Category Archives: Baseball

Press Release War: The Aftermath

Well, nobody in a position of power took my advice. Oh well. In fact, just as I was heading out to lunch and my left front tire blew out, I received an email announcement that Coliseum JPA board President Nate Miley and Vice President Larry Reid would have a media availability session at 12:25, right before the start of the final game of the homestand. The session was accompanied by another press release, claiming among other things that the A’s want a large annual subsidy and still owe five years of back rent at the Coliseum:

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority Issues Statement Regarding Oakland Athletics 10 Year Lease Proposal Negotiations

Authority committed to keeping baseball at O.co Coliseum but concerned about serious issues that could harm taxpayers

OAKLAND, CA – Today, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority issued a statement regarding negotiations with Oakland Athletics on a ten year lease to remain at O.co Coliseum. The Authority remains committed to working with the Athletics; however, they believe there are pressing issues that must be addressed as negotiations continue.

“Yesterday, the Authority made an offer to keep the Athletics at O.co Coliseum that safeguarded city and county taxpayers while addressing the team’s concerns. Unfortunately, it took less than a few hours for them to reject that offer. Despite this, we are still committed to negotiating a fair deal,” said Coliseum Authority Chairman Nate Miley, who serves as an Alameda County Supervisor.

Among the issues cited by the Authority are that the Oakland Athletics owe the City and County more than $5 million because they have not been paying their rent for over five years. While the team is asking that this debt be written off, the Authority insists that this money could be used for public purposes such has hiring more police officers or funding public health services.

Additionally, the Athletics are demanding that the Authority give the team rent subsidies of $3.5 million per year. This is despite the team being an MLB franchise with a market value of nearly $1 billion.

“We look forward to addressing these issues and are committed to negotiations,” stated Oakland Councilmember and Coliseum Authority Vice-chair Larry Reid. “We agree with the A’s that they should stay for at least ten years, and we are staying at the bargaining table. We look forward to continued discussions and to coming to an agreement on a mutually beneficial lease.”

The Authority added that it wants to keep baseball in Oakland, and a ten year extension, lasting through the 2024 season, gives the Athletics a place to a call home and fans an opportunity to cheer a great team.

That was followed up during the game by A’s President Michael Crowley, who refuted the back rent allegation:

Statement by A’s President Michael Crowley Regarding Today’s Announcement by the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority

“First, we owe no back rent or any other amounts. We did deduct rent payments in the past for items that we are allowed under our lease, but that was our negotiated right.

Second, there is absolutely nothing in either our lease offer to them or their counter proposal to us that mentions any kind of subsidy. In fact, under our final offer we would immediately invest no less than $10 million in the facility and our rent would rise from the amounts that we have paid over the last decade.

We have nothing additional to offer and as a result there will be no further negotiations.”

Of course, all of this happened as I was changing a tire and switching out a rental car at Hertz, so I wasn’t able to factcheck right away. Eventually I got back to my laptop and took a look at the JPA’s annual financial statements, which are a matter of public record. The 2013 report isn’t available, but the previous years’ versions are, and it took a quick look to figure out who was right. See for yourself, from the 2012 report:

Accounting of revenues and expenses for the JPA's 2012 fiscal year

Accounting of revenues and expenses for the JPA’s 2012 fiscal year

See that line item named Athletics Rent? Sure looks like a payment of $1.1 million to me. Same goes for 2011. And Crowley’s right that the A’s have the right to deduct maintenance items – such as patching up concrete leaks or fixing plumbing issues – but it appears they haven’t done that for a while. The 2011 report even acknowledges the A’s rent payment. From page 6:

  • Lease revenue increased $225 (thousand) or 10 percent primarily due to rent revenue from the Oakland Athletics because of an increase in the rent for the last fiscal year.

What I think happened is that the JPA is conflating the parking fee matter with rent. In 2009, the City of Oakland enacted an 18.5% parking tax at the Coliseum, which the A’s withheld but chose not to pay while it was determined if such a tax was enforceable (it was). As part of the most recent lease extension through 2015, the A’s and the JPA chose to use arbitration to determine the final payout by the A’s. Again, that tax started collection in 2009, which might explain why the JPA thinks the issue goes back five years. (Update: An ABC 7 report indicates that the JPA sees the “rent” matter going to arbitration in June. That’s when the parking revenue matter is expected to go to arbitration.)

