Reed pulls measure from November ballot

The press release in its entirety is quoted below.

Mayor Reed Pulls Proposal to Place Downtown Ballpark Measure on November Ballot

Decision comes after Major League Baseball offers to help cover the added cost for a possible special election and hints that a decision on territorial rights may come in time for a spring vote

San Jose, Calif. – Mayor Chuck Reed has announced that he is pulling his request that the city’s Rules Committee place a downtown ballpark initiative on the November 2, 2010 ballot, following a discussion with A’s owner Lew Wolff. The decision comes after Major League Baseball (MLB) President Bob DuPuy, speaking on behalf of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, also agreed to help cover the taxpayer cost if a special election is required in the spring.

“I pursued a November election because I believe the citizens of San Jose deserve to have their voices heard.  We have strong community support to build a privately-funded ballpark, which would be a catalyst for thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue to fund vital city services,” said Mayor Chuck Reed.  “After discussing our options with Lew Wolff, other elected officials and members of Pro Baseball San Jose, we have decided to forgo a November ballot measure.”

Mayor Reed will still be asking the City Council to adopt a resolution of support for allowing the Athletics to move to San Jose that incorporates the Mayor’s proposed amendments to the city’s ballpark Negotiating Principles.

Lew Wolff praised the strong leadership of Mayor Reed. “I’m grateful that San Jose has shown a gritty determination to help us build a new ballpark for our franchise. We appreciate the strong leadership of both the Mayor and Commissioner Selig,” Wolff said. “We look forward to a final decision from the Commissioner, and will vigorously pursue an election next year if that decision is a positive one,” he added.

Since April 2009, city leaders have been working in partnership with the Athletics on a possible relocation to San Jose. In that time, the city has developed a set of negotiating principles for a new stadium, completed an economic analysis and environmental impact review for a downtown ballpark, and met with members of a special MLB Committee formed to study ballpark options for the Athletics. However, city leaders have been waiting for a response from MLB regarding territorial rights that currently prevent the Athletics from moving to San Jose.

“The initial push to hold a November vote sent a strong signal to league officials that San Jose is serious about attracting a Major League ballclub and that it’s time to move forward with the process,” said San Jose City Councilmember Sam Liccardo, who represents downtown. “The Commissioner’s offer to help pay for a possible election in the spring was the first indication that the league is inching closer to a decision on territorial rights.”

Mayor Reed and Councilmembers Rose Herrera, Sam Liccardo and Nancy Pyle had originally proposed placing the San Jose Downtown Ballpark and Jobs Measure on the November 2010 ballot to avoid the added expense of a special election. Placing a measure on this November’s ballot would have cost several hundred thousand dollars while holding a special election is estimated to cost more than one million dollars.  Specific estimates are set by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters when a measure is submitted for placement on the ballot.  Voter approval is required to use city land or funds in conjunction with a downtown ballpark, and after this November, the next regularly-scheduled election in San Jose is not until June 2012.

Background:

The San Jose Downtown Ballpark and Jobs Measure required that the A’s would be responsible for 100% of the cost of building, operating and maintaining a new Major League Baseball ballpark. No new taxes could be raised to bring baseball to San Jose.

Ballpark Economic Impacts

A September 2009 Economic Impact Study commissioned by the City of San Jose states that the estimated $490 million private investment in a new downtown ballpark would bring positive economic benefits to the City:
–          More than 2,000 annual jobs (full, part-time, seasonal) of which 970 would be new jobs in San Jose as a result of the project
–          $2.9 billion total economic output for the local economy over a 30-year period
–          128 million in annual net economic impact as a result of direct spending on operations (that is partially re-spent in San Jose)
–          $5 million in annual revenues for local governments, including approximately $3 million to the City of San Jose’s General Fund and Redevelopment Agency

Following a discussion with Athletics owner Lew Wolff, Mayor Reed informed MLB President Bob DuPuy of his decision this morning and will rescind his request that the Rules Committee place the ballpark ballot measure on the agenda for the August 3 City Council Meeting. The Rules Committee will still decide today whether to place the proposed ballpark Negotiating Principles amendments on the August 3 agenda.
The Rules Committee will still meet today to discuss four other proposed ballot measures:
1. Reforming binding arbitration for police officers and firefighters;
2. Instituting a tax on medical marijuana;
3. Raising the sales tax by ¼ percent; and
4. Changing minimum benefits and contribution formulas for employee pensions

Now I can have lunch.

