Raiders exodus is about will not blame

Listening to radio and read the internets today, it was no surprise by mid-afternoon the recriminations came in full force. Denial and pain set in quickly, thanks to advance reports of the pending NFL owners’ approval of the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas. So when it came time to start the anger and bargaining stage (3), no stone was left unturned, no name forgotten. Here’s a partial list of the people to blame for the Raiders’ departure:

  • Mark Davis
  • Libby Schaaf
  • Roger Goodell
  • Jean Quan
  • Floyd Kephart
  • Lew Wolff
  • Al Davis
  • Ron Dellums
  • Larry Reid
  • Scott Haggerty
  • Fazza (Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum), The Crown Prince of Dubai
  • Sheldon Adelson

Every player in this Coliseum saga wanted out of something. The pols wanted the albatross of Coliseum debt off their necks without giving away valuable Coliseum land or forcing any of the teams out. The A’s, Raiders, and Warriors wanted their own venues, preferably nowhere near one another. All were willing to leave Oakland to get that venue. The placed the City of Oakland and Alameda County in a delicate dance with three lukewarm dance partners. The team with the most freedom, the Warriors, announced their departure as soon as they could. The A’s tried to take a more circuitous route via the back rooms of The Lodge and then the court, failing to overturn the Giants’ territorial rights to the South Bay. The Raiders, whose owner had the least money and leverage, tied itself to city after city before going it alone in Vegas. Patience and persistence prevailed for Davis, as he somehow finagled gap funding from Bank of America, consequently earning the NFL owners’ trust in the process (31-1 vote).

Let’s go back to fall 2013. The A’s were focused on the postseason, while the Raiders were rolling out another bad run under Dennis Allen. In September, Davis came out of nowhere and suggested that his new stadium be built where the existing Coliseum stands. Had the JPA taken that proposal seriously, the plan would have been to demolish the Coliseum and construct a new Raiders stadium in its place, with the potential for a new ballpark down the road. The Raiders would play at Levi’s Stadium for two years. The A’s could play at AT&T Park for some length of time, probably longer than two years. Davis later rationalized the idea as needed to avoid all the construction-related upheaval and the related parking shortage.

The next spring, in 2014, Lew Wolff started lease extension talks with the JPA. Chastened by the legal loss over San Jose and MLB’s desire to get something going in Oakland, Wolff asked for a lengthy term keeping the A’s at the Coliseum until 2024. He also asked for a special set of conditions clearly related to Davis’s own concept: a process to vacate the Coliseum if the Raiders put together a Coliseum redevelopment proposal. Wolff’s notion was that the A’s needed some time to get a ballpark proposal started and wanted to minimize the chance of playing at a temporary venue (remember Cashman Stadium?). So he got language to give the A’s two full baseball seasons before they would be evicted. By this time Wolff was also working on improvements for the team’s new spring training facility, Hohokam Stadium/Fitch Park. The plans included new scoreboards for Hohokam and the Coliseum (buy in bulk!).

Even in 2014 Wolff and Davis were taking different approaches to the getting lease extensions (emphasis mine).

Wolff and Mark Davis are going at this stadium business in different ways. Wolff wants a lease extension, while taking that time to figure out the future either in San Jose or in Oakland. Davis is taking an opposite tack, declaring last year that it was time to stop delaying and get the stadium deal in place before any new lease. That puts the JPA in a very delicate spot. They’re already working with Davis, though he hasn’t been satisfied with the pace or the information he’s getting. Both owners, whether in league or not, are forcing Oakland to make a difficult decision between the two franchises. Both know that it’s incredibly hard to build one stadium, let alone two right next to each other. Public resources are increasingly scarce. Fred Blackwell’s leaving before he can get any blame for this. Smart move on his part.

Fred Blackwell. That guy is chilling at The San Francisco Foundation these days.

