Lew Wolff’s “sob story”

I missed this from the other day, but Oakland’s City Attorney John Russo has ripped A’s owner Lew Wolff a new one:

Oakland A’s managing partner Lew Wolff is a talented and smart businessman.

But if Wolff thinks anybody is buying his sob story about why the A’s have to leave Oakland, he’s seriously underestimating the intelligence of the team’s fan base, the press and the people of this city.

Wolff has been telling reporters and anyone who will listen that the A’s have done everything possible to build a new ballpark and stay in Oakland. As Wolff put it in a recent press release, the team has “exhausted (its) time and resources over the years” with the city.

Claiming the A’s have made an exhaustive effort to stay in Oakland is like George W. Bush saying he did everything he could to stay out of Iraq – it’s not a “reality-based” statement.

Here is the truth: A’s owners and Major League Baseball have been plotting to abandon Oakland for at least 10 years. They have never been partners in the city’s efforts to build a new stadium and keep the franchise in Oakland.

Russo goes on to detail the nature of the farce that has been the MLB’s putative efforts to keep the A’s in Oakland (which he calls “collusion”), and winds up by saying “The idea that the A’s have made an exhaustive effort to stay is disingenuous at best.”

I’d be far less likely to take this seriously if we didn’t have an excellent example Major League Baseball and a Bud-friendly owner conspiring to kill a team already. So as it stands, yeah, I think Russo is right.

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Comments

  1. Nate said...

    Craig, how familiar are you with the inner-workings of Oakland? The city is horribly run from top to bottom, so I take any and all comments from spokespeople like this with a huge grain of salt. One would think a city attorney would be more concerned about his city’s alarming repeat-offender crime rate before tackling the potential loss of a franchise that as any regular attendee will confirm has been an afterthought of the city for at least a decade.

  2. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Nate—I’m generally aware that Oakland government is a lunatic asylum, but that doesn’t mean Russo is wrong about this.  I can’t think of a single example in which MLB has played straight with a city, especially when Bud cronies are involved, and all information I’ve seen about this independent of Oakland sources suggest that Wolff is using Oakland at best, spitting on it at worst.

    As for his motives, eh, he’s an elected official and that’s the kind of thing they do.  Still doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

  3. Aaron Moreno said...

    I like how the writer had to stretch it out a bit to take a shot at Bush. Maybe he had a word count to meet.

  4. tadthebad said...

    Nate,

    You know, I used to think the Commonwealth of MA was, far and away, the worst run state in the country.  But the more I read about other cities/counties/states, it’s clear that incompetency is a nation-wide illness.  Forget swine flu, public “service” hackery is the nation’s fastest growing pandemic.

  5. Chipmaker said...

    If MLB is in on the gig, and I don’t doubt that, why has it not, years ago, quashed the Giants’ territorial rights issue and let the A’s move to San Jose? There’s no law behind it; territories is MLB policy, and one borne of concerns that were relevant in the first half of the 20th century but not nearly so today.

    Figure that Magowan, by using his own money to build PacBell (in unofficial defiance of unofficial policy, that of always, always using Other People’s Money to build ballparks), had already earned Selig’s enmity; taking away SJ would have been perfect, even elegant, vengenance, as well as a good move for the benefit of the A’s.

    Puzzling….

  6. carl said...

    There are differences between Oakland and Montreal – the Expos were paid NOTHING for television rights and, as I remember it, were basically not allowed to get any money for them.  Fans ignored the team and the stadium literally fell apart around them.  And the only time they were good, baseball went on strike.

    I do not think the Expos were in fact viable.  While Bud has a lot to answer for, getting the Expos out of Montreal really had to happen.  now, the way it was done… that’s a different thing.

  7. themower said...

    If the A’s and MLB have really been plotting 10 years to get the A’s out of Oakland, then what’s the end game?  What city out there is a better alternative to Oakland?  Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte…?  I don’t see it.

  8. the mower said...

    In regards to mlb and the a’s plotting 10 YEARS to get out of oakland, if you can’t find a new city/sucker to give you a better stadium agreement in 10 years, maybe you should just stay put.  i was living in denver when the a’s were supposed to be coming in 1980, that didn’t happen, and any other a’s move isn’t going to happen.  mlb and the a’s need oakland to work, and they need to make it work.

  9. RJK said...

    Relative to the post above, the end game is to find a city that will give an outstanding stadium arrangement.  It only takes one.  10 years ago, did anyone really think Oklahoma City would have an NBA team.  What Lew Wolff is lacking is a “co-conspirator” city that is ready fill ownership’s pockets with public money. 

    Las Vegas presents a some unique problems, but what about Memphis, Nashville, OKC, Tulsa, or Portland?  I suspect Charlotte would have been in the running were it not for the present banking woes.  I don’t think ownership looks broadly as to a better alternative.  If that were the case you would have never seen teams recently move to Nashville, New Orleans or OKC.  In no way were those cities better alternatives to the location in which the teams previously existed.  In fact, each of the examples supra moved from top-15 population centers to locations that are barely in the top-40 for metro population.  Instead, what existed was a municipality ready to give massive money (essentially) directly to ownership.

    While Oakland may run poorly, even cities with some strange city/regional govt. issues can figure out a way to give away money, see e.g. New Orleans.

  10. RJK said...

    I absolutely disagree w/ the Carl’s above assertion that baseball had to leave Montreal. Admittedly, the park was awful and people did not come for the last 10 years or so.  However, during the late 70’s and thru the mid 80’s, the Expos were in the top four of the NL in attendance, finishing 2nd in attendance in ‘83. 

    Montreal has about 3.7M in its statistical area, which would make it the 14th largest area in the US, b/w the Twin Cities and Denver.  Unfortunately, Montreal was plagued by horrendous ownership once Bronfman pulled out.  Following the Seagram’s folks, Brochu didn’t have nearly enough money and began his tenure by threatening to move the team to Phoenix. Loria didn’t want to be there in the 1st place. 

    Certainly Le Stade didn’t help the situation either.  It was a bad place to play and Montreal was still dealing with debt 25 yrs. after the ‘76 games.  Nonetheless, it was Montreal’s ownership philosophy that doomed the team (in which MLB was complicit) not the location.

  11. gt said...

    One thing about Oakland that’s important to understand, is that it is not a large city of it’s own, but is a very small city, at the center of an enormous region that includes San Francisco and San Jose, and has over 7 million people within an hour’s drive.  The city itself has a couple of real bad neighborhoods that contribute to the negative press, but overall it’s quite an attractive and wealthy place.  MLB should not be hasty to abandon this great central location in the nation’s 5th largest metropolitan area.

    Unfortunately for the A’s, their current ballpark is situated in just about the worst part of town.  The main thing Oakland and the A’s should be focused on is getting a cozy little baseball-only park built in the downtown or uptown area. The downtown area is not only vastly superior to the current Coliseum location in terms of amenities and “curb appeal”, it’s also much more central to the region and would be somewhat easier for millions of people to get to…

    I think the current city leadership is on board with the concept of helping procure and develop a downton ballpark, but the A’s soured on the city due to trouble with previous administrations, and so things are still tangled and dysfunctional.  If the San Jose efforts by the A’s ownership fail to pan out over the next year or so, I expect a reconciliation to occur and one of the excellent Jack London Square ballpark proposals to take off.

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