The “Principles” of Astroturfing

That group Stand for San Jose is at it again, choosing New Year’s Eve to write a letter to the City. In the letter, the group is demanding that the A’s guarantee revenues as defined in the September Economic Impact report. Nevermind that the A’s did not write nor commission the report; it was handled by the City. Have the San Jose Giants ever promised any kind of economic benefit for San Jose? I’m afraid not, yet they’re happy to go to the public trough and then have the temerity to attack the City after they’ve secured a ballpark deal of their own.

Regardless of what you or I think of the group’s machinations, the City has already set up guidelines for negotiating with the A’s if/when they get clearance to move to San Jose. While these are just the beginning and the devil will truly be in the details, the principles approved by the Mayor/Council (PDF) are a good start towards making sure everything’s on the up-and-up.

1. The stadium development must generate a significant economic benefit to San Jose and have a positive impact on the City of San Jose’s General Fund.
2. The Major League Baseball team, at no cost to the City of San Jose, will be responsible for financing and building the stadium structure and
improvements on the approximate 14-acre designated stadium site.
3. The Major League Baseball team will be responsible for financing all
stadium operating costs related to its activities within the stadium site and surrounding area.
4. The name of the Major League Baseball team must include San Jose.
5. If the City or Redevelopment Agency recommend a contribution in the form of land or a financial contribution for any other ballpark specific items, a vote by the citizens of San Jose will be required on the stadium project.
  1. The stadium development must generate a significant economic benefit to San Jose and have a positive impact on the City of San Jose’s General Fund.
  2. The Major League Baseball team, at no cost to the City of San Jose, will be responsible for financing and building the stadium structure and improvements on the approximate 14-acre designated stadium site.
  3. The Major League Baseball team will be responsible for financing all stadium operating costs related to its activities within the stadium site and surrounding area.
  4. The name of the Major League Baseball team must include San Jose.
  5. If the City or Redevelopment Agency recommend a contribution in the form of land or a financial contribution for any other ballpark specific items, a vote by the citizens of San Jose will be required on the stadium project.

Not known to mince words, Mayor Chuck Reed had a select few for Stand for San Jose:

“I think this front organization for the San Francisco Giants should go to San Francisco and talk to their puppet masters and tell them to get out of the way so we can negotiate some guarantees,” Reed said.

While City Attorney Rick Doyle called it “unrealistic” for any team to agree to such a money-back guarantee, he said reducing the city’s financial risk is “very do-able.” Doyle pointed to the 1990 deal between the city and the San Jose Sharks over funding the arena, now called HP Pavilion.

Furthermore, Roger Noll characterizes a revenue guarantee (beyond a direct lease payment) as “improbable.” And to end the article on an unintentionally humorous note, reporter Tracy Seipel notes that the letter asks for an “economic benefits report card,” similar to audits done by Phoenix and Washington, DC. Except that those two cities don’t do such report cards. The supposed “responsible government” in the District put together (thanks Robert Bobb) one of the most egregiously one-sided, publicly-financed ballpark deals in the last 20 years.

Gallagher/Dolich on KNBR/CSNCA

When Ted Robinson guest hosts for Gary Radnich, he will occasionally have one segment that’s very business related. Today (right now!), he has Giants Enterprises President Pat Gallagher and 49ers COO (and former A’s VP and onetime prospective owner) Andy Dolich in the KNBR studio to talk business. If/when the podcast is available, I’ll post it. The two longtime friends saw themselves as friendly rivals when Dolich was with the A’s. In the interview so far, they’ve said things that we’ve discussed here but coming from them have much more gravitas:

  • Both teams can be here as long as someone is willing to take the risk (which the Giants have already done) [Gallagher]
  • The A’s will still be here, even if they’re looking around the Bay Area [Dolich]
  • Most fans don’t constantly check stats, or know the difference between a 3-4 and a 4-3. They just want to have a good time. [Dolich]

Now they’re talking advertising. Dolich thought the Crazy Crab and Croix de Candlestick were genius.

Future articles for 2010 + NY Times article

The Gray Lady has an article on the Oakland-SF-SJ-A’s saga, which means that the local war has gone national. It’s rather unfortunate that the picture they chose for the piece is a twilight shot up from ground level, with a puddle in the foreground as Mount Davis looms with its lightly adorned concrete in back. The profile shot of Lew Wolff even has a somewhat sinister quality to it.

