(Insert Name Here) Kings

As reported by Field of Schemes, it appears we are going to find out the answer to Marine Layer’s recent post and poll question.

The Sacramento Bee has the story and the money quote:

“On the heels of the disappointing – but not surprising – action (or inaction) of the state and Cal Expo board, it is fair to say that the NBA has ceased its activities on the Sacramento arena front,” league representative John Moag said in an e-mail to The Bee. “However, we will continue to monitor and respond to the activities and options of others that might reasonably ensure the competitiveness and viability of the Kings’ franchise.”

Not much in-between line reading to do with that one, now is there?

Mayor Kevin Johnson is proposing an Arco remodel. The Kings and the NBA are flat out rejecting that idea. The NBA is ceasing any activities related to a new arena in Sacramento but looking for a way to reasonably ensure competitiveness of the Kings franchise.

The only question that seems to remain… Will the NBA go for an already built modern facility, like the one in Kansas City, or will they go to a temporary solution, like HP Pavilion or Key Arena, with promises of future renovations? We have a whole season to watch the answer evolve.

For an in-depth analysis on the inadequacies at ARCO, check out this article (PDF).

The debt rule and you

When the current CBA was ratified in 2006, it was largely seen as little more than extension to the 2002 CBA. That is, except for one pretty important detail. Prior to 2006, all MLB teams had to conform to what was called the 60/40 debt rule (assets/liabilities). Enforcement of the rule was at best lax, allowing teams to make some really bizarre long term contracts without batting an eye. With the new CBA, the debt rule had radically changed. Instead of pinning available debt to franchise value under the 60/40 rule, debt was to be capped based on earnings. Here’s the initial language of the rule:

DEBT SERVICE RULE
Section 1.    The Rule. No Club may maintain more Total Club Debt than can reasonably be supported by its EBITDA. A Club’s Total Club Debt cannot reasonably be supported by its EBITDA if Total Club Debt exceeds the product of the average of that Club’s EBITDA over the most recent two years multiplied by the Cash Flow Multiplier applicable to that Club; provided, however, that a Club may elect, on or before April 1, 2007, to utilize, in both 2007 and 2008, the average of its EBITDA over the most recent three years.

To illustrate this, let’s look at Forbes’ 2010 financial profile of the A’s. In it, operating income (EBITDA) came out to $22.1 million. For 2009, it was $26 million. Averaged, it’s $24 million. To get the Total Club Debt ceiling, multiply that last figure by 10, and you get $240 million in debt ceiling. Also in the profile, the A’s have a 30% debt/value ratio, putting the team’s applicable current debt at $88.5 million. Every team gets a debt exemption of $36.5 million. Factored in, that puts the A’s debt at $52 million. That leaves $188 million under the team’s cap.

According to the listed definitions of what constitutes debt, just about anything that is borrowed or to be paid later falls in. This includes loans from MLB or third parties such as banks, non-player deferred compensation, stadium debt (only when the stadium opens), loans from related parties (ex.: partly or wholly owned regional sports networks), and any other debt except for a player compensation and an initial $36.5 million deduction (like the standard income tax deduction).

The 10x multiplier changes to 15x when a new stadium opens. This is important, because, as Jeffrey pointed out two weeks ago, MLB is ready to provide a loan of up to $150 million for construction. Assuming that EBITDA stays fairly constant, the A’s debt ceiling will move to $360 million. In the meantime, the A’s would likely pay down existing debt (either from annual profits or by bringing in additional partners) to get itself in the right position to get the stadium financing.

The kicker here is that while player compensation is not supposed to be part of the calculus, it is no doubt a considering factor. Selig has a mandate for mid/small market teams to get their houses in order prior to opening a new ballpark. Any number of punitive measures can be taken against a club if they go over their debt cap, including restrictions against future borrowing and even limits to new player contracts. If anything, this is the true spirit of the debt rule: to keep teams living within their means. (Big market teams such as the Dodgers and the Rangers under Tom Hicks benefited from selective enforcement.)

