Howard Bryant reviews “high stakes game of chicken”

This one’s a must read, people.


Howard Bryant may be a Boston guy through and through, but he cut his teeth at the Merc’s sports department for years as the A’s beat writer. He’s also written some excellent books on baseball: Juicing the Game, Shut Out, and his most recent work, The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron. Now he’s taken some time to write about the future of the A’s, and it’s fairly comprehensive (though he gets the last lease year wrong – it’s 2013, and he confuses Coliseum North with Uptown).

There’s too much meat in the column to cherry pick any one passage, so I’ll leave it up to you to read the whole thing. Then come back here to comment. As Bill King often said of the occasional high scoring game, “this one has become a donnybrook.”

72 thoughts on “Howard Bryant reviews “high stakes game of chicken”

  1. Just finished it. Great read. I’ve always liked Bryant’s baseball columns.

    After all the rhetoric by the Giants, I would like once and for all for them to provide the numbers on how a team moving to the south bay would “destabilize” their franchise.

  2. old news for us A’s fans whose keeping up to date, but i’m glad HB has brought this topic once again to the national level. More and more people will recognize the A’s predicament.

  3. @ML–glad you put it up on here. I put it up on the previous thread, but yours looks prettier.Good article with a lot of meat for sure. IBoxer just rips LW a new one. Wow!

  4. As if being 10 games under 500 wasn’t enough of a bummer…

  5. Another minor error in the article is that he says SJ’s new ballpark will be 34k, where Lewie keeps saying it’s 32k. It may go even to a smaller capcity to save $$ if this takes any longer and causing the price to climb even higher.

  6. Even though he misstates the year, the article does the valuable service of putting the 2013 deadline in play. Where do the A’s play in 2014 if Oakland kicks them out? They can’t be contracted. I think they could end up leasing AT&T for a couple years as part of a settlement with the Giants.

  7. I need a shot of whiskey with a beer chaser. That is fucking depressing to read…

  8. @BC–Play at AT&T while Cisco(ugh!) is being built? The Giants will welcome that with open Maybe if they get 99% of the gate.

    • @jk-usa – So Wolff gets all the criticism for not contacting Oakland, only to be certainly rebuffed by Oakland if he were to call? Yeah, that’s really productive.

      As for ripping a new one, I think your hero John Russo did a bang-up job of that against Oakland. Morally bankrupt? Yikes.

      @Jeffrey – It’s Friday, Friday, beer chasers on Friday.

  9. Hey ML, I’m hearing from friends in the parking lot that they are only letting Season Ticket holders park in the North and South lots tonight. I’d guess they do the same thing tomorrow and Sunday. Sounds… interesting. How many spots does the Coliseum have?

  10. @ML–the only productive thing for Oakland at this point is to get Wolff/Fisher out of the picture and have them sell. I long for the Finley and Schottman days.
    The Russo commnet was brutal. The Oakland haters on here are jumping for joy over that i’m sure.

  11. @jk – You’re as delusional as ever. Oakland is keeping everything close to the chest. If things were going well and they had a clear answer, why is it taking so long to reveal it? Why is the draft EIR not released? It’s convenient that they have the excuse that it’s Wolff’s fault, isn’t it?
    I see it’s still hard for you to comment without firing some kind of shot about “the old days” or that people who disagree must be “Oakland Haters.”

  12. Definitely doesn’t paint a rosey picture of our future prospects does it… I fear the future of the A’s is not a good one as long as the Giants remain obstinate despite the debt they owe the A’s.

  13. @LS–i prefer the old days over these days, especially with this ownership group. How come the 3rd deck tarps aren’t off for this weekend? Huh? We would pack all 3 games. SRO for Sat/Sun.

  14. @ML – Boxer is a lawyer. He would know when a party is not “playing ball”. The distrust is a two-way street. MLB needs someone (selig?) to mend the fence between the A’s and the City of Oakland. And i’m just talking about a beginning. Maybe extending the contract beyond 2013, those negotiations, can be part of the healing process.

  15. Good article. Still left feeling that it boils down to Selig not caring enough about the A’s to bother doing anything. He has lots of options but chooses nothing instead. Screw him.

  16. @David–well said. LW didn’t even call the mayor to congratulate her amazing win. Oh yeah, he gave $25k to Perata. Silly me.

  17. @LS – 10,000 spots. Policy is a bit harsh. Sucks for the casual fans and Giants fans.

    @David – Two-way street. So we’re in agreement that both sides are to blame? Selig as mediator or conciliator? That’s not his forte.

