Kaplan returns Wolff campaign donations; Coliseum City courts hedge fund

Last week the Trib’s Matthew Artz asked Oakland City Council member and mayoral candidate Rebecca Kaplan about $2,100 in donations that came from Lew Wolff, his wife and daughter. There was a suggestion of impropriety, as an Oakland law prohibits campaign contributions from any party that has done contract negotiations with the City during the prior six months. After huddling with her staff over the legality of the donations, Kaplan decided to return the checks. Wolff appeared to be unaware of the law. You may remember that Wolff donated a much more eye popping sum of $25,000 to a committee backing Don Perata’s mayoral campaign during the 2010 election, a move that may have helped cost Perata the election. Perata admitted that he wasn’t going to waste time or money trying to keep the A’s in town.

That’s a much different stance than Kaplan today, as she has staked a claim to helping save the A’s by spearheading lease extension talks. Kaplan has also supported Coliseum City, though the project is considered Mayor Jean Quan’s baby, at least politically. The now returned donations are under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, as is another $1,000 that was donated to a Kaplan committee whose fund has been liquidated under similar concerns.

Kaplan has been the frontrunner in recent polls, beating Quan in a projected ranked choice voting scenario. It’s unclear what damage the donation investigation could cause the Kaplan campaign, which is only three weeks from the election.

Matier and Ross reported over the weekend that Coliseum City is getting cozy with yet a hedge fund to potentially finance the project. The SF Business Times revealed that the target is Perry Capital, a fund managed by Paul Leff and Dan Golding. They purchased a non-voting, minority share (20%) of the Raiders for $150 million from Al Davis before his death. The fact that Perry already owns a share of the team gives the story more credence than previous stories about the Crown Prince of Dubai. Then again, let’s keep in mind the rather unimpressive amount of financial support for the project so far:

Forest City backed out because they didn’t see the numbers working out. Colony/HayaH has purportedly been hesitant to fully commit for similar reasons. The Dubai story was just that, a story, and Perry Capital? Well, at least there’s an existing relationship there. There’s a $500-600 million funding gap that needs to be addressed. If Perry is going to assume a large percentage, they’ll want their pound of flesh in return. That could mean a larger slice of the team, though Mark Davis is reluctant to drop below a controlling percentage, which in the NFL has been 30% for a family and 10% for a controlling partner in that family. Davis and his mother own 50-51%, so there’s some room to drop. The NFL may also be looking to lower the requirements for legacy family ownerships.

It’s hard to judge based on the limited information we have, but we can assume that trading in a share of the team for a private stadium subsidy (to be paid back by a rise in team equity and development revenues) is an option available in both Oakland and Los Angeles, and perhaps in San Antonio as well. Leff and Golding have seen their investment appeciate 29% since their 2007 purchase, which seems impressive enough except when compared to the skyrocketing values of many other NFL teams. The Raiders for now are a low revenue team in a low value market, with the only obvious recourse being the construction and selling out of a new stadium. Leff and Golding could push hard and try to bring in even more partners to spread out the risk. The problem is that Coliseum City is clearly a long game, with significant profits going to pay for the stadium and ancillary development. Rental and real estate sales revenue are the prize that will take years to materialize.

The struggle to attain financing for Coliseum City highlights how different Coliseum City is from other NFL stadium development plans. The NFL and the Raiders at first wanted to focus on the stadium, with further development coming down the line and not necessarily tied to stadium loans or bonds. The league has a very sophisticated financing structure in place. It gauges the size of the stadium project, assesses the ability of the applicant team to pay for its share, and doles out loans from its G-4 program. The league also plays matchmaker, hooking team owners up with huge financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and BofA. Those banks are there to manage that funding gap, the same kind that Coliseum City is trying to fill for the Raiders. When Oakland decided to move in their own direction, the NFL decided to play wait-and-see with the project. If JRDV and the other CC principals can pull it together, the NFL can give the project its blessing and untie the G-4 purse strings. If not, Oakland’s future will look very bleak on the Raiders front. It makes one wonder why they’re going to so much trouble when there is a tried-and-true method to financing a new NFL stadium. It limits the number of potential partners in favor of a high-risk strategy with a low chance of success. And if they’re having to resort to working with a hedge fund, the usual avenues for funding may all be exhausted.

