Category Archives: Giants
The Merc’s Internal Affairs folks probably got a chuckle last week when Dan Orum, the San Jose Giants’ CEO since 2012, sent the paper an email criticizing them for their coverage of the Stand for San Jose lawsuit. After Orem’s missive, IA decided to look into the case to confirm Orum’s suggestion that the team was not a plaintiff in the suit. Turns out that the Giants were an original plaintiff in the lawsuit, which has everyone scratching their heads about what Orum’s intent was.
Orum became CEO of the Giants only six weeks after the lawsuit was filed, so unless someone forgot to give him a memo or two, he should be well acquainted with the basics of the case. He was brought in to beef up sponsorships, and he may be running into resistance by local South Bay companies who are rightly confused about the little Giants’ role in the case. If Orum could somehow distance the team from the lawsuit, companies could be less reticent to commit. Of course, the paper had to go and muck that up. The SJ Giants are already in a tough spot trying to get breaks on a lease extension at Municipal Stadium, similar to the A’s current situation in Oakland.
Thankfully the lawsuit will be underway shortly, so there’s hope that much of the confusion (and frankly, obfuscation) will be cleared up through the normal legal process. As the teams and public entities continue talks into the offseason, we’ll see which parties want to be partners and which ones prefer to be adversaries.
While we’re watching the A’s fight for the division title this summer, we’ll also watch the Giants and A’s duke it out in court. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Joseph Huber has released a hearing schedule for the Stand for San Jose-vs.-City of San Jose trial:
- June 6 – Petitioners Opening Brief
- July 8 – Respondents & Real Party Opposition
- July 29 – Petitioners Reply
- October 4 – Hearing on the Merits
Unless the sides decide to settle out of court, chances are that the case will drag on through the end of the year.
The Chronicle’s John Shea confirmed something I had heard about the reasoning for the Giants’ AT&T Park debt refinancing.
The Giants’ plan to pay off their stadium debt by 2017? No longer in the works, we hear. There have been steps to refinance the $170 million loan to help fund their proposed development on parking lot A across from McCovey Cove. There was a time the Giants said they had to limit their payroll because of the $20 million annual mortgage.
Remember how, in 2009, SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera threatened to sue baseball over the perceived financial threat posed to the City if the A’s were granted territorial rights to the South Bay? Well, I’m glad for everyone’s sake that the Giants feel it’s safe enough to take on even greater debt to grow their empire. I was so worried for a while there.
Meanwhile, a group of East Bay mayors including Oakland’s Jean Quan and Berkeley’s Tom Bates are trying to upend legislation introduced by SF assemblyman Phil Ting that would help smooth (or bypass) some of the environmental review and approval process for the Warriors’ arena. It’s not strange that they would pursue this route, since it is local politics at work. The irony is that whatever new law helps the W’s arena could provide a blueprint and pave the way for an A’s ballpark at Howard Terminal, which makes sense because both are on waterfront sites and face the same restrictions.
Of course, if Howard Terminal never gets past the talking points stage no one ever has to find out how expensive it’ll be to build there.
Update 3/23 1:30 AM – Pillbury made its own motion in response. They’re aiming to “augment the administrative record; memo of p’s and a’s” (points and authorities), so they’re providing their defense of their behavior in the case. I’ll try to get a copy of the motion ASAP.
There’s a fairly new term being used in baseball talk on the internet these days: TOOTBLAN. It’s short for Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop. It’s very popular on Twitter, and its lineage dates back to some misadventures on the basepaths by Ryan Theriot, who naturally was on the Cubs when the term was coined. When it comes to baserunning, Theriot is the polar opposite of Coco Crisp, whose recent profile by Grantland’s Jonah Keri elevated Coco to ninja-like levels between the bags. Still, Theriot has two World Series rings in the past two years, so who’s the nincompoop now? Well, it’ll forever be Theriot. Sorry dude.
