San Jose City Council approves taking antitrust case to Supreme Court

Despite losing handily twice in federal courts, the City of San Jose won’t relent, voting unanimously today to take its antitrust case against Major League Baseball to the Supreme Court. While its chances of overturning baseball’s antitrust exemption remain slim, the City’s game plan is simply to have the Supremes take the case, which could cajole MLB into settling. Even that outcome is a long shot, as Wendy Thurm explained at Deadspin two weeks ago. Regardless of the long odds, Mayor Sam Liccardo seems to be spoiling for a fight:

We may know the Court’s decision by summer.

FanFest and BlogFest on Sunday 2/8

It’s that time of year again. The Super Bowl takes over the nation’s imagination, followed by baseball, waking from its annual hibernation. That means FanFest, which will be held on Sunday, February 8. Last year’s FanFest was also held on February 8, which was a Saturday. The Giants chose to hold their FanFest on February 7 this year, so this avoids a date conflict.

BlogFest will also be held again, starting at 10 AM. Like last year, bloggers will be taken to a suite on the East Side, where we will be interviewing:

  • David Forst
  • Jesse Chavez
  • Ike Davis

Oh, the questions for Forst will come aplenty. The blogger interviews are usually held after the regular media session. And of course, there will be the regular player interviews and introductions held inside Oracle Arena. Tickets are still available online. Since the event was restarted in 2011 it has sold out. The Coliseum will also be used again, which will give everyone an opportunity to check out the state of the scoreboard project – though the system is not expected to be fully built or operational by Sunday.

A fairly heavy storm is forecast for the weekend in the Bay Area, so the soggy FanFest day tradition should continue. Check the weather reports and plan accordingly.

If anyone wants to meet up inside the Coliseum (not the arena which will be cramped) to talk stadia and Coliseum City, let me know.

McKibben to become next JPA Executive Director, Raiders want ENA canceled?

BANG’s Matthew Artz reports that Scott McKibben will be the next Coliseum Authority Executive Director, filling a position that had been vacant for over six years. JPA counsel Deena McClain has been the JPA’s interim executive director since 2008, when Ann Haley left. Zennie Abraham notes that the vote was unanimous.

McKibben says his goal is to “keep the A’s and Raiders in Oakland.” Having someone with sports experience not limited to negotiating leases is important for the Coliseum’s future.

Andy Dolich endorsed the hire, and McKibben apparently had several recommendations, far above and beyond the previous candidate, the controversial former Assemblyman Guy Houston.

Having McKibben in place will allow the JPA to move forward in concert with the City of Oakland and Alameda County, the partners in the JPA which have been at cross purposes throughout the Coliseum City process for the last three years. If McKibben can lead a team including McClain and the City and County working on the deal terms, they’ll have a much better chance at success. It’s a much better situation than a year ago.

More interesting is a tidbit from Steven Tavares at East Bay Citizen, referring to AlCo Supervisor Scott Haggerty:

However, Haggerty made it clear Raiders ownership does not favor an extension of the ENA. Over a lengthy lunch recently with Raiders owner Mark Davis, Haggerty said, the team lobbied for the county to vote against the extension with New City. Progress is being made, though, added Haggerty.

Why would the Raiders want to kill the ENA? They wanted to provide a competing bid at the last minute, which may indicate that they already have a developer on board for whatever they’re planning. If the Raiders (like the A’s) now want little to do with Coliseum City and New City Development, it would make sense to cut the middleman out altogether, though that would open up a lot of questions about how to steer redevelopment of the Coliseum. The EIR and Specific Plan are moving forward, and the latter piece is valuable to Oakland for planning purposes. But the feasibility studies that have been done on Coliseum City to date would be lost. New applicants like the A’s and Raiders would commission their own supporting work. It’s almost moot at this point since the ENA is set to be extended again, yet from now on it’s worth questioning the value of New City’s place in all of this if both teams would rather go it alone.

If the teams would prefer to not work with the Coliseum City team, it’ll be up to McKibben and the JPA to figure out a way to bring the teams together. In all likelihood, both teams will provide competing visions with little-to-no room for each other. How the two visions can be merged to both sides’ satisfaction along as the City/County – well, that’s not like scaling Mt. Davis. It’s more like trying to climb Mt. Everest.

