Thoughts on the Winter Meetings drama

First up, Carl Steward just posted his last Chin Music update from Orlando. It includes the following:

In the Internet age, you get websites trying to establish credibility for themselves by throwing things against the wall to see if they might stick. We had one this week when a site called Ballpark Digest, which I must confess I don’t patronize, put out a report hinting that the MLB panel that will recommend the A’s future home might be prepared to anoint Oakland soon as the preferable choice over San Jose.

My dilemma: Do I even report such hazy conjecture?  Having followed this story pretty closely and understanding how commissioner Bud Selig operates, there are not likely any leaks of what this panel might recommend — at least to this kind of outfit. Ultimately, I chose not to report it at all because, quite frankly, I didn’t want to even legitimize Ballpark Digest’s “scoop” by publishing info from their non-bylined story.

And it goes from there. Let’s get something straight. Ballpark Digest and this site are bloggers. Most of the time we don’t break news. Often bloggers are lazy. There are also bloggers and other internet media who have, thanks to long-established credibility, elevated themselves to true subject matter experts. Good examples of this are guys like Maury Brown at Biz of Baseball and Larry Coon, the NBA salary cap expert who is so good that the NBPA links to his stuff. I don’t claim that I’ll ever reach either Brown’s or Coon’s internet rockstar status. This blog is 80% focused on the A’s stadium saga, which limits its scope. I’m fine with that. It’s also a place for a healthy amount of conjecture, thanks largely to the vacuum that MLB has created. That’s also fine and largely necessary, as long as the conjecture is within reason.

Aside from those subject matter experts, there’s also the regular media, which is basically split into the print or video version and the blog or blog-like section. Both have different standards due to editorial control. Who knows, maybe MLB will rule in favor of Oakland in the coming weeks or months? I doubt the news will break thanks to a questionably-sourced rumor. Still, all of the media, including us, will have to give it its due. When it’s real, it helps elevate the internet as a legitimate news medium. When it’s as difficult to verify as yesterday’s news, it’s difficult to take us seriously.

One thing you’ll notice about this site is that there’s no hit counter. I don’t keep too much track of traffic, and I don’t publish so-called “click bait” pieces that are designed to bring in visitors but have little real substance. Most click bait is intentional, some isn’t. BD’s “story” isn’t even click bait, it’s just a simple piece of guesswork that had an incredible snowball effect. Since I don’t care too much about volume of traffic as opposed to quality of readership, there’s no pressure to write click bait. This site also isn’t particularly SEO-optimized, which is also not a big deal. If people really want to find out what’s going on, a simple Google or Yahoo search will lead to this blog fairly quickly. We’re trying to cover one narrow topic well, and I stand by everything that gets published here.

We try to make educated guesses. We do our best to dig up what we can. We have sources. Sometimes we hear things that are real, and sometimes we hear things that are meant to gin up support. We do our best to get multiple sources for all rumors. That means that sometimes we’ll be wrong, and other times we’ll be right. Most of the time it means we won’t publish it, at least not until we’ve done our checks.

So I read the previous post’s comments thread with a bit of bemused detachment. San Jose supporters were probably looking for bridges to jump off – bridges that don’t exist in SJ, thankfully. Oakland supporters hailed the news as if the A’s were going to the playoffs. The truth is simple: WE DON’T KNOW. What was everyone getting all excited about? Was it that whiff of hope, that glimmer of daylight? There’s nothing wrong with that, but as expected, many people took the whole thing waaaaaayyyyyyyy too far.

When news breaks, we’ll report it and analyze it. Honestly, I had no idea where to go with what happened yesterday, and readers here and elsewhere ran with it. I checked with three different sources and heard nothing to confirm it. Yet it was there, and some attention had to be paid to it so I took it at face value. That’s all this blog can do. Whatever happens, we’ll link to it (unless it gets ridiculously repetitive like certain columnists). But really folks, relax. Understand that MLB’s process is born of inertia. It’s slow. It doesn’t change direction quickly. It appears to be extremely thorough – it has to be after all this time. The good news is that I’m working on some upcoming stories that will lead into the Christmas break. When we find out what the actual decision is, we’ll cover it thoroughly. Then everyone will have a real reason to get excited or depressed. Until then, take it easy.