The City of San Jose committed its own TOOTBLAN in the Stand for San Jose lawsuit. During the suit’s discovery period, the City inadvertently released several documents that clearly should have been protected by attorney-client privilege. When City attorneys found out, they asked S4SJ’s attorneys at Pillsbury to return the documents. Instead, Pillsbury held onto the privileged docs and sought to augment their own case with the documents. That forced the City to file a temporary restraining order against Pillsbury, which was granted by a judge in January 2012. Suspecting that Pillsbury lawyers would use the information anyway, last week (3/11) the City filed its own motion to disqualify counsel (read the PDF for the blow-by-blow), saying that Pillsbury’s conduct during discovery should force them off the case. From the motion:
By this motion, respondents and real party in interest seek disqualification of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP (“Pillsbury”) from further involvement in this case. Pillsbury attorneys closely examined and attempted to use nine privileged documents inadvertently produced by the City of San Jose. Pillsbury was ethically obligated not to review these documents any more than necessary to determine they were privileged and to immediately notify the City of its possession of the documents. In derogation of these obligations, Pillsbury not only reviewed the privileged documents in their entirety and failed to notify the City that it possessed them, it refused to return the documents after the City discovered the inadvertent production and requested that the documents be returned. Instead, Pillsbury affirmatively sought to incorporate the documents into the administrative record in this case and use the information in them to support petitioners’ claims, threating a motion to augment the record if they were not included. The City was forced to bring a TRO and preliminary injunction proceeding, which resulted in an order requiring Pillsbury to return the privileged documents and all copies. The documents contained highly confidential attorney/client communications and attorney work product bearing directly on the issues in this case. Pillsbury’s possession of this information prejudices the defense of this case, and there is no effective remedy short of disqualification.
I consulted with some folks who have a better grasp of the legal issues here. Apparently the motion to disqualify counsel is not something that is successfully granted often, and any such claims have to pass a fairly stringent test to force such an action. At the same time, the inadvertent release of privileged or confidential information during discovery isn’t all that uncommon, given the reams and boxes of documents that have to be made available for a trial. Still, this is an embarrassing moment for the City and it seems like they want to be rewarded for making a pretty big mistake.
The documents in question include marked up versions of the EIR, analyses and comments from the City Attorney’s office, and to my surprise, a draft of a Disposition and Development Agreement – effectively the lease terms for the ballpark and/or land. Frankly, I want to see this information and the public should have the right to see it. For now, records requests may have to be filed to gain access, and that may not happen until after a trial ends. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how Judge Hubner rules on this next month. Just like last fall’s motion to compel, this is a long shot at best, but Pillsbury’s conduct could result in sanctions if not disqualification. If Pillsbury were thrown off the case, S4SJ would be forced to bring in new counsel and prepare a new case, creating considerable delay. Plus the new legal team wouldn’t be the Giants’ own firm. Considering how the Giants may have pressured the Controller’s office to take actions against San Jose in the ballpark land rollback, just about anything’s fair game at this point. The hearing will be at Santa Clara County Superior Court on April 12, 9 AM. I expect to be there for the proceedings.
Note: I spent a couple of fruitless hours at the Superior Court trying to get a copy of the motion, because it hadn’t been properly filed yet. I strolled a few blocks over to City Hall and went to the City Attorney’s office to request a copy. I received it via e-mail within an hour of the request.
In case anyone was wondering if Lew Wolff was behind or approves of (tacitly) the recent antitrust lawsuit rumor (via the Chronicle’s John Shea):
A lot to go over in this edition. Thanks to all who have been contributing. The response has been excellent so far, I hope it continues. I have a couple of surprises in store for you generous folks.
- Update 2/5 12:00 PM – Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson had yet another press conference to give an update on the Kings/arena effort. The big takeaway is that there is not yet an announcement on a big money equity group. That may happen next week, in conjunction with the City submitting its arena plan to the NBA. Meanwhile, billionaire Ron Burkle looms larger than ever, as he has emerged as a potential bidder for AEG. Keep in mind that Burkle would have to partner with private equity to buy AEG. It would make sense for Mayor Johnson and Sacramento if Burkle, Mastrov, and silent money were to come in on a package deal for the team and arena, similar to Guggenheim Partners’ overwhelming bid for the Dodgers.