Assuming that others factcheck this properly, the JPA will be forced to walk back this goof the same way the City of Oakland has several other allegations. Now do you see why it’s a bad idea to negotiate in the press?

The worst part is that Miley revealed that the JPA has been in talks with Lew Wolff about a Coliseum land deal, one that presumably would supersede the Coliseum City project once that plan hits its probable demise.

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that land proposal, Supervisor Miley. From the sound of Crowley’s comment, sure seems like the JPA is getting the silent treatment for the immediate future.

All farce, no agreement

You may be familiar with a term called “business hours.” It usually runs during the daytime, 9-5 or thereabouts, the proper time for normal business to be conducted. The A’s have business offices that operate during normal business hours. The Coliseum Authority does as well, scheduling regular board meetings during the day. Despite all of the rancor and discord involving the A’s and Oakland, most of the stadium talk (with the exception of Lew Wolff appearing on a game broadcast or pro-Oakland groups doing night pep rallies) has happened during business hours. It’s a way to compartmentalize everything, just keep the business side separate from the baseball side.

Last night that line separating the two was crossed in a most disgusting manner. It started when, after weeks of Wolff saying that he made a lease extension offer to the Coliseum Authority (JPA), the JPA responded with its own offer to Wolff. It took mere minutes for Wolff to reject the JPA’s offer by having A’s PR man Bob Rose write up a terse press release to that effect. All of this, and the subsequent teeth-gnashing of fans, happened DURING THE GAME. Why? Because both sides knew that the assembled media in the press box and watching the game elsewhere would report on this. Wolff then asked for further negotiations not to be done through the media, even though he has talked several times in the past about this very problem. Neither side produced their lease offers, so we can’t evaluate them, but MLB has copies of everything. MLB is the true audience here, not us.

It’s not hard to see the motivations at work. Wolff wants to show MLB that the JPA prefers the Raiders over the A’s by a large margin, and their inaction on the lease extension offer along with previous stalling on previous offers is proof of that. The JPA is also trying to score points with MLB, providing baseball with a copy of their own agreement as a sort of make good. The JPA is already dealing with bad news related to Coliseum City, so there’s a chance for deflection. Meanwhile, MLB’s own track record has been to avoid these two parties like they were lepers, only coming in when talks completely broke down after the 2013 season. You have to wonder what kind of effort is being wasted by both sides, and what effect if any this is all having on MLB’s thoroughly inscrutable decision-making process. Adding to the confusion was the A’s citing an Athletics Nation article about Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, going so far as to saw that A’s ownership was in full agreement with it. Then earlier today, Wolff walked that back the same way Quan had to walk back her Crown Prince of Dubai claim.

All I can ask to both sides is: Was it worth it? I can’t imagine that this constant back-and-forth is creating any traction for your respective causes within The Lodge. MLB isn’t going to suddenly give San Jose to Wolff, and MLB has little power to force Wolff to sell as the pro-Oakland crowd desires. Since nothing actually came out of last night’s revelations other than the two sides pointing fingers yet again, how about a moratorium on interviews, press releases, and any other kinds of dispatches to the public until you actually get a lease extension done? I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I personally don’t mind if I have slightly less to write about, because at least I won’t be writing about nothing. Which is exactly what this 600-word post is about. Nothing. Thanks.

P.S. – If you do a Google News search on this subject today, there are a whopping two national articles providing no real information. Nobody cares outside of the Bay Area.

Coliseum Authority makes 10-year lease offer to A’s (updated with A’s response)

Update 9:11 PM – And… rejected by the A’s. From the Chronicle’s John Shea:

“The A’s received the Oakland-Alameda County Authority’s proposal earlier this afternoon. While the proposal was for 10 years, it did not address all of our issues. Consequently, we cannot accept the terms of the offer. We have tried to negotiate in good faith for the past several months. As the Authority knows, it is still our preference not to negotiate this agreement through the media.”