A session for concessions

As was advertised last week, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed met with MLB COO Bob DuPuy to clear the air about the City’s move towards a November vote. What came out of it was an urging by DuPuy and his boss, Commissioner Bud Selig, to delay the vote until next March, which MLB promised it would partially fund. The idea is that Selig’s panel would complete its work and then allow him to render a decision which would allow San Jose to move forward (or not).

Unfortunately, no one in my household was a fly on the wall for the proceedings, so we have no idea what was said outside of the statement. What was said (and not printed) is the real story. Thing is, you could fill in the gaps there largely based on your own A’s worldview, framed by a simple question:

Is this process truly legitimate?

(I started out with some paragraphs explaining this, then scrapped them in favor of a table.)

Chances are that you fall into one of the green or yellow cells, depending on which city you are leaning towards. In organizing views in this manner, there is no obvious middle ground even though there are many that fill the “keep ‘em in the Bay Area” crowd. The point of the table is that if you spend enough time analyzing the issues and assigning values to the various challenges and benefits each city carries, you’ll probably see yourself on one side of the fence or another. You may waver from time to time depending on the news cycle, which is perfectly acceptable given the lack of real insight the public has into the situation. If there’s anything we’ve learned throughout all of this, it’s that city governments have the transparency of an eggshell, whereas MLB has that of a brick wall.

(Note: Contraction is off the table for now. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be revisited by 2013, though I’m sticking with my thought that it’s too expensive to pull off for MLB – for the owners and legally for the league.)

All right, so I’ve set up everyone’s relative worldview. Whatever your thinking is, it colors the way you view today’s news. In the immediate moments after the Mayor’s press release, I checked to see what the fallout would be here and in the media. SJ Councilman Sam Liccardo was quick to spin the news as positive for the city, in that it forced MLB to act. Mark Purdy just came out with a column in agreement with the councilman. And late last week, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and City Council President Jane Brunner jointly released a letter to MLB outlining the steps that the City has taken to retain the A’s. Here are the bullet points of the letter (made available to BANG late today):

  • Met with your Committee extensively over the 16 month period Identified three waterfront sites which each meet the physical and infrastructural needs for a 21st Century ballpark as identified by your Committee Generated detailed diligence materials on each of the three sites regarding
    o environmental conditions
    o infrastructure conditions
    o transportation access
    o parking studies
  • Generated a detailed land-use plan identifying key milestones and reviewing Oakland’s entitlement processes
  • Demonstrated that the City/Redevelopment Agency has the financial capacity to uphold its end of any negotiated transaction
  • Generated over 130 letters of support for keeping the A’s in Oakland from members of the East Bay private sector including business, labor and community leaders
  • Secured over $500,000 in deposits from 35 corporate entities expressing interest in luxury suites, sponsorship opportunities and, most significantly, naming rights for a new waterfront ballpark
  • Organized a grass-roots effort through Facebook with over 40,000 members committed to keeping the A’s in Oakland (see http://www.facebook.com/letsgooakland)
  • Commissioned and published an Economic and Fiscal study which found that a new waterfront ballpark in Oakland would generate thousands of jobs, generate $2.6 billion in economic activity, increase property values around the ballpark by $4.7 billion, and generate over $240 million for Oakland’s general fund

When you add up the avalanche of press releases and responses, the picture starts to become clear. The horserace that wasn’t supposed to happen, that MLB was supposedly trying to avoid, is here. And now’s when it gets interesting. It’s a mistake to read too much into the little machinations that occur. For instance, MLB offering money for a spring 2011 election is nothing as it’ll come out of Selig’s enormous discretionary fund. It just means that the pro and anti-ballpark forces will have 6 more months to add to their campaign warchests. It’s also a mistake to think that either Oakland or San Jose are in an advantageous position relative to each other.