- The Giants are reportedly being less strident in their concerns about a Warriors arena at Piers 30-32 in San Francisco. The sides are hashing out their differences with the City in the middle. 2013 must mark a new era of a “kinder, gentler Giants”. [SF Chronicle/John Coté, Neal J. Riley]
- The 34-minute power outage at yesterday’s Super Bowl at the Superdome is being blamed for now on monitoring equipment that tripped a breaker after sensing an anomaly. Power outages happen from time to time at sporting events depending on load, grid, and stadium. The spectacular 2011 blackout from a 49ers home game was notable. I vaguely recall an A’s game that had the lights go out in 2012, though I can’t remember if it was a home or road game. While somewhat embarrassing for New Orleans, it seems unlikely that this mishap will affect future Super Bowls in NOLA, especially if the true cause can be properly identified and fixed. [LA Times/Patrick Kevin Day | Deadspin/Barry Petchesky]
- If the problem is grid-related, the Santa Clara stadium shouldn’t be hit in the same way due to built-in redundancy with multiple substations next to the stadium. Santa Clara runs its own power utility, which allows for more leeway in utility planning than if it had to work with PG&E. [SJ Mercury News/Mike Rosenberg]
- Somehow the Miami Marlins continue to make out well at their new ballpark despite their mistakes. The Marlins have paid only $102 million of the $131 million they were supposed to contribute. If the full project comes in below projected cost, the remaining money that’s supposed to come from the team will be rerouted to a capital improvements fund, instead of refunding Miami and Dade County taxpayers. [Miami Herald/Charles Rabin]
- MLB executive Kim Ng toured Hermosillo, Mexico’s Estadio Sonora while checking out the Caribbean Series. The 16,000-seat stadium could potentially be used as a spring training home by Arizona Diamondbacks or another team. Hermosillo is 4.5 hours south of Tucson, inland of the Gulf of California. [MLB.com/Alden Gonzalez]
- Reno’s City Council approved a subsidy plan to pay off Aces Ballpark, which will keep the D-backs’ AAA affiliate in Reno for the next 30 years. The subsidy will run approximately $1 million per year. [Reno Gazette Journal/Brian Duggan]
- The Scranton-Wilkes Barre Railriders (AAA-Yankees) are moving into their completely rebuilt ballpark, PNC Field, after a year of barnstorming. [Scranton Times Tribune/Jim Lockwood]
- A Mesa-based service organization called the Hohokams (natch) has long had a contract to provide manpower at Hohokam Stadium during spring training. As the Cubs complete work at their new park, no deal has been made for the new ballpark. [Arizona Republic/Editorial Board]
- El Paso’s upcoming Populous-designed AAA ballpark will take stylistic cues from the city’s historic Union Depot train station. The ballpark, which will replace the not-that-old City Hall, is expected to open in time for the 2014 season. Meanwhile, a legal challenge to the $50 million deal has caused the city to halt an effort to issue bonds for the stadium. [El Paso Times/Cindy Ramirez, Zahira Torres]
- A 100-feet-deep sinkhole found at the Birmingham Barons’ new ballpark site has put a snag in construction. Apparently sinkholes are quite common throughout Birmingham. [AL.com/Joseph D. Bryant]
- Henderson, NV is suing developer Chris Milam and others over an alleged bait-and-switch scheme that involved 480 acres of land that was meant to be used for a stadium complex. Instead, Milam may be looking to build housing on the land. The City is suing to prevent that from happening based on the very low land sale price furnished to Milam. Caught up in all of this is former Bureau of Land Management director Bob Abbey, who signed off on the deal. [Las Vegas Review Journal/Alan Snel]
More as it comes.
Earlier today, Giants CEO Larry Baer was on the MLB Network show Clubhouse Confidential, reflecting on World Championships and Barry Bonds, when he spoke briefly about the A’s and their continuing ballpark problem. A couple of sharp observers were watching closely, including KCBS’s Joe Salvatore.
