BOB: Athletics stadium update and Rangers sale news

Marvin Miller redux

I received both some heat and some praise for my declaration that Marvin Miller got the shaft, but one thing I definitely know is that I didn’t explain my case very well. Just about everything I’ve read over the past couple of years has been in favor of Miller getting into the Hall of Fame. That affirms my opinion, but I forgot the fact that there might be some people against Miller getting in. In fact there are some very important people and they sit on the Veterans Committee.

It’s easy to forget how things were because free agency is now around 35 years old. Prior to that, players were locked into a certain team and usually at a certain price. Their only options were to take it or quit the sport. A few players (Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax for example), tested the system but even they eventually made some concessions. It wasn’t until the players got organized under Marvin Miller that things began to improve, at least for the players.

Of course one man’s gain can be another man’s loss, and with free agency, we have the system we have now where players with multi-million contracts jump ship for an even richer take. The Major League Baseball Players Association has also take some heat for acting disassociated because of its resistance to drug testing for performance-enhancing drugs.

In short though, what I should have said was that I thought Miller got the shaft. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who would argue otherwise and it was wrong to make my opinion appear as fact when there are several examples to the contrary.

Sorting out the Oakland Athletics’ stadium mess

With the Oakland Athletics’ move to Fremont, Calif. now off the table, ownership has its eyes set on San Jose, Calif. The problem with San Jose is that it’s smack dab in the middle of the San Francisco Giants’ territory, and the noise has begun to block any kind of move. Most recently, the minor league San Jose Giants have helped form a group, called Stand for San Jose, that will look to oppose any type of public funding for a stadium for the Athletics. The San Jose Giants are 25 percent owned by the San Francisco Giants.

It’s the usual (and valid) argument. Why spend a bunch of money on a baseball stadium when schools, police and the fire department are hurting? Traffic and the environmental impact of the stadium are also being questioned.

In the meantime, the city of Oakland is trying to stay in the mix and is unveiling a waterfront ballpark site to try to entice the team to stay. They city has agreed to provide the land, parking and any infrastructure upgrades while MLB and the Athletics would be responsible for building the stadium. Still, it looks like Oakland might be too late to the party because A’s owner Lew Wolff appears set to move after he said the team had exhausted its options with Oakland. Coming in dead last in attendance won’t help Oakland’s cause either.

Eastern League restructures divisions

Minor League Baseball’s Eastern League has decided to do some shuffling now that the Richmond Flying Squirrels are being added to the mix. The league will now be split up into an Eastern and Western division beginning next year. I’m not familiar with the schedule for the teams, so I don’t know if teams play more games within their division or not. With a smaller travel budget, it makes sense to keep travel to a minimum and play teams that are closer.

Minor league owner in line to buy Rangers

Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks has entered into exclusive negotiations with a group led by Myrtle Beach Pelicans and State College Spikes owner Chuck Greenberg to sell the team. While there aren’t a lot of specifics as to terms, it appears that Greenberg would take over as the managing partner while Nolan Ryan, the team’s president, would remain in his role. Previously, Hicks had expressed an interest in keeping control over the team but it looks like the chances of that happening are pretty slim.

Chuck Greenberg is a Pittsburgh-based attorney who was also the managing partner of the Altoona Curve. My guess is that with this pedigree, he already has the blessing of the league and the owners so once a price is settled, things should move rather quickly.

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  1. mando3b said...

    That Marvin Miller belongs in the Hall is patently obvious—he is one of the most important figures in the history of the game, so much so that “love ‘im or hate ‘im” shouldn’t even enter into the debate. (And putting in Bowie Kuhn at all, much less ahead of MM, is ridiculous.) To their credit, even Bud Selig and Fay Vincent understand that. That being said, I think there are a couple of factors that get overlooked in discussions about why MM hasn’t been voted in/has gotten the shaft: First, he himself has always projected the impression that he doesn’t care whether he’s in the HOF or not; and he remains openly distainful of MLB as an industry. Now, in a perfect world, the voters on the Veterans Committee should be able to rise above pettiness and do the right thing, but this isn’t a perfect world, and my guess is that their non-vote isn’t so much some kind of ideological statement as much as a sense of personal irritation: So, you think we’re a bunch of reactionary neanderthals, huh? Well, then, so much for you—and since you don’t care whether you’re in the HOF or not, it shouldn’t bother you very much . . . You know, why look for ideological explanations when childish pique will do the job? Another reason for MM’s non-election might be that he’s paying the price for what his union has become under the recently-retired Donald Fehr and Gene Orza—namely, a pig-headed organization that exists only to say black when the owners say white, and concerns itself exclusively with the earning power of its upper-echelon membership. Their stubbornness over PEDs is only part of the issue—there’s also the image of Gene Orza giving Tony Gwynne a tongue-lashing for taking only 50 gazillion to stay in San Diego, where he wanted to play, instead of the 52.3 gazillion he could have gotten from, say, the Yankees. (I mean, didn’t Curt Flood take his celebrated stand precisely because he wanted to stay in St. Louis? Wasn’t freedom of movement a major reason MM founded the Players Assoc. in the first place?) I think most people view the MLBPA as part of the problem, not a solution, even if they regard the owners collectively as, well, reactionary neanderthals: “A pox on both their houses!” Fehr and Orza are decidedly not MM, who always seemed to have a broader view of the union’s mandate, and who preached consensus among all strata of the membership. But some people might be blaming him for the follies of his successors . . .