What’s going to happen? Well, first I expect the SJ City Council to put off the vote, as suggested by Selig/DuPuy. And yes, they’ll take up the offer because it’s free money for what could be a one-issue special election. At the same time, Oakland will get its shot to put together the JLS ballpark deal. The schedule probably won’t be kind, maybe 12-18 months. Maybe as little as 9 months. It may or may not be enough to complete and certify an EIR. More important, they’ll be asked to line up those sponsors and business interests, as referred to in the Dellums/Brunner letter. It’ll be imperative that they execute on this, though I expect that if Don Perata is elected Mayor, his willingness to get in the machine will help. (It should be pointed out that the keeping the A’s is not a plank in any of the leading mayoral candidates’ platforms.) As a concession, MLB may ask Oakland and the Coliseum JPA to add 1-2 years to the A’s lease, which is due to expire after the 2013 season. This would have several cascading effects:

  • The A’s could move into an JLS ballpark in 2015 or 2016 if necessary. Or a San Jose ballpark if it doesn’t work out.
  • The Raiders would suddenly be in a pickle, as they probably don’t want to stay in the current Coliseum config for 2 more years beyond their lease. They could either move to Santa Clara if the 49ers’ stadium is built, or they could play hardball with the JPA and push for a revamped/new Coliseum. Then Oakland and the JPA would have to choose between the two teams.
  • Discussions with Oakland/East Bay-based sponsors, which until now have been under wraps, will have to be more public. Especially the naming rights sponsor, which would probably have to replace Cisco (I’d expect them to go with the Niners stadium instead).
  • Oakland interests could no longer claim that MLB hasn’t given The Town a shot.

None of that is good news if you’re Lew Wolff or a Baseball San Jose booster. Assuming that the process does have integrity, it’s the best way to be above reproach. However, Oakland will have little time to get everything together, a process that has taken San Jose fits and starts totaling 5 years. Oakland pols will have to somehow avoid the idea that they’re ramming a stadium deal through, in a city that is already enormously sensitive to bad stadium deals and doubly sensitive to huge budget cuts. Make enough early mistakes and MLB could kill the contest early. Keep in mind that as nice as 35 corporate sponsors and $500k in deposits sounds, Oakland’s going to need a lot more than that to make the math work on a $450 million ballpark, perhaps $20 million a year in commitments. For now a good first step would be to authorize an EIR. Some of the pledged sponsor money redirected towards the EIR would be a good gesture as it wouldn’t hurt the City fiscally.

Of course, if you think that MLB is prone to cronyism or otherwise rigged this, the endgame is quite different. Rigged for what, though? After all, the whole time San Jose will still be there, sitting and waiting for Oakland to fail, with MLB given a few more months to come up with a T-rights settlement between the Giants and A’s.

Major release from MLB: SJ, stop the vote

So it turns out Bud Selig isn’t Claude Rains after all. I had asked why MLB hadn’t simply requested that San Jose delay the vote, and it turns out that it took a weekend for them to make the call. From Mayor Reed’s office:

MLB President Bob DuPuy informed me today that Commissioner Selig has requested that the San Jose City Council refrain from placing a Downtown Ballpark Measure on the November 2010 ballot so that MLB’s special committee can complete its work. He also committed that, if a special election is required in the spring, MLB would help pay for it.

Mr. DuPuy also shared that he appreciated the amount of work the City has done and the level of excitement that the San Jose community has shown in attracting a Major League ballclub.