To understand how this affects the A’s moving forward, let’s take a look at where the teams stands in terms of payroll as of the end of the season:

Now let’s assume that certain housekeeping moves are made. Trevor Cahill is locked up through his arb years in a similar deal to what Brett Anderson received, plus Daric Barton is also secured. In addition, Mark Ellis is brought back, as well as Kevin Kouzmanoff. Jack Cust is gone, while Michael Taylor starts the season in RF. Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden, and Andrew Bailey are also back through short-term/non-arb deals. No one of note is traded, but a free agent slugger is brought in for a 2-year, $20 million deal with a third year team option. Here’s what that would look like:

If you’re Selig and you’re looking at the two tables, you’re thinking “That’s it. Give me your credit card.” It doesn’t matter that this kind of debt technically doesn’t count toward’s the CBA definition, it’s still debt. Salaries weren’t supposed to count under the old 60/40 rule either, but they did. It’s a terribly unfair way to run a competitive league, but them’s the breaks. By 2013, the payroll will head into the $80 million territory because of the normally occurring raises. As a team that is not yet fully capable of carrying its own weight, the A’s have their own de facto salary cap. Most of it is due to circumstance. Type A free agents aren’t going to sign 2-3 year deals here unless they have a problem that makes other teams balk at giving them 5-6 year deals (injury history, age, consistency). Yet that 2-3 year window is exactly what the team should exercise while costs are contained. Lew Wolff mentioned recently that the one-year rental idea doesn’t work that well, which is true at least historically. So what’s the best way to fill in the holes in the lineup? More Coco Crisps? Trade one or more of the pitchers for a bat?

Most importantly, how does this affect how you view the A’s future, or the league in general?

Note: If you’re wondering how the Yankees operate within the rules even though they’ve accrued billions of dollars of debt, the answer is simple. The team doesn’t “own” most of the debt. Its related parties do.

Larry Stone speaks, some won’t like it

KCBS Radio did one of their In Depth interviews with Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone (MP3 download). Stone has, of course, been a active, constant proponent of bringing MLB to the South Bay, and has used his easily won public office as a bully pulpit. Stone was asked about the history of now 24-year effort to get this done, plus fielded questions about whether his roles as assessor and developer are conflicts of interest. If you’re a South Bay partisan, you’re going to think what he’s saying is gospel. If you’re an Oakland partisan, your ears may bleed profusely. It’s over 27 minutes long and well worth the listen (thanks, I.C.).

Among the morsels from the interview:

  • Within the first two minutes, Stone makes the claim that the A’s can’t survive in Oakland.
  • Stone is (IIRC) the first public figure to say that the Giants are trying to drive the A’s out of the market. When challenged on this, his response is, “Anybody would try to do this.”
  • Apparently the Earthquakes are not considered a major pro sports team, at least according to Stone. He must’ve forgotten them.
  • He thinks the Giants could spend $2-3 million to defeat the spring ballot measure.
  • Stone dances around the idea that some of the owners might feel threatened by another team invading their respective territories.
  • SJRA has the money set aside for the last two parcels (AT&T and Aegis).
  • Stone claims that when he talked to Schott some time ago, Schott had 75% of the owners lined up for a vote for a move south.
  • Stone speculates that Selig gave the Giants a “10 year head start” for the SC Co. t-rights, in effect protecting the county for a decade.
  • Interviewer Jane McMillan characterizes the Diridon area as “suburban” in comparison to what would normally be considered urban areas for other ballparks. Where does urban end and suburban begin?
  • McMillan also asks if a deal is done, but unfortunately says that the ballpark will be shared with the Quakes (which it won’t), which got Stone’s response moving in the wrong direction.

It’s a good listen, though if you’re on the SJ bandwagon you’ve already heard many of the talking points.

BTW, on an unrelated note, the Rangers secured a 20 year, $3 billion extension to the current TV rights deal with Fox Sports Southwest. $150 million a year (Maury Brown thinks the numbers could be off). Guess they won’t have that big debt problem that could keep them from re-signing Cliff Lee and extending Josh Hamilton.