  18. @ML–10k spots, but how many season tix holders? 5k? That’s only using maybe 2k spots. Hmm?
    I gave my season tix up after 20+ years when LW announced his intent to move to Fremont in 2006.
    I still go to games but not like before. I’m going tonight and will head out early and see what’s avaiable off of 66th Ave–aka LW’s pie in the sky ballpark village.

  19. @jk-usa/LS – I’m guessing it’s not only full season ticket holders. The majority may be partial plan holders like many of us. That adds up.

  20. @ML–yeah, that makes sense and can add up. A lot of the partial plans would include Giant’s/Yanks/Bosox games.

  21. ML – Expect a cease and desist letter from Rebecca Black’s lawyers.

  22. I am going to be there tonight, anyone into meeting for a beer?

  23. @ML – i said the lack of trust is a two-way street. Are you married? Blame is one of the biggest problems in rocky relationships … I blame Wolff. But i’m not the party that matters. For the A’s and the Oakland to move forward, somebody has got to be “the bigger man”. If that has to be Quan, Boxer, or some official representative – let’s get that done. Clearly, Wolff, if you believe him, wants to see “something”… and he’s not going to pick up the phone. And from the other quotes – Beane and Crowley aren’t calling either.

    • @David – Not married, thank goodness. For Oakland to be the “bigger man” they’ll have to open things up – to Wolff (who they hate), to Oakland citizens (who they owe), and skeptics like me (who they can win over). The easiest thing to do is hide and take potshots, talk a good game. Delivering is the hardest part. jk-usa brought up Boxer’s comment, which is valid, but he doesn’t mention what prompted it – Wolff’s assertion that Oakland has no viable plan. That’s equally valid. My concern is that Oakland’s putting up a huge smokescreen. If they are then they’re wasting everyone’s time, and proving certain people who think the braintrust is “morally bankrupt” correct.

  24. Why aren’t the tarps off for this series? One reason they cited for lower capacity was fan experience. The Coliseum SUCKS when there are 50K people in the stands. As a partial season ticket holder, I appreciate it that they don’t have us squeezed in the concourses fearing getting trampled anymore.

  25. And Larry Baer remains full of shit! Is this guy for real with his constant crap on the T-Rights to SCCo.?
    Some one should check and see if his degree from Cal is forged. As for the article, not a bad read.
    Glad to see the rest of the nation knows what’s going on in the Bay Area.
    Lastly, this A’s fan is squarely behind Wolff and what he’s trying to do for our franchise, the hell with the naysayers!

  26. Sorry Wolff haters, but at this point in the game Doug Boxers commentary is completely irrelevant.
    “Got Dinero?” The O?

  27. @ML – You should give Boxer and Oakland supporters more credit than that… Its more than “Wolff’s assertion that Oakland has no viable plan”. Its the whole laundry list (its all in the article in your post is about). The disdain. The badmouthing. The lack of effort. The holiday “diss”. Fanfest. The tarp. etc. Smokescreen? I doubt serious people would put their professional reputations out there if this was a smokescreen. The good people behind the scenes… the one’s who are in negotiations with MLB (did ya read that Tony D?), are not the “wingnuts” that Russo is throwing stones at, on the way out (a low class move, if you ask me).

    • @ML – You should give Boxer and Oakland supporters more credit than that… Its more than “Wolff’s assertion that Oakland has no viable plan”. Its the whole laundry list (its all in the article in your post is about). The disdain. The badmouthing. The lack of effort. The holiday “diss”. Fanfest. The tarp. etc. Smokescreen? I doubt serious people would put their professional reputations out there if this was a smokescreen. The good people behind the scenes… the one’s who are in negotiations with MLB (did ya read that Tony D?), are not the “wingnuts” that Russo is throwing stones at, on the way out (a low class move, if you ask me).

      “The good people behind the scenes…the one’s who are in negotiations with MLB.” Oh boy! Aren’t you a school teacher David?

  28. @ David – Just curious, do you support a city wide tax for funding of a new stadium in Oakland? Sorry, but after seeing that article on Russo, you just have to question the motives around this VC EIR…..

  29. Russo is a schmuck. Throwing stones on the way out is hardly credible. Are their incompetent people working for the City of Oakland? Hell yeah there are. But, all the “moral” shit Russo is tossing, is just unbecoming.