There is some historical symmetry to this effort, as the original Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Complex was privately financed after Bob Nahas and others went to some far-flung places to secure that funding. The ENA deadline is October 21, and news of a new partner may allow Oakland to extend the period six months, though such a transparent move isn’t likely to gain Mark Davis’s support. The development team has spent three years and $5 million on Coliseum City. What do they have to show for it? So far, not much beyond the 3,500 pages in the EIR.

LA smoke = NFL’s fire

So far this year I’ve mostly held off from commenting the routine every-six-weeks rumors about a NFL team or two moving to LA. Buttressed by nothing but anonymous sources and a whisper campaign, I chose to sit back and wait for real news to come forth. Unfortunately for the three cities in line to have potential relocation candidates – San Diego, St. Louis, and Oakland – there’s now too much going on to dismiss it all as mere rumors. Something else is happening, and chances are the NFL is directing the whole affair.

Could Dodger Stadium be a temporary NFL home? The NFL isn't dismissing the idea.

Could Dodger Stadium be a temporary NFL home? The NFL isn’t dismissing the idea.

It always starts out with the NFL leaking info to two national reporters, NBC Sports/Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio and CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. “Fresh” rumors will cycle about the aforementioned teams, or even the Bills, Jaguars, and Vikings prior to their respective ownership or stadium changes. The nature and frequency of such leaks – with little subsequent activity to make them pay off – made them easy to dismiss. Now, I’m not so sure. Last week AEG asked the City of Los Angeles for a six-month extension to bring in a team. The current agreement is set to expire next week, on October 17. An additional six months would allow AEG to cover the postseason window during which teams are allowed to declare their intent to relocate, usually in February. That could easily happen with the Rams and/or Raiders, who are unencumbered by leases past this season.

Then yesterday, LA Times football reporter (and former Merc scribe) Sam Farmer revealed that the NFL may consider Dodger Stadium as a temporary stadium. That would put three venues in play in LA: the Rose Bowl, LA Memorial Coliseum, and Dodger Stadium. Each comes with a sticking point, even for temporary use. The Rose Bowl has a restriction on the number of large events that can be held there, yet the City of Pasadena wants to encourage additional events that could help it pay for $168 million in recent renovations. The LA Coliseum is controlled by USC under a new lease agreement. An NFL team having to play tenant to a college is not something the league prefers, and the size and condition of the venue are not ideal either. Dodger Stadium, not previously considered as a temporary venue, has a hard cap on the number of seats inside the venue at 56,000. That’s small for NFL’s taste, and it’s obviously not a football stadium. However, Dodger Stadium has plenty of suites and luxury amenities that any team could use to make up for the lack of capacity by jacking up prices. Previously Dodger Stadium had been considered as a potential football venue, with new construction either adjacent to or replacing the current venue with the baseball team moving downtown. That’s an extremely far-fetched idea that has far too many moving parts (AEG, Guggenheim, City) to take seriously at the moment.

One idea that seems possible is the NFL making agreements with two or perhaps all three venues to host some numbers of games. This is especially important if two teams come to LA. The NFL would be able to play matchmaker, juggling three teams and three venues. Eventually one team and one venue will lose out, creating a competitive environment largely controlled by the league. They already wield control in the form of the G-4 stadium financing program and the associated hookups with banks and large financiers such as Goldman Sachs. Those hookups are just as important as G-4 because they mean that the bulk of the stadium construction cost wouldn’t have to be bonded through an open market (read: more expensive) process. Stan Kroenke is certainly rich enough to build a stadium at Hollywood Park himself, but he’s not going to turn down savings of several million per year in order to do it.

Moreover, the NFL has assigned an executive to oversee the LA market. From the LA Times:

Eric Grubman, an NFL executive vice president, said the league was guardedly optimistic about its discussions with AEG and supported the company’s request for an extension of its agreement with the city.

