The Game finally got their man today, as they pulled Damon Bruce over from KNBR purgatory to host the afternoon drive time slot starting on March 31 (Opening Day). Bay Area Sports Guy has the scoop and the press release. In the process, the show hosted by Chris Townsend and Ric Bucher will move to the mornings, displacing The Rise Guys (Whitey Gleason, Mark Kreidler, Dan Dibley) in the process. The other daytime shows will remain as is. As it stands the lineup will now look like this:
- 6-10 AM – Bucher & Towny
- 10 AM-Noon – Haberman & Middlekauff
- Noon-3 PM – The Wheelhouse with John Lund and Greg Papa
- 3-7 PM – Damon Bruce
You may remember that Bruce got himself suspended over a bizarre misogynistic rant he gave over the air in November. Whether that was off the cuff or a stunt designed to help him ease out of the 1050 gig, we may never know. Memories are short in sports talk, and some guys can get gigs no matter how much Neanderthal behavior they exhibit.
The 7 PM slot will apparently remain open, as it has from the beginning, perhaps to keep any one entrenched host from complaining too much about A’s baseball interfering with his hours. That’s just as well. I listen to The Game primarily for the A’s, not the sports talk.
The idea makes zero sense.
At 4,200 seats, Muni is far too small to work as a temp park. There’s not enough space behind the old grandstand to build the extra seats and a new press box that MLB would require. Even the area beyond the outfield is limited, so little seating could be built there. Muni is set up so that the clubhouses are on the same level as the single concourse, requiring the park to be quickly emptied of fans after every game. The lack of parking and public transit at the site would make it a logistical nightmare for daily 20,000-person crowds.
About the only thing Muni has going for it is that it’s a baseball field with some seats around it. That’s not the expensive part. It’s everything else (additional seats, suites, infrastructure) that’s expensive.
Using Muni makes even less sense when you consider that the City of San Jose inked its own five-year extension with the San Jose Giants only two months ago. While the lease is quite cheap at $25,000 per year, naming rights to Muni are involved and the fact is that the City would have to break the lease to accommodate the A’s.
I understand that Lew Wolff will look at a number of sites and facilities to get a feel for what’s possible. A temporary ballpark at San Jose Muni is more than a little far-fetched.
P.S. – Candlestick Park was also reported to be in the discussion, but demolition is expected later this year.
Lew Wolff brought up the the idea of a temporary stadium to the SV/SJ Business Journal’s Greg Baumann this week. Wolff looks at the concept as potentially necessary if another extension at the Coliseum can’t work out. He had already expressed concern when MLB pushed the Coliseum Authority (JPA) into a two-year extension through 2015. The thinking in November was that no new permanent home could be built in that two-year span, and if Coliseum City’s phasing and the Raider owner Mark Davis’s preference of building on top of the current Coliseum footprint take hold, the A’s would no longer have a place to play. Combine that with Larry Baer’s comments about allowing the A’s to play at AT&T Park while an Oakland solution was being hammered out, and you can see all of the moving pieces and the complexity therein. Because of that complexity, let’s break the situation down into its basic components.
To start off, there’s the Raiders. The Raiders are the first domino here, because they are the team in some sort of negotiation with Oakland and the JPA. Even though Davis has labeled the talks as discouraging recently, reports coming out of the Coliseum City partnership should bring everyone back to the table in the next month or so. Then Davis can decide how to move forward: either partner in Coliseum City, or decide that CC doesn’t pencil out and look elsewhere. So far Davis has stuck with the idea that the Coliseum is the #1 site. That could change quickly as the numbers are released and parties have to make fiduciary commitments.
The A’s can’t do anything without the Raiders’ move. As much as Oakland waterfront ballpark proponents would love for Howard Terminal to become the apple of Wolff’s eye, the many questions and doubts that hang over the site continue to make HT a nonstarter for Wolff. Coliseum City had the A’s in a new ballpark no earlier than 2022, unacceptable terms for Wolff and MLB. However, if CC falls apart for the Raiders and Colony Capital, the Raiders could leave for Santa Clara, LA, or elsewhere. Wolff could easily call for CC to dissolve and put together a development plan of his own at the Coliseum, one that he would control. It could make room for the Raiders as well, but the football team would end up on the back burner, not the A’s. If Davis were to stay for several years at Levi’s Stadium while gathering up the resources to build anew in Oakland, such phasing could work out. Then again, the Jets spent nearly two decades “temporarily” at the Meadowlands while not working out any new stadium deal in the five boroughs of New York City.