34 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Winter Meetings drama

  1. That’s how I felt the minute I read that article and commented as much. Ballpark Digest reworded the Gammon article and threw in their own conjecture, mixing the bits about the MLB consultants, the Waterfront and the “looks good” comment together with the release of the article around the Winter Meetings.

    What’s funny though is that even though the Digest article linked to the Gammon piece, they’re being the ones credited as the “reporting party.”

    It was shoddy work and I won’t take a thing they say at face value.

  2. Like I said in another thread, Gammon is an excellent journalist. Listen to what he said in the Dale Tafoya interview. He never says “It is in the bag.” He even ended the interview with “Keep the rally hats on.” Implying that it wasn’t in the bag.
    This is like when Zennie Abraham reported that it was all set up for San Jose. It was rubbish.
    I was sort of optimistic when I first read the Ballpark Digest thing. Optimistic that this whole purgatory was over.
    Of course, then I heard Tafoya’s interview with Gammon and realized it was not really what Ballpark Digest reported. The I read Lew Wolff’s “they can’t make me build in Oakland” response and realized that even if the committee makes a recommendation, the purgatory might just keep on keepin’ on.
    I need booze.

  3. Ballpark Digest at least posed like it was at the meetings, we don’t know if that’s true. There’s an aphorism in journalism that even the dumbest reporter at the most podunk outlet, if he or she stays in the career long enough, will someday break a big story (sort of like “the sun shines on every dog’s backside someday”) Hey, in my few years as a reporter even I broke a big one once…
    These rumors also create some value, by adding to the pressure on MLB to do SOMETHING.

  4. agree–a few beers will help ease the pain of waiting for something…anything to happen. One of the good things that came out of this was to project out what LW’s options are if Oakland is selected…had never really considered the leverage that he retains over MLB and Oakland–would be interesting to see you guys do an assessment of this in the event that Oakland is chosen-

  5. I think the SF/East Bay media are just as “guilty” as Ballpark Digest for completely blowing out of proportion Oakland’s EIR announcement and supposed financial strength.
    Kind of reminds me of high-speed rail on the Peninsula, where a vast majority of citizens favor it; yet when a few NIMBYS raise a stink, the local media paints it as THE ENTIRE PENINSULA being against HSR.
    Moral to the story: bull shit sells and gets readers attention. Ballpark Digest and the SF/East Bay media get it.
    Again RM, thank God for this blog.

  6. “Made you look!” :X Ditto Tony D…thanks ML!

  7. Jeff, unless the panel rules for San Jose, and the owners approve of the ruling and vote as such purgatory as you call it is going to go on for the foreseeable future. Because Wolff has said he won’t be building in Oakland. So absent approval to move to San Jose one of two things will happen. Wolff will sell the team (in which case we’ll be in whole new sort of purgatory waiting to see if it’s a) a white knight buyer who is willing to not only pay the $300 million for the team and then turn around and write a $400-$500 million dollar check for a private ballpark in Oakland or b) an buyer who wants to move the A’s out of state), or Wolff himself will take his stadium plan and move it elsewhere along with the A’s. Either way, it’s going to be an interesting couple of months after the panel makes it’s decision… but until then purgatory awaits.

  8. A letter to Mark Purdy of the Mercury News from Friday’s paper, and his typical reply that sounds like 95% of the LW Apologists on here:

    As an Oakland resident and A’s fan, I am sick of people attacking this city and the A’s fan base. We have been subjected to unsupportive ownership since Lew Wolff took over. It’s not clear which of our cities has the upper hand at this point in terms of ballpark proposals, but I am happy to say that I rarely see disparaging comments about San Jose and its residents from the people trying to keep the A’s in Oakland. You want the A’s, and we don’t want to lose them. That is not reason to insult the serious attempts Oakland is undertaking to get a viable stadium plan in place.

    Michael Salemi, Oakland

    Mark Purdy’s Reply:
    I don’t hate Oakland. I just wonder why, for the last 15 years, that city’s leaders have catered to the Raiders and Warriors and ignored the needs of the A’s — yet somehow it is Lew Wolff’s fault for looking elsewhere.

  9. Purdy must have been clearing out his inbox cuz he replied to me too. Here is my question:

    You say: “if Wolff sells the team, the only buyers are those who want the option to move the franchise out of the Bay Area.” Is that your opinion or is that coming from a source?

