Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Wild A's Days -- Lawsuits, Dive Bars and Payrolls

Lawyer Ball, for Real

The A's are set to host the AL Wild Card game, but their front office team feels like it has already lost with a recent, somewhat rogue Oakland lawsuit challenging the pending deal Alameda County has to sell its share of the Coliseum complex to the A's

The lawsuit itself is a little wild, given that the mayor does not support it, but what's more wild is that A's non-equity President Dave Kaval went on "The Build" on A's Cast and basically dumped on the lawsuit and the city to a certain extent. His comments were all middle-of-the-road, but he toned a very irritated Chris Townsend down not at all.

Most companies, as a policy, do not comment on pending litigation. Townsend called the suit a "low blow" and the city's effort to champion different spots for a ballpark as "a mirage." Kaval didn't push back on him.

The presiding judge in the matter may not like Kaval's "transparency" as Townsend calls it. It all begs the question, is Kaval -- the A's seemingly head negotiator and, in title, a member of its executive team, also its designated spokesperson? If so, have the A's lawyers OK'd these types of appearances?

Side Note -- One of the great mysteries of the summer is why, given Kaval's role, "Chairman Emeritus" Lew Wolff was the one to push back on the Raiders in August after Mark Davis vented to the media about how the team made life difficult in the Coliseum for them. The linked to article even calls Wolff the "A's owner." Was the otherwise loquacious Kaval suffering from a throat problem?

Meanwhile, in this trivial matter and in the material Coliseum land lawsuit matter A's majority owner John Fisher remains mute.

A Love Letter to the Last "Dive Bar" in Baseball

New York Times reporter Jack Nicas in today's paper authored the piece "The Beauty of America's Ugliest Ballpark," all about the Coliseum:

Yes, the Coliseum is ugly, but it is cheap, gritty and fun. The spacious confines allow fans to roam around, spread out and enjoy a comprehensive view of the game. And the park’s dinginess fosters a freewheeling atmosphere, where bleacher die-hards bang drums and heckle outfielders, while upper-deck denizens pack picnics and pass joints. 

It all adds up to a baseball experience that stands out in the increasingly homogeneous ballpark landscape. If Marlins Park is the flashy new nightclub, and Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are the historic pubs, the Coliseum is baseball’s last dive bar....

So when I relocated to Oakland four years ago, it came as a surprise that I fell in love with the Coliseum. 

The streets around Fenway and Wrigley are lined with lively bars and restaurants hawking overpriced beers and gourmet sausages. At the Coliseum, fans stream through a caged walkway over an industrial site where vendors sell bacon-wrapped hot dogs and cans of beer for a few bucks. (Prices are negotiable.) 

 While Fenway and Wrigley are cramped and packed, the Coliseum is cavernous and half empty on a good day. Have a large group, or need to take a private phone call? Take a section of the upper deck to yourself. (Smaller crowds also increase your shot at a Jumbotron appearance, which is important for an aggressive mid-inning dancer like me.)

Interesting, Kaval pops up and speaks about the A's need for a new ballpark:

There is an urban renaissance, especially among younger millennials. So that’s one reason we’ve been focused on the downtown waterfront location.

Umm, just to be clear, you are speaking about attracting a monied "urban renaissance" crowd, right? I don't think it was intentional, but Kaval is throwing shade at East Oakland. For a team facing criticism of a sweetheart deal with the county for the Coliseum at the expense of potential affordable housing development, is this the best public messaging?

A's are Cheap, Rays are Cheaper

Think the A's $92M payroll is cheap, think again as it dwarfs the Rays as The Wall Street Journal details in today's paper:

The Rays opened the year with a budget of about $60 million, the lowest in the major leagues. They still managed to finish with 96 wins and earn a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2013, with a matchup in the division series against the Houston Astros on the line.

Other teams have put together brilliant seasons with even lower payrolls. The A’s, for instance, spent less than $60 million to build the roster that claimed the AL West crown in 2012. Back then, however, the average payroll registered at about $100 million. Now, that figure has risen to nearly $134 million, meaning the Rays landed at more than 55% below average.

That almost never happens. In fact, only one team since 2000 has made the playoffs with a payroll that far below league average—and once again, it was the Rays, whose 2011 payroll clocked in at 56% below average.