Next, this idea isn’t new. Wolff floated the temporary venue concept in 2012, when he initially tried to get a lease extension. Wolff has reason not to go down such a path due to the expense and amount of upheaval. Should lease talks once again turn difficult, a temporary move becomes more a value proposition than a logistical problem.
If the JPA couldn’t come to an agreement on a new ballpark with Wolff – say, for instance, the JPA chose not to eat the $100 million left in Mt. Davis debt – Wolff would likely go back to MLB and again ask for a decision on San Jose. San Jose brings about one of two temporary ballpark scenarios. The first comes if the A’s are left homeless after 2015 and MLB somehow allows the move south. That’s a long shot at best, but can’t be completed discounted. In this case a temporary ballpark would have to be built somewhere in San Jose for 2-3 years minimum while Cisco Field was being built at Diridon. Besides the process of getting league approval, a temporary site would have to be found. In the Bizjournals article, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed claimed that multiple temporary sites were available. In all practicality, there are probably only two sites. Many of the previously studied permeant ballpark site candidates are either in the process of being redeveloped (Berryessa, North San Pedro) or face logistical hurdles that make it difficult to ensure that 20-30,000 people could make it in and out easily (SJ Fairgrounds, Reed & Graham cement plant).
Instead, there will probably two or three sites in play: the old San Jose Water Company site near SAP Center (site owned by Adobe), the spare parking lot south of SJ Police headquarters between Mission and Taylor Streets (a.k.a. the Cirque du Soleil lot), or the land adjacent to the under construction Earthquakes Stadium (under control by another developer). The SJWC/Adobe site would be the easiest to convert for a ballpark, is the right size, and has an existing building that could be leveraged for ballpark use. It’s also directly underneath a San Jose Airport landing approach, which could cause red flags by the FAA. The Cirque lot is smallish, though large enough for a small ballpark. There’s lots of parking nearby, and potential makeshift parking on the other side of the Guadalupe River. Light rail is only 2 blocks away. As for the Earthquakes Stadium-adjacent site, there were enough problems getting it prepped for that project that it should give pause to anyone considering even a temporary ballpark there.
That’s not to say that San Jose is the only place for a temporary ballpark. Wolff was quoted as looking at the entire Bay Area:
“I am hopeful of expanding our lease at the Oakland Coliseum for an extended term. If we cannot accomplish a lease extension, I hope to have an interim place to play in the Bay Area or in the area that reaches our television and radio fans — either in an existing venue or in the erection of a temporary venue that we have asked our soccer stadium architect (360 Architecture) to explore. Looking outside the Bay Area and our media market is an undesirable option to our ownership at this time.”
The East Bay is in play for both temporary (if needed) and permanent venues. MLB won’t hand over the South Bay to Wolff, yet MLB has also allowed Wolff to enter agreements with San Jose, so it’s clear that MLB is hedging big time. A temporary ballpark could be built on the old Malibu/HomeBase lots near the Coliseum, in Fremont, or even Dublin or Concord. Fremont’s Warm Springs location could enter the discussion again because the Warm Springs extension is scheduled to open in 2015.
It’s also possible to read into Wolff’s statement the possibility of the A’s playing at Raley Field on a temporary basis, since his description of “area that reaches our television and radio fans” covers CSN California and the A’s Radio Network.
Warm Springs could be in play because CEQA laws that govern environmental review largely don’t affect temporary facilities. Generally, seasonal installations such as carnivals or circuses that don’t create any permanent environmental impact are exempt from CEQA. The challenge, then, is to create a temporary ballpark that can also fit this model. That would be tough because of the large-scale consumption of water, food, and energy during a single game. Still, the A’s are already familiar with major recycling efforts, and if trash can be properly contained there should be little permanent impact. Just as important, Warm Springs remains within the established territory, so MLB wouldn’t have to negotiate anything with the Giants. Finally, if the experience is positive it could provide enough political goodwill to convince Fremont to again consider being a permanent home.
Strategically, the Baer vs. Wolff war of words (what happened to the gag order?) has only gotten more interesting. Baer’s statement is cajoling Oakland, not Wolff, to get its act together. Wolff’s response is to say that the A’s don’t need the Giants’ help, especially if he can get San Jose. Keep in mind that if Oakland fails, the East Bay as a territory loses value, hurting Baer’s argument and supporting Wolff’s. What’s left is for both rich guys to let the processes in Oakland and in the courts play out, and prepare for next steps. At some point, the leagues are going to ask Oakland to either step up or step out ($$$). While some local media types continue to believe that the teams can carry on indefinitely at the Coliseum, at some point the conflicts become too great to bear. For those of us who have been following this saga for so long, it’s good to know that actions are being taken to make new homes for the teams. Even if one of those homes is temporary.
