When I had originally posted the 2014 Cactus League schedule, I was under the assumption that I’d be able to spend at most a long weekend in the desert, watching the A’s and a few more games. Time has a way of changing things, this time for the good. My younger brother, who has been attending ASU, is in the process of buying a house in the Phoenix area, which will make it easy for me stay there for this and future spring trainings.
As a result, what was going to be at most four days will now be two weeks at the end of March. I won’t be taking much time off from work, instead going to a bunch of weeknight games while going to day games on the weekends. Here’s the schedule (night games in italics):
- 3/15 – Rangers @ A’s, 1:05, Phoenix Muni
- 3/15 – Dodgers @ White Sox, 7:05, Camelback Ranch
- 3/16 – Indians @ Cubs, 1:05, Cubs Park
- 3/17 – Rangers @ Royals, 6:05, Surprise
- 3/18 – Giants @ Indians, 6:05, Goodyear
- 3/19 – Cubs @ Rockies, 6:40, Salt River Fields
- 3/20 – Giants @ Padres, 7:05, Peoria
- 3/21 – Royals @ Angels, 1:05, Tempe Diablo
- 3/21 – A’s @ Giants, 6:35, Scottsdale
- 3/22 – Angels @ Brewers, 1:05, Maryvale
- 3/23 – A’s @ Mariners, 1:05, Peoria
- 3/24 – Padres @ Cubs, 7:05, Cubs Park
- 3/26 – Angels @ A’s, 1:05, Phoenix Muni
That’s 13 games in 12 days, covering all 10 Cactus League parks and all 15 teams. Included is the final A’s game – and probably the last Cactus League game – ever at venerable Phoenix Municipal Stadium. There won’t be any tearing down of foul poles or ripping out of seats, because Muni will live on as the next home of the ASU Sun Devils baseball program. I’ll take the afternoon off for that game on the 26th, and it will be bittersweet. I may add games on the 25th or 27th, plus there will be plenty of other sports going on (Coyotes, Suns in town, NCAA tournament on TV with both Arizona teams playing well), so I expect my plate to be very full. If you’re in town, let me know and we can commiserate over a beer during a game. As for the expansive schedule, consider it a bucket list item to be checked off.
A simple, one page order came out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today. In it, the court granted the City of San Jose’s request for an expedited briefing and hearing. While it was previously thought that briefs wouldn’t be field until the summer at earliest, the court is setting a March deadline for the opening brief.
Before: LEAVY and TASHIMA, Circuit Judges
Appellants’ opposed motion to expedite briefing and hearing on appeal is granted. The opening brief is due March 5, 2014. The answering brief is due April 4, 2014. The optional reply brief is due within 14 days after service of the answering brief.
This case shall be placed on the next available calendar after the completion of briefing. Any request for an extension of time to file a brief is disfavored and must be made under Ninth Circuit Rule 31-2.2(b). No streamline requests for extensions of time in which to file briefs will be approved.
While I’m not going to go so far as to say that the court will rule in favor of San Jose (the case still looks pretty weak), this shows that the court acknowledges the high-profile nature of this case. Both San Jose and MLB will get the opportunity to make their filings, just as spring training and the regular season are starting. It could mean a summer
trial oral argument date, too. Even if San Jose’s chances of winning aren’t great, it means a potential resolution for this case could come more quickly and a little more work for MLB in the meantime. Plus the timing of the briefs will keep the story in the news cycle.
Of course, March 5 is coming pretty soon. Chop chop, Joe Cotchett!
Chronicle beat writer Susan Slusser has a big scoop tonight: the A’s could play yet another opening series on the other side of the Pacific in Taiwan (Chinese Taipei). The team opened the 2008 and 2012 seasons in Japan, hosting a pair of “home” dates against the Red Sox and Mariners, respectively. Like MLB’s Dodgers-Dbacks (thanks Dan) opening series in Sydney, regular season games in Taiwan would be a new experience. The only MLB games played in Taiwan were a 5-game exhibition set in 2011, scheduled after the regular season, and a 2-game exhibition set between the Dodgers and CPBL clubs in 2010.
Unlike the venues in Japan in Australia, the parks in Taiwan (4 total) all have grass and tend towards the cozy end of the scale. The largest ballparks on the island seat only 20,000, or the tall end of AAA parks. That made the 2011 “All Star” series feel especially exhibition-like. If the two games teams play in Taiwan are in the same venue(s), it’ll be an intimate affair with in all likelihood a top-tier price. Then again, if you’re going to take China Airlines on a nonstop from SFO just to see the A’s, you probably can afford it.