“The discussions are very preliminary, but we are encouraged enough by recent progress that we share AEG’s view that continued conversations would be worthwhile,” he said in a statement. “An extension could well provide the time necessary for us and AEG to determine whether the downtown site can be considered by our membership during our next off-season period.”

AEG’s seemingly dead Farmers Field project has suddenly gotten a boost and some level of validation from the league. The NFL probably still doesn’t like the terms (AEG gets piece of relocating team in exchange for building stadium), but such an exchange may be unavoidable in the future. It certainly doesn’t hurt or cost the NFL to keep Farmers Field in play for now. Ed Roski’s City of Industry plan, a frontrunner several years ago, appears beyond dead though the land remains available if the NFL is willing. There’s even the crazy concept of the NFL building a stadium on its own and housing two teams within. It would be the ultimate in control, though the league would have to go through the lengthy, arduous CEQA process to get it done.

Finally, there’s the very basic notion of teams and the NFL using LA as a stalking horse, which it has done successfully for nearly two decades. While that card will always be in play, inaction on the local level by San Diego, Oakland, and St. Louis make the tactic less effective than it has been previously. If the NFL can use scare tactics to cajole one of these cities to pony up for a stadium, I imagine that they’ll consider it a success. The other two can relocate under the NFL’s guidance and supervision. Relocation fees would probably be baked into the stadium deals and a sale of an ownership stake, with the payoff coming in the form of a 2X franchise valuation.

Now that the FCC has struck down local market NFL blackouts, the ratings-related advantages for keeping teams out of LA will disappear after the current broadcast agreements expire in 2022. It’s a good time for the NFL to act.

Tweets and commentary from 10/1 Oakland Planning Commission meeting

The public came out of the Planning Commission meeting with more questions than answers, and that’s a good thing. When the EIR comment period ends, it’s up to City staff and consultants to provide answers to the many question posed by the public.

A presentation was given to start. Early discussion focused on affordable housing as part of the plan. The plan calls for 5,750 housing units to be built. 25% of those are supposed to be affordable, whether via rental or purchase. The Bay Area’s ever-skyrocketing housing market makes that 25% a growing subsidy (public and/or private) with each passing month. According to trulia, the median price for a home in Oakland is $475,000, up 8% from September 2013. Oakland uses a HUD formula to calculate affordable housing on a regional basis. In essence, 25% of housing would have to be affordable for households making $72,000 or less per year. However, the median income in Oakland is less than $52,000/year. To make it work, the City and developers would have to crunch some serious numbers to determine the proper mix of pricing and subsidies, not to mention addressing low income residents and senior citizens – both groups represented by commenters at the meeting. Chances are that most of it would come out of developers’ pockets, though Governor (and former Oakland mayor) Jerry Brown has been working to get rid of affordable housing set-asides. This puzzle has to be solved by all residential developers in California, so it would affect Coliseum City’s principals or Lew Wolff and partners if they were given the opportunity. One East Oakland resident got straight to the point.

As the Commissioners took their turns picking apart the plan, one asked about the status of discussions with other parties that need to be involved. The responses?

That third tweet is interesting. We haven’t covered the bay inlet much. That’s a reference to the new part of the bay that would approach the new arena (assuming the Warriors stay at Coliseum City).

Inlet at top

Inlet at top

You might think that the inlet was designed for a ferry terminal or for boats with a dock. You would be incorrect. It’s merely a shallow extension of the estuary, a tidal mudflat not meant for recreation. It’s meant to provide an additional habitat to go with all of the new construction, but it seems like a wasted opportunity. Of course, providing a ferry terminal would bring about an even greater environmental review since some dredging would be required. A couple commissioners seized on the fact that of the various development options the no-build alternative was barely touched except to say that the various venues would be demolished and other development would fill in at some point. Since this is a Specific Plan and not just a small project-level EIR, it’s within the Planning Commission’s right to ask about what happens if the teams leave, since it’s a distinct possibility. The scenario should be addressed in more detail in the final EIR.