    …and his reply

    That statement was informed by information given me by various sources, including former and current Major League owners. The general opinion is that while investing in a downtown San Jose ballpark makes sense given all of the corporate support nearby to purchase luxury boxes, etc., the same is not true in Oakland. Santa Clara County has more Fortune 500 companies than San Francisco and Alameda Counties combined. That’s the real crux of the matter.
    But if you know information to the contrary and know of someone interested in buying the A’s and spending $500 million of their own money to build a ballpark there, I’m always interested.

  10. Kudos to Purdy for taking the time to respond to his emails. He’s his response to one which I sent him regarding Baseball Digest
    “Here was a statement released yesterday by Major League Baseball:
    “Despite reports or speculation to the contrary, Major League Baseball has not completed its study of the Oakland A’s stadium matter nor has the Commissioner’s Special Committee recommended any sites or territories for the development of a new ballpark for the A’s. No date has been determined for the committee to issue its findings.”
    So I think you stated it correctly: This was fiction stirred up by bloggers, prompted by some of the Oakland ballpark supporters, I guess.”
    Thanks for reading,

  11. @gojohn–sure, having many Fortune 500 companies may help sell luxury seats at first, but how about the 30k more in the grandstands day in, day out, and in non-competitive years? They’ll have written off 90% of the fans from the Alameda and Co-Co counties with a SJ move, and having to try to build up a fanbase in SCC, will be tough amongst an area that loves the Giant’s and not so much the A’s. SJ parade was grand marshalled by the Giants!! How embarrassing for your guys cause. Bud’s looking at that too, among other things. 45k FB members for LGO, and only 407 for Baseball SanJose. Where’s all the enthusiasm in SJ? I don’t see it or sense it at all.

  12. @jk–humm–BS is putting more stock in number of facebookers than say the $120+M from Cisco for naming rights—I have a hard time believing that you believe some of the bs you put on here—now if Zucenberger (sp?) stepped up to build Facebook Park in Oakland that would be a different argument but come on man–you gotta come up with some new material–

  13. @jk, do you really want to make the attendance argument given the lack of support the A’s have seen while in Oakland? I think we’ve been down this road before.

  14. It’s funny that a few months ago when I first saw Baseball San Jose’s members on FB, they were at 1200, and now they’re at 400? They lost 800 members…lol.
    @fc–i’ll talk attendance figures all day to anyone. It should be a lot worse than it is. 17k avg. isn’t that bad, considering the Coli isn’t that great, you have an owner who disses the place, the fans and city 24/7, and the uncertainty of where they’ll wind up. Poor facility has cost them 20%, poor ownership another 20%, tarping the 3rd deck another 10%. They can be at 25k a game.

  15. Funny, I don’t see poor corporate and casual fanbase anywhere in your post. Oh well, it’s all Lew’s fault.

  16. @fc–LW will have plenty of time now to build his dream soccer stadium after he’s forced to sell the A’s because he’s not cut out for this baseball gig (and also hates Oakland). The renderings were fantastic. Maybe you guy’s can help him out and buy season tickets to the Earthquakes, since you love him so much.

  17. Mark Purdy’s da man brah! Fc and GoA’s, I would respectfully recommend not replying to some on this site who continue to throw out “Baseball Digest”-like garbage.
    It will help keep you sane and even lower your blood pressure!

  18. @jk—MLB can’t force anyone to sell—ever here of Peter Angelos—LW can keep the team as long as he wants to—

  19. Jk, Facebook is not a gauge of anything in reality. You understand that right? 45,000 people have “liked” that group… so what. Come talk to us when those 45,000 people actually do something constructive other than clicking their mouse buttons, you know like buying tickets to see the team in person or hell watching them on TV.

  20. @jk, Like I said in my previous post, I have a lot of compassion for the pro Oakland fans, for they stand the chance of losing something which is dear to their hearts. But many of the pro Oaklandl fans (yoursef included) are confusing the A’s desire to move to San Jose as hatred towards Oakland. That is simply not the case.
    The A’s want to move south because they view it as an opportunity to put themselves in a better position to compete not only on the field, but off the field as well. I don’t think many will dispute the fact that a ballpark in San Jose will allow the A’s to have a more solid financial footing. If this were not the case, MLB would have decided long ago that Oakland would be the better location for a ballpark. The Giants would have gladly given up San Jose in exchange for Oakland and the East Bay. The ironic part of all of this is that you’re allowing your emotions (and love for the team) to get in the way of what is best for the team.