Because of the small capacities in the Taiwan ballparks, MLB won’t have to rig scheduling to bring in teams with established Taiwanese stars, the same way Boston had Daisuke Matsuzaka and Seattle had Ichiro Suzuki. It wouldn’t matter anyway, since there’s no established Taiwanese star in MLB. Chien-Ming Wang has been struggling to hold onto his MLB career, and most Taiwanese players associated with MLB are actually in MiLB. If MLB chooses to go that route anyway, we could see the A’s playing the Orioles, who have a young upstart in starting hurler Wei-Yin Chen.
My favorite park of the 4 pro Taiwan parks is Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung. The 20,000-seater has distinctive arches down each base line to hold up the expansive fabric roof. The park hosted Pool B of the World Baseball Classic last year, and I found it a good, energetic venue (at least on TV).
A’s management remains open to these barnstorming trips, since it seems to promote team chemistry – at least when Bob Melvin is at the helm. The loss of two home dates would cause some folks to grumble, but consider them replacements for those early-May Monday-Tuesday night games that few would go to anyway.
Let’s be clear about one thing can be agreed on when it comes to Levi’s Stadium: it will be much easier to get in and out of there than the painfully difficult Candlestick Park.
Beyond the obvious technological improvements and swankier facilities, Levi’s Stadium has much better built-in infrastructure than the ‘Stick. There is light rail service directly in front of the stadium, with links to Caltrain in Mountain View and San Jose. There’s also a Capitol Corridor and ACE stop even closer, which will bring in fans from the East Bay and Central Valley. Highways 237 and 101, which define the Golden Triangle region of Silicon Valley, feed the area surrounding the stadium, which is where the majority of the parking spaces will be found.
VTA, Santa Clara County’s transit authority, announced a plan to bring fans to Levi’s Stadium from various parts of the Bay Area. Existing partnerships with other transit agencies will have to be leveraged, whether it means transfers to light rail from Caltrain or to express buses from Fremont (by 2017, BART-to-light rail in Milpitas). Still more options will be available from some of those other agencies running their own buses straight to the stadium, along with private bus operators providing a more upscale trip from San Francisco and the North Bay.
The transit debacle at the Super Bowl highlighted the difficulty associated with trying to forecast transit ridership for special events. The New York/New Jersey and San Francisco/Santa Clara dynamics are similar. For the Super Bowl, most of the hotel rooms and peripheral events will be in San Francisco. That makes it doubly important that the link between SF and SC are solid. New Jersey transit severely underestimated the number of fans that would take the commuter train option from Penn Station to the Meadowlands through Secaucus, which led to hours-long delays for many frustrated fans. Since the NFL and local officials were encouraging transit use instead of driving or busing, designated public parking lots near MetLife Stadium were relatively empty, including certain bus lots. Meanwhile, buses that were scheduled to pick up fans from various hotels in Manhattan were underutilized.
When I took NJ Transit to a mere Jets preseason game at MetLife Stadium in August, the trains were quite packed and total ride took 45 minutes despite going less than 9 miles, was an ordeal. The biggest problem was the required transfer at Secaucus Junction. Because the train to the Meadowlands complex is a separate rail spur, all NJ trains forced the Secaucus transfer. Then fans had to go inside the station, change levels, and move to different platform where the Meadowlands train could be boarded. Secaucus Junction works fine for daily commute levels of ridership, but it is terrible for a big event such as the Super Bowl. If there is a next time, NJ Transit has to figure out a way to allow trains to go directly from Manhattan to the Meadowlands. While Secaucus can’t handle the crush, Penn Station can (though not without discomfort).
Like the NY-NJ transfer issue at Secaucus, there is a huge potential bottleneck at the Mountain View Caltrain station, where most fans coming from SF and the Peninsula will transfer. Trains from the Peninsula will stop along the station’s southern platform, which will mean that fans will have to cross at least 3 sets of tracks (2 Caltrain, 1 VTA) in order to make the switch. While the southbound platform has a decent-sized queuing area, the northbound platform, where fans would wait for train going home, is notoriously small and narrow. Each Caltrain train set (5 cars + engine) is designed to hold up to 1,000 riders. Compare that to a 3-car light rail train, which holds about 500 riders including standees. That means that two light rail trains would have to pick up a single full Caltrain’s worth of riders.
