Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Facts Have a Pro-Oakland Bias

In the seven years since they bought the team, John Fisher and Lew Wolff have given countless reasons for trying to move the A's out of Oakland. Unfortunately for them, none of their arguments are backed up with facts. Let us count the ways that Fisher and Wolff have been completely wrong:

First, Wolff said frequently that Oakland was "too built up" and that there was not enough available land to accommodate a new ballpark. Not true. In fact, a 2009 study revealed that Oakland has "1,200 acres of vacant or underutilized land."

Next, Wolff often says he needs a new ballpark to pay for all the free agents the new revenue will pay for. But, actually, Wolff is on record saying that once they get a new ballpark, "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." In other words, expect the penny-pinching to last just about forever, as long as Wolff remains the owners.

Also, Wolff has repeatedly questioned Oakland's corporate support, saying it's inadequate. This is simply not true. Oakland and the East Bay region have plenty of corporate support to support a new Oakland ballpark. In fact, Blanca Torres of the SF Business Times reports that Oakland's tech business scene is much stronger than people give it credit for. Also, if the South Bay counts companies from towns all over the 650 and 408 area codes, Oakland should be allowed to do the same, drawing corporate support from all over Alameda and Contra Costa counties. For corporations, Oakland and the East Bay have literally dozens, led by Clorox, Chevron, Safeway, Dreyer's Ice Cream, Pandora, Cost-Plus, Pixar, Ask.com, and huge solar companies such as BrightSource and SunGevity. And there are dozens of others.

Wolff also likes to say that the A's can't attract or retain their free agents in Oakland. This also is not true. They re-signed Coco Crisp last year, for instance. The A's also outbid other teams for Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes and only let free agents like Josh Willingham go because the team didn't want to keep him. Willingham wanted to stay. Also,.The Oakland Tribune's Joe Stiglich wrote an article in January that refuted Wolff's and Beane's whining about this. Here's what Stiglich wrote:

"Two agents -- who each have represented major leaguers for many years -- said the A's stadium gets overblown as a factor that's kept many free agents away. What is frustrating for them is that none of them believe that they can win (with the A's)," said one agent, requesting anonymity."   

Also, manager Bob Melvin has done a great job in making the clubhouse fun again, but for more than four years, former manager Bob Geren was so unpopular that he was a major hindrance to attracting free agents, according to former A's players.

Wolff and Billy Beane also have said the A's are losing money in Oakland. But Forbes Magazine -- not exactly an anti-business publication -- says the A's have averaged around $20 million per year in net profit over the past four years. Even sportswriter Ray Ratto called out Wolff and Beane on that issue last year, saying:

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.

In addition, Wolff and his increasingly desperate apologists like to say that Oakland leaders simply haven't done enough work to keep the A's in town. But that's not true, either. The facts actually reflect that ever since the Haas family sold the team, Oakland leaders have tried time and again to work with the A's. But time and again, Steve Schott and then Lew Wolff stiff-armed Oakland's political and business leaders and have refused to work with them. It's all chronicled and can be found by clicking here.

And that's the short list. There are plenty of other examples of Wolff's, ahem, non-reality. The bottom line is that Wolff keeps giving excuses for his refusal to work with Oakland, but the problem for him has always been that none of what he says is true. In fact, his statements are usually just a simple Google search away from being easily refuted.

Stay tuned, folks. This offseason is about to get even more interesting. Just a hunch.

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