USA Today’s baseball writer Bob Nightengale also covers the stadium issue in his A’s organizational report.

In 2010, we’ll start a series of ballpark design articles. Some of the content will reference locations and cities. Other articles will focus on the stuff inside the stadium. Among the subject matter we will be discussing:

  • Park factors
  • Weather and climate
  • Field dimensions, including “quirks”
  • Foul territory
  • Grandstand shape and design
  • Field orientation
  • Amenities
  • Pricing trends

We’ll still cover the news as it comes and provide commentary. The new feature articles will come out on a more predictable schedule, perhaps on a biweekly or weekly basis. For instance, I’ll be adding weather information to the soon-to-be-renamed Attendance Watch box on the right. Why? Stay tuned. Also, if you have any suggestions for subjects we could cover, drop a comment. 2010 is bound to shape up as a most interesting year. We want to do our part.

Cisco CEO John Chambers chimes in

I hope everyone’s having a good holiday break. It’s good to get away from the everyday hustle and bustle, which for me includes monitoring and posting on this here blog.

But enough about me. Thanks to GoA’s, who caught the SJ/SV Business Journal’s Q&A with Cisco CEO John Chambers. Chambers was named Executive of the Year by the publication in the most recent issue (subscription required). While most of the interview was geared towards the tech industry and his company’s health, Moryt Milo managed to get a ballpark-related question in the mix.

MM: Let’s change gears. I would like to ask whether we have a chance of seeing a Cisco Stadium with a Major League Baseball team in San Jose.

JC: We want the South Bay to have the A’s. We think it’s important for creating an environment for our children. Not only is it about education, because clearly it is, but it’s about job creation and an environment that will attract companies and individuals to this area. Having sports teams in the South Bay is an element of that, and we very much want to see the A’s here. So we are trying very hard. I think it’s pretty good odds that it will happen.

So far this is the first comment I’ve seen that showed Cisco’s interest in having the A’s local to them in the South Bay. While Oakland hasn’t been shut out – and there’s no reason to shut out Oakland until everything shakes out – Chambers’ affirmation of bringing the A’s into the South Bay fold is revealing. Remember that Cisco didn’t get involved until Keith and Lew Wolff started talking with Cisco about developing the networking giant’s dormant Fremont parcels. When the Fremont plan imploded, Cisco remained committed to the sponsoring the A’s efforts to remain in the Bay Area.

However, there is some question as to how Cisco and Chambers defines “Bay Area.” While Cisco should be expected to retain naming rights whether a ballpark is in the South Bay or East Bay, there is no doubt that Cisco would prefer that its premier technology showcase be conveniently located to its headquarters, and Downtown San Jose is about as convenient as you can get (Santa Clara is close as well). I wonder if Cisco’s eventual naming rights deal may be more lucrative if it’s tied to a San Jose or Fremont ballpark.

That brings me to a tangent. In light of all the threats of lawsuits and bad intent coming from the A’s, there’s one major piece the barristers are missing: Fremont. Even if they were to argue that the A’s were obligated to try for a ballpark in the East Bay, that doesn’t preclude the team from putting most of their resources behind Fremont. You can question the wisdom of the plan, but the fact remains that Wolff/Fisher put tremendous amounts of money and time into the original Cisco Field concept. Nowhere in the Coliseum lease or in any other covenants are the A’s required to try X number of times or put Y effort into Oakland. There’s only a $250,000 fee if the A’s leave Alameda County, which shows that the Coliseum Authority considered the possibility of that happening. Otherwise, why have it in there?

Going back to Chambers’ argument – it sounds like what most boosters of a particular city or municipality would say when trying to bring in a team. The difference between Chambers and other boosters is that he’s backing his statement with nine figures and a company that’s in the Dow. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Greetings from the Ghost of Christmas Present… Part 2

Ahhhh… It’s Christmas Eve. I have been tracking Santa on NORAD’s Santa Tracker since about 0430 this morning. So before I talk about my HIGHLY ANTICIPATED marketing initiatives (numbers 4, 5 and 6) I wanted to make a  Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and everything else wish.

I wish that there will be peace in our time. I don’t mean big peace like in the Middle East or anything, just that for the next few days we can all get along in the comments. No “carpetbagging,” no “Oakland sucking,” etc. The spirit of this post is one that is meant to inspire conversation, but not emotional rants. So thanks for making my wish come true in advance!