  21. jk- you need to just admit that attendance is not now, and with rare exception, never has been a strength for Oakland. 43 years. 7 over MLB median. That is abysmal. Paint it as Lew Wolff hates Oakland all you want…
    As for Purdy… I don’t read anything that he says in there that isn’t true. He didn’t “hate” on Oakland or A’s fans. He brought up legitimate concerns about the ballpark plan. These things need to be vetted, in a public forum. They haven’t. That process just started. It is a process that began 3 years ago in San Jose and a process that might take just as long in Oakland.
    The city government in Oakland has screwed the A’s over. Even if the A’s haven’t embraced Oakland in recent years, it has been a mutual rebuke.

  22. @fc–if SJ is the obvious choice for the A’s, how come it’s been almost 2 years and we’ve heard basically nothing except wild rumors on both sides? The longer it takes, the better is for Oakland’s chances. Like I keep saying, they don’t have the votes and never did or will. Boxer, Feinstein, Quan, Lee, Neukom and Herrera may have a little more juice than Wolff, Reed and the power 75. Maybe it’s not always about the money, and something about a MLB city with a great colorful history, 4 WS Trophies, a community that needs something positive for a change, much needed jobs and the fact that it’s just the right thing to do. Only relocation in 40 years, Montreal, and Oakland’s in much better shape then they were. We have a site, a plan, and hopefully new owners who give a damn!!!

  23. @jk–can you share with the rest of us the plan that Oakland has to finance the land, infrastrucutre and ballpark—its an important detail that you seem to have inside knowledge of since you imply that this will not be an issue- there are many of us who could care less where the ballpark is located and who would be incredibly interested in the “plan” that you refer to–

  24. i wish something substantive would occur, so we can move on from the speculation and false rumors, on “both sides” of the stadium debate. I think most folks on this blog are not happy with alan selig.

    Purdy is no different than dave newhouse from the Trib. They both are speculating. Purdy has no more facts than anyone else. From reading this blog the last three months, its seems like there is a cycle of rumors that come by month by month. selig needs to act NOW!

  25. David, I agree with you on the “Selig needs to act” part.
    Purdy v. Newhouse, we have to agree to disagree. Purdy routinely cites sources within MLB when writing/speaking about the process. Newhouse spouts his opinions.

  26. I obviously cannot speak for all pro-Oak fans. However, I can tell you that I can totally relate to the frustration that pro-Oaklanders feel. Let me clarify that a bit. Speaking for myself, I am an ardent supporter of the A’s who consistently attended between 2 and 3 dozen games per season up until I moved to San Mateo County 5 years ago after getting married and having two sons in 3 years (My wife’s family is a passionate 49er/Giant bunch, ugh). Even after moving, I still attended a dozen games or more each season and, yes, I have heavily influenced my two toddler sons into becoming A’s fans and have taken them to a bunch of games. My 4-year old will occasionally shout “Let’s Go Oakland” at inappropriate times even when it’s not baseball season, which is very cute. As a sidenote, my 4-year old loves the Sharks and I have taken him to 5 games thus far and I’m looking forward to taking my 2-year old. Anyway, I can really only speak for myself and perhaps other like-minded pro-Oaklanders who have invested time and emotion over the years to support the A’s. What is frustrating is hearing statements like, “Oakland sucks,” “Oakland has no fan base,” “Oakland has no money,” “Oakland doesn’t have the population to support an MLB team,” “Oakland has no corporate support,” “Attendance is anemic,” etc. I even heard Dan Dibley on KNBR just yesterday say that he would move the A’s to SJ because they have 3 times the population and much more corporate support.