— Joe Salvatore (@radiojoee) January 23, 2013
Fangraphs’ Wendy Thurm also picked up on this, and I was quick to reply:
I later qualified things:
— newballpark (@newballpark) January 23, 2013
So here’s what I know. Remember how Bud Selig imposed a gag order on both ownership groups going back over a year ago? That went part and parcel with the Commish bringing (forcing?) both parties to the table. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve heard from multiple sources that Selig apparently has other team owners lined up and ready to approve a move to San Jose. The remaining issue is, naturally, compensation to the Giants. Effectively, we can consider the battle half over for the pro-San Jose forces. Getting Giants ownership to back down from their no-negotiation stance is a major development. That said, determining proper compensation for the rights to the South Bay is not expected to be a picnic. Prior to this latest set of rumors, I had heard that the Giants were seeking $200 million or more to cede San Jose. In keeping with the A’s giving away the South Bay in the first place 20 years ago, A’s ownership wanted to keep the payment as close to $0 as possible. With such a huge gap, it’s hard to know what number would be mutually acceptable for both parties. They may be subject to binding arbitration, which is sometimes the case when settling team-team or team-league disputes.
The remaining issue is one of timing. Lew Wolff has been pushing out a San Jose ballpark opening date, first to 2016 and now 2018. Unless there’s some newfound sense of urgency on his part, he’s probably in no hurry to pay money for something he won’t be able to claim for several years. He’s probably not willing to make a huge lump sum payment for the privilege either. Then there’s this upcoming season, which is the last at the Coliseum without a new lease extension, and there have been no real talks about an extension to date other than Wolff’s request for a five-year deal. So there has to be determination of when to make an announcement that doesn’t impact the A’s finances and their status in Oakland in the interim. For those and related reasons, no one should expect an announcement anytime soon. Chronicle beat writer Susan Slusser checked in with Lew Wolff and another source, and got this out of the owner:
A’s owner Lew Wolff tells me he has no knowledge of any settlement talks with Giants over A’s move to San Jose, as per @newballpark‘s report
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) January 24, 2013
If it happens for real, we won’t hear about it until it’s all done, approved by the owners and Selig. Until then, keep dreaming.
Added: A transcribed snippet of the Larry Baer-Brian Kenny interview:
KENNY: What’s the club’s view on the Oakland A’s attempt to go to San Jose?
BAER: Our view is that it’s really up to the commissioner and the baseball processes. We’re not involved talking about it. It’s really something that the commissioner has to sort out. Obviously the A’s need a new ballpark and we hope that they get one.
Note: Clubhouse Confidential is on MLB Network today at 4:30 and 9:30 PM.
If you read this blog, the chances are good that you hate the Yankees. I know I do. I enjoy watching them lose. I enjoy how they constantly overpay for talent (Raul Ibanez excepted). I enjoy the fact that Yankees fans have to endure John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman on the radio. And I enjoy watching the scene at the Yankees’ overpriced stadium, with its overpriced, empty seats and empty atmosphere.
But I look a recent article by CSN’s Ray Ratto with bemusement. He compared Yankee Stadium’s current atmosphere to the Coliseum’s last week during the ALDS. Ratto proclaimed the great Oakland fanbase, as it magnanimously came back for the last week of the season and the playoffs to create the kind of 10th-man crowd rarely seen in baseball.
The fact is, the fans in Oakland made Oakland a cool place to play the last few weeks, not out of obligation, but because the players taught them how to overcome their annoyance at the people who run the franchise. And it certainly wasn’t out of anticipation for a new stadium somewhere, either.
It was the moment that made the ballpark, and the comparisons with Yankee Stadium have never been more apt.
As A’s fans, we’ll always have that moment, the 2012 season (July-October, anyways), and the improbable tally of 15 walkoff victories to hold in our hearts forever and to keep us hopeful for the future. Maybe someone will write a book or make a movie about it. If moments were enough to sustain the A’s, we’d have no worries about the future of the franchise. The harsh reality of the situation is this:
- All four teams in the LCS have payrolls over $110 million, and have been at or above that level for several years.