Cal Expo rejects Kings arena plan

What next?

After several months of review, Cal Expo’s board came back and formally rejected a land swap proposal that would’ve placed the future home of the Kings on top of the old railyards near downtown and private development at the old fairgrounds, while Expo itself would’ve moved to the site of ARCO Arena.

Cal Expo board members voted 7-2 against the idea, saying the Natomas site is too small and not visible enough from the freeway.

“It’s the wrong site. We’ve said that time and time again,” said Cal Expo General Manager Norb Bartosik.

The complicated land swap proposal is the latest in a series of unsuccessful efforts – dating back a dozen years – to finance a new arena.

While the Maloofs were demure when asked to comment on the news – as they have been since David Stern took the wheel – you can’t help but think that whatever frustration they’ve held has to be spilling over at this point. They’ve said all the right things about not wanting to move the team, but Der Kommissar has to be getting ready to break out the big guns now. After all, he had few qualms about ripping the Sonics from Seattle, and the Emerald City had a much longer hoops lineage (and a ring) than Sactown.

So here’s the poll question for the week:

Where will the Kings end up?

A. Sacramento (where they flounder or a miracle deal is made)
B. Las Vegas (where the Maloofs get their unspeakable wish fulfilled)
C. Seattle (bought by Steve Ballmer and/or Howard Schultz)
D. San Jose (bought by Larry Ellison)
E. Kansas City (where they came from and an empty arena awaits, owner unknown)

End of the season stadium tidbits

Not much to report on the home front, at least when it comes to the A’s stadium saga. However, there are a few other news items that might be of interest.

  • Going back to speculation about how the club section at Cisco Field might work, MLBAM is piloting an “order from your seat” system from within its At Bat iPhone app. The brief pilot runs through the end of the season, and claims order delivery of 30 minutes or less.
  • With the Pac-10 expanding to 12 teams next year, the conference will be broken into two divisions, requiring a football championship game in the process. While such games have been a boon for powerhouse conferences such as the Big-12 and SEC, it remains to be seen if the Pac-10, whose basketball championship has been notorious for poor attendance, will see much success. Las Vegas has emerged with some initial buzz, though the game could be held almost anywhere within the conference’s area, including San Francisco or Oakland. The league and its member schools are meeting in SF in two weeks to hash all of this out. FWIW, the Pac-10’s headquarters are in Walnut Creek.
  • The A’s got caught up in the annual shuffle of minor league affiliates. Vancouver switched to the Blue Jays, leaving the A’s in the lurch until they signed a deal with the Vermont Lake Monsters (Burlington, VT) yesterday. Kane County left the A’s for Kansas City, leaving an opening for the Burlington (IA) Bees. The Sacramento River Cats re-upped through 2014 with little drama. Midland and Stockton remain unchanged. Vermont’s Centennial Field is notable for being owned by the University of Vermont, and for its capacious foul territory (~85 feet from home plate to the backstop).
  • A threat by the Red Sox to leave spring training home Fort Myers has worked, as Lee County is ponying up $81 million in bonds for a new stadium, even though $17.5 million in city debt remains on the old one.
  • Escondido is spending nearly $400k on its own study of a Padres’ AAA stadium.

Will we hear something about the A’s soon? Maybe… Consider this an open thread.

San Jose City Council approve resolutions to support A’s move

Update 9/21 7:40 PM - Resolutions (city and redev agency) passed unanimously. Mayor Reed says that he’ll be talking to MLB COO Bob DuPuy soon to get some direction, and that he’s cautiously optimistic that he’ll get a resolution soon.

Tomorrow night, the San Jose City Council will vote on another set of resolutions (city and redevelopment agency have slightly different versions) in support of a move south. From what I can tell, the only significant language change was the recognition of recent statement of support by SVLG and 75 of its constituent CEO’s.