  2. steve said...

    The Sf Giants have only had the rights to Santa
    Clara County since 1992 when the former owner of
    the A’s Walter Haas gave them to the Giants. The
    Giants wanted to move there and needed the A’s to
    give them the rights to get a measure passed to allow the move. It failed to pass, but the Giants
    kept the rights. Now the Giants are acting like
    those territorial rights were born with their
    move to SF in the 50’s.

    San jose is further away from Sf than Oakland from
    SF. Both teams play only 10 miles away from each
    other now.San Jose is about 40miles further away.
    The market should be shared like other two team
    areas. That way there would be two financially
    strong teams in the Bay area instead of one.

  3. Richard said...

    Lew Wolff has it right.  The city of Oakland, once a jewel” All American City,” and one of the most livable of cities, has become a blight on the landscape. Reckless violence and high crime reign. Street side thugs roam through the city nearly unchecked. Who in the hell wants to do anything there, let alone go to a ball game.  We should not blame Wolff for wanting to abandon that God forsaken burg. Blame the long established political decisions that have turned my once beautiful Oakland into a Hell hole.

  4. Jim C said...

    I agree with mando3b about Marvin Miller and Fehr and Orza. The MLBPA has become as reactionary as the Politburo, and all they care about is protecting the stars and making sure they get top dollar, which means moving as many of them as possible to the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers. Of course the owners are a-holes too, but we don’t watch them on TV playing the game, do we? At a SABR meeting I attended several years ago, John Dowd, who investigated George Steinbrenner while he was working for Fay Vincent said, “All of the owners are criminals, but only Steinbrenner and Reinsdorf should be in prison.”
    As to the A’s, if no one will go to a game in Oakland because of the public safety issues, in this economic climate Vegas would seem like the only serious alternative. Any other city in the west has already shown they will not vote public money for a stadium.

  5. Nick said...

    “it looks like Oakland might be too late to the party.”  this is true, b/c once lew wolff became a managing partner of the ownership, his main priority has been to move the team to san jose.  he’s a real estate developer from san jose, and moving the A’s there has been his primary objective since becoming owner.  he’s done nothing to promote the A’s staying in Oakland, and has absolutely done things to sabotage they ability to stay in Oakland.  for example, his manipulation of the attendance numbers to make them so low so it could be an excuse to leave b/c of a lack of support from Oakland.  well, when you remove a third of the seats available at the game, especially when they’re all the lower priced seats; are you surprised the attendance drops?

  6. The A Team said...

    Nick, you remove the lower priced seats so that people won’t just buy nose bleeders and move up.  Sure you lose some attendance and concessions numbers, but ticket revenues receive a boost.  You’re right to point out that this is to Lew’s benefit, but the Athletics and Oakland clearly don’t belong together regardless of the attendance numbers.

    I’ve yet to see any model that suggests Vegas can support any major league franchise.  There’s gotta be somewhere in the midwest or VA/NC/SC area that can support a franchise better than Oakland or Vegas.

  7. Big Mike Glab said...

    In trying to show the other side’s argument against Marvin Miller going in to the HoF, you state something that’s patently false: “…the system we have now where players with multi-million dollar contracts can jump ship for an even richer take.” Well, no, they can’t. If a player’s locked into a contract, he can’t “jump ship.” Simple as that. And if any anti-Millerites are using that argument, then they’re both wrong and stupid.

  8. Jim C said...

    @Big Mike-Except for instances we have seen in the recent past where a player has an opt-out clause, so he can try to negotiate for even more money, like Manny and A-Rod did in the last two years. And, I guess, to get better access to ‘roids.

  9. GBSimons said...

    Marvin Miller got the shaft.  He is one of the most pioneering, influential individuals in baseball history.  Any opposing stance is based on sour grapes.

  10. Big Mike Glab said...

    Jim C, you’re right, to an extent. It can be argued that with an opt out clause, the contract is no longer a contract when the player says it isn’t, so that’s really not “jumping ship” as we would understand the idiom. I took the original comment to mean something like what NFL players occasionally do—hold out while under contract to force a trade or a new deal.

  11. Mad Bum said...

    As a San Jose resident, I do NOT want the A’s here, particularly b/c they’re unwilling or unable to pay for a stadium themselves, like the Giants did. They want to use public funds that San Jose doesn’t have to build their stadium. Like nearly all publicly financed stadiums, the city will end up losing a lot of money on the deal, money it doesn’t have to spend.

    As a Giants fan, I really don’t want the A’s in San Jose or Oakland. As far as I’m concerned, they can completely leave the Bay Area for good and leave the area to the Giants.

  12. Silverkris said...

    Citing Oakland’s social and economic problems is a cheap shot and poor justification to move a team.  Look at Detroit – they’re in pretty terrible straits now, yet the Tigers management and team have been extremely supportive of the community.  And vice versa. 

    Really, most of the blame for poor attendance really should rest on Wolff.  He has bad-mouthed the city of Oakland, made disparaging comments about the stadium, closed off the upper deck, and done poor promotion.  And you wonder why attendance has fallen off? Great way to alienate your fan base.

    The Coliseum has a lot of assets – good access to freeway, a BART rapid transit station.  It was a lot better before the Raiders moved back and they constructed the football seats in the outfield area (“Mount Davis”).

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