    • @David – You have to admit that Russo has a point. It’s hard to get things done when you have to appease everyone who can’t see beyond their own narrow special interest. That’s what I fear will kill Oakland before anyone even has a chance to vote on VC. Death by a a thousand paper cuts.

  30. Another tax? hmm… I am a property owner. I bought in 2007, so my taxes are pretty high. It depends on how much. One thing that drives me crazy, is when it all falls on Parcels.

  31. they had korach and miller the two voices of the teams here locally on chron live based at the coliseum and miller when discussing the whole realligning of the teams in mlb said he wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of teams basically eliminated. gee i wonder who one of those teams he was talking about was. korach who must’ve been burning inside sitting a few feet next to him politely said a few secs later “i hope not”. i really wonder what korach was thinking when that statement was made.

    • they had korach and miller the two voices of the teams here locally on chron live based at the coliseum and miller when discussing the whole realligning of the teams in mlb said he wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of teams basically eliminated.gee i wonder who one of those teams he was talking about was. korach who must’ve been burning inside sitting a few feet next to him politely said a few secs later “i hope not”.i really wonder what korach was thinking when that statement was made.

      Add Miller to the list of people who can go to Hell (Baer, Neukom, Magowan…there’s room below!). MLB should just eliminate his precious Giants!

  32. re: a city wide tax for funding of a new stadium

    …I think the financing plan of the Oakland-only crowd is the owners of the A’s are expected to donate a $500 mill ballpark to the city because Oakland – despite all its done to disrespect the A’s – deserves a free ballpark, doggonit….Anybody find the VC EIR yet? Still have to wonder if they’re not releasing anything because it might just be the final nail in the coffin for Major League Baseball in Oakland. I hope not but the silence is deafening…

  33. all this nonsense about how their atten could drop all the way to 2.5 if the a’s moved down to sj is laughable. telling me 500k-600k fans would all of a sudden drop their tickets to at&t just because the a’s move down south? even during their shit years from 05-08 especially they still drew well over 2.5 million and with team having just won a ws and being the darlings of the area especially thru the media eyes, they’re not gonna see an atten dropoff for many many years.

    they don’t want the a’s to improve both on and off the field. they like the way things are right now. their best case scenario would be for the a’s to leave the area so they can have it to themselves but i don’t see that happening so the next thing they wanna see if the a’s don’t move out of the area is for it to stay as is. for the a’s to stay at the coliseum drawing next to nothing and their revenues near dead last in mlb.

    they know how bountiful the south bay market is. they can imagine what the a’s and a south bay behind them corporation wise would mean and they don’t want to see that happen as they basically have control of most of the area. they WANT all of the area to themselves with sponsors due to the park issues for both teams and if they aren’t getting money that will never leave the sj market, they sure don’t want the a’s to move down there to get that money they’ll never see.

    they are a classy greedy bunch of sons of bitches and those bastards make me more sick to my stomach than any other sports teams i hate around the country because of their true intentions.

    • @letsgoas – Baer said when the ballpark opened that 30k per night (2.5 million) would break even.

      Jon Miller is an East Bay guy and got his first pro announcing gig with the A’s. He’s never forgotten that. Stop with the hate.

  34. @ David – Given the enormity of building a whole new complex on new land vs. renovating the COliseum , what if the tax is 4X what was coffed up to lure the raiders back, would you be okay to subsidize it? It’s interesting that you changed your tone in respect to publicly financing VC once it affects your wallet. Are you thinking that it will all be privately paid for?

  35. I like Jon Miller. One of the claasier announcers around and not the obvious homer like the rest in the Giants booth. I’m kind of miffed on his statement of eliminating a couple teams. I guess with the A’s gone, the Ginats would have the whole bay area to themseleves, causing higher tv/radio ratings, making his gig even more profitable.
    BTW, great game tonight. My wife and I (yes, I’m married) had a good time. A lot of G fans in our area (sec 216),, but they weren’t too bad and kind of on the quiet side. Jemile Weeks is fun to watch.

  36. He may have been an Easy Bay guy but everyone in Baseball knows that it’s the A’s and Rays who are the contraction targets. At best it was an ignorant comment and at worst it was more of the same from the Giants Organization.

  37. what’s funny is two teams that were also on the contraction list around a dozen or years ago was the laa and min and these two teams are the model of being a consistent winner over the past two decades. you can say that about the a’s from the first half of the 2000s when from 99-06 they were .500+ each season and made the playoffs in five of those 8 years. rays have been the model franchise possibly the second half of the 2000s. course having all those early first round picks help but even recently they’ve done well losing star player after star player in recent years but still puts a contender on the field now only now but with still a very good system, they should compete for many years too.

    whos to not say if both the a’s and rays don’t get a new park, that these two teams can be the laa and min model franchise of conisistancy. course the a’s being a consisnt winner BOTH on and off the field is a reason why sf doesn’t want them to not only get a new park but also move to sj.