I will not be attending the session, but I will be monitoring it remotely. Action on the resolution is slated to be early in the agenda. If you’re interested, here’s the newest language:

RESOLUTION NO. ____

A RESOLUTION OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SAN JOSE:
(A) REAFFIRMING THE NEGOTIATING PRINCIPLES PREVIOUSLY ESTABLISHED AND AMENDED BY THE CITY COUNCIL; AND (B) SUPPORTING THE EFFORTS OF THE OAKLAND ATHLETICS OWNERSHIP TO MOVE THE TEAM TO SAN JOSÉ AND THE ASSISTANCE OF THE SILICON VALLEY LEADERSHIP GROUP AND OTHER LOCAL GROUPS IN THEIR EFFORTS TO BRING MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TO SAN JOSE

WHEREAS, on April 7, 2009 and August 3, 2010, the City Council and Agency Board affirmed its interest in supporting the efforts of the Oakland Athletics’ ownership to move the team to the City of San Jose; and

WHEREAS, on May 12, 2009, the City Council and Agency Board established Negotiating Principles for the development of a stadium in the Downtown for a Major League Baseball team, which were subsequently amended by Council on August 3, 2010; and

WHEREAS, on September 10, 2010, through the efforts of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a letter from seventy five (75) of Silicon Valley’s leading CEOs was sent to Major League Baseball urging Commissioner Selig to approve the Athletics’ move to San Jose; and

WHEREAS, various local organizations, including the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, the San Jose Sports Authority and Baseball San Jose, have all expressed their support for the Athletics’ move to San Jose, and Lew Wolff, the Athletics’ owner, is also on record as indicating he would prefer San Jose as the new home of the Athletics; and

WHEREAS, the Council desires to reaffirm the following previously-approved Negotiating Principles that will guide the City’s efforts in bringing a Major League Baseball stadium to San Jose:

1. No new taxes are imposed to fund ballpark-related expenditures.

2. The City must determine that the ballpark development will generate a significant economic benefit to the City and have a positive impact on City General Fund revenues.

3. No public funds shall be spent to finance or reimburse any costs associated with construction of the ballpark or construction of any on-site infrastructure or improvements needed for the ballpark.

4. No public funds of any kind are spent to finance or reimburse any ballpark operational or maintenance costs related to activities conducted by or under the authority of the baseball team that uses the ballpark either at the ballpark or in the streets surrounding the ballpark.

5. No public funds shall be spent to finance or reimburse the cost of any traffic control, street cleanup, emergency or security services within the ballpark site or within the streets surrounding the ballpark that are related to activities at the ballpark conducted by or under the authority of the baseball team.

6. If the property is leased for a ballpark, the baseball team must be willing, at the end of the term of the lease, either to purchase the property at fair market value or to do one of the following things at the City’s option and at no cost to the City or the Redevelopment Agency:

a. Transfer ownership of the improvements to the City or Redevelopment Agency; or
b. Demolish the improvements and clear the site to make way for other development.

7. The entity that builds or operates the ballpark must be willing, if the City deems it appropriate, to make the ballpark available to the City during baseball’s offseason for up to 10 days per year for community-related events, at no rental charge to the City.

8. The name of the baseball team must include San Jose.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SAN JOSE:
(a)  Reaffirms the negotiating principles previously established and amended by the City Council; and
(b)  Supports the efforts of the Oakland Athletics ownership to move the team to San José and the assistance of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and other local groups in their efforts to bring Major League Baseball to San Jose.

I don’t expect this to change unless MLB makes its own announcement, after which the resolution would be amended again. This is what we can expect until the spring election, if it occurs.

Some choice quotes from public speakers at the session tonight:

Michael Mulcahy: I’m not a San Francisco Giants fan, but I’m rooting for them to make the playoffs so that we can see how that transforms a city.

Former Mayor Susan Hammer: I’m getting a little impatient with the snail’s pace of Major League Baseball.