We now resume our meanderings on the Business of Baseball and such. Marketing initiatives:

Initiative 4: Live Band In-between Innings- I am not sure if this is allowed in MLB. I don’t care, it should be. And it opens up some potential new sponsorship opportunities. Imagine having a band led by Carlos Santana playing the MGD theme song.. “I get my fresh tapped taste at the barbecue, sippin’ on my MGD…”

Or just imagine a local cover band busting out some Head Like a Hole, instrumental version in between innings and various jingles in other innings. Hell, I’d even like to see them bust out the beginning of “My Own Summer” as Micheal Taylor strides to the plate. Maybe they could bust out the theme from Jaws as Andrew Bailey heads to the hill… I am pretty sure those would be rules violations of some kind… But the idea has merit. A band, On Thursday-Saturday night games, with a  preapproved set list in between innings. Perched up above Left Field in a roped off  “stage” right below the flag poles. Talk about an event…

Initiative 5: Embrace Tailgating- From the files of “Turn a Weakness into a Strength” comes the full on embracing of a tailgating culture. Pair up with Costco and have a “Costco Tailgation Station”  set up on either side of the Coliseum. In the middle of the parking lot. Take that sea of asphalt and make some money. Turn a block of spots into a pregame celebration. Sell beer, sell charcoal, sell disposable barbecues, sell lighters, bottle openers, left over Keiichi Yabu T Shirts as kindling… make some money off this stuff, but more than anything get people excited about having fun in the middle of a parking lot!

Initiative 6: Broadcasting Changes- My deep, deep appreciation of Bill King is probably the biggest reason I love the A’s. Well, he and Lon Simmons and now Ken Korach. As a young boy, I had no father (he died when I was 5). I spent a great deal of time in the backyard at my grandparent’s house in San Lorenzo with my brother, a wiffleball bat, a wiffleball and Lon and Bill.  They introduced me to Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dave Henderson, etc. We marveled at their abilities together, me, Bill, Lon and the Weevil (my brother’s nickname). I still remember McGwire’s original onslaught as a detail engrossed in the dulcet tones of Lon Simmons. Mac was a character in the story, dare I say boyhood fairytale, that Lon and Bill told as it unfolded.

With the A’s now having so many games on TV, Ray Fosse isn’t on the radio much. Seize this opportunity to introduce a new storyteller! Replace him already… Dave Henderson would be awesome. Maybe some old coach like Rene Lachemann is interested in trying out some radio.  Either way, pay homage to the history of the team by bringing back another member of the team to talk to us all 162 times plus Spring Training and Playoffs.

On the TV side… I got to say, I mute the stuff most of the time and just watch. Nothing against Ray and G.K., I just don’t really like baseball on TV. The announcing on TV is less storytelling and more “Did you see that?”  It doesn’t have the appeal of listening to a fairytale as it unfolds. But… How cool would it be if the A’s had a guest color guy on home weeknight games? What if the guest color guy was Terry Steinbach a few times? What if it was Rickey Henderson a few times? Maybe Dave Stewart here and there. Not just an inning… Not just on World Champion Reunion night… but they actually are scheduled to be on the game in advance and everyone knows. I bet on Rickey’s nights the A’s ratings would eclipse Martha Stewart. Okay, well maybe not but I’d expect a boost. Wouldn’t you tune in to hear the craziness that came out of Rickey’s mouth?

So there you have it. My humble list of 6 things to make the A’s a bit more of an interesting thing to behold. I leave you with this:

Happy Hendersonmas

And now a message from the Ghost of Christmas Present…

So, with so much of our discussion centering on the potential developments in the future, I thought it might be fun to take up another topic. That topic is: The Here and Now!

Or better stated… If I was the A’s VP of Marketing (neither I, nor the frog in my pocket work for the A’s… unfortunately), what would I do to make today better? Carpe Diem! How do I get people out to the stadium when the stadium is the one thing everyone agrees holds the team back?

So with apologies to Jim Leahey, here is my attempt at doing his job!

First, we have to think about what the mission of the marketing team is. What objectives are we attempting to accomplish with our plan?

  1. Create repeat visitors/Season Ticket Holders
  2. Bring back fans from the glory years
  3. Increase sales of team related apparel
  4. Increase viewership/ radio listeners

So how do we do this? Or, what would be a good effort in this regard while the stadium question hangs in the balance?