    I realize that casual fans have come out recently and have become vocal about keeping the A’s, but to a fan who has lived and breathed Oakland A’s for so long, through season ups and downs, it is frustrating to hear these things. I am not suggesting that some of these things aren’t true, however, it is still frustrating nonetheless. On the attendance issue I will not dispute that there should be way more bodies in the stands. For such a successful team the recent turnouts have been embarrassing. I don’t have an answer for this except to say that I don’t think jk is unreasonable to suggest that at least a small part of the reason is a perpetual threat to move this team. I’m not a supporter of “boycotts,” so to speak, in this scenario. In fact, I would think we would want to do the opposite and come out in droves to show we support the team. But that’s just me and I realize not everyone thinks like me. Another argument is how the A’s trade away their stars, which I don’t think is completely unreasonable. What explanation is there for such a dramatic drop in attendance when, in fact, the A’s had decent figures from before (see below)? I don’t think a simple “lack of fan support in Oakland” in and of itself is a satisfactory explanation. A mass of former fans didn’t just wake up one day and decide against supporting this team for no reason. What the reason(s) actually are can be debated forever. As far as population, the reality is that the geographic area for the A’s is Alameda/Contra Costa county and there are about 2.5 million people versus about 1.9 million for SClara (source: City Data) so I’m not sure why this one keeps being brought up. I mentioned attendance already but I think it’s important to remember that the A’s outdrew the Giants (especially during the Haas glory years) for the full 32 years up until AT&T was built and then the tables turned dramatically. Personal wealth is definitely higher in SClara but I’m not sure how much weight I would put into this argument. The per capita income figures are not wildly different, i.e. Corpus Christi, TX versus Atherton, CA. As for corporate sponsors, there is no question that SClara has mega corporations that dwarf any other county in the bay area, including SF. While this is a valid piece of the puzzle, we are still talking about the same general area, i.e. it’s not 200 miles away. To this argument I cannot help but think that some of them anyway would want to get their name out there regardless of stadium location.

    A passionate pro-Oaklander might feel similarly to me in that they may feel something dear is being taken from us. I can relate to their frustration. I don’t have any information on what transpired between city leaders and the team over the years. I have heard both sides with pro-SJ saying Oakland leaders mistreated the A’s and pro-Oak saying ownership was not open to serious discussions. Maybe the answer is that a combination of both are true. Was Wolff ever really serious about Oakland? Were Oakland leaders ever really serious about the A’s? Was an honest effort given by both sides to procure a stadium site? I don’t really know but perhaps this is the real source of frustration. On the flipside, I can totally understand the excitement of pro-SJ to potentially have not just an MLB team, but an MLB team with a fantastic history. If the tables were turned I would probably be promoting my position, up to and including all of those same arguments we are currently hearing about Oakland. How can I blame SJ for wanting a team when I know I’d probably feel the same way? The only difference is that I am on the other side in this situation and it’s difficult to hear, which is magnified for those who are not completely satisfied about the efforts of both city leaders and team ownership to remain in Oakland.

    Sorry for the long post but remember that we are all A’s fans. I can’t say it enough but I am tired of being surrounded by Giants fans, especially the bandwagoners. We should all be on the same side no matter what happens with the stadium.

  27. Wish there was a hide/ignore button for the same tired rhetoric form some folks. It’s obvious that quite a few people were butt hurt upon finding that the BD article was a farce and now trying to cover their over enthusiastic tail with more of the same old BS.

  28. OakAsFan – as i said before, nice to hear someone with some intelligence from the pro-Oakland camp! well said: ” I’m not a supporter of “boycotts,” so to speak, in this scenario. In fact, I would think we would want to do the opposite and come out in droves to show we support the team.” As for more history on the Oakland stadium debacle(s), see (thanks for this article again Jeffrey!).

  29. @ ST – Thanks a bunch. Whew, that was a long post but I am hoping that both sides will eventually realize we are ultimately on the same side.