Fishwrap picks up the I-980 story

That’s right, it may be a bit late, but at least someone, in this case BANG’s Chris Metinko, has picked up the I-980 ballpark site story. That’s not to say that he scooped it – the prize for that goes to this blog’s very own Jeffrey for his article earlier this week. While it’s nice to see that someone paid attention (and reads this blog), Metinko misses the juiciest part of the story.

That, of course, is the question of why all of Oakland’s focus is on three JLS sites, one which shouldn’t be there in the first place (Howard Terminal), and another that City is already sending out a RFQ for an EIR (Victory Court). The answer showed itself a signing ceremony at Oakland’s Estuary Park on Tuesday, which attended by Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado, among others. The Oak-to-Ninth project has taken 6 years, legislation pushed by then State Senate leader Don Perata, a near referendum, and litigation to get to this point. And as mentioned in Let’s Go Oakland’s economic impact report, O29 will not see full buildout unless a ballpark is built. Without a ballpark, it’ll be 85%. Given the size of the project, that difference is worth nine figures. Follow the money, folks.

BTW, I’m waiting for an apology, FSU/mb.

If You Got Any Money Left Over, Buy Yourself Something REAL Nice, Clark.

The headline is a quote from one of my favorite movies of all time, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It is spoken by Cousin Eddie as he loads up a shopping cart with dog food that his Cousin-in-Law, Clark Griswold, is expected to pay for. At this point in the movie, Clark is telling Eddie that he wants to make sure Eddie’s children have a nice Christmas and that he is willing to buy them some gifts if it will help. Eddie’s “gratitude” is clear when he pulls out a prepared list of things his children want for Christmas. What the heck does this have to do with the A’s and a new stadium?

The elephant in the room, the one everyone seems to be ignoring, is that the details of any financing plan for a new Bay Area stadium are murky, at best. We all hear “privately financed” bandied about in media reports. But what does that really mean? After all, with rare exceptions, MLB has played Cousin Eddie to just about every city that has seen a new stadium go up in the past 25 years.

The only real exception, though it was not entirely privately financed, is AT&T Park. Using this park as an example, 96% was privately financed, we can back into what “privately financed” actually means. Roughly half of that funding was provided through corporate support,  or the combination of naming rights (Pac Bell) and Charter Seat sales. The other half was in the form of a loan provided by Chase Bank, secured with MLB’s help. It seems clearer and clearer that this is, mostly, the model that MLB has in mind for the A’s.

So what evidence do we have that a ballpark in either Oakland or San Jose will follow a similar model? For one, we have the report that MLB has discussed a loan of $150M with folks in Oakland. We have the letter from Ron Dellums and Jane Brunner talking up deposits from 35 companies (amongst other things). We also have a recent letter from Silicon Valley power players to Bud Selig supporting a move down 880. Now we have the follow up Op Ed in the Mercury News, authored by two of those power players (Mike Klayko of Brocade and Tom Werner of Sun Power) pretty much restating the original letter. The key line from the Op Ed is:

Along with other respected and diverse organizations, we stand ready to offer any support needed to move this important project forward.

And from the SVLG 75 CEO/Other Important People Open Letter (Fourth paragraph, first sentence):

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, along with other respected and diverse organizations, stands ready to offer any support needed to move this important project forward.

On the surface, these are clear statements meant to persuade Selig. In part, they are meant to show that the corporate support needed for both long term viability and a private financing scheme is there, in both cities. This is where the similarities end.

In the San Jose case, There are a few other Easter eggs that are not getting much mention.

I think MLB’s propensity for being Cousin Eddie, to (Insert City Name Here)’s Clark, is part of what the letters and Op Ed are about. Or, in other words, these messages are not only intended to allay Bud Selig’s fears (assuming he has them). They are also a signal to let citizens know that their “Corporate Citizens” are ready, willing and able to buy Charter Seats and sponsorships as part of any plan. We already know that Cisco is going to play Pac Bell’s role in a San Jose version of San Francisco’s funding scheme.

Another part of this message is, Miami is mad at you MLB for playing Cousin Eddie while the Marlins weren’t really living out of an RV, as they had claimed. If you come to San Jose, you don’t have to worry about that. We, the SVLG, will be Clark instead of the tax payers.