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P.S. – Remember those shady looking campaign contributions from Lew Wolff to Rebecca Kaplan during last year’s mayoral campaign? Turns out they were legal. Oh well.

P.P.S. – The Orange County Register reports that Mark Davis teamed up with an investment firm last September in order to buy the Hollywood Park site. That attempt failed. 

P.P.P.S. – Mark Purdy has a different telling of the ENA situation.

Did Haggerty interpret the talks wrong, or is someone from the Raiders covering something up?

Lalalala

This picture, posted to the Dodgers Photogblog on January 7, depicts new shortstop and Alameda native Jimmy Rollins yukking it up with GM (former A’s exec) Farhan Zaidi. There’s something else odd about this photo, which, when combined with those other two pieces of information, makes the photo look like an unintentionally epic piece of trolling. Unintentional, right? Yeah, completely unintentional.

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Thanks, @LionDarrin for the heads up.

Update 1/30 11:00 AM – The picture has been removed from the original post.

Shrinkage

When Coliseum City was originally conceived it was supposed to look something like this when fully completed, 800 acres in all.

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800 acre concept

 

Last last year we heard from Floyd Kephart and others that the project would be scaled back to around 200 acres.

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Coliseum City at 200 acres

 

Now we hear that it’s down to 120 acres, which is basically the original Coliseum complex plus the Malibu and HomeBase lots leading out to Hegenberger.

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120 acres

 

With the Raiders and A’s signed up to offer competing bids, the team working on Coliseum City now plays the role of facilitator and competitor, all at once. A single stadium’s footprint will be 14-20 acres. Two stadia would cover 35 acres. When you add the necessary streets and easements for other infrastructure, that should leave 60-70 acres to develop. I was not terribly optimistic from the get-go about the financing coming through, so I wasn’t surprised when one financier after another bailed out on the project. Now that the project’s size has shrunk a whopping 85%, the questions about its viability are even more pointed, especially when trying to pitch it as a way to keep both the A’s and Raiders in town. Just as we saw over the last year, we’re going to let the numbers (or lack thereof) prove these concepts out. If the Raiders can make it work with whatever developer they’re trying to get onboard, bully for them. If the A’s plans prove most feasible, then they get the spoils of developing one of the last large infill developments in the Bay Area. And if Kephart’s New City group somehow gets capital and the teams on board, they will have truly worked a miracle.

However, ask yourself this: If capital wasn’t biting at 800 acres and two stadia, why would they bite at 120 acres and two stadia? 

P.S. – The infrastructure price tag on the whole 800 acre project was supposed to be $344-425 million. Now that it’s 85% smaller, did that cost also proportionately decrease? Nope. The cost of infrastructure for the 120 acres, including the new transit hub and utility relocations, is $170 million. Factor that into your thinking. Some of that figure will be offset by grants, though really only for the transit hub. It’s still a nine figure infrastructure price tag.

 

The Manfred era begins – Did anything change yet?

Over the weekend, the commissioner’s torch was officially passed from Bud Selig to Rob Manfred, starting the Manfred era in earnest. Manfred’s tenure as commissioner will depend largely on how he deals with specific business and big picture issues the sport needs to address. Selig handed Manfred a highly effective business model, surpassing $9 billion in revenue in 2014 along with the lengthiest uninterrupted labor peace of the four major pro sports. Certainly, Manfred could keep the ship pointed in the same direction while keeping the motor running, and there would be few complaints from the owners who elected him. But people don’t get commissioner’s jobs just to be caretakers; they’re expected to have their own agenda to push baseball beyond its current audience. That’s the part we the public don’t know much about yet.

In Manfred’s letter to fans, he mentioned that his top priority is to bring more people into the game, by greater youth outreach to foster the next generation of players and by streamlining the game to make it more palatable to casual fans, especially younger ones. The letter is quite high-minded, masking Manfred’s reputation as a tough yet also conciliatory negotiator. Manfred’s in his mid-50’s, which places him in the baby boomer era, seeing the worst of the 60’s and 70’s as a youth: concrete multipurpose donut stadia. His predecessor helped get rid of nearly all of the cookie cutters, though Manfred played the heavy in many stadium talks. League attendance has largely plateaued with only Oakland and Tampa Bay stuck with bad parks, so if he and the other owners want to see continued growth at the turnstiles, they’ll have to do something about those two teams.