Okay, now set up your talking points. I guess that all that texting by Lew Wolff during the game was about the lease. As you were, everyone.

Following talk from the last few weeks about Lew Wolff offering to a 10-year lease extension to the Coliseum Authority, the JPA replied with its own offer to the A’s. Here’s the press release:

Oakland-Alameda County

Coliseum Authority

For Immediate Release Contact:

April 22, 2014

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority Provides Oakland A’s and Major League Baseball with 10 Year Lease Proposal

Authority responds to private and public requests to create a decade-long agreement at the O.co Coliseum site

OAKLAND, CA – Today, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority announced that it has offered the Oakland Athletics a ten year lease to remain at the O.co Coliseum site. The terms, though not released publicly, were also shared with Major League Baseball.

“We wanted to send a clear statement to the A’s, the fans, Lew Wolff, and Major League Baseball that we want the A’s at the O.co Coliseum and want to keep baseball in Oakland,” said Coliseum Authority Chairman Nate Miley, who serves as an Alameda County Supervisor.

“A ten year extension, lasting through the 2024 season, gives the team a place to a call home and our fans and sponsors a window to continue investing their time and passion in this team. We are also working to ensure this deal safeguards county and city taxpayers. We are meeting the A’s management where they say they want to be and hope to conclude these negotiations quickly,” he added.

The Oakland Athletics were recently welcomed back on Opening Day with a series of upgrades including:

New look: The Oakland Coliseum has been fully re-painted and new Kentucky blue grass sod has been laid on the field as it is each year before the season. New investments in groundskeeping machinery, including industrial lawnmowers and a “laser-leveling system,” will allow the Authority to maintain the field more easily and effectively.

New concessionaire & food items: The Oakland A’s, which are in charge of the concessionaire contract, have brought in an exciting array of new items and are upgrading the concession experience/facilities. Fans will now have access to even more premium beers and new food items like wood-fired pizzas, and more!

Improved “Ring” Road: The Coliseum Authority will repave the road that circumnavigates the stadium after the initial homestand.

Improved security: The Authority will provide state-of-the-art magnetic screening equipment that fans can quickly pass through as they enter. The Oakland’s A’s will provide personnel to manage the screening.

For the players, umpires and media, improvements include:

Remodeled dugouts: Both the home team and visitor dugouts have been upgraded with new padded benches, upgraded flooring, new dugout phones, water fountains, and new bathroom fixtures and paint.

Upgraded lockers: The home team, visitor, and umpire locker rooms all have new rubberized floors and showers.

Updated press box: Members of the press will now have access to flat screen televisions, and new tables, carpets, restrooms and ceilings.

These improvements demonstrate the Authority’s continued efforts to address the needs of players and fans, and more improvements are planned.

“O.co Coliseum is the place for fans to watch great baseball, and we believe that we can reach an agreement so that local fans can continue to be part of the next decade of Oakland Athletics baseball,” added Miley.

###

About the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority:

The Authority is a public partnership between the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda (owners of the Coliseum Complex) that manages the Complex on behalf of City and County. The Authority subcontracts the day-to-day operations of the Complex to AEG. An eight-member Board of Commissioners governs the Authority. Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley currently serves as the Chair of the Board, and Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid serves as the Vice-Chair.

With both sides making offers, the negotiation has begun in earnest. Obviously the fact that the JPA made their own offer means that the terms are different from what the A’s offered. Whether those differences are related to Wolff’s desired escape clause, planned improvements to the Coliseum, or other details, is not known. We’ll find out in due course.

One thing to remember about this is that there is no real deadline other than the end of the 2015 season. This may or may not lead to further negotiations. I hope it does. The real question is how much flexibility the JPA is willing to allow in the lease. Mayor Quan has talked tough. The JPA has not always been unified in its approach, with some members preferring to tie the lease to Coliseum City while others are less inclined to do go that route.