Additionally, there is the repeated mention of Giants fans within the SVLG communiques. This is meant to let Bud Selig know that there won’t be a mass exodus of Corporate support up in Baghdad by the Bay. That the Giants won’t become destitute, as Larry Baer wants us all to believe, provided the A’s move south. To undercut Bill Neukom’s argument for locking MLB out of San Jose.

There is one other thing hidden in the subtext. Watch this video, the important part comes up at 5:05.   When you combine John Chambers’ message (We won’t put our name on a Stadium in New York because we are in San Jose) with the fact that the SVLG letter and the Brocade/Sun Power Op Ed go out of their way to avoid mentioning the word “Oakland” and “new stadium” in the same context, the message is pretty clear. Bud Selig, we want the A’s in San Jose and will buy sponsorships and ticket packages for both the Giants and A’s if it gets us a stadium in San Jose. Not so much in Oakland.

I think it is fair to say that this what the messages are, don’t you?

What we don’t know, what the letters don’t tell us, is how much of any new stadium will be financed by corporations/presales and how much by loans, exactly. In the San Jose case, if 60 of those 75 companies bought some bundle of seats and advertising, and Cisco maintained $130M in naming rights, they would each need to pledge $1.7M of their Selling, General and Administrative budgets to Cisco Field in order for the combination of naming rights and Corporate sponsorships to cover half of the projected construction costs. As a point of reference, Yahoo’s S, G and A budget last year was $1.8B, which means this overly simplified $1.7M number represents less than one tenth of a percent of the budget where it would need to come from. There is a similar situation with Cisco ($9B), Brocade ($500M), Ebay ($3.6B), and so on and so forth.

Of course, we know that SVLG has well over 75 members and more members might be willing to chip in (while others, like the San Jose Giants, won’t be). I am guessing Bud Selig knows this, too. This is the biggest thing going against the possibility of Clorox Coliseum. If Oakland isn’t pledging public dollars for construction, how does the thing get paid for? If Oakland really is pledging pubic dollars (as I have been told) for construction, how long before pitch fork wielding citizens show up at City Hall?

The answer to this question (How does stadium construction get paid for?), not Larry Ellison’s attempt to buy the Warriors, not Bill Neukom’s Anti-Trust case won/loss record, and not 15 years of back and forth between the A’s and Oakland is what will, ultimately, decide where the A’s will play.

In short, it is “tradition and history” v. “a clear source of funding.” We can handicap this however we want, but it is what it is. I don’t know which will win out.

****(I am adding a table that shows the split between private and public funding at the most recent 21 MLB ballparks built for all of our info. It originally came for  the San Jose Economic Impact Analysis)

Funding Mix Private v. Public

Giants play ballpark politics from coast to coast

In light of the San Francisco Giants’ efforts to tighten control over its San Jose affiliate, it’s interesting to look at how they interact with their other minor league partners. The picture that comes from that survey shows that the Giants don’t play by the same rules based on location, especially when one travels further out from the Giants’ local sphere of control.

The most stable affiliates are in Fresno (AAA) and San Jose (High-A). Fresno was for years a Cal League city. With MLB’s expansion into Phoenix in 1998, the Giants’ long time AAA team, the Phoenix Firebirds, had to be relocated to Tucson, but only briefly before settling in Fresno. Chukchansi Park has done well reasonably well at the gate, though the recession may have claimed a large number of walk-up and advance sales in 2010. In all likelihood, the Grizzlies will once again ask the City of Fresno for rent concessions, citing operating losses. The big club hasn’t yet gotten involved in this saga. Should it drag on for another year or two, expect them to start making suggestions.