CBA talks will begin before or during the 2016 season, and unless it goes badly there should be a deal struck by the World Series. That’s 20 months away. If talks are contentious, they could take out the 2017 World Baseball Classic or worse. We shouldn’t expect to see contraction on the table, as it won’t help extort new stadia out of those two markets, plus it will only anger the player’s union, who will see 50-80 jobs (not including hundreds of minor league jobs) disappear. And no, adding a player or two to every roster is not a good substitute. There will be some calls for greater revenue sharing, along with greater pushback against it by the big market teams. Players will want earlier free agency, tweaks to arbitration, and other perks. Talk of a soft or hard salary cap has largely died. Umpires signed a new CBA over the weekend, allowing their agreement to run concurrent with Manfred’s term, one less hassle for the new commish.

That doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing. There remain numerous legal disputes to work out, internal ones like the Nats-O’s-MASN deal, and external issues like the minor league antitrust and television blackout lawsuits. As a long time insider, Manfred is keenly aware of these battles, and of the future CBA negotiations.

That leaves little room for Manfred to take on the A’s and Rays’ respective plights. Manfred and Selig have remained committed to the Bay Area while rather noncommittal to Oakland. Quoth Selig from John Shea’s sendoff profile:

“I think two teams can exist in the Bay Area. Certainly, (A’s owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff) want to stay in the Bay Area. When I say Bay Area, you understand there are several alternatives.”

Manfred from two weeks ago, asked by Bill Shaikin about the A’s:

Not much difference there. Manfred’s going to leave both Oakland and San Jose dangling, knowing he has a plan A in Oakland if public officials choose wisely, and a plan B in San Jose if not. Plan B is not considered an easy plan because of the Giants, yet if a solution can’t be found at the Coliseum, Manfred will have to come up with a solution that works for both the A’s and Giants.

This site is coming up on 10 years old. I never thought I’d be at it this long. As I’ve said on multiple occasions, I’ll keep following the story where it leads. That’s Oakland, San Jose, Fremont, Mesa (for spring training), wherever it may go. A’s fans deserve nothing less than as complete coverage as this site can provide. Thanks for hanging in there, friends.

P.S. – Manfred aroused discussion yesterday when he said that he’d like to forego defensive shifts. I don’t consider that much of an likelihood, since there really aren’t rules that dictate how to set up defenses right now, so creating new ones would be an inevitable mess that would be difficult to enforce – as if certain rules aren’t already improperly enforced. Instead, I look at Manfred’s statement as something that got baseball in the national discussion at the beginning of Super Bowl week, a difficult thing to do. It is Manfred’s job to help promote the sport, after all.

P.P.S. – More from Manfred in an AP interview:

“I don’t think of the Oakland issue as Oakland-San Francisco. Oakland needs a new stadium. There’s a new mayor in Oakland. We just prevailed in the San Jose litigation, so things are moving around a little bit out there, and I’m hopeful we can make progress on getting a new stadium in Oakland in the relatively short term.”

Hohokam Stadium’s A Day At The Diamond on 2/21

In celebration of the reopening of Hohokam Stadium, the City of Mesa is holding an event at the ballpark titled A Day at the Diamond on Saturday, February 21 from 11 to 5. There will be tours of the stadium and attractions for the family, including a zip line and tethered hot air balloon rides. I’m going to be back and forth between the Bay Area and Arizona throughout February and March, but I’ll figure out a way to make sure I attend this cool event.

dayatdiamond

 

One of things to keep in mind about Hohokam and Fitch Park is that under the terms of the lease agreement, the facilities are essentially a co-op with the A’s running it throughout spring training (three months) while Mesa gets it the rest of the year. Mesa had to put up some money for improvements (as did the A’s), but budgetwise the deal projects better than with no tenant, where both facilities would slowly deteriorate with no funding for maintenance.

If you’re in the Bay Area, you probably won’t be out here for the event. I will and I plan to take lots of pictures. Here are some from earlier this week when I stopped by the yard.

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