I wouldn’t have seen Guy Saperstein’s recent, brief letter to the Trib from over a week ago had BaseballOakland’s Garth Kimball not responded to it. In fairness, I’ll put both here in their entirety. First, Saperstein’s letter:
Need business plan
The City of Oakland, after many years of doing nothing to keep the A’s in town, have come up with three potential parcels of land, none very attractive for a baseball stadium site. But what the city’s proposal lacks is any business plan, let alone a viable business plan.
The A’s have been losing $30-plus million a year in Oakland for some time — an amount subsidized by Major League Baseball. No team owner wants to lose $30 million a year, nor can MLB be expected to continue subsidizing the A’s.
Unless Oakland produces a viable business plan for building a new stadium as well as successfully operating the team in Oakland without losing tens of millions of dollars every year — a plan that works not only for the team but also the city and its taxpayers — those who think finding a few parcels of land is enough to keep the A’s in Oakland are simply misleading the public.
Guy T. Saperstein
And now Kimball’s response:
My Word: Oakland A’s fans deserve better ownership
Guy Saperstein and the A’s ownership continue to distort the truth in an attempt to destroy the A’s fan base and to get Major League Baseball approval to move out of Oakland.
Saperstein’s Jan. 8 letter to the editor, “Need business plan,” about A’s ballpark sites failed to disclose that he is an A’s co-owner. He also wrote that Oakland does not have a ballpark business plan. Yet, Oakland officials recently announced that the city and MLB officials together have fully analyzed three waterfront sites and provided detailed ballpark and economic redevelopment plans to MLB’s Blue Ribbon Committee.
Saperstein mentioned the Jack London Square sites are just a few parcels of land and not very attractive for a stadium. Those three proposed sites total more than 90 acres and are ideal MLB stadium sites. Also, since when is a waterfront ballpark with wonderful transit options and beautiful views not attractive?
Saperstein also claims the A’s are losing $30 million per year. According to Forbes magazine, the A’s are one of MLB’s few teams that regularly turn a profit, due to their low payroll and their sweetheart Coliseum lease from the city of Oakland and Alameda County.
Meanwhile, A’s co-owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher have done nothing but depress attendance and hurt their own bottom line by providing poor customer service, trading away fan-favorite players, threatening to move every year and excluding many fans by tarping off the third deck.
Wolff has repeatedly stated he exhausted all efforts in Oakland. Yet, city officials last year quickly found two new excellent waterfront ballpark sites. All it took was effort and working with, not against, city leaders.
A new ballpark in Oakland certainly would be successful. However, what we need even more is ownership like the Haas family provided; an A’s ownership that will reach out to the entire East Bay and an ownership that will be committed to staying in Oakland and winning.
Oakland is a wonderfully diverse city with great transportation options. We deserve better than Wolff, Fisher and Saperstein, who whine instead of trying to win. The team should be put up for sale and a new ballpark should be built in Oakland.
As the 31,000 people (and growing) who have joined the “Let’s Go Oakland” Facebook page illustrate, A’s fans are yearning for MLB to grant the city of Oakland its first real chance since the Haas years to retain its team and return it to glory.
Saperstein warns about misleading the public. Unfortunately, if A’s fans and the public have been misled by anyone, it’s Wolff, Fisher, Saperstein and their fellow A’s co-owners. We deserve better.
I’ve mostly refrained from commenting on the Oakland plan simply because I don’t know much about all of the details. However, I wasn’t impressed with what I saw coming out of the press conference and I’m not sure the panel will be either. In light of the large amount of information that Fremont has released, Oakland has to come up with something approaching that level of detail to give an impression that they are really trying, not just posturing. And that’s why the one criticism I made at the time was that Oakland should be focusing on one site, not three. Now I suppose I can let loose:
- Instead of buying web ads all over the place for Let’s Go Oakland, supporters could have used the money to get a feasibility study completed. A study for three sites might be prohibitively expensive, one site would be more cost-effective. The 2002 HOK study is incredibly outdated, another one is needed for any Oakland site.
- Saperstein refers to a lack of a business plan. Kimball’s retort is that Oakland supplied redevelopment and ballpark plans. That’s not what Saperstein, the rest of A’s ownership, and MLB are looking for. We know why JLS is the preferred area in Oakland for several reasons, not the least of which is that there are plenty of business interests at JLS that would love to have an anchor like a ballpark where none exists currently. But it’s not about them. It’s about the A’s and MLB – how can you make it work for them? Simply claiming that it would be successful, and then citing figures from 20 years ago when a massive sea change has taken place since then, isn’t going to cut it. On the public side, Mayor Dellums has alluded to funding sources outside the city to help pay for land and infrastructure costs. Okay, since that’s a wildcard among wildcards, what is that funding? Will any of the Oakland options be dependent on this funding? How much of a risk does that entail?
- Saperstein claims that the A’s lose $30 million a year – not for them, for MLB – and the annual revenue sharing check is proof of that. Kimball then cites the Forbes income numbers, which are bolstered by revenue sharing in the A’s case. In other words, the A’s are a long time money-losing franchise for MLB. If you’re focusing on just the A’s or Oakland, you’re missing the big picture.
- While certain details of Oakland’s plans have been available to the panel and some of the media, they’re not available to the public. There’s a press release. There is no dedicated website, no pictures or downloadable documents, not even a FAQ. In fact, if you click on the “New Ballpark” link at BaseballOakland, you get a “Page not found” error. Let’s Go Oakland’s page hasn’t evolved past the petition drive stage. It’s great to rally the troops through a Facebook page, how about giving them something to chew on as well?
What I will agree with Kimball on is that Oakland deserves a fair chance to keep the A’s in town. I hope that through the process put forth by the panel, they’ll have that chance. What I’m afraid of is that Oakland is focusing its resources too much on P.R. and not on the meat of a deal, which if true doesn’t do anyone any good. That said, Kimball’s closing plea is for the A’s to be sold to someone more Oakland-friendly. Thanks for the oh-so-predictable cop-out. Let’s try proposing something a little more practical, shall we?