I informed Mr. DuPuy that I would consider the league’s request and talk with Lew Wolff. We also pledged to continue our conversation in the coming days.

How ’bout dem apples?

Notes from a movie set

Got to the set at 10:30. Line took an hour to process. Two release forms.

Craft services is skimpy on anything good. Party mix, granola bars, coffee. Yippee.

We’ve been moved three times along the 3rd base side. I’m pretty sure I’m not in any shots. Yes, the tarps are off.

There’s a problem with actor Stephen Bishop, who plays David Justice. Evidently casting forgot to make sure he was left-handed like Justice. It’s made for some comical throws back to the infield.

There are a few dozen paid extras in the crowd, sometimes in designated areas such as Diamond Level seats.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was here but by the time we got in he was relaxing in street clothes. He left around 1.

About 20 minutes in I realized that the scene being filmed was the KC comeback from 11-0 during game 20 of The Streak. Nothing like reliving the most panic inducing moment of the 2002 season.

They’ve reenacted the Michael Tucker double (and Justice’s reaction) over a dozen times.

The guy playing Eric Chavez is maybe 5’9″. The guys playing Miguel Tejada and Randy Velarde are 6′. Huddy looks like Huddy.

Diamond Vision is playing every highlight loop from the last decade, it seems.

Anything else? I left before the last scene, which has the crowd in the LF bleachers. Glad I did the unpaid extra thing, wouldn’t do it again.

A’s ratings much better but still terrible?

Today, a report at SportsBusinessJournal shows TV ratings for the 30 clubs. Despite a 46% increase in viewership on CSN California, the A’s have placed last in both ratings (1.23) and viewers (30,792 households). Ratingswise the A’s are actually tied for last with the Angels, but the Angels’ much larger SoCal market nets more than double the eyeballs.

You’ll remember that 2009 was the first season on the new CSN California network, and as expected it encountered growing pains. Many non-Comcast cable systems didn’t carry the network at first, and there’s always that adjustment period for fans as they grow comfortable with the new channel.

Interestingly, the A’s rating at the beginning of the season was 1.6, though that was a small and not properly representative sample. As the A’s continue to improve on the field, the ratings recovery should also continue, perhaps even approaching a 2.0 rating, or roughly 50,000 households. Both the A’s and CSN have to be encouraged by the increase, as the audience should only get stronger over time. The eyebrow-raiser is the Washington Nationals, who have finally emerged from their malaise over the past few years with an initially competitive team and a must-see horse in Stephen Strasburg.

Perhaps even more important is the size of the market. Plenty of small and mid market teams have to perform quite well to get 30,000+ households, which speaks to the Bay Area’s importance. If they were ever to move out of the Bay Area, maxing out in a small market could prove more difficult there than here. Add to that the Bay Area’s affluence, and even in second place it’s a difficult combination to beat.

Regionality: The New Revenue Stream

Is it possible that the A’s v. Giants rumble for the South Bay is a lot more complex than we even imagined? I mean, Bud Selig keeps saying so. Should we not believe him? Is it possible that the concept of MLB territory is evolving and this dispute is less about right now and more about an emerging revenue stream?

I caught myself pondering this question last week as the All Star Game was struggling to keep my attention. Honestly, my pondering began with a question like “When was the last time I cared about an All Star Game?” Oddly enough, I thought of the 1988 Triple A All Star Game in Buffalo, New York. It was the first Triple A All Star Game to feature all 26 Triple A affiliates and it was televised on ESPN. I remember waiting for the game to start as I sat in a 1950’s era ranch style San Lorenzo home staring at my grandparents 20 inch TV. Jim Kaat and Gary Thorne were waxing poetic about the beautiful new Pilot Field in Downtown Buffalo and the future stars about to take the field.

