fans.

Here are some brief news items that are worthy of discussion here in late July:

Dave Newhouse and Rebecca Kaplan

Longtime sports columnist Dave Newhouse had a recent sit-down with Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. They covered all kinds of Oakland-related issues, including the city’s sports teams. Quotes:

"And Kaplan sees Wolff's 'baseball village' concept even clearer than Wolff, right smack dab on Coliseum Complex property."

We're still Victory Court fans, or of any ballpark site near the Jack London Square waterfront. But we're also big fans of Kaplan and we agree with Newhouse –- it would be great to see her vision of improving the Coliseum Complex. We doubt Wolff put too much effort into this. Unless you count asking for public money or other unrealistic plans.

More Calls for New Ownership

We are not alone in this. Wolff apologists like to let him off the hook, but even they should recognize Lew's lack of ability to put anything together for a new ballpark while he chases pipe dreams. A recent Bleacher Report piece echoes this sentiment. The writer goes on to say that Mark Cuban should buy the A's, but we would be happy with anyone who is actually committed to Oakland and the fans.

SF = Ground Zero for Failed Stadiums

On the foggy side of the bay sits a sparkling stadium, a lot of atmosphere and even a recent World Series win. Yet, as the Chronicle points out, there have been numerous failed stadium plans over the years for the Giants in San Francisco. From 1968 to 1992, the A's outdrew the the Giants 17 seasons to 8. Many reasons were given for bad S.F. attendance: Crazy politics. Disinterested business community. Apathetic citizens. Too many entertainment options. The city lacking public money. Etc.

Now, those same excuses are being used on Oakland. In reality, a new downtown Oakland ballpark, like San Francisco has, would make the A's thrive. All it would take (just like the Haas family showed in the 1980s and the Giants' owners have displayed from 1993 til now) is vision and commitment.

Dick Williams Tribute

To honor Dick Williams, the former A's manager and Hall of Famer who recently died, the A's had a moment of silence and a video tribute for Friday's night's home game – the team's first since Williams' death. While the video tribute was nice, the effort once again seemed lackluster, especially given that the night before, the San Diego Padres (another team Williams once managed) played in throwback uniforms to honor Williams. The A's could have dusted off some 1972 pullover jerseys in "Fort Knox Gold" and "Wedding Gown White" lettering, the kind of bright colors that would have made Charlie and Carl Finley smile. They could have worn a black arm band the rest of the year. They could have done a number of things. We don't mean to pick nits, but it always seems like when A's front-office officials are presented with these opportunities to sell A's tradition to fans hungry for it, they always do the bare minimum. To put it bluntly for the umpteenth time, we A's fans deserve better. So did Williams.

RIP, Dick Williams. Thanks for the memories and the World Series titles.

Good Weekend for Throwback Baseball

If you didn't get a chance to get out to the yard this weekend you missed out. While the fog stayed around for the doubleheader, we still had a blast. One time in the late '80s, the A's had another "doubleheader" of sorts. The first game was an old-timers game featuring A's and Giants legends, followed by a regular season game. It was nice this past weekend to see some baseball tradition, however limited, return to the Coliseum.

Speaking of the '80s, it was nice to see the mid 1980s jerseys get some love at the Coliseum last week. While the A's never won anything in those uniforms, we still appreciated the time when "Oakland" was emblazoned across the chest of all uniforms -- home, road and alternate. Currently, just the gray road unis say "Oakland," and it is worn infrequently. What a shame.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wolff's Pipe Dream Holding Up A's Progress

As our beloved, once-proud A's franchise stumbles to yet another losing season, we've started to wonder how much longer this can all go on.

Lew Wolff and John Fisher are holding up the progress of the A's simply because they have a pipe dream that will never happen. While they blindly pursue their unrealistic ideas of moving the team, Wolff and Fisher are holding loyal A's fans hostage.

When Wolff and Fisher bought the A's in 2005, they knew the lay of the land. They knew which territories belonged to them and which territories belonged to the Giants. They also knew that Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann before them had tried and failed for almost a decade to achieve the same pipe dream -- moving the A's to the South Bay.

For some reason, that didn't stop Wolff and Fisher from embarking on their wildly unrealistic quest to move the A's. So, eight years after Wolff first joined the Schott front office as "V.P. of Venue Development," we'll all still waiting for Wolff to, you know, actually develop a venue.

Instead, Wolff has failed. Again and again and again.

After all these years, Wolff and Fisher are no closer to making their pipe dream come true. Even worse, it seems that moving the team is all they care about, and things like winning, community and customer service have all taken a backseat.

As a result of Wolff's failed obsession, the team is mired in a constant losing spiral. Also to blame are Billy Beane's consistently poor drafts, one-sided trades and the strange decision to stick for four-plus seasons with unpopular and incompetent ex-manager Bob Geren before finally making a change last month.

As an A's owner, Wolff has been a total failure. Just like he failed to make changes at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco -- changes that the city and the community did not want. With the Fairmont last month, Wolff finally threw up his hands and gave up and said he and his business partners will sell the hotel.

Here's to Wolff doing the same thing with the A's. Here's to Wolff selling the team to someone who actually cares about the Oakland A's and its rich baseball history. If he doesn't sell the team soon, then 2012 will be another lost season; another year watching the Oakland A's franchise get slowly choked to death at Wolff's hand, especially as the Coliseum lease's 2013 expiration date looms.

To Wolff, Fisher, Beane and A's president/co-owner Mike Crowley, it's time to make yourselves accountable for the current poisoned state of the franchise. Please do the right thing. Please give up your unrealistic quest, which the vast majority of A's fans do NOT want. Please sell the A's to someone who will reward A's fans for their loyalty and will start to treat the franchise's rich history with some respect.