  30. OakAsFan, A few of things.
    I really appreciate your passion. I am an A’s fan. I have grown up going to baseball games at the Coliseum. I wouldn’t ever say “Oakland Sucks.” If the A’s stay in Oakland I will be one of the 12k there on Wednesday night, just like I am right now.
    Second, you are lumping things together that don’t belong lumped together. There are facts (Oakland’s attendance history is brutal) and then there are opinions (Oakland sucks).
    As far as Giants v. A’s attendance goes, if you add up all the seasons of attendance, the A’s outdrew the Giants at the gate over 32 years. If you look at it on a season by season basis, the A’s had greater attendance more often. But is that really what is important here? What happened with the seismic shift in attendance in 2000 is really the result of the more popular team getting a more accessible stadium. On top of that, it is in a city that more casual fans will want to attend events in.
    If you really are interested, you can go back and read the Blue Ribbon Panel on It will show you that even in the years when the A’s were outdrawing the Giants, the Giants had better revenue streams in an inferior stadium. Why? Because they have always had more people interested in their product, more people following games on the airwaves/cable, more eyeballs to advertise too and better sponsorship deals, etc.
    Does this even matter today? I am not sure. What happened over a 32 year period that ended 10 years ago is really only important to understand the reality of where we are now. Where we are now is in a 2 team market, where one center of commerce has a team firmly ingrained in the culture and generating $200M in revenue as a result.
    The decision that MLB has to make is how to get the other team in a similar spot. Attendance history shows that even during the Haas years the A’s were in the bottom half of attendance more than the top half. That is an important data point and one question that helps answer the big question is “Will a new stadium in Oakland fundamentally change the dynamic that has existed for the overwhelming majority of 43 years?” An additional question is, “Will a new stadium in San Jose create a net positive effect for MLB as compared to a new stadium in Oakland?” There are a lot of other questions to ask, but you can see from the attendance history that the answer to the first question is probably “we know what to expect.”
    I don’t pretend to know the answer to the other question. I don’t know the answer to the big question, either. I am waiting for Selig to speak up like the rest of us.

  31. “SJ parade was grand marshalled by the Giants!! How embarrassing for your guys cause. Bud’s looking at that too, among other things.”

    How can you gauge enthusiasm for the San Jose A’s when the San Jose A’s do not exist? The people actively following and discussing stadium news here are in the very small minority. Oakland packed city hall for the Oakland A’s, just like we’ve done several times for the Earthquakes. Does that mean that soccer is more popular than baseball in San Jose? No, it means that the average person identifies much more with something real than something hypothetical.

  32. @ Jeffrey – I appreciate your feedback. I briefly opened up the mlb report you mentioned and I will spend some time this weekend looking through it. Re: Attendance – You are correct, the A’s were in the upper half 7 of the 15 years during the Haas years. Re: Revenue of Giants vs. A’s – Marketing done properly and aggressively can assist a team to secure the radio/tv contracts, corporate sponsorships, and attract fans. The Giants have an easier time marketing their team simply because SF is a world-class city. As you correctly stated, more people attended A’s games than the world-class Giants prior to AT&T yet the Giants earned more money from contracts/sponsorships. If a population is present then there is a potential for revenue. It wouldn’t be possible but I would be interested in looking at the marketing efforts of the A’s and how that may or may not have affected actual revenue over the years. Haas brought in Dolich during those years and media contracts, corporate sponsorships, season ticket sales, and overall attendance increased significantly during his tenure. I’m not sure if I remember correctly but I believe the A’s actually had the highest payroll in all of MLB at one point. I don’t think it’s an accident that the A’s had arguably their best overall success during this time (winning/attendance/exposure). Marketing, maybe?

  33. OAF, Haas had the highest payroll because he was willing to take a massive loss. $130M over the course of his ownership.
    There is no denying that Haas, and Andy Dolich, were fantabulous owners from a fan perspective. They didn’t exactly do all that great from a business perspective. The Blue Ribbon report has all the details about payrolls v. revenues. By the time they sold (at a 4% loss, all told page 51 of the Blue Ribbon report) they had a player payroll of $33M on revenues of $35M (pg 61) and were 10 games below 500 to boot.
    Modern MLB is a lot different, as a result of the findings by the committee that created the Blue Ribbon report. This past season only the Tigers and Diamondbacks were in the red and nobody had player expenses (payroll plus bonuses plus benefits) that was higher than 80% of their overall revenue (Detroit). No team, excluding the Tigers, was higher than 62%.

  34. “GoA’s –can you share with the rest of us the plan that Oakland has to finance the land, infrastrucutre and ballpark—its an important detail that you seem to have inside knowledge of since you imply that this will not be an issue- there are many of us who could care less where the ballpark is located and who would be incredibly interested in the “plan” that you refer to–” the silence just about summarizes it all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.