After unsuccessfully trying to get similar positions in both Phoenix and Dallas, Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana resigned on Monday. Santana served three years at the job. Previously she served several years as Deputy City Manager in San Jose. It’s not clear where Santana will go next, though it is known who will replace her: Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell.
You may remember that Santana goofed a year ago when she said that Lew Wolff asked for a lease extension only through the media, not via a letter to the City. The letter was found in a pile of furlough mail, which forced some rather embarrassing backpedaling on her part. Nevertheless, Santana never seemed interested in the various stadium plans that hatched during her tenure, preferring instead to focus on budgetary impacts. From the outside, Santana was definitely the biggest budget hawk Oakland has seen in a while. She ran into friction with protestors over her handling of Occupy Oakland and her decision to close off the balcony at City Council meetings, while also encountering tension with some Council members over their inability to follow rules.
Blackwell, on the other hand, is more of a redevelopment guy than a budget guy. He was tasked with overseeing the development of some of the big ticket City projects, such as the Oakland Army Base, Brooklyn Basin (O29), and Coliseum City. Blackwell has been instrumental in getting the various interests (developers, financial backers, the Raiders, the JPA) on the same page regarding Coliseum City, though that has been with a struggle. Blackwell has been more directly associated with Coliseum City than Howard Terminal, but he considers both sites viable, a position supported by Mayor Jean Quan.
What Blackwell apparently lacks is serious fiscal experience. Prior to his ACM stint in Oakland, he was the redevelopment head of the small agency in San Francisco (compared to Oakland CEDA and San Jose’s RDA it’s tiny), and director of SF’s Community Development office. Blackwell’s fiscal expertise, such as it is, isn’t an imperative at the moment because Santana paved the way by crafting budgets during her tenure. It’ll be more interesting to see if Blackwell keeps his job after the election.
That may depend on his ability to complete Coliseum City. With most cities’ redevelopment powers curbed, Blackwell was left to focus on these high profile projects, which have their own current and potential funding sources. Spring’s big deliverable is a market research report, and the Raiders (and perhaps the A’s and Warriors) are supposed to be signed onto the plan by the summer. If the report looks bad or Mark Davis is hesitant, it’s largely on Blackwell, not that he can control much of it. Most of the circumstances that will dictate Coliseum City’s feasibility are largely beyond his reach. He can continue to sell the concept to investors and teams, but in the end, they’re the ones who’ll be doing the heavy lifting financially, not Blackwell. Then again, Blackwell’s new job will give him to latitude to craft a deal, similar to the plan Robert Bobb had to bring the A’s uptown in 2001. Blackwell could succeed where Bobb failed in getting the Mayor to sign on, a good possibility since Quan already endorses Coliseum City. Will the numbers add up? That’s the real challenge for Blackwell, one that, unlike his predecessor, is not his strong suit.
On Thursday, two weeks after the Board of Commissioners at the Port of Oakland was expected to reject three maritime use bids at Howard Terminal, the Board finished the job. The issue was tabled during the previous meeting when the Board decided to hold off making a decision while coal shipping company Bowie Resources Partners provided additional information. Despite the delay, the decision was expected to be a formality, since Bowie’s bid raised serious environmental concerns and the other two bids were considered incomplete.
With that procedural move out of the way, the possibility of a change to a non-maritime use, such as a ballpark, grows. East Bay Citizen’s Steven Tavares noted that the ballpark concept was not discussed during the meeting, but is the obvious elephant in the room. The Port has created an ad hoc committee to discuss long-term uses for Howard Terminal, though it meets in closed session next week. I figure that the committee will need to have more open meetings in the future to avoid potential Brown Act violations. There’s a good chance that the committee will talk ballpark, as well as the ENA (exclusive negotiating agreement) that ballpark booster group OWB has offered to sign in a show of progress for MLB.
However, the maritime use question is not done just because the Board rejected bids. The Port has to keep pushing to get some use out of Howard Terminal while the process to convert to a different use takes place, since they’re losing $10 million per year for the next several years due to HT’s vacancy. Plus the Port and City of Oakland are not in full control of the final land use decision, because they’re considered trustees of waterfront lands controlled in the end by the State of California. The State Lands Commission, which makes the final decisions on these matters, gave some very clear insight into their process in a letter of support for the Giants’ lawsuit over a height restriction ballot measure under consideration in San Francisco.