There are three main pillars to our short term strategic approach. Appeal to nostalgia, create an event mentality at the yard and spruce up the broadcasts. These are not independent of one another, they interrelate.  So here are the specific initiatives I would drive across the organization.

A slight detour: Many of these ideas have come from conversations with fellow fans, posts on AN, posts here and from other team’s marketing activities. Thanks to everyone who has shared one of these ideas or something similar.

We have 6 initiatives, here are the first 3

Initiative 1: Bill King Hall of Fame Drive. It was depressing to go to Cooperstown and see the Ford C. Frick Award Winners. Bill, oh Bill where are you? They have sullied your memory by excluding you… For so many people, the broadcasters of a team are the face, er voice, of the franchise. I have spent many a long summertime afternoon conversing with Bill King. Many more hours than any other member of the A’s Organization. I understand it may be a faux pas amongst MLB teams to campaign for the Ford C. Frick. But as Dante said… “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, retain their neuitrality.” Hyperbole? Maybe, but still.

There should be “Vote Bill for Ford C. Frick” signs everywhere in the coliseum. A kiosk or 5 at the Coliseum to listen to his most outstanding calls. His picture on the outfield wall. Pull out all the stops… give us something to rally around while we wait for Crush Carter and Titanic Taylor to join Bubonic Brett Anderson in the big leagues .

Initiative 2: Immortal Athletics. My visit to Yankee Stadium this past summer got me to thinking. If they can play videos of the back up left fielder from 1952 on the Diamondvision before the game for 3 hours, shouldn’t the A’s at least do something similar for their former stars? And then, across the Bay they have plaques on the outside of the stadium… Forever Giants. They have one for Johnny Lee LeMaster for crying out loud?!?!?!?!? Heck, Walt Weiss was good at least!

And then… there was Rickey night. Nobody else will ever draw a crowd like that dude. I mean, I was a tall, scrawny white kid with slightly above average speed, no power and an inability to track fly balls. But, in High School,  I played Left Field,  took pitches until I got a strike and tried to steal bases because I wanted to be Rickey. Not too many players affect us like that, you know? But if Rickey draws gobs and gobs of people… our other heroes of the bygone days, could draw gobs. We don’t need to retire numbers, well except for Dave Stewart. But we could use a Bob Welch plaque out near the home plate entrance. Any player with 5 years in an A’s uniform or who played a significant role in a playoff season or won a major award in an A’s uniform should be eligible.  And a Carney, Walt, Dave Parker, Dave Henderson, Sal Bando, Dwayne Murphy, etc. Imagine 6 midweek nights next season, with a cool pennant giveaway and a highlight reel in the 5th inning feature the latest Immortal Athletic.  Walt Weiss… come on down!

Initiative 3: Yellow Jersey. I miss yellow. I used to like those yellow numbers the boys wore back in 1986. It’d be cool to pay homage to the past similar to what the Padres are planning for Thursday day games. I mean, instead of wearing Taco Bell themed uni’s, the A’s could find a way to pay homage to their entire Bay Area uniform history by going sleeveless, yellow and with the elephant on a ball logo on front every Sunday home game. Here is sort of a mockup of what I was thinking:

yellowalternate

Heck, I’d be okay if it was the same as 1986’s pull over with “Oaktown” written on it in today’s font. Either way the jersey serves multiple purposes. First, increase sales of  team apparel, make Sunday afternoons feel like an event unto themselves, appeal to our sense of nostalgia…

We have 3 more things to put out there for all to criticize, they are more stadium/broadcast related. Until then, Happy Holidays!

Fun with assumptions

A new editorial in the Contra Costa Times takes a wait-and-see approach to Oakland’s efforts to retain the A’s.

Over at the Merc, Todd W. Smith, the lawyer representing the “citizens” group Stand for San Jose, outlined their rationale for rewriting the San Jose ballpark EIR. So far the response from the city has been, “We’re already doing that.” While the idea that the ballpark will be a drain on city services sounds downright hypocritical coming from a team who accepted public funds in much the same vein recently, there is plenty of room for revision in the EIR. Smith wouldn’t let it end there, including in his submission an argument coming completely out of left field.

Before we get into that, let’s take a look at his major bullet points.