A few Raiders fans showed up to provide their support, including Dr. Death and Godfather Grizz. They were largely outnumbered by local residents who expressed concerns about the aforementioned housing problem, gentrification, the need for improved police and fire services in the area, and questions about the effects Coliseum City could have on the rest of Oakland. One thing I’m surprised to not hear was a question about what impact a second downtown (which is what CC represents) would have on the current downtown/uptown area. While that’s a question that goes broader than the existing project, it’s well within the Planning Commission’s purview to take on that kind of dilemma – if it’s a dilemma at all.

Coliseum employees who want to see their jobs protected were well represented. One resident noticed the streetcar that runs through the complex and wanted to see it expand all the way out through East Oakland and up International Blvd. If a streetcar is going to be put in at all, that’s the way to do it. A commissioner noted that while BART and the new AirBART are getting a lot of attention, very little is being paid to how AC Transit and Amtrak will be integrated. AC Transit is as important as anything, because while buses aren’t sexy, they will be responsible for providing transit for many of the low-wage workers that will be working at the hotels in the plan, especially at odd hours.

Overall, there was a large undercurrent of sentiment that Coliseum City is being conceived as an island, not well integrated with East Oakland. That itself is a dilemma, because developers don’t want their shiny condos associated with East Oakland’s rep while community groups and residents are desperately hungry for the opportunities the project represents. As part of Mayor Jean Quan’s 10K-2 plan, Coliseum City represents a big piece of a goal she’s trying to reach.

The Coliseum area had lost a few hundred jobs over the decade from 2000-10. Now it’s being counted on to retain three sports franchises – two of whom have no interest in the plan, along with around 4,000 new jobs throughout the 800-acre development. Developers tend to make big promises about such economic growth which get lost in market realities. Perhaps it’s time for more scrutiny of these estimates.

Oakland Planning Commission meeting (October 1st, 6 PM)

Tonight’s monthly meeting of the Oakland Planning Commission may be of interest to you, since the third item on the agenda is Coliseum City. Some relevant links:

This session comes on the heels of Coliseum City presentations made for the JPA Board and Port of Oakland’s Board last week. I’ll live tweet when the item comes up for discussion and do the wrap-up in this post after they’re done. Apparently there will be numerous Raiders fans there in support of the project. If you’re interested in the subject, I suggest watching.

Former Assemblyman & Dublin Mayor Guy Houston in running for JPA Exec Director position

Rumors bubbled up last week on the inter webs about the Coliseum JPA potentially filling its vacant Executive Director position. BANG has reported further on it, lending the story credence. The leading (only?) candidate is Guy Houston, a Republican lobbyist who spent 6 years in the Assembly. Prior to that he was the mayor of Dublin.

Guy Houston

Deena McClain has been the Authority’s Interim Executive Director for some time, also serving as legal counsel. During the lease discussions over the summer, you may remember that she was the point person for any and all questions about the current lease terms, outstanding debt, and operations of the Coliseum complex. McClain, in concert with outside counsel, negotiated the A’s lease on the JPA’s side. That would be Houston’s role should he take the job.

Should the Raiders elect to stay in Oakland for however many additional years, Houston’s first task would be to negotiate that lease extension. Beyond that, he’d have to lead talks for the future of the complex, whether it’s Coliseum City or a successor plan. The position has been vacant for so long that it’s easy to forget its importance. Take a look this excerpt from the still-relevant-albeit-outdated job description:

The ideal candidate will:

  • Be a strong and visible leader;
  • Have very strong analytical and problem solving skills;
  • Be able to evaluate, analyze and interpret complex financial statements and reports;
  • Be able to develop, present and defend financial reports/profit loss statements;
  • Have excellent communication abilities both orally and in written form;
  • Be able to draft, interpret, negotiate and apply complex contract language;
  • Have strong facilitation and mediation skills;
  • Be a consensus builder;
  • Understand the political process and public meeting dynamics and requirements;
  • Identify and present the best business decisions and practices in a political environment;
  • Understand sports franchise businesses and the dynamics of their operation;
  • Understand comparable stadium/arena/entertainment facility operations;
  • Will know or be able to learn the market and the best practices;
  • Be able to build and maintain a good organizational public image;
  • Develop and maintain positive media relations.