At the time, my main reason for being so excited was that I would get to see the player I thought would be the 4th Rookie of the Year (after Canseco, McGwire and Weiss) in a row for our Green and Gold heroes, Lance Blankenship. As a baseball card collector, I was also interested in seeing one Gregg Jefferies, a player I had heard about in card shops as a rookie card one needed to possess. They didn’t disappoint! Blankenship was 1 for 3 with a stolen base, while Jefferies was 1 for 2 with a Home Run. Other notable names that participated in the game? Bob Geren, Geronimo Berroa, Mike Devereaux, Joey Cora and Sandy Alomar.

Thinking about the game reminded me how much minor league baseball has changed.  It seemed that, back then, MLB teams didn’t think much about how the distance between the parent club and it’s top affiliate impacted business. The A’s Triple A team was 772 miles away in Tacoma, WA, for example. While that seems like quite a distance, it was nothing when compared with the over 3000 miles that separated the Chicago White Sox and their top affiliate in Vancouver, BC. I threw a quick spreadsheet together and discovered that in 1988, the median distance between a Major League team and it’s Triple A affiliate was 559 miles. (ed. note- This number is based on Google maps and is hardly precise, but close enough to illustrate the point)

If we juxtapose the conditions in 1988 with the conditions in 2009, it is easy to see a trend towards greater regionalization. Consider these things:

  • The median distance between MLB teams and their top affiliate is now only 315 miles.
  • In 1988, there were 2 Triple A affiliates that played within 200 miles of their parent club. Today there are 12.
  • Today there are 3 teams with their top affiliate over 1000 miles away, the greatest distance being the 3600 miles that are between Toronto and Las Vegas. In 1988, there were 6 teams that were separated from their top affiliate by more than 1000 miles, 2 well over 2000 miles.
  • The Braves moved their Triple A affiliate from Richmond, VA after 43 years. The Gwinnett County Braves are just over 30 miles from the parent club
  • The San Diego Padres (or at least some members of the teams ownership group) are actively working to bring the current Portland Beavers (next season Tuscon?) closer to the mothership. Possibly as close as San Marcos (36 mi.) or Escondido (31 mi.).

With MLB Advanced Media generating profits from the web, Fox Sports paying big bucks to broadcast national games, the advent of MLB Network, Regional Sports Networks extending the reach and frequency of each teams broadcasts, and most teams having a newish piggy bank for a stadium… Are minor league affiliates the next money maker for the MLB clubs? Or could there be a different reason for the decline in median distance? Is the shrinking distance between the clubs and their affiliates  about efficiency or marketing or both? Or could it be simply that expansion in the 90’s brought big league baseball closer to existing Triple A cities?

It seems to be all three. Teams are investing in minor league affiliates to make money, closer affiliates help the baseball operations staff by allowing for things like more efficient use of scouts or potentially quicker player call ups and the MLB expansion of the 90’s created the opportunity for MLB Clubs and their Triple A affiliates to move closer together.

Minor League Investments

The Padres are just one of a growing number of ownership groups that are finding it beneficial to invest in the minor leagues. The Braves, Giants, and Red Sox have all made investments in minor league teams at some point in the last decade. While I don’t expect that every team will be out buying up the 150 or so major league affiliated minor league teams across the country, I imagine most are kicking the tires on limited investments.

I find this particular quote from the above linked article to be telling:

“We’re on the record and excited about operating a Triple-A franchise in Padres’ territory,” Moorad said. “And we want to break ground, start turning shovels of dirt within four to six months.

“To be clear, though, our ownership group — not the Padres — will make the deal that makes sense to all parties.”

Is it possible that this view of expanding the reach within their territory by collocating a Triple A franchise is one of the issues that the Selig Panel is reporting on? It seems so.

Efficiency of Baseball Operations

Picture this hypothetical situation that a GM might face. The trade deadline is fast approaching and you are not sure yet if you are a buyer or seller so you need to get good scouting reports on potential targets as well as understand the recent performance of your minor league assets. Your top free agent acquisition is about to go on the shelf with elbow trouble and you aren’t sure who to bring up to take his roster spot. You want to send your most trusted scout to report on both scenarios. If your Triple A team is 80 miles away, and playing at home, and your High A affiliate is even closer, and playing a potential trading partner… It suddenly becomes a few days of driving around the adjacent Metro Area to get an on the ground report rather than a series of plane flights all over the country and back, assuming the two affiliates are playing nearby.

