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.