“Flood game” rescheduled as part of May 7 doubleheader

The infamous game from two weeks ago which is postponed on account of a flooded field will be rescheduled for Wednesday, May 7. The date, which has a 12:35 PM “businessperson’s special” already scheduled, will now be a regular doubleheader with a single admission for both games. The second game will start 30 minutes after the first. And there’s more. Read this Season Ticket holder release for the details:

April 4 Make-Up game now part of May 7 Doubleheader, apply ticket value to any future 2014 Regular Season Game

Complimentary Tickets Below For Seattle Series

The postponed Oakland A’s game originally scheduled for Friday, April 4 will be made-up on Wednesday, May 7 as part of a Doubleheader vs. the Seattle Mariners starting at 12:35 p.m. One ticket will be valid for admission to both A’s games on May 7. Tickets which have April 4 printed as the game date will not be valid for the Doubleheader.

The first game on the May 7 Doubleheader is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. (gates open at 11:05 a.m.). The second game is scheduled to be played approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. Valid tickets to enter O.co Coliseum to either or both games on May 7 are tickets that are printed for May 7 at 12:35 p.m.

Fans attending the 12:35 p.m. game on May 7 will be able to attend the second game of the Doubleheader with the same ticket in the same seat. Tickets printed for May 7 will be the only tickets accepted for admission that day.

The paid value of your Season Tickets for the April 4 game will be automatically credited to your account in the coming days. To redeem your paid ticket credit from April 4 for a future 2014 regular season game, visit the A’s Ticket Services Office, or call Ticket Services at (510) 568-5600.

As a thank you to A’s Season Ticket Holders that were inconvenienced by the cancelled April 4 game the A’s are offering complimentary tickets to a game day during the May 5-7 series vs. the Seattle Mariners. The complimentary tickets can be used for May 5 at 7:05 p.m., May 6 at 7:05 p.m., or the doubleheader on May 7 starting at 12:35 p.m. Season Ticket Holders will receive four (4) complimentary tickets per account to one of the above mentioned games.

To access your My A’s Tickets account and redeem your complimentary tickets, please follow these steps:

  1. Visit My A’s Tickets online »
  2. Click on “My A’s Tickets” to get to the login screen.
  3. Login using your Season Ticket account number and password. If you do not know your password, please contact Ticket Services at (510) 568-5600. If you have used My Tickets in the past but have forgotten your password, please contact Ticket Services to have your password reset.
  4. Once you have logged in to My A’s Tickets, please click on the “Special Offers” tab in the upper middle of the page to access your May 5-7 complimentary ticket offer.

The deadline to redeem your Season Ticket Holder May 5-7 complimentary tickets is Wednesday, April 30 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

The important thing to remember is that the old tickets will need to be redeemed at the box office for new tickets for the doubleheader, even if you’re only going to only one game. I had April 4 on my schedule and put it on Stubhub, so whoever got my tickets now have an even better deal at their disposal. I’m in the process of switch this Sunday’s game for May 7, assuming that tickets are available.

Bruce spends 3+ hours talking Oakland, A’s stadium issues (Update: Quan backtracks)

Update 5:00 PM – Mayor Quan backtracks on the Crown Prince of Dubai claim. Oops.

Say what you will about Damon Bruce’s radio persona or his supposed allegiances. When he wants to drill down on a topic, he drills down. Other than the scheduled weekly segment with Warriors power forward David Lee, Bruce spent the entire time yesterday from 3:30 to 7 talking about the stadium situation in Oakland, specifically related to the A’s. Bruce said that he wanted to get past the blame game and cut through all of blah blah blah, as he described it. That he most certainly did, though the reveal mostly left more questions in its wake.

At 3:30 Bruce interviewed Andy Dolich, who maintained that the Coliseum is still the best place to build new venues for both the Raiders and A’s. Dolich spent the bulk of his extended segment throwing cold water on everything else: San Jose, Howard Terminal, A’s ownership. Dolich even took some credit for the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara, which is bizarre considering that he was against the move at many points and not involved in its planning.