There’s also a bottleneck just east of the station, where trains run on a single track to cross Central Expressway. VTA plans to construct a second track and pocket track for train storage, which should get rid of the bottleneck. That project is expected to be completed in two phases, the whole thing done by 2016.
Even with those changes, it’s hard to say just how many people will take Caltrain to Mountain View and then transfer to light rail. 6-8 Caltrain trains worth? That’s about 10% of the total crowd. There could also be single trains from Capitol Corridor and ACE covering another 2-3000 fans.
Since the single-tracking bottleneck will take a couple years to resolve, there’s a good chance that fans going to Levi’s Stadium will instead use one of many express buses parked at the Mountain View station to get to the game. The route would be more direct, and much of it would be on a freeway or expressway.
I suspect that buses may be an even more popular mode of transport than they were at the ‘Stick. Rides from the North Bay will be especially long, requiring serious lead time. It’s not hard to see a fairly new institution already in place being used extensively for 49er games: the private Silicon Valley tech bus. Sure, there are already private coaches that take fans to games, especially groups that can charter. In this case I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same buses that shuttle workers to Google and Apple used on Sundays to take fans directly to Santa Clara from North Beach or Marin. Tickets are already much more expensive and cater to a move affluent crowd than before, why not provide luxury transit? The controversial private busing highlights a problem that has been generally ignored by the national media who have attempted to cover the issue: the disjointed Bay Area transit system. Caltrain runs through the downtowns of numerous cities on the Peninsula, which is mostly good and convenient. But if Caltrain or BART ran down 101 to near Google or 280 to Apple, there would be less of a need for such solutions. Levi’s Stadium, which is across the river from Cisco and a mile away from Intel’s headquarters, is in a similar situation: one or more transfers, inelegant design, faster alternatives. For the Super Bowl, these buses will be in even greater demand, especially as certain operators are contracted directly by the NFL for official use (teams, personnel, media).
Fortunately, the vast majority of games will be at 1 PM on a Sunday afternoon, not during commute hours. For the first season there will be no Thursday or Monday night games, with a Cal Friday home game snuck in as an exception. The 49ers’ 2014 promises to be a year of settling in, on the field for the team and in the stands by the fans. Getting there will literally be a process of trial and error for all involved.
Following a staff recommendation made last week, the Port of Oakland’s Board tabled a motion to reject three proposals for maritime use at Howard Terminal. The motion will be considered at the next Board session in two weeks. Located just west of Jack London Square, Howard Terminal has been touted as the latest great ballpark site by many Oakland boosters and city officials because of its waterfront locale and proximity to downtown Oakland.
One bid from Bowie Resources involved the shipping of coal or other to the Port, which I noted in December. That bid was rejected due to the use not being green enough as the offloading and storage of coal would release pollutants in the air, hurting Oakland’s air quality. The bid also would have built storage domes up to 150 feet high. Coal storage domes are probably not the kind of visual icon Oakland wants along its waterfront. The CCIG bid faced a staff rejection because it was considered incomplete, whereas the bid from Schnitzer Steel was similarly not considered because it only used a small piece of HT land. Representatives from Bowie were on hand to press their case that staff had not thoroughly vetted their bid. This may be a case of delaying the inevitable, since the prospect of bringing coal to Oakland’s waterfront is likely to bring out the full force of the Sierra Club, not to mention enormous amounts of CEQA red tape.
The Port had no choice but to pursue maritime uses in the wake of SSA Terminals vacating Howard Terminal and consolidating operations at Berths 60-63 in Middle Harbor. That’s because the BCDC’s Seaport Plan considers HT as part of its “Port Priority Plan,” meaning that any designated maritime (shipping, cargo) use lands should be kept that way unless additional capacity can be found elsewhere to make up for it. With Howard Terminal, the idea is that SSA’s (and Matson’s) consolidation should be able to make up for any lost capacity from converting HT. From the report:
Using Howard Terminal for non-maritime uses conflicts with this designation, and de-designation of lands from Port Priority Use requires a Seaport Plan amendment, which is a fairly lengthy and involved process. To pursue an amendment, the Port would be required to provide evidence that sufficient capacity exists within the remaining Port seaport properties, or elsewhere within the Bay Area Port priority lands, to support the long term maritime growth demands for the region. BCDC would then independently analyze that information before proceeding with an amendment.