It’s less expensive, your scout is presumably more alert and when you call him on a whim and say, “Ben Sheets elbow is barking, should we call up Bowers, Mortenson, or someone else?” You can expect to get a better answer.

In a scenario that probably more applies to our A’s… Rehab assignments can be monitored by the GM himself if he wants, for crying out loud.

The Changes Since Expansion

Of the markets that hosted Triple A teams in 1988, 2 (Phoenix and Denver) were “promoted” to the bigs and 6 (Calgary, Edmonton, Richmond, Old Orchard Beach Maine, Tuscon and Vancouver) were “demoted” on out of Triple A baseball.

With 4 new Major League teams creating a need for 4 additional Triple A markets, the total new Triple A cities in the past two decades is 12. The new cities, since 1988, are Charlotte, Durham, Fresno, Lawrenceville (Gwinnett County, GA), Allentown (Lehigh Valley, PA),  Memphis, New Orleans, Reno, Round Rock (TX), Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre.

With Triple A teams dropping below the Canadian border, and closer to existing MLB franchises, all while new MLB teams were being established closer to existing Triple A cities (Colorado Springs/Denver), it seems only natural that teams would look to realign their minor league affiliations to take advantage of the opportunity to expand their reach into adjacent metropolitan areas. With the growth of Regional Sports Networks, minor league affiliates outside of traditional MLB territory, but inside an expanded TV market, became of greater strategic value.

In conclusion, it is all speculation as to what role this evolving view of the value of minor league affiliates in an extended metro area may hold for big league clubs. That said, it is clear that even small market teams are looking to the minor leagues as potential sources of future revenue. While I am not sure this is something that Selig’s panel is looking into, thinking about it (and mentally squinting really hard) definitely makes me understand some of the delay.

Full Text of Ballot Measure

Just got Mayor Reed’s memo as I was headed out the door. Here is the full text of the ballot measure to be discussed at the August 3rd session:

Should the San Jose Downtown Ballpark and Jobs Measure be approved to authorize, but not require, the use of Redevelopment Agency funds, with no new taxes, to acquire and clear a site for a baseball stadium, fund related off-site improvements, and lease the site for a professional baseball team where the team would pay all on-site construction costs, operation and maintenance costs, generating new tax revenues for City operations?

I’ve added a link to the complete memo, which is four pages long and includes previously mentioned material, such as San Jose’s negotiating principles. More on this later tonight.

5:40 PM – the Mayor’s office has a response to Selig’s statement:

To bring Major League Baseball to San Jose, we first need two processes to occur: We must seek the approval of San Jose’s voters, and we must seek the approval of MLB.

The Commissioner’s process will move forward at a pace of his choosing. We respect their process, but we need to move forward with our process as well.

Our process is simple: we have exactly one regular citywide election scheduled in the next 23 months, and that’s in November. For the City of San Jose, it’s now or never.

August 3rd is the last day to obtain City Council approval to place items on the November ballot, and our Sunshine rules require that we file policy memorandums today. Sunshine and open government are cornerstones of San Jose’s decision-making process, and we will have a fully transparent process moving forward, just as we have over the past fifteen months.

With a strong statement of support from San Jose voters this November, we believe that we can remove any hesitation by Major League Baseball in recognizing the self-determined “territory” of San Jose’s residents.

Regarding any concern expressed about the timing of our decision, Mayor Reed’s staff sought to schedule a conversation this week between the Mayor and the Commissioner, but was unsuccessful. The Mayor has requested a meeting with the Commissioner’s office for next week to discuss the issue more fully.

Is that it for tonight? I sure hope so.