The A’s lease was stuck in deliberations for a couple months before approval. Raiders supporters decried it as something that would eventually force the football team out. The two-season exit, the demand for a bona fide football stadium plan and $10 million to secure it, and the length of the lease to 2024 hampered the Raiders’ flexibility. All those things would be reasonable arguments if not for the fact that Davis never formulated a proposal of his own beyond the aforementioned desire to build on the Coliseum’s existing footprint. Instead, he let Coliseum City complete its process without his signature, and the Lott/Fortress plan had virtually no input or involvement from Davis at all. Davis hired former 49ers exec Larry MacNeill as his representative at meetings. The NFL admonished both City proposals for no team or league direct involvement, yet the NFL reportedly never so much as inquired about the Coliseum land nor offered any alternatives.

Easy to blame Mark Davis there, and Lew Wolff if you’re so inclined. What this showed was that Davis’s will to build in Oakland was not strong. Schaaf held firm to her no-public-funds-for-construction stance, which can be interpreted as Schaaf not having the political will to get a stadium project going in Oakland. She’ll take that.

Since 2006, the Coliseum arrangement has been a series of short-term lease extensions for both the A’s and the Raiders, with no major fundamental changes. Oakland’s goal was to stay in the game with each extension, waiting for a great plan to materialize. Maybe they expected one team to change the game by seeking different terms. Turns out that happened in 2013, when Davis admitted he wanted to replace the Coliseum and evict everyone for a couple years. That started a chain of events which eventually brought us here, with Davis getting city he’s wanted since at least 1998.

The A’s get the Coliseum if they want it, and Schaaf may finally be the mayor that gets rid of the albatross. Dave Kaval, you’re up.

An honest discussion about a ballpark’s transportation needs

The discussion always starts the same way. I throw out a question or poll to my Twitter followers about transportation at Howard Terminal. Most of the respondents are A’s fans who want to understand the options. Some are locals to the Jack London Square neighborhood or are from adjacent areas (West Oakland, Downtown/Uptown, Lake Merritt). There are always the inevitable “people can walk the mile” or “we don’t need anything more than a shuttle bus” folks who don’t understand how flawed (and usually short-term) such ideas are. And then there are the transit geeks, who envision something that could create better transit links for Oakland and the East Bay. That last part is what I call transit feature creep in that they always get away from the project-level needs and goals. The result is a general lack of consensus.

It starts and ends with how BART was conceived and implemented. BART is a “rapid” system, using equipment and grade-separated (from traffic) alignments like legacy systems such as the New York City Subway and Chicago’s “L”, along with newer systems such as Washington Metro and Atlanta MARTA. The first three have metro-systems with many in dense, urban areas, whereas MARTA is more like BART in its more spread out stations and extensions into the suburbs. Trains were designed to be more comfortable than their urban counterparts in order to attract suburban riders. As BART was built, Oakland became the spine of the system, though none of the stations in Oakland’s core are true transit hubs other than their connections to AC Transit buses. There are transit hubs elsewhere in the BART system (SF’s Market Street stations, Millbrae, Richmond) but with Oakland, the lack of a streetcar or light rail solution to better cover downtown and link neighborhoods has always seemed like a lost opportunity.

Prior to BART, the Key System provided streetcar to Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville. It at first connected to SF-bound ferries via a long pier, or mole. Later it traveled on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge, terminating at the Transbay Terminal. The Key System then became part of a diabolical plan to kill off streetcars and replace them with buses. BART filled in the transbay aspect of the Key System, but most other transportation needs are handled by AC Transit, a situation that the Eastshore has lived with for 40+ years. AC finally started construction of a BRT (bus rapid transit) line that runs from downtown Oakland on Broadway to San Leandro BART via International Blvd. It will have streetcar/trolley-like stations, though the route will avoid currently low-traffic neighborhoods such as Jack London Square/Howard Terminal and Brooklyn Basin in favor of denser neighborhoods.

brt

The map above, which shows the northern part of the BRT route, largely covers the same ground as the planned streetcar except for the aforementioned JLS/HT/BB Estuary neighborhoods. If the new BRT route succeeds, it’ll lead to further rollouts elsewhere, such as San Pablo Avenue, where there’s already a limited-stop “rapid” line 72R in place.