  38. sf knows what the hell they are doing. they know they have a large fan base in alameda county, heck people living in the suburbs in the east can get to sf a hell of a lot quicker than those in the south bay and maybe even those down the pennisula. you see sf fans all over alameda especially recently with their success, heck read that they are actual sf based sports bars all over the two counties that are in the a’s two counties that supposedly are their territory and why sf has 5 counties to the a’s 2 counties is beyond me.

    there are a’s fans in sf and in sf territorial down the penn too but i haven’t read of any a’s and or raiders related sports bars in the city. sf wants if the a’s stay here want to shoe horn the a’s in oakland/east bay knowing this and know what kind of bump they could get on and off the field if they move down to sj/south.


  39. it’s 6 counties to two, including the Bay Area’s two largest cities for the Giants. And Selig is too terrified to do anything to fix this…

  40. @ML – I may be wrong, and I apologize if I am, but I don’t think I’ve ever read what’s your opinion on the delay, and any pending decision regarding the TR.
    What do you think is causing the delay?
    Do you think Wolff is also in the dark about Selig’s thoughts, or do you think he knows exactly where this is headed, and when?

    • @fc – I think Selig’s strategy since the panel was put together was to wait until one of the cities failed, thereby making the decision for him. The redevelopment stuff may have accelerated his schedule a little.

  41. Sorry, clicked on the “submit” button too soon.

    I get the sense that Selig wants to see the A’s in San Jose, but he just doesn’t have the votes. His stance on TR has softened over the years. If he still felt that TR were sacred, he would have told Wolff that a move to San Jose was totally out of the question. The fact that the BR panel met with San Jose tells me he’s at least open to the idea. The purpose of the panel was to see whether there were any viable sites in AC or CC counties. Their scope was then expanded to include San Jose. Perhaps the findings of the panel were not so much to educate Selig, but to educate the other owners.

  42. Guys, lets take this to twitter. Ask all the baseball on-air personalities on ESPN and the MLB Network to get this issue the publicity it deserves.

  43. @fc,
    I’m obviously not ML, but my take all along is that Wolff knows exactly how this will go down and how. He’s best friends with Bud Selig for Christ sake. My take also is that we’ll see some movement in terms of a decision once either Oakland or San Jose gets all the land and infrastructure in place for a ballpark, with 100% assurance that a ballpark will happen. Until then…

  44. ML and Tony – Sounds like both of you feel that the TR is not the major issue, Instead Selig wants to make sure he has the ballpark in his back pocket before giving the go ahead.

  45. @fc – I value T-rights a lot more than Tony does. That said, there’s no telling what their actual value is because the circumstances are so unique as to be impossible to duplicate elsewhere.

  46. OT, just wasn’t sure where to put it, but here’s an amazing fact I stumbled across.
    If things go the way they are this year, this will be the first time ever that the Angels will outdraw the Dodgers in the 51 years they’ve played in SoCal together. The Angels have always drawn decent to awesome and the Dodgers have drawn very good to awesome in all their years. So far this year, the Angels are averging 38,748, down 700 from last year. The Dodgers are at 35,586, down 8070 from last year, and their lowest average since 2000, and 2nd lowest in 23 years. It’s amazing what good–and bad– ownership can do for a club.
    The Dodgers are still averaging what our capacity is at the Coliseum. Hey Lew, take the tarps off tonight, so we can pack in 45k!!!

  47. @jk- take the tarps off. Another 9000 hint fans can attend- no thx-

  48. @GoA’s–Hint fans? Whatever. SRO all weekned, pal–there was a big demand. Instead of dynamic pricing for the bigger games, open up the 3rd deck and charge regular prices instead of gouging the fans. Hell, they opend up Mt. Davis 10 years ago for some big draw games. The 3rd deck is much better than those seats.

  49. on about 77 of 81 nights, all uncovering the upper deck would do is create an even bigger ocean of thousands more empty seats, thereby suppressing already-meager season ticket and advance sales. What good is 50,000+ seats for a team that usually draws 13,000 a night? …I remember Mt. Davis being opened up for a playoff game – against the Yankees. The result: News media happily pointed to all the empty seats there as evidence of weak fan support, without mentioning the obstructed views the Mt Davis seats offer….