Dolich ended up being the warmup act for what followed. At 5, Bruce interviewed Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who was clearly not prepared for the grilling that Bruce gave her. He asked about the lack of progress on the two stadium plans and asked the mayor to make a choice between the two. Throughout it all Quan dodged and hemmed, and finally got rather defensive about her record on the subject. Then, when discussing Coliseum City, name dropped the crown prince of Dubai as an investor in the plan, which for Bruce was as exciting as a little girl hearing the word “pony” or a dog seeing a squirrel. There’s plenty of money represented here, from Colony Capital and its inherent ties to Qatar to Rashid Al Malik and his Dubai ties. That’s a distraction though, since Qatar and Dubai would provide the silent money. The true face of the money is Colony’s Tom Barrack, who really wants a piece of a team, and a controlling piece if possible. Barrack drove the attempt to buy AEG last year, before Phil Anschutz decided that the various competing bids weren’t high enough and took the company off the market. Colony is also involved in the Chargers’ stadium plans, which are quite similar in scope to what the JPA is trying to do with Coliseum City. In all three cases, Barrack wanted controlling interest in a team (40%) in exchange for the stadium being built. That has me thinking, What if Barrack gets a stadium deal done in San Diego? Does that mean his goal of getting a team and stadium built is completed, making Coliseum City and the Raiders unnecessary? The reverse could easily be asked as well. Fortunately for Raiders fans, San Diego is the one major city in California with an even more dysfunctional government and leadership than Oakland, so no immediate worries there. Still, it’s worth wondering if these opportunities are finite, at least from Colony’s perspective.

After Quan’s interview, Oakland Council Member Larry Reid called into the show to clarify some things the mayor said about Coliseum City. Reid, who also acts as the Vice Chair of the Coliseum Authority (JPA), suggested to Bruce that he speak to JPA Chair (and Alameda County Supervisor) Nate Miley for the real scoop on the project. Reid also dropped a bit of a bombshell:

REID: (The JPA’s) conversation (with MLB) has been much different from what the mayor has said on the radio. Look, the mayor knows that MLB has clearly said that they do not like the Howard Street Terminal (sic). Lew Wolff has said he does not like the Howard Street Terminal. His preference…it would be in the Coliseum. Our focus with the A’s is trying to figure out a way, how to do that deal.

BRUCE: Why do you think the mayor came on as an advocate for the Howard Street Terminal if she already knows that it’s dead in the water?

REID: Well, that’s a question that you have to raise with her. She knows what MLB has said to us, has said to me, and has said to Supervisor Miley in a meeting we had most recently less than two weeks ago. MLB’s preference as well as Mr. Wolff’s preference is the Coliseum area.

Clearly, additional context is needed here. First of all, has MLB’s preference been the Coliseum only recently, or has it been this way for some time? For nearly a year proponents of Howard Terminal have claimed that MLB prefers their waterfront locale. Reid represents the JPA, so he has a vested interest in the choice the same way Oakland Waterfront Ballpark and Doug Boxer would. So who’s right? What was the process in getting to this point?

The mayor’s hands-off approach has created the appearance of two competing factions. On one hand there’s the JPA and the now-departed Fred Blackwell running Coliseum City. On the other hand there’s OWB, Let’s Go Oakland, and the Port having their own discussions. Usually the city manager/administrator would moderate both discussions by being involved, but Blackwell’s focus was much greater on Coliseum City than Howard Terminal. And with both “tenured” city managers gone in Blackwell and Deanna Santana, that would leave the Mayor to make decisions. Except that she hasn’t made decisions. It’s not her vision, and she’s been to content to get to this point with the understanding that MLB would make the decisions for her or force the A’s to make a decision between the two sites.

Well, now the A’s are making a choice, though it’s not exactly how Oakland and the JPA wants it. Wolff and Fisher seem to want the Coliseum without the City, so that they can mold the project in their own way. It’s only possible if Oakland lets go of the Raiders, or if the Raiders give up on Oakland. Oakland’s trying to keep both teams in place, so they’re offering these solutions that neither league nor franchise fully endorses. Truth be told, neither team wants to share a complex – let alone a stadium – as long as precious land is in play to help fund new stadia. The NFL is waiting for the A’s to leave the Coliseum, and MLB is waiting for the Raiders to do the same.

While the A’s and Raiders come into this with somewhat similar goals, their prospects away without the existing Coliseum are much different. The Raiders a have much better short-term future because of Santa Clara. However, their long-term prospects are shaky because the financing aspect of a new Raiders stadium is so difficult and daunting. The A’s have poor short-term prospects because they have no temporary home other than the Giants’ offer of AT&T Park for a short time. Long-term is much better, mostly because the cost of a ballpark is more manageable and they could have other sites in Howard Terminal and San Jose. Alternate sites for the Raiders, such as Concord or Dublin, are so far off that they’re not worth considering.