By now I’ve spent 520 words talking about transit that doesn’t serve a ballpark near Jack London Square, which may feel like a waste of time to you. There is a point – that all this talk of trying to include every neighborhood and constituency leads to losing sight of projects that can provide great effectiveness at the scale required. It’s not the oft-discussed, still under study streetcar. It’s not an infill BART station between West Oakland and 12th Street, which would be close to Howard Terminal (1/4-mile) but not close enough to Jack London Square (3/4 mile) to make sense. Shuttle buses are only a temporary solution. Any bus solution would be hampered by limited peak capacity to handle crush crowds for events at a ballpark. The answer is nothing in the poll I posed two weeks ago.

The answer lies in how BART is constructed along Broadway. If you’re a frequent rider, you know that the stations along Broadway have two platform levels. The upper platform is for trains traveling north, either along the Richmond line or the Pittsburg/Baypoint lines. The lower platform is for southbound trains heading to Dublin/Pleasanton, Fremont, and by virtue of BART’s alignment, San Francisco. However, all of the southbound trains only travel on a single track, effectively using half of the platform. BART left the space there for expansion, including a potential second Transbay Tube or service to Alameda. For the purposes of a ballpark, let’s start with a simple BART spur to Jack London Square.

jls-shuttle

The spur would run from the 12th Street Station to the heart of JLS (Broadway & Embarcadero), with the station having portals on either side of the Embarcadero. If developed properly, the station could partly solve the pedestrian safety problem by providing an underground concourse for fans to use before and after games. Fans exiting at Broadway and Water would be a mere 1/4-mile away from a Howard Terminal ballpark, allowing for a leisurely stroll through what would surely become very high-rent retail property.

This option would be the most desirable and hassle-free for BART riders. Consider how they would never have to leave the station to transfer, riders from Berkeley or Walnut Creek only having to walk across the platform. Riders from SF and Southern Alameda County would have to descend an escalator. That’s it. No having to leaving the station to wait in line for a streetcar or bus, or walk 20 minutes. Walking is nice if you have the time, but not convenient. Queueing for one of multiple 50-person buses is never fun if you’re person 200 in line. Muni streetcars work for the Giants, mostly because can transfer to BART within the same stations on Market Street.

Ridership forecast for the spur in the 2004 Jack London BART Feasibility Study was estimated to be 3,000-4,000 riders on weekdays, half that on weekend days, for a rough total of 1.2 million riders annually. That was without a ballpark in the area. Take 82+ dates of decent (30k, not sellout) ballpark crowds and the current percentage of BART riders (20-25% percent) and the ridership for the line could grow up to 50%! From an operations standpoint, there’s a good chance that the spur could be automated, like the Oakland Airport Connector. Since it would be a direct connection, the trip would take 3-4 minutes, the same time it takes to travel from 12th Street to Lake Merritt.

The spur doesn’t come without downsides. It would involve a tunnel, which is by far the most expensive alignment option. Muni’s Central Subway currently costs $500 million per kilometer. A kilometer is slightly shorter than the distance from 12th Street to JLS, though I suspect engineering could be a little cheaper by simplifying the process (no station in between, no/minimal cut-and-cover operations). The feasibility study estimated the cost to be $180-250 million more than a decade ago, expect the $500 million estimate to be more in line.  That’s a ton of money, but it would come with far less upheaval coming from digging up dozens of Downtown Oakland blocks for years. And unlike streetcars or buses, a BART spur would not mix into surface traffic, ensuring a much smoother, efficient trip to and from JLS. Plus there’s also the chance for user fees, such as a $1 ticket surcharge for ballpark events, to help fund the project.