In San Jose, the Giants have been in place for 22 years, easily the longest continuous tenure of any one team in San Jose’s history. During that time, the team has won more Cal League titles than the parent club has won NL Division crowns. Yet there’s always a sense that the SJ Giants are this almost forgotten club in a lonely part of a large city, playing in a quaint but decrepit facility. Honestly, how can you define a place that is forced to empty out thirty minutes after the last out to allow for the players and coaches to have some breathing room anything but quaint? Even though the SJ team has always been a lackluster attendance performer (less than 200,000 per season), its owners have been able to make a small amount of money, and the strategic advantage of having a satellite so close for marketing and baseball operations (rehab stints) has surely been worth it. Now, the big club is considering spending more money on capital improvements on venerable San Jose Municipal Stadium, which sounds great, except that it’s not their normal M.O.

Augusta, GA is known most for The Masters golf tournament, one of the PGA’s majors held every April. Since 2005, it’s also the home to the Giants’ other Class A affiliate, the Augusta GreenJackets, who play at 15 year old Lake Olmstead Stadium. Even though the ballpark is only 15 years old, at this point it’s considered a temporary facility. Owner Ripken Baseball (yes, that Ripken) owns the team, but they and the Giants are holding the threat of moving over the city as of now, with a recently signed extension set to run only through 2012. The big idea now is a downtown ballpark, which would – wait for it – boost the local economy. Naturally, some local folks are skeptical. While the Giants have thrown a whopping $50K at a new laundry facility and weight room for the stadium, additional improvements are wanted, including a boost from the scant 500 on-site parking spaces.

Up I-95 in Richmond, the Giants just had their AA franchise move from Norwich, CT to The Diamond, which was vacated by the Braves’ AAA affiliate when the team bolted for suburban Gwinnett County, GA in 2009. The Diamond is considered a temporary facility, and it’s a given that a new ballpark will be necessary for the city to keep the franchise, now known as the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Again, the Giants are playing a factor here, as it’s quite possible that the team could be moved again if something doesn’t happen on the ballpark front (Richmond is the southernmost city in the Eastern League, and unlike Augusta is not guaranteed a minor league team).

Why would the Giants hold the threat of moving over two cities yet act with altruism with San Jose, a city with worse attendance and less interest among its citizens in a minor league team than Richmond and Augusta? It’s becoming more obvious with each passing day that the big club intends to use the little club as a wedge against the A’s, whether it’s politically or economically. The cash to buy the controlling interest (an additional 30%) was probably less than $3 million, based on the going rates for Class A franchises. $3 million for an ongoing PR effort against a city that clearly wants something else, vs. $50,000 for a new laundry room and weight room. Makes a ton of sense.

Note: I had promised something else today, but it’ll have to wait until next week. See y’all on the other side of GABF.

Preliminary 2011 Schedule Out

I’ve had a chance to study next year’s schedule, and one thing’s pretty clear: it’s awful. The Red Sox and Yankees both make only one visit each, and the home opponents for interleague play (aside from the Giants) are Arizona and Florida. It almost seems like MLB ordered the schedule makers to relegate the A’s to a sort of non-priority status, with few premier games and very limited revenue generating opportunities. If, record-wise, the A’s were on a .500 pace next year as they are this year, they probably wouldn’t surpass this year’s attendance pace – which is just slightly better than last year’s. Needless to say, I’m disappointed.

Aside from the terrible list of opponents, you’ll notice that the schedule is a little more compact and runs earlier than in previous years. This is due to MLB’s desire to keep the World Series from going deep into November. Leaguewise, that’s an excellent move. While it won’t get fans any closer to getting the natural doubleheader date (thanks, MLBPA), it makes the schedule a good deal less sprawling.

If you’re looking to get your fill of California baseball, take a couple of PTO days after July 4th. During that span, both Bay Area and both LA teams will be at home, plus there’s the one possibility all year of a A’s-Giants day-night doubleheader on July 6th. We won’t know for sure until times are released early next year, but it’s a good bet. And if, like me, you like planning these trips well in advance, I’ve got a little side project that might pique your interest. More on that tomorrow.

For now, click on the pic for a larger version or go to this link to view the schedule in Google Docs. Note: the N and D denote likely night or day games.