I’ve been saying for sometime that anyone who claims to know how this is going to play out is clearly trying to sell something. Better to let the process continue, and let the chips fall where they may.

Kawakami: San Jose is dead for now

If you haven’t already read Tim Kawakami’s latest blog piece, I must insist that you do so. Then come back here.

Kawakami’s premise is that after checking with various league sources, San Jose is not happening soon, and doesn’t have the votes thanks to the Lodge’s reaction to last summer’s lawsuit filed against MLB.

I’ve heard differently, that for some months now everything is simply a big negotiation and the ongoing items in progress (lawsuits by/against San Jose, Oakland’s own activities) are there to make points towards the final figure. As we’ve seen time and time again, MLB is thoroughly inscrutable. They can choose to punish A’s ownership for nodding with San Jose’s antitrust lawsuit while turning a blind eye to the Giants’ interference with San Jose. It’s their Lodge, they make the rules. People have jokingly noted that the fifth anniversary of the “Blue Ribbon Commission” just happened. Well, so has the ninth anniversary of this blog! And we’re still not closer to a new ballpark!

Regardless of MLB’s (in)actions, the fact is that Kawakami’s right that the A’s aren’t going anywhere soon. Maybe that changes if Joe Cotchett can get the heat turned up via the Ninth Circuit. Even then it seems likely that in a loss MLB would appeal to the Supreme Court, which is really what Cotchett wants. If MLB can be made to heel, then it would force a solution the same way Tampa Bay got an expansion franchise. That is at best a long shot and shouldn’t be expected.

And maybe that’s Selig’s point. Selig and the rest of the owners prefer to work everything out within the confines of the Lodge. They could be holding the decision over Lew Wolff’s and John Fisher’s heads as long as the lawsuit moves forward. If the lawsuit were suddenly dropped, the process could be back on, but not while the lawsuit continues. The response brief from MLB is due this week.

While Kawakami’s basic point about inertia stands, it doesn’t speak to a real endgame. There remains the game of musical chairs at the Coliseum, as well as the pace of progress and the numerous unknowns of the Howard Terminal project. If both of those options fall apart it works in Wolff’s favor. If at least one works out it helps MLB and the Giants since they wouldn’t have to touch territorial rights. The endgame scenarios are unpredictable, involving plenty of independent moving parts. The situation within the Lodge could take years to settle, or could be done before Selig leaves office next year (if that happens).

The parting shot that Kawakami takes in which Wolff & Fisher haven’t endeared themselves to the other owners because they “make profits” from revenue sharing – that sounds like a talking point. That’s the system, set up and approved unanimously by the owners per the CBA. If the owners hate the A’s getting revenue sharing so much, adjust the formula to limit their take. Or how about this – allow them to have a solution to get them off revenue sharing. The 2012 CBA specified that the A’s would be off the dole once they moved into a new ballpark within the Bay Area market, perhaps as late as the end of the CBA in 2016. We now know that the next CBA will come with no new (permanent) venue for the A’s at that time. If the owners are that upset, get punitive. That said, I think that criticism is a load of B.S.

Even the outcome that has the A’s staying in Oakland in a new park is problematic. If the A’s (Wolff/Fisher or a new ownership group) privately finance a $500 million stadium, they’ll be on the hook for $30 million in debt service every year for 30 years, with no revenue sharing to backfill any revenue shortfalls (if the A’s have down years or the honeymoon period ends). Plus they won’t have nearly the kind of corporate revenue to cover a large percentage of the loans the same way a ballpark in San Jose or San Francisco would. Is the Lodge ready to approve such a deal? Or would they rather extend revenue sharing to provide a cushion for the A’s? If they do, the M.O. would belie those previous criticisms. Yet it would be the easy way out. Just treat the A’s like a small market team forever, and let the sleeping dog entrenched interests lie. Yep, that sounds a lot like MLB, especially under Bud Selig.