Wolff running out of time — and options

Kudos to The Oakland Tribune for covering the elephant in the room — the upcoming Coliseum lease deadline. The A’s current lease is good until the end of 2013. What happens after that is fair game. This is where things get interesting, and Lew Wolff’s statements about the A’s having no future in Oakland could come back to haunt him. There is absolutely no way a new stadium anywhere can open before the lease expires and the A’s will need a home in the meantime. With Wolff stonewalling Oakland’s many efforts to get a ballpark built within city limits, it seems disingenuous to say the least for Wolff to go back and try and get a new Coliseum lease done, just so he can once again consider other cites. Also, considering how long that it has taken for Lew to get the (yet to break ground) Earthquakes stadium together, an A’s team still owned by Wolff could be a lame duck team for years. No wonder A’s president Michael Crowley (can someone fill us in on what he actually does?) said he got a “convoluted” response from the city and county when the A’s made an offer for a new Coliseum lease this year.

Currently, the A’s have a sweetheart deal in place, and have had one for over a decade. They pay little-to-nothing in rent and keep all of the stadium and parking revenues. Do you think that Oakland or the JPA will accept similar terms the next time around? Wrong. The article quotes sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, saying, “Oakland does not have a lot of bargaining power.” We highly disagree. Where will Wolff go? There are no MLB facilities ready in other cities. AT&T Park or Candlestick? Lew burned those bridges long time ago. Sacramento? Vegas? Get serious. Any move out of the Coliseum to a minor league facility would be cost prohibitive. Not only would you have to move the day-of-game baseball operations, but also the front office and the support staff. Conceivably the A’s can take over some empty Silicon Valley space for some things, but it would create a logistical nightmare if the team is outside of the Bay Area. And if the South Bay is allegedly going to explode with A’s fans when the A’s move down there, how do you market a team in Giants territory when you play more than 100 miles away. It makes no sense.

Lew has no options. He must sign the lease. Or he should sell the A’s. No way should Oakland give in to a sweetheart lease. No way should we take anymore dishonesty and backroom deals from Wolff and Fisher. All cards are out and on the table and we have the facts in our favor. Oakland and its fans deserve the best, and certainly better than what Wolff has offered over the years.

Groundhog Day: Baseball Version

Matier & Ross have squashed the runaway speculation that surrounded some vague comments made by Commissioner Bud Selig at last week’s owners meeting. Here’s what the S. F. Chronicle columnists wrote Monday:

Despite all the huffing and puffing, no decision was reached about a possible A’s move to San Jose at the just-ended baseball owners meeting in Arizona. “It remains at loggerheads, with problems at every turn,” said one source close to the talks.

… the Giants remain adamant that the South Bay is their territory. While the committee looking into the move met at the owners’ confab – as it has repeatedly for more than two years – there was no discussion about any deal to try to get the Giants to change their minds.

Let’s review. After a full week of Wolff telling local and national reporters that he expects a decision “soon,” now Matier & Ross (and their sources) are saying, not so fast.

There are two key parts in that M&R blurb:
1) The “blue ribbon” committee regularly has been giving a report to MLB owners at these meetings for “more than two years.” So, any importance placed on the presence of committee members at the meeting were false or grossly exaggerated.
2) “There was no discussion about any deal to try to get the Giants to change their minds” regarding territorial rights. The Giants aren’t budging and, equally important, MLB didn’t even try to budge them at the meeting last week.

In other words, we’re still at square one. So, what was all that squawking about last week when sportswriters were Tweeting and writing entire articles that an announcement was coming “soon?”

Hey, we’re as in the dark as anyone — including Wolff — about what exactly is going on. But isn’t the “a decision is coming soon” card all played out by Wolff? Just in the last three months, we’ve had several national sportswriters who are typically chummy with team owners say a decision was going to happen “two months from now” or “very soon.” In October, they were saying a decision would come at the MLB owners meeting in November. But come November? Silence. Then they said the decision would come at the owners meeting in Arizona in January (the one last week). But, Ken Rosenthal wrote Dec. 23 that the A’s weren’t on the January meeting agenda. The very next day, USA Today baseball reporter Bob Nightengale tweeted there was yet another new future announcement date … (wait for it) … in February. Uh-huh, sure, Bob. Seems to us that Wolff and Beane merely are whispering in the ears of a lot of national sportswriters with the hopes of creating some self-made momentum to put pressure on Selig. This latest series of announced non-announcements come on the heels, of course, of repeatedly failed predictions made about the A’s in the past three years.