Before any of you start emailing your resumes, there are also some specific requirements for the job:

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS

  • A degree in business administration, public administration, economics, or another closely related field. An advanced degree is desirable.
  • Experience managing a similar revenue generating enterprise owned by a public entity or managing a facility comparable to the Coliseum Complex.
  • Experience demonstrating successful application of the abilities and traits of “The Ideal Candidate”.

If you’re still in college, or you work some midlevel position in the private sector, you need not apply.

Having served in the public sphere for well over a decade, Houston’s certainly qualified. The real questions are about his station within the JPA and his designs on the job. Houston was termed out of his Assembly District 15 job in 2008. He then ran for Contra Costa County Supervisor and lost, then went for the GOP chair job and lost. Since then he’s been a lobbyist, continuing to work out of Dublin. If he wanted to get back into elected office at some point, successfully negotiating new deals as the JPA’s Executive Director would be an excellent feather in his cap, though it’s unclear what elected offices he could capably shoot for as a Republican in Alameda County.

Houston’s reputation is very pro-business, developer-friendly. In the mid-2000’s he was caught up in a scandal involving his father, Fred Houston, who was accused defrauding senior citizens to the tune of $340,000. Fred Houston was also the longtime head coach of San Ramon Valley High’s football program. Zennie Abraham noted Guy Houston’s close ties to Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who is also known as very pro-business.

The Executive Director serves at the behest of the JPA Board of Commissioners, so it’s not as if he/she can create an agenda and start dictating terms. However, the ED could certainly steer negotiations one way or another, based on ongoing evaluations of potential deals. As divided as the JPA has shown itself to be over the future of the Coliseum, it’ll be more important than anything for the ED to build consensus. Should Houston get the job, it’ll be no small feat if he gets everyone rowing in one direction.

Quan, BayIG strike back with “basics” of Raiders deal

Matier and Ross reported today that the City of Oakland and BayIG, the group behind the Coliseum City project, have put together the “basics” of a deal that would include a ~$1 Billion stadium for the Raiders and development of up to 800 acres surrounding the stadium.

Now, Zach Wasserman, an attorney representing backers of a hoped-for sports, housing and retail complex called Coliseum City, says the “basic terms” of a financial deal have been worked out among his group, the city’s negotiators and the Raiders.

The big takeaway is that the City and County, which would be giving up land and paying for infrastructure costs as part of any deal, would also have to pay off the remaining $120 million in Coliseum debt. That is an enormous giveaway on Oakland’s part no matter how you slice it. Both City and County officials have insisted in the past that any large plan like Coliseum required the debt to be taken care of – preferably by the developers. If you can remember back to the “adult conversation” in December, County Supervisor Keith Carson practically hijacked the proceedings by having the first 10-15 minutes of the meeting spent on recounting the debt liability faced by the JPA.

Carson emphasized that there will be no future project if debt isn’t addressed first.

So, let’s tally up what we know are the costs of Coliseum City so far:

  • $344-425 million in infrastructure cost
  • $120 million in Coliseum debt

That’s up to $565 million in project costs, all without building a single stadium, hotel, or office building. And there’s more. Not included is the $80 million in arena debt, the responsibility for which is up in the air. In the EIR (you guys have been reading that, right?), the City states that of the 800 acres covering the entirety of the project, 535 are publicly owned. That includes the City, County, JPA, and EBMUD. The remaining 265 acres are privately owned, making those properties subject to negotiation. Most of that land is on the west side of 880, but some important pieces are right next to the Coliseum or in between the Coliseum and the BART station. Now let’s take a low market rate offer of $2 million per acre. That’s another $530 million that would be borne probably by developers, but could also be paid to some degree by the City since Oakland has eminent domain capability. No matter who pays for it, the total cost of land, infrastructure, and dealing with outstanding debt is $1.1 Billion. That’s the cost of the Raiders stadium right there, or two A’s ballparks.