Updating the potential traffic impacts on Interstate 880 from A’s fans driving down from Alameda and Contra Costa counties

Since the original EIR did not specify a specific baseball team, traffic patterns were drawn from an area equidistant from the ballpark site. It did not factor in existing A’s fans coming in the the East Bay. Now that the A’s are the target, the focused study will indeed include some percentage of fans from the East Bay. I’m curious about the percentage of fans they are forecasting, and where they might get the numbers from.

Analyzing if the original environmental impact report certified in 2007, before current talks with the A’s began, considered whether a stadium in the Diridon/Arena area was consistent with San Jose’s land use policies

The Diridon/Arena Plan was written in 2003, well before the current ballpark effort started. It makes no mention of a ballpark, and only discusses high speed rail in the most fleeting of ways. During the original ballpark EIR process, the Diridon/Arena Plan was referenced frequently, with great care to ensure that the ballpark fell without design guidelines and plan objectives. This included compatibility with redone traffic, bike, and pedestrian circulation, newly planned parks and open spaces, and development. The obvious difference is that a ballpark would supplant either medium-density residential or tower office space on the Diridon South parcels. There are more than enough precedents to say that the uses are entirely compatible. During the study session, at least one commenter asked if the ballpark would be better suited for a less dense San Jose parcel such as the 237/Zanker site or the County Fairgrounds. To use either those sites instead of Diridon would be a terrible example of land use, since they would only invite more sprawl, car trips, and discourage public transit use.

Studying the impacts of residential, commercial and mixed-use projects proposed near the stadium site.

While the residential neighborhoods nearby have been studied, it’s difficult to say how the six blocks between the ballpark and the arena will be impacted. As part of infrastructure building, those six blocks will be mostly wiped clean with the possibility of one block becoming a parking garage for the ballpark. The area could be dug up for years as VTA waits for the cut-and-cover construction for the BART tunnel to commence. Initially, most of that area will end up as surface parking to satisfy requirements for both venues.

Now for the bit of crazy:

Finally, Smith said the revised report must analyze the potential for urban decay around the Oakland Coliseum that could result from the A’s relocation.

… In his letter, Smith says the Oakland Coliseum, where the A’s now play, is a centerpiece in the city’s Coliseum Redevelopment Area Plan. Since the A’s use the Coliseum more than any other tenant, their exit would mean the facility could sit empty and unused on at least 81 additional dates.

Ah, so now the A’s will be responsible for contributing to the failure of the Coliseum Redevelopment Area Plan! Look, we’re talking about a vast amount of East Oakland, stretching from the Central Estuary and Fruitvale to the San Leandro border. Much of the area immediately around the Coliseum complex is zoned light or heavy industrial with small pockets of transit-oriented development near Coliseum BART. The plan doesn’t allow for mixed use along Hegenberger. Many plots of land would require massive cleanup prior to proper redevelopment. An October report on area blight shows how consequential the A’s are to the current economic situation there:

  • Employment in the Coliseum Redevelopment Area was estimated at 51,300 jobs in 2005 (p. 9). That makes the A’s responsible for less than 1% of the jobs in the area.
  • Deteriorated and dilapidated property is prevalent throughout the area, with the exception of the Airport subarea. More than 15 percent of surveyed parcels were categorized as deteriorated or dilapidated (16 percent – 26 percent, the latter high percentage in Central East Oakland) in all subareas except the Airport subarea (p. 32). In 2006, Lew Wolff proposed the Coliseum North plan that would’ve transformed up to 200 acres of the area into new mixed development. Area landowners were unwilling to sell and Wolff wasn’t interested in eminent domain, so the plan died on the vine. Even if that development had taken flight, there’s no way that one of the most economically depressed regions of the Bay Area would’ve suddenly been cured of its ills. Unfortunately, the problems in East Oakland go well beyond the impact of a cash infusion – one which would’ve received backlash due to likely gentrification.

Ultimately there’s only so much the A’s can do for a community. A typical MLB franchise pulls in a little more that $100 million in local revenue annually, which is about as much as a medium-sized business. While a pro sports franchise gets disproportionate amounts of media coverage, that coverage doesn’t directly translate into economic benefit for anyone other than those associated with the team, which is why I tend to look at any economic impact report with a somewhat jaundiced eye. What’s ironic is that Smith didn’t mention that none of the three sites being proposed by Oakland for a ballpark are in the Coliseum area. Any of those sites would provide much the same blight-adding effects to the Coliseum Redevelopment Area.