However, the State’s grant of these lands to the City did not end California’s supervision and control of these lands. California still remains the ultimate trustee of these granted lands. The actual use made of the lands granted by California to its municipal trustee is a matter of statewide importance and one that directly impacts the Commission’s jurisdiction. The courts have described California’s continuing role by stating that, “Upon grant to a municipality subject to a public trust, and accompanied by a delegation of the right to improve the harbor and exercise control over harbor facilities, the lands are not placed entirely beyond the supervision of the state, but it may, and indeed has a duty to, continue to protect the public interests.”
As such, the City serves as a trustee, both as to the lands themselves and as to the revenue derived from trust lands. The trust lands are not held by the City in a municipal or proprietary capacity, but rather for the benefit of all the people of the State of California. The legislative grant created a trust in which the City is the fiduciary/trustee, the State is the truster, and all the people of the State are the beneficiaries. The legal consequence of this trust relationship is that the proper use of the tidelands and tideland revenues is a statewide affair. While the day-to-day management of these public trust lands was granted to the City, the State, through the Commission, retains trustee and oversight authority over the City’s administration of these lands, and the Legislature remains the ultimate trustor.
The exact same language can be used for Howard Terminal: the City/Port is the trustee, the State has authority, the Legislature is the trustor. It’s not hard to see legislation being required to make any Howard Terminal conversion final. There’s already a precedent in the Brooklyn Basin project (a.k.a Oak to Ninth), when Don Perata got a bill passed in 2004 that allowed for a land exchange that made the project possible. If overall Bay Area Port capacity is to be diminished some significant amount, a plan must be enacted to make up for the lost capacity. Such plans would have to be shaped by the SLC and the BCDC, which has its own regional seaport management plan.
In other words, don’t expect this process to be quick. It’s doable, as was the case in San Francisco, but Howard Terminal’s conversion will have to take place within the context of it benefiting the entire Bay Area and the State of California, not just Oakland or some developers. That’s only fair.
Any college basketball fan who watches the annual NCAA Men’s Tournament usually wants (and expects) at least one no-name, small school to climb the ranks and upset much bigger schools with blue chip recruits. If the team is lucky and good enough, they’ll get to at least the Sweet Sixteen (fourth round), or even the Final Four (semifinals). Such teams are not expected to win it all. They’re called Cinderellas for a reason. Over the last week we had our own Cinderella in baseball, and his name is Eric Sogard.
The bespectacled Sogard was the A’s entry into the Face of MLB contest, a series of Twitter popularity polls pitting a player from one team against another player on another team. He was also by far the least known quantity of any of the entrants, which included the likes of Derek Jeter, Felix Hernandez, and David Ortiz, who received a “bye” round. Somehow Sogard worked his way through the first two rounds, besting the likes of young Cubs star Anthony Rizzo and Rockies shortstop (and Fremont High of Sunnyvale product) Troy Tulowitzki.
Well, it wasn’t so much Sogard that did it. It was the ever resourceful and creative A’s fan base that did the bulk of the work. The polls worked by tallying up tweets labeled with the hashtags #FaceofMLB and the name of the player, in this case #EricSogard. MLB put some rules in place to govern the poll: a definite window to vote from 9 AM ET to 8 AM ET the following day and a limit of 25 tweets (or retweets) per Twitter handle. The rules were fair and provided advantages to both East Coast and West Coast voters, as I’ll discuss later.
After clearing the first two rounds, Sogard was matched up against Giants All Star catcher Buster Posey, an apparent mismatch of epic proportions. Yet those scrappy A’s fans came through again, lining up plenty of votes to beat Posey. Next up was Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista, yet another seeming mismatch. Oakland fans against all of Canada? Come on, now. Yet A’s fans understood the dynamics and kept plugging away at odd hours, steadily building a big lead as Eastern Canada slept and riding that into the finals.