The counter is that the Raiders, NFL, and BayIG are paying for the football stadium, which may or may not have a retractable roof, may have 56,000 or 68,000 seats, etc. The potential upside is 10,000 new residents, 21,000 jobs, and retaining all of the teams – though it still hasn’t been articulated how any sort of carveout for the A’s would work.

Now compare that to what Lew Wolff is offering, which is to pay off the debt on both the Coliseum and the Arena. While we haven’t seen plans, the planned development is not expected to be as expansive as Coliseum City, as Wolff has said that acquiring private property for this purpose is a bit sticky for his liking (Coliseum North being Exhibit A). Besides, even 120 or 200 acres is a lot of land.

We haven’t yet heard Alameda County’s side, and Carson is certain to raise questions about the giveaway. The City can come to terms on a deal, but without the County as a partner the deal isn’t sealed. I fully expect a sequel to the adult conversation, when all of the costs and liabilities are laid bare. If the A’s get it together in time, there may even be a sort of competitive situation with two bidders. Let the rich guys duke it out over what is purported to be high quality, valuable land. Chances are that such a discussion won’t happen until after the election. After all, there’s something fishy about the timing of this release, considering that last week Oakland mayoral candidate and CM Rebecca Kaplan took credit for “saving the A’s in Oakland” (h/t Zennie Abraham).

Selig’s Lamentations and the Law of Unintended Consequences

To hear outgoing MLB Commissioner Bud Selig explain it, he was stuck in the middle. Powerless. The issue was forever “complicated.” He wished he could’ve resolved it. So when he rolled through Oakland on his farewell tour, there was no staged ceremony near home plate, no televised gift of a rocking chair made of bats. The only real exchange was a series of questions from local media, asking him if he could’ve done more get the A’s to a new ballpark. All he could say was that a ballpark was needed. Acknowledging that the so-called Blue Ribbon Commission/Panel/Tribunal was effectively shut down, the only thing missing was a hook to pull him off the podium.

Anyone’s thoughts on how the A’s (and Giants) should be treated are largely colored by three views:

  1. Oakland’s standing as a major league host city
  2. How much power the Commissioner has over teams and whether he should wield that power
  3. The sanctity of territorial rights and baseball’s antitrust exemption

There was never a question of whether the Coliseum is decrepit enough to be replaced; of course it is. There’s also little question of whether San Jose is large enough or wealthy enough to host a team if not encumbered by territorial rights; of course it is. The three items listed above, however, are up for serious debate. And despite the A’s 11th-hour lease extension last year and the hurried extension talks this year (done to give Selig something to hang his hat on as much as anything else), those questions will continue to dominate the discussion moving forward. All we get for the next few years as A’s fans get is a brief respite. Frankly, that’s rather welcome at this point.

Selig touted the 22 parks built during his tenure as head cheese. Virtually all of those parks have a single thread in common that Oakland can’t give at this point: public funding. The notable exception is San Francisco, where the Giants were somewhat ostracized for daring to privately finance their yard. The Lodge thought that baseball was on a slippery slope to No-Subsidies-Ville, with noted baseball town St. Louis playing hardball with its beloved Cardinals enough that the team financed $290 million for Busch on their own. They didn’t need to worry, as the extortion game succeeded in Miami and Minneapolis, even through the recession.

Oakland doesn’t have cash to offer. Despite their repeated shows of incompetence, Oakland’s pols are not crazy enough to offer cash straight up (I think). But they’re showing signs of being willing to offer up a big swath of Coliseum land, which in the long run is nearly as good as cash. If the City/County hadn’t gotten so legally entangled with the Raiders, Oakland would’ve been in the position to offer a Coliseum City-like deal to the A’s. Selig would’ve acknowledged the skin that Oakland was willing to wager, and I’d be watching the game in a new ballpark right now instead of an old one. That’s not to say it would’ve been a good deal for Oakland. It would still be a big-time subsidy. But it wouldn’t have been as disastrous as Mount Davis, that’s for sure.