The other caveat is that spur wouldn’t directly connect with the Jack London Square Amtrak station. That’s not as big a deal as you might think, considering that the western end of the Amtrak platform at Webster is less than 800 feet from Broadway. Having a portal on the landslide of Embarcadero and improved wayfinding should help significantly. In addition, JLS is also not close to Brooklyn Basin, nearly a mile away. Unless Oakland wants to extend a streetcar to Fifth Ave, there is no good transit option there.

A spur may at first sound like a very limited-purpose, “selfish” option. Taken within the fabric of how transit is being developed in Oakland, it actually makes sense. It provides fast, direct access to JLS. It acts as a first step towards a BART tunnel to Alameda, if Alameda actually wants it badly enough. It eliminates the looming redundance and inefficiency that comes with having streetcars, BRT, regular buses, and normal traffic on Oakland’s dieting streets.

Planning an effective transit strategy for a ballpark will come down to priorities at Oakland City Hall. If they prioritize the needs of users (quick and easy transfers, high capacity) a spur is the best solution. If the goal is to better connect neighborhoods and have lower capital cost (not sure how much lower), a streetcar is a better solution, though it will be slower and less efficient. It’s up to you, Oakland.

Howard Terminal and… Oakland’s Outer Harbor?

Yes, Howard Terminal is high on the list for the A’s. Eastshore Empire looked the last week’s Port Commissioners’ meeting agenda and found something interesting:

That type of language comes up a lot for the Coliseum JPA’s board meetings, especially when the JPA and its tenants are negotiating leases. It’s great to hear that the A’s are having talks about land use and potential acquisitions or leases with the Port. That shows that they’re willing and able to move on multiple sites without waiting for the Raiders to clean up their own mess. Having Berths 20-24 (?) on there is a different matter altogether.

I chimed in with the following:

Berths 20-24 are better known as the former PAOHT (Ports America) site. Due to an ongoing dispute with the Port over their own lease and slow business, PAOHT declared bankruptcy last year, abandoning their 50-year lease in the process. I wrote about the potential of the site last year, though I framed it as more of a replacement site for the Raiders should the A’s take over the Coliseum. Because of the site’s lack of transit availability (BART runs nearby but can’t stop there) but massive size for a future parking lot, it could work as a NFL stadium site. For baseball it makes little sense at all. It’s two miles from West Oakland BART, three from Howard Terminal, and three from downtown Oakland. There’s nothing around it and the wind there makes Candlestick feel like a light tropical breeze. And because a ballpark can’t face west, fans would never benefit from the incredible view of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco.

The site may function as parking for a Howard Terminal, which might work better in terms of planning and maintaining Port operations. However, as mentioned before, the site is a three mile bus ride from HT. That’s the same distance along Broadway from the Embarcadero to 51st Street. Having dozens of shuttles running such a lengthy distance on regular Oakland surface streets during peak hours sounds like a recipe for disaster. It belies the urban ballpark concept that Oakland and the A’s are seeking. Still, parking is rather scarce at JLS/HT, and maybe the shuttles can be routed to stop by West Oakland BART to pick up fans.

paoht-ht

David Kaval reaffirmed that the A’s will announce their site choice, plan, and timeline this year. While the communication lines are open to fans for suggestions, the decision-making process isn’t exactly open. That was a major mistake made under Lew Wolff, and I hope that the team at the very least provides more insight into the factors driving the decision (cost, transit, land availability, development potential, etc.). A’s fans deserve at least that much.