That cleared the way for the final vote in which Sogard faced off against Mets third baseman David Wright. Wright, nicknamed “Captain America,” also had the look and general popularity to be the presumptive winner going away. The poll started out dead even for the entire morning, with Sogard garnering a 51-49 lead around noon. Wright caught up and again the two were deadlocked until 8 PM ET/5 PM PT, when A’s fans hit Twitter hard with #EricSogard tweets. By this round, the fans had made use of their Photoshop skills, creating some excellent meme-worthy material such as this tweet from @RallyPlantain:
— Rally Plantain (@RallyPlantain) February 28, 2014
While other candidates enticed fans to participate by promising tickets (the Mets) or a follow back in Joey Bautista’s case, all of the momentum for Sogard was fan-generated. It was helped by the team, the radio station, and Sogard’s wife, Kaycee. Even local media jumped on the bandwagon to an extent. Around 9 PM, I saw links to two pages (h/t: @kenarneson) run by a third party company hired by MLB to run the polls, Mass Relevance. The pages are in JSON, a simple text format used to pass data from servers to web apps. They provided the raw vote data I needed to provide real time updates twice an hour throughout the evening. (Wright results/Sogard results)
At 1 AM, I posted my last update for the night, showing that Sogard had an impressive 55-45 lead with nearly 44,000 votes in hand. Based on previous voting days, such a lead seemed almost insurmountable and many fans went to sleep feeling pretty secure about the results. I, too, went to bed.
I woke at 4 with no alarm. I took a peak at the numbers again and was startled. The 44,000-vote gap had been cut by a whopping 40% in only an hour. This was the start of a tidal wave of voting for Wright. During the final 4 AM hour, #DavidWright tweets dominated Twitter. More than 110,000 #DavidWright tweets registered in the final hour. By 4:30 it became clear that Wright votes were going to catch up with Sogard votes. But with the West Coast still asleep, could the early risers there keep up enough of a pace to keep the surge from overtaking them?
At 4:45, what was in question became inevitable. Nearly 2,000 tweets per minute were coming through. Yet MLB’s rules about 25 tweets to a single user remained in place, which meant that people who kept tweeting and tweeting were getting rejected. During that last hour, Wright garnered 54,420 “approved” votes, but also had 50,918 rejected votes. Those 54,420 votes accounted for 20% of Wright’s total for the whole day. Even with the rejections, the sheer volume was enough to surpass Sogard and finish with an 11,000-vote lead. Final percentage posted by MLB and revealed during MLB Network’s Hot Stove morning show: 51% Wright, 49% Sogard.
MLB doesn’t certify results and post hard numbers like a real election board or registrar would do, so the numbers above are technically unofficial. Yet it’s clear how the trends worked out. In the aftermath, many A’s fans screamed conspiracy or that the contest was rigged. MLB can’t rig Twitter, so it’s not a Twitter problem. Everything else is strategic. Teams can entice fans to vote using a number of giveaways or contests, which the Mets did. Fans or teams could create additional accounts to eat up 25 votes. Bots can be set up to do the same. Bots out of South Korea tweeted for Wright, while the sports-unrelated account @LoveQuotes tweeted some Sogard love before deleting those same tweets. Many voters were unclear as to how and when the limit on 25 tweets per user was reset. As I understood it, the reset occurred at the start of voting each day. Others thought it was at midnight, an assertion which wasn’t backed by data. Consider that the final margin of ~11,000 votes represents roughly 440 individual voters or users. It’s such a tiny margin that it looks negligible.
As I looked at samples of tweets during the 4 AM hour, I saw what could be considered bots. However, the vast majority of Wright voters were living, breathing Mets fans. I can’t say how much they were helped by technology, but that pales in comparison to the network effects these types of polls can build. The Mets’ fan base is much larger than the A’s, and the NY Metro is much larger than the Bay Area. When it came time to show in numbers, they did so tremendously.
If MLB decides to run the Face of MLB contest next year, they’ll need to make revisions to try to prevent users from gaming the system. There’s only so much they can do. They can’t really weed out the content in each tweet, nor is it easy to ban obvious bots. Besides, what’s the difference between a bot and a person who makes multiple Twitter accounts? I used my own two long-established accounts to vote for Sogard, so am I a cheater? In any case, expect fans from every team who are interested to have a better understanding of the dynamics of a poll like this, and respond accordingly. That means a Cinderella like Sogard is less likely to take hold next year. As we saw just a few hours ago, brute force can overcome any deficit. But don’t be discouraged, A’s fans. There are ways to strategize this. I hope that this effort spills over into future All Star voting efforts, where a small fan base team like the A’s rarely gets position players in. There is hope. And for what it’s worth, the last 48 hours have been one helluva ride.
P.S. – The best tweet of the week came courtesy of former A’s reliever Pat Neshek, who is currently in Spring Training with the Cardinals.
— Pat Neshek (@PatNeshek) February 27, 2014
Maybe Eric Sogard is magical, after all.