- Three of the four teams have won the last three World Series.
- The exception, the Tigers, went to the ALCS last year and the World Series in 2006.
The teams that are left in the postseason, they aren’t satisfied with disparate moments. They want success. They demand it regularly. They have the revenue to pay for that success, and that’s exactly what they do: pay for it. With that comes raised expectations, such as winning the World Series every year in the Yankees case. They aren’t the A’s, who are famously beneath 50 feet of crap. Sustained success is not something A’s fans can realistically demand every year because the franchise doesn’t pay for it, and neither do the fans. So Ratto can smugly claim superiority, but the real story is that A’s fans had zero expectations going in, making the whole season feel like we were playing with house money. Yankees fans, well, they are the house. They expect returns. Should they not be entitled to the same kind of disaffection many A’s fans have felt? We all vote with our wallets, right?
Disaffection means people walk. For the A’s, it means people don’t pay for cheap tickets. For the Yankees, it means people don’t pay for expensive tickets, whether on the primary or secondary market. Going into 2012, Yankees regular season tickets were 238% the cost of A’s tickets, according to FCI. Nosebleed seats for the ALCS, which start at $41 and escalate quickly up to $1,500, remain available for potential Games 3 and 4. StubHub has an enormous inventory of available ALCS tickets. Sure, the Yankees are gouging their fans. But even in the old Yankee Stadium, where tickets are generally cheaper, the Yankees choked plenty of times in the playoffs. Did the 10th man have any measurable effect there? It certainly didn’t get them over the hump. In Game 5 of the A’s-Tigers ALDS, Justin Verlander quieted the crowd with strikeout after strikeout. The fans’ only release came after the final out, when a long and deserved standing ovation greeted the fallen heroes. What the Yankees are experiencing now and the A’s did from 2007 to 2011 are not fundamentally different. The only real difference was the level of expectations for both teams.
This great postseason we’ve witnessed so far this year has reminded me a lot of a really good NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. You have your major conference powers like Duke, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Kentucky (Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals). They’re the teams that constantly make the Sweet Sixteen (third and fourth rounds), even the Final Four (semis/finals). Then you have your Cinderella teams, the mid-major schools like Belmont or George Mason. Frequently overlooked, and with a fraction of the resources the big schools have, no one expects these teams to win. When they do win it becomes a big story. That’s what the A’s and Orioles represented this year, along with the Moneyball A’s and recent Tampa Bay teams of the past.
Sometimes those Cinderella teams get to the Final Four. Almost invariably, they don’t win it all. The last Cinderella team to win the NCAA basketball championship was Rollie Massimino’s 1985 Villanova squad, and they’re arguably a Cinderella because Villanova was perennially competitive in the hoops-crazy, big money Big East. The last win-it-all Cinderella story in MLB was the 2003 Florida Marlins ($49 million payroll), and unlike Villanova, they sank into mediocrity shortly after the World Series. It’s great to revel in these stories, but let’s remember that they’re exceptions, not the rule. The Yankees and Tigers beat the Orioles and A’s, respectively, because they can afford $20 million/year aces like C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander. More than ever, it seems as though premium pitching comes at a premium – and is worth the investment. Try as everyone can – and Billy Beane does – to beat the house, the house usually wins. And that’s nothing to be smug about.
Update 7:28 PM – This Grantland post and mine came to similar conclusions.
Tomorrow, Giants fans who are not season-ticket holders will finally get the chance to buy postseason tickets. Because of the continuous demand on Giants games, the team was able to leverage its large premium season ticket base to sell out much of its postseason inventory. That was followed by lottery for other season ticket holders, and tomorrow’s lottery winners (general public).
Contrast that with the A’s, who have a season ticket base that’s less than half the size of the Giants’. The A’s started selling tickets to the public a week ago, which followed a multi-week postseason strip/season ticket sale campaign. A week in and there are still plenty of tickets available via the primary market (Tickets.com) for a potential Wild Card game and Divisional Series. Just now I saw two tickets for the Wild Card game in Section 217, Row 15 for $46 apiece. Groups of 4 tickets are still available for ALDS Game 3. StubHub is full of overpriced choices if you didn’t act quickly enough a week ago, and while the dynamic pricing model has raised prices a bit above the A’s published baseline prices, it’s not nearly the gougefest that some had feared.