Fan Fest at JLS a rousing success

ferry_lawn_ht

As I arrived at the Jack London Square Amtrak station around 9:30 AM on Saturday, I looked around. No fog. Thin cirrus clouds. The sun was warming the air. This was, for once, going to be a good Fan Fest. Which it was. The A’s had a permit for 7,500, and if it rained as it had over the past several weeks and during most recent Fan Fests, they were expecting a modest 3,000 to show up. They were even considering putting up a tent at the Ferry Lawn, if only to provide more cover for fans. Instead, they got a reported 15,000 fans to show. And according to Sean Doolittle, the crowd actually measured 1.5 million in attendance. Frankly, I’m all for #alternativefacts when it comes to A’s attendance.

jls-water_plaza

Fans took over Jack London Square: waiting in line for autographs, sampling free food from several food trucks, watching player interviews, or taking in kids’ activities. Some came out because of the great weather, others wanted to check out nearby Howard Terminal. I’ll have an expansive post on that later this week. For now I’ll give you some initial thoughts.

 

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15,000 is an impressive crowd for Fan Fest, and Jack London Square makes for a pretty decent already-built ballpark village, doesn’t it? That’s only half the size of a good new ballpark crowd, and it’s on Saturday morning, not a traditional heavy traffic window as you would see most weeknights. Still, things seemed to go without incident. There could have been plenty, though. Counting the train on which I arrived, there were five trains rumbling through Jack London Square in a roughly 40 minute span coming from both east and west, including a long freight train. I also saw a near accident:

cars_tracks

Pedestrian bridge at Yoshi’s between Washington and Clay

The driver of the black Tesla was confused about where he could turn, thanks to the barricades at the Washington Street entrance to JLS. He stopped on the tracks before making a U-turn. Thankfully there was no train in the area. This is the same intersection where, only two weeks ago, two members of seminal Oakland jazz group Tower of Power were tragically hit by an oncoming Amtrak train. I know I sound like an obsessed worrywart about this train safety aspect. I can’t emphasize it enough, not just because safety is paramount, but also because the whole area needs to be safe for the companies that operate trains in the area.

food_trucks

At Fan Fest itself, new team president David Kaval reaffirmed the A’s commitment to Oakland. The new marketing slogan is “Rooted in Oakland.” The Shibe Park Tavern rebranding of the West Side Club space at the Coliseum is to make it more baseball-leaning and fan-friendly. Kaval’s chief desire during this planning stage is to have a very intimate ballpark experience with “neighborhoods.” Anyone who has been following this story back through the Wolff years knows that those last items aren’t new. They’re not location-specific. As for those locations, they remain the Coliseum, Howard Terminal, and two “in and around Lake Merritt.” Those two are the Laney College and Peralta CCD sites. Kaval was quick to praise the Howard Terminal locale especially with the perfect weather at the time. He also mentioned that the team will need help from fans in terms of community support and lobbying at the city, county, and even state levels. Citing his experience in bringing Avaya Stadium to completion, Kaval emphasized the need to deal with the special regulations unique to Howard Terminal, including the Tidelands Trust. Kaval’s language has been careful to not favor one site over another, no matter what fans want to read into tweets and news quotes.

The thing Kaval didn’t provide was an announcement regarding the site choice. That’s still in progress, though Kaval promised a timeline along with renderings and the usual things that come with such an announcement. The simple fact is that we don’t know if any of these sites will be available when the time comes, so hedging by studying four sites (down from twelve) is the most prudent move the A’s and Kaval can make for now. So we’ll have to wait for some months to come before that major event. Until then, enjoy the food trucks!

What happens to the would-be lame duck Oakland Raiders?

lvraiders1

The Raiders unceremoniously filed for relocation to Las Vegas last week, a move as predictable as expecting the sun to rise tomorrow. Raiders owner Mark Davis has stayed steadfast in his opinions of Sin City since last year’s Carson stadium plan was rejected. Many questions still exist regarding the plan regarding the financing, potential attendance, and whether the franchise will actually make significantly more money there as opposed to Oakland. While I remain skeptical about the Raiders’ prospects in Vegas, I’ve come around to thinking that ultimately it won’t matter. If the Raiders move, they’ll get a massive subsidy from Clark County. If they come up short, they’ll somehow finagle their way to get another subsidy on top of that. The team can always cook the books in some way to make it look like they’re losing money even if they aren’t, which would start the cycle of getting more public money all over again.