It’s baseball’s version of the movie, Groundhog Day — only this time it’s not exactly a comedy.

NY Times: Oakland nightlife scene hot and getting hotter

The New York Times made news last week when it named the city of Oakland one of its 45 places in the world to visit in 2012. Placing Oakland 5th on the list — right between London and Tokyo — the Times credited the Fox Theater renovation as the main reason why Oakland’s “revitalized nightlife scene has continued to smolder.” The Times added:

The city’s ever more sophisticated restaurants are now being joined by upscale cocktail bars, turning once-gritty Oakland into an increasingly appealing place to be after dark.

The Times’ piece reinforces an article that the Oakland Tribune’s Cecily Burt wrote last month about the rise of successful Oakland entrepreneurs and small business owners, all despite a sluggish economy the past three years. Burt wrote:

Dozens of … determined entrepreneurs aren’t waiting for things to turn around. They are thumbing their noses at the economy and opening new shops, restaurants and galleries in Oakland at a pace most other cities can only envy.

Jason Overman, aide to Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, said businesses have added about 1,500 new jobs in the past year, which he called amazing given the state of the economy. … There also have been 50 new restaurant openings the past year, he said.

… Despite the economy, (Drew Lisac, Mayor Jean Quan’s economic adviser) is pleased and amazed that people are willing to take a chance. “It’s been so odd for me. Everybody outside of Oakland is saying everything is doom and gloom, but actually here it’s quite the opposite.”

Likewise, Homeroom, the Temescal district eatery that specializes in Mac ‘n’ Cheese, recently was covered by the Chronicle, which gave the popular Oakland hot spot rave reviews.

Lastly, there is a new Oakland waterfront restaurant called Haven, Daniel Patterson’s place at 44 Webster St. — which faces all those sailboats docked in the Oakland harbor. Now, Haven and Bocanova are two eateries that basically surround the venerable Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon on Jack London’s south end, the area closest to the Victory Court site. Walking around Jack London Square this unseasonably warm weekend, it was easy to imagine 35,000 to 40,000 A’s fans leaving a Victory Court ballpark at 4 p.m. on a sunny summer day, ready to add cash to Oakland’s tax coffers by eating and partying at these new establishments that are popping up along the harbor and in downtown Oakland.

Just ask The New York Times.

KQED Forum Show: New year, same argument

Today, KQED radio had an hour-long discussion about Bay Area sports teams that may be moving. (You can listen by clicking: HERE)

Given that it’s a 17-year-old debate for the A’s, it’s not surprising that the tiresome topic had, well, only one surprise during the show.

Sportswriters Glenn Dickey, Mark Purdy and Susan Slusser were guests. Slusser and Purdy did their usual cheerleading for A’s ownership, while Dickey was stridently against the A’s leaving Oakland. One listener emailed the show and criticized A’s owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher, saying that they had kicked A’s fans and the city of Oakland in the teeth. Dickey called the comment an “understatement” and joked that Wolff/Fisher had actually kicked A’s fans on a body part “lower than the teeth.”

The show’s one surprise was an unscheduled phone call from Giants CEO Larry Baer, who reiterated the Giants’ position of protecting their ownership of the territorial rights to Santa Clara County. The host asked Baer how many Giants fans come from the South Bay. He replied, “a lot,” and that the number was high enough to really hurt the franchise if another team moved south. Baer also noted that the East Bay by itself is as big as the St. Louis market and that there is plenty of land in the East Bay for the A’s to build a new ballpark for their fans.

Toward the end of the show, one prevailing thought hit us. This is the umpteenth year that KQED and other news shows have broadcasted this kind of discussion about the A’s future. The same characters come on air and say the same things, and then, nothing changes. And nothing will change, unfortunately, until the team’s ownership changes.

Chronicle sportswriter Scott Ostler mocked Billy Beane and A’s owners last month for announcing they were “building for the future in San Jose.” Ostler then sarcastically noted:

“(That’s assuming they clear small hurdles such as fierce opposition from the Giants, a community group’s lawsuit, financing …)”

You see Ostler’s point. In short, how long are A’s fans going to be subjected to Wolff’s and Fisher’s failed pipe dream of moving the team? It’s been three years since they officially announced they wanted to move the team south. Three years later, they have nothing to show for it. When are they going to take the hint?

There really is just one solution: Selling the team. Mr. Wolff and Mr. Fisher … It’s time to sell. For the good of the Oakland A’s and for the long-term health of baseball.