When you compare it to what the Giants are doing, there’s practically no comparison. Even with dynamic pricing, A’s playoff tickets frequently come in at 1/2 or 1/3 the price of similar seats across the bay. Even though the events of this excruciatingly long road trip have dampened spirits a bit, there’s still plenty of enthusiasm for the team, enough that these playoff games should sell out if the A’s qualify for the postseason (with the possible exception of a Home Game 3 that may never be scheduled). The notable trend to me is how, just as with regular season games, the “value-priced” Plaza Club simply fails to move the needle.
I also included the Orioles prices since they’re a team with a much smaller season ticket base as of late. The O’s don’t practice dynamic pricing, so the face value price is pretty much it except for some tickets that the team is selling as a package food-ticket deal.
When compared to other teams, it’s all a pretty good deal for A’s fans.
Update 9/5 10:30 AM – If you haven’t seen it yet, the Merc’s John Woolfork has picked up the story and gotten quotes from San Jose City Attorney John Doyle.
Activity regarding the astroturf group Stand for San Jose‘s lawsuit challenging the A’s Diridon land deal appears to have picked up in the last week, as the respondents, the City of San Jose and the A’s, have submitted a request to depose Stand for San Jose and its members. I’ve uploaded a copy of the motion (6 MB PDF) for your perusal.
The thrust of the City’s argument is that it complied with S4SJ’s numerous information requests, while asserting that it has the right to request information about S4SJ’s inner workings to determine if S4SJ has standing. The motion asks for relevant documents related to the operation of S4SJ, as well as a person to represent the group in a deposition. This maneuver comes after repeated requests made by the City for this information. Through attorney Geoffrey L. Robinson from the A’s-hired firm Perkins Coie, the motion asks for some in-depth information.
The matters on which the deponent will be examined include the following:
- The standing of Stand for San Jose to assert any or all of the claims raised in the First Amended Petition in this case.
- The nature of the beneficial interest held by Stand for San Jose in the subject matter of this litigation and the extent to which those interests differ from those of the general public.
- The origin and formation of Stand for San Jose.
- The organizational purpose, structure, functions and activities of Stand for San Jose.
- The governance, direction, control and/or leadership of Stand for San Jose.
- Taxes paid by Stand for San Jose to the City of San Jose or any other public entity.
- The funding or financing of Stand for San Jose’s activities.
- The legal or financial relationships between Stand for San Jose and its members and/or any persons or entities funding or controlling its activities.
- Any actual or proposed use of this litigation to impose regulatory burdens on the City or Real Party in Interest.
- The “fees and costs, including reasonable attorneys” fees and expert witness costs” (sic)…
Named individuals in the motion include Michelle Brenot, Robert Brown, Karen Shirey, Fred Shirey, Robert Shield, and Eileen Hannan, who initially didn’t know she’d be a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Just in case you’re wondering where her allegiances lie, here’s her Facebook profile picture.
The challenge is a technical one – if the plaintiffs don’t have standing, the suit can be dismissed. S4SJ claims they have standing by the nature of the suit (originally an EIR challenge). The tax issue is interesting, in that the City is arguing that if the plaintiffs aren’t taxpayers in San Jose they have no standing. The motion will be made on September 21 at 9 AM. (Come on people, I’m supposed to be in an iPhone 5 line at that time! You’re killing me.)
Seriously, this is the first real sign that the legal team that the A’s were assembling in the spring is breaking out some weapons to use in could be a lengthy legal battle. Could the lawsuit blow up if it’s found that the Giants were behind the whole thing (snicker)? I guess we’ll find out.
P.S. – I look forward to reading the various lawyers’ assessments of this motion in the comments. Also – I’m not a lawyer or legal reporter, so forgive my butchery of the legalese.