Selig took the acting commissioner job in September 1992, as Bob Lurie was finalizing a deal to sell the Giants to the Vincents (Naimoli and Piazza). Still carrying the scar from losing the Braves to Atlanta, he purportedly held off the deal long enough (enduring a lawsuit in the process) to allow San Francisco interests to pull an ownership group together. After failing to save the 1994 season, he worked hard to avoid further work stoppages, though he sacrificed the Montreal Expos to do it. After he screwed over the original TB Giants owners, he settled with another group to get them an expansion team in 1998, helping to infuse baseball with cash after the Lodge took it on the chin with the owners’ collusion lawsuit. In the process, he bound the Rays to practically unbreakable lease at a domed stadium. Plus he forgot that San Jose and Santa Clara County, which were gifted to the old Giants ownership when they pursued a ballpark in the South Bay, remained granted territories to the Giants after the new SF-only ownership group took over. All of that happened while he was acting commissioner.

As the elected, properly sworn-in permanent commissioner, Selig orchestrated the Expos contraction-then-expansion ownership swap among three teams that netted baseball a handsome expansion fee and brought baseball back to DC. To satiate O’s owner Peter Angelos, he and his executive team cobbled together a deal that made the O’s majority owner of a new regional sports network, MASN, which owned broadcast rights to the Nationals. Apparently Selig didn’t see the TV rights bubble coming or the conflict such an arrangement might create. The Nats, whose initial term on MASN is now up, want in on that bubble while the O’s are unwilling to pay market rates. Naturally, the teams are in court. Selig, who gave Angelos MASN to get him to stop a lawsuit against MLB, now sees two teams stuck in trench warfare, arguing over hundreds of millions of dollars. To mollify the Nats, Selig is giving the team money from his eight-figures-per-year iscretionary fund. These days $25 million or so is small potatoes compared to the riches Ted Lerner sees going forward, so the struggle continues.

It’s with that perspective that Selig has found himself stuck trying to satisfy both the A’s and the Giants. There’s Selig the legacy-protector, who would prefer to keep the team in Oakland if they could just pull out their checkbook. There’s Selig the Lodge-unity-protector, afraid to take the territorial rights issue head on for fear of reprisal from one faction of owners or owner. Then there’s Selig the procrastinator, whose blind eye towards many baseball issues (PEDs, inner city youth development, growing economic disparity among teams) made this particular outcome entirely predictable. Some want to give Selig credit for MLB Advanced Media or growing TV revenues, when really he just stood aside and let his underlings innovate for him. I mean, really, Selig and MLBAM? The guy doesn’t even have email.

Complete conjecture on my part: I suspect there was a plan at some point in which the Nats-O’s TV issue was resolved permanently and the under-the-table payments could be rerouted to either the A’s or Giants as part of another temporary deal. If the A’s were granted San Jose, the Giants would be given a “refund” of their revenue sharing payment. If the Giants kept the territory, the A’s would get the piece of the discretionary fund as financial ballast as they built in Oakland (remember, per the CBA revenue sharing goes away if the A’s build anew in the Bay Area). Over time such payments would taper off as the teams adjusted. With such funds indefinitely in use for another conflict, there was no solution to be had. Another consequence of the Nats-O’s dispute is that any thought of creating a new Bay Area RSN with the Giants in control in a similar arrangement to the O’s now has to be considered verboten.

So yes, Selig is right to an extent. The problem is complicated. Still, all it would’ve taken is better foresight to manage this and all of the other problems. They are merely ways of moving money around a table, out of one pocket and into another. Some have argued for MLB to establish a stadium loan program like the NFL’s G-3/G-4. That’s not happening soon because the NFL’s TV dollars used to establish G-4 dwarf baseball’s national TV revenue $6 billion to $1.5 billion. The big market owners see the new TV contracts, in which each team receives $50 million per year, as enough in terms of support when coupled with revenue sharing and the luxury tax. That’s enough to give the sense of competitive balance that Selig likes to tout. Then again, we all know that’s an illusion.

Competitive balance means allowing the poor teams to play as if they don’t see the glass ceiling. That’s your Oakland Athletics, now and into the foreseeable future.