  50. re: gouging the fans

    …Please name one other major sports franchise in North America that lets fans in for as little as $2. A’s behind-the-dugout seats are more than $100 less than what the Giants charge. And the A’s even let people park for free some nights. Gouging the fans? Not even close…

  51. @ jk Your “let the fans in for free” philosophy fits so nicely with your “ownership should pay for a ballpark out of their own pockets,” “ownership should dig deep for top priced free agents,” “ownership should spend more on marketing,” and “ownership should pay to clean and staff the upper deck even when there’s three people sitting up there” philosophies. I mean, they’ll lose money on every ticket sold, but they can make it up on volume. Why don’t you add “ownership should build an addition on my house” and ownership should pay for a private masseuse in case my neck gets stiff at the games” to your list of demands?

  52. @bartleby – thanks for the good chuckle on that. Maybe if I get 40k FB fans, LW can get me extra real estate and a CMT as week! 😉

  53. @Bartleby–Uh, there’s more to life than making money on every single ticket. Even the players would like the 3rd deck opend up.
    Gio Gonzalez back in late March: “I can see the tarps on the top (deck of the Coliseum) coming off,” Gonzalez said of a best-case visual. “I was talking to Rickey (Henderson) and he said, ‘Man, those tarps were never up when we played.’
    “We want a packed house,” Gonzalez added. “and we want to show them it’s a new year.”

  54. @JK – I think you’re reading Rickey’s comments the wrong way. I don’t think he’s saying “take the tarps off so that we can fill the ballpark”, I think he’s saying “where are the fans? Back when I played we’d pack the ballpark so they didn’t need the tarps”.
    A’s fans need to quit complaining and start getting their butts out to the game, plain the simple. I get that the coliseum is a dump, but right now there’s nothing we can do about that until Selig makes his decision, There are a whole bunch of fans crying “Keep the A’s in Oakland”. Well, guess what, the A’s are in Oakland right now. The team is young, and is in the race to win their division. They play in a ballpark which is right next to a freeway, and has its own BART station. Ticket prices are very reasonable, when compared to what other MLB teams charge. Fans need to get out there and support the team, otherwise, quit their friggin complaining.

  55. @fc – how about A’s fans and Lew Wolff, both stop complaining?

  56. “Oakland .. t o be left out in the cold …”, Al Saracevic, Chronicle sports editor/columnist, in today’s (6/19/2011) edition, predicting that OAKLAND WILL LOSE ALL THREE SPORTS TEAMS!

    I’ve felt for years that this will happen; now, this scenario is starting to get traction.

    I know the pro-San Jose crowd will say something to the effect that Oakland/the East Bay hasn’t supported its teams.

    I know that Oakland/East Bay has supported the teams in general (yes I know some A’s crowds have been dismal but that’s understandable) but that’s irrelevant.

    Happy Father’s Day to all.

    A’s observer.

  57. “Why would anyone associated with Oakland share any information regarding the plan to locate, approve and construct a baseball-only ballpark in Oakland with Mr. Wolff?” said Boxer. Here’s what is a bit confusing – On that early radio interview with Chris Townsend, Boxer also was begging Wolff to call, saying, “We could build a kick-ass ballpark” in Oakland. So which is it? I think Doug Boxer needs to give a call to Doug Boxer and see which Doug Boxer is the real Doug Boxer. Sweeeeeeppp!!!

  58. @daveybaby. That was a weird quote. Boxer appears to have forgotten who actually owns the team. Forget what you think about the guy, but you have to believe Wolff when he says he’s not building in Oakland. He said something previously to the effect of “They can tell me where I can’t build a stadium, but they can’t tell me where I can build it.”

    Now, come up with $500M and firm corporate support (i.e., hand him the keys to a new facility) and he might sing a different tune. But without that, he’s not building there. Again, still Lew Wolff’s team, whether people want to believe it or not.

  59. Not sure if anyone else noticed this but under the first picture of the SJ ballpark in this article there is a gallery that has a few of photos that I hadn’t seen before. There are a couple of new aerials and also one that shows “the thing in right field”. They aren’t on the SJ redevelopment site so I assume they must be new to the public.

  60. Didn’t notice these either- like “the thing” in right even more-

    @ML- did the construction of Autumn Pkwy ever begin?

  61. I just drove on Autumn Parkway yesterday, and didn’t see any construction.

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