Such a move has a major precedent in San Francisco, where huge swaths of waterfront along The Embarcadero were converted to commercial use after Loma Prieta, along with the teardown of the Embarcadero Freeway. That conversion allowed Oakland and Richmond to take up much of SF’s cargo shipping capacity. Note that there’s no mention in the report or agenda item of HT being used for anything other than maritime uses in the report, even a ballpark. But that’s how ballpark boosters see the plan progressing, with the hope of the BCDC’s blessing. OWB, the group offering to negotiate a lease for a ballpark and additional development at HT, can’t negotiate anything with the Port until the maritime use question is resolved. Even then, other agencies could easily gum up the works, as the Warriors are seeing with their SF arena project.
Additionally, the State Lands Commission could get involved because much of the waterfront part of HT (including a wharf in the southeast corner) is Tidelands Trust land, which also requires discussion and perhaps even legislation.
Approval from the State Lands Commission would be required for any uses of the property that are not Tidelands Trust compliant. Many non-maritime activities are not considered Trust compliant uses and thus may require lengthy negotiations with the State Lands Commission, and potential legislation, before the Port could proceed with such non-Trust uses for the property.
Sketches of a ballpark at HT show the stadium recessed from the water’s edge, perhaps enough to avoid SLC jurisdiction. Even then, it’s a gray area due to maritime use. It’s not as if Oakland needs another marina or ferry terminal, since such facilities are already adjacent to HT at Jack London Square.
The rejection was considered to be a fairly quick rubber stamp of ballpark boosters’ plans, which are supported by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. Port Commissioner Bryan Parker voted to table the motion, a move that looks funny since he’s running for mayor against Quan yet supports a waterfront ballpark. That puts him in the odd position of needing to show due diligence, while trying not looking overtly political in the process. This may end up being a mere footnote in the history of a Howard Terminal ballpark (whether it happens or not), but it goes to show that when it comes to getting something built in the Bay Area, nothing is ever as easy as it seems.
The City of San Jose fired a salvo in the appellate court case against Major League Baseball. In the reply brief submitted yesterday, the City asserts that a decision by the Ninth Circuit court should be made before the land option agreement expires in November.
A decision on the antitrust issues concerning the Athletics’ move should be made before November 2014 or the Athletics may choose another site for their new stadium. Reed Decl., ¶22. If that occurs, San José will suffer irreparable harm because an eventual judgment in the City’s favor will be too late to allow the Athletics to successfully relocate to San José.
While damages for the economic harm caused by MLB would still offer some remedy to the City of San José, such a remedy is inadequate. Ultimately, MLB’s illegal conduct would have been successful in preventing free competition in the baseball market. Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 133; Gregory Decl., ¶2, Exhibit A. The only true remedy is an expedited briefing schedule and hearing with a final decision from this Court prior to November 8, 2014 in order that the Athletics will be permitted to exercise the option set forth in the Option Agreement.
This seems like a hollow stance for the City to have, since the land won’t necessarily go away just because the option agreement will expire. It will still be there, waiting for development, whether from a ballpark or something else, and in the future the land could easily be negotiated at the same price, as long as Santa Clara County and the Successor Agency signed off on it.
The other takeaway is the phrasing in the first paragraph: “…or the Athletics may choose another site for their new stadium.” Well, that would certainly be a November Surprise, wouldn’t it?
In addition, the City argues that MLB has delayed long enough – which it certainly has, but MLB has responded time and time again that it can make a decision on whatever timeline it chooses thanks to its antitrust exemption. If the judge rules in the City’s favor, that would be an indication that there’s substance to San Jose’s argument about economic damage.
Speaking of the antitrust exemption, another lawsuit was filed yesterday against MLB. This time it’s a potential class action suit in federal court alleging that baseball fails to pay minor league players minimum wage. At Fangraphs, Wendy Thurm wrote an examination of the lawsuit and its ramifications. With this suit and related ones, attacks on MLB’s broadcast blackout policy, and the City going after territorial rights, the antitrust exemption is defending itself on at least three fronts. Essentially all of these lawsuits go after the outdated notion that baseball is not a business, but rather a number of recreational exhibitions. As an $8 billion enterprise, you have think that at some point that notion shouldn’t hold water.