Oakland and Alameda County limited their contributions to cheap land and subsidized infrastructure, and naturally, the NFL is not impressed by this. Yet the NFL has given the city/county several years to come up with some sort of plan that fits within the NFL’s typical stadium-building business model. At this point it’s simply unreasonable to expect the two sides to come to an agreement that is mutually satisfactory, let alone beneficial, within the next two months. While this isn’t a zero-sum game, there is always a winner, and it’s usually the NFL. When the public statements boil down to Oakland saying it has a plan and the NFL saying Oakland doesn’t, there isn’t much common ground.

Should Davis get the necessary 24 owner votes to move, he still plans to play out the next two lease option years at the Coliseum while the Vegas stadium starts construction (which may not happen until 2018). The lease allows for this, a huge mistake on the part of the City/County. Two lame duck years may be propped up by a more competitive Raiders team. They will suffer severe backlash from long-time Oakland Raiders fans. How much? Well, it won’t help that for the first time in twelve years, the Raiders are raising season ticket prices.

raiders-2017

2017 Raiders Season Ticket Prices

Surely, some fans who are location-agnostic will continue to come to games. The Raiders have good information on this so they have to be preparing for the worst. Though honestly, I have no idea what to expect. I’ve had many fans tell they’ll never go again, some who’ve said they’ll appreciate the time they have left with the Raiders, some who won’t go because of the ticket price hikes, and others who’ll continue their traditions of tailgating only or watching on TV. Dean Spanos chose to have the Chargers play in a stadium that currently seats only 27,000 (at least it’s in Carson, right Dean?), smaller than capacities for some two dozen FBS programs (out of 128). The Raiders could face hundreds of weekly references on Empty Seats Galore. It’s a sad way to go out, and probably not what the NFL intended. That rant, and the NFL’s mismanagement of the LA situation, deserves a much longer treatise at a later date.

The A’s have stayed largely quiet on this, other than a bit of shade thrown the Raiders’ direction last year. They just want the NFL to get on with it, though they won’t say that publicly. Yes, the search for the best site in Oakland remains ongoing. Then there’s this.

Sometimes it’s best to simply not saying until it’s time to do so.

Adjusting to life without revenue sharing

Revenue sharing is one of the bigger, yet less understood, items that comes up every time there are CBA negotiations. Since it’s mostly about how teams deal with one another, it’s not a particularly sexy topic. Yet it’s just as important as anything else, since the arguably biggest issue over the last 10-15 years has been how to address the economic disparity between small and large markets.

The A’s are in a gray area as far as how teams are defined. Oakland is considered a part of a large market, but the franchise is hampered by an outdated stadium that  hampers their ability to generate local revenue. Some have called the A’s a small market because of these conditions, others call the stadium an excuse to operate on the cheap. I prefer to call the A’s low revenue since it’s an acknowledgement of both the A’s current position and the potential for when a new ballpark occurs. How the A’s and MLB planned to address the franchise’s revenue position and how both failed to execute have led us to this point. That point, for all intents and purposes, is a reset.

To understand why that’s the case, it’s important to know what the climate was like going into the 2011 CBA negotiations. Like the 2006 talks, there was little drama and no major items to discuss. There were tweaks to the draft and compensation system, drug policy, and to revenue sharing as well. Thanks to teams’ expanding media deals and the continued construction of new ballparks, there were few disagreements between MLB and MLBPA as everyone was getting paid. Lew Wolff and John Fisher were well into their plans to move the A’s to San Jose, having released renderings and commencing talks with the City of San Jose more than a year prior. Bud Selig appeared to be working to arbitrate the territorial rights fight between the A’s and Giants. MLB and the owners, knowing about the A’s plans, tacitly approved them by writing into the CBA a schedule to ease the A’s off revenue sharing. I referenced it in the last post.

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Wolff’s San Jose plans stalled, then fell apart with a lawsuit launched by the City of San Jose failing to sway The Lodge, leaving the franchise to head back to Oakland with no other clear choices for a ballpark in their East Bay territory. The A’s three-year run of success coincided with the beginning of the CBA. The final two years were marked by a selloff of veterans and the recent tanking regime. Some looked at the recent years as little more than profit-taking by Wolff while the A’s on-field product languished. I’d rather look at it as the Beane tendency to sell early. However many teams resented the A’s (cough*Giants*cough) for supposedly pocketing the revenue sharing checks, it wasn’t enough to change how the A’s would be treated under the new CBA. The new disqualification system is the exact same formula as last time. What I was worried about was the A’s getting cut off cold turkey, which would’ve raised serious economic difficulties for the franchise going forward. It’s not so much about setting the budget, it’s about what would happen if the A’s had another magical season like 2012. If they wanted to get a rental, the ownership group would have to dig into their pockets as part of a cash call to pay for a trade. Unlike the high revenue teams with huge season ticket and corporate bases, the A’s don’t get $150-200 million up front every year to pay for everything. Even if revenue sharing continued indefinitely, the check comes when MLB completes its annual audit after the end of the season, so they couldn’t use it for in-season moves if they wanted to.

What happens now that the revenue sharing scheme from the last CBA has carried over into the new CBA? There’s talk of greater urgency to build in Oakland, a sentiment supported by A’s officials including new team president David Kaval. But if the disqualification schedule is the same as five years ago, why wasn’t there talk of urgency back then? Did people not consider the ramifications if nothing got built? Did some expect San Jose to happen with less resistance? I know I did. There is a great sense of renewed optimism in Oakland, and early indications are that Mayor Libby Schaaf will provide real material support for the A’s instead of the posturing of her predecessors. However, with the plan now limited to Oakland, the circumstances can now be considered a new ballpark in Oakland, or bust. The logic is quite simple: the A’s have no other options. I really hope the A’s get a deal done in the next two years, because I personally don’t feel any more secure about the A’s future than I have before. If the A’s encounter more difficulty and Oakland has trouble getting out of its own way, MLB and Commissioner Rob Manfred will stop playing Mr. Nice Guy and they will ratchet up the pressure on the A’s and the City. Baseball is nearing peak TV-revenue, so they will look at other ways to grow the pie. Yes, that could mean moving the team to a different market. I still don’t think contraction (which would include the Rays) is in the cards given the optics of it, but I wouldn’t put it past Manfred, who was a lead negotiator for the 2001 CBA talks, the last time the threat of contraction loomed. Let’s all hope we never get to that fearsome point.

P.S. – Sometimes I wonder how much the A’s stature within the Lodge would’ve been improved if they didn’t trade Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes. If one of the problems with the A’s was their cheapskate tendencies, would simply having a larger payroll by retaining key veterans have changed the detractors’ views of the A’s? Or was it more about the fundamentals of the A’s not making progress of the stadium, even though many within the Lodge actively blocked the A’s efforts? It should be the latter, though the former came up frequently in news reports. 

P.P.S. – The A’s revenue sharing check is speculated to be some $34-35 million. The A’s gate revenue, as reported by Forbes last year, was $43 million. Kaval will have to work some magic to make up for the lost revenue sharing at the existing Coliseum. 

New CBA approved including possible revenue sharing rollbacks for A’s

MLB and MLBPA burned the midnight oil the last couple of days to get a CBA approved before tonight’s midnight deadline. Though the talk did not include the same kinds of contentious items other leagues normally argue over (salary cap, players’ percentage of revenue), the sides still worked hard to avoid any kind of work stoppage. As of this post, both sides are touting a tentative agreement with much of the fine print to be worked out over the coming weeks. Like the last CBA, the new one will run for five years through the 2021 season. Major items that were up for grabs, such as the international draft and 26-man rosters were left by the wayside in order to get the deal done. What did apparently get through was a tweaking – if not an overhaul – of baseball’s revenue sharing system.

That news got started by Jeff Passan:

And was built upon by Ken Rosenthal:

Okay, let’s start with the Rosenthal scoop. As a way to “motivate” the A’s to build a new ballpark, they will be phased out of revenue sharing. This was the plan under the last agreement too, except that the A’s were given an exemption as long as they continued to play at the Coliseum. Since that didn’t net a change in the A’s venue, the owners (with the union’s help?) may have decided to light a fire under A’s ownership to build that. Nevermind that the A’s would already be in a new home in San Jose if MLB actually supported the A’s plans in 2012, that’s water under the bridge. Now John Fisher has the reins of the efforts to build in Oakland. And by phasing out the A’s revenue sharing check over the life of the CBA, the A’s won’t realize up to $90 million over the five years. That’s just as well for many A’s fans and rival owners who believe ownership has been pocketing those checks for years. The A’s weren’t spending it on payroll anyway.

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As you can see from the table above, the previous CBA called for revenue sharing to be phased out for all of the Top 15 “Big Market” teams. The A’s are in a big market, but they are a relatively low-revenue franchise thanks to the dilapidated Coliseum. MLB carried over the last agreement while it also more-or-less imposed a deadline to complete the ballpark of 2021 or 2022. There’s always another side to the story, which makes me wonder what MLB will offer to the A’s to make the stadium project worth Fisher’s while. After all, if Fisher’s going to take all the risk while not getting monetary help from either MLB or the City of Oakland, what’s in it for him? The A’s aren’t guaranteed to get a

Rob Manfred called for the A’s to be more proactive in the stadium pursuit. The recent ownership change and other moves indicate that the A’s are serious. Still, the Raiders are the biggest obstacle to getting the Coliseum site as well as a competitor for scarce infrastructural funding should both teams get Oakland projects going. MLB’s pitch to Fisher may be “Once the Raiders and Warriors leave you’ll have the East Bay all to yourself. We’ll throw our weight behind your plans when that happens.” Will MLB provide funding to the A’s to get through lean years? Will Manfred finally play the heavy when it comes time to negotiate with the City?

Now about that performance factor. Performance factor is a key feature of the revenue sharing scheme. There are two parts of the scheme, the 34% straight pool Base Plan and the (14%) Supplemental Plan.  The Base Pool plan is simple: every team contributes 34% of their local revenue after deductions regardless of how little/much that is. All teams above the average (mean) amount lose the difference between the mean and their contribution. Those below the fold receive the difference between their respective contributions and the mean.The Supplemental Plan takes the aggregate of 14% of local revenue for all teams, pulls from the Top 15 teams based on each team’s Performance Factor and sends that to the Bottom 15 based on their PF’s. It’s unclear whether MLB got rid of the Supplemental Pool altogether or calibrated revenue sharing by folding the Supplemental Plan into the Base Plan. That would make the whole plan a 48% straight pool Base Plan, one that would penalize rich teams for being rich less than before. Elements of the new plan may be released in the coming days. Eventually we’ll know what it is and what the A’s have to deal with.

A’s brass were hoping revenue sharing would stay intact, but the writing’s on the wall. The business model should stay intact, in that they plan their payroll limits and roster makeup based on regularly-sourced revenue (stadium, TV/radio, streaming) not including the revenue sharing receipt, which is received in December after the usual rash of free agent signings. I always figured that if the A’s needed that last piece for a championship roster, they’d dig into that receipt. Now Fisher will have to make a cash call to himself. The dynamic of trying to field a more competitive team to hopefully help sell a new ballpark vs. the need to save pennies for the ballpark by reducing costs is plenty fascinating on its own. Which way Fisher will turn will show us what his priorities are.