Selig waves move threat stick, Oakland to approve A’s lease, everybody goes to watch fireworks

Well, that was easy:

Athletics co-owner Lew Wolff [wrote] in a 10 p.m. e-mail to officials: “I was informed tonight that Commissioner Selig, due to the possibility of not having the hearing and vote that we were purported to receive from the JPA, that we will immediately be allowed to seek a temporary or permanent location outside the city of Oakland.”

The e-mail prompted city and county officials to immediately restart negotiations to keep the A’s in Oakland, and a new deal was being discussed Thursday morning by the 8-member board of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority.

The Coliseum Authority just got back from closed session, and the city officials are reportedly ready to sign off on the lease after all.

If true, this was the easiest saber-rattling incident ever: Not only didn’t Bud Selig have to fly into town to make move threats in person, he didn’t even have to get out the fancy stationery. All Wolff had to do was open up Outlook, dash off a quick email, then go to bed and let the panic begin.

It’s especially remarkable because Wolff never needed MLB permission to “seek” a new home. Any MLB owner is allowed to consider moving wherever they want at any time — well, except for the Tampa Bay Rays, whose lease makes that a thought crime — it’s just that actually moving requires the vote of all 30 MLB owners. Which is something that Selig can’t promise, by the way, but why let this get in the way of a good threat?

Anyway, it looks like Wolff and Selig have proven that Oakland officials are more afraid of even the possibility of losing the A’s to some unspoken city than the A’s are afraid of having to play their games in the middle of an open field with some rented bleachers. Mayors really aren’t very good at this sort of thing, are they?



26 comments on “Selig waves move threat stick, Oakland to approve A’s lease, everybody goes to watch fireworks

  1. And any leverage Oakland thought it had vanished with the press of the send button on an email. None of them want to be the politicians who drove one of Oakland’s few points of civic pride out of town.

  2. And then you would have to expect the Raiders to get involved and the result is a bloody war between the NFL and MLB. It makes you think that the city and the Raiders had a deal to tear down the place after the 2015 season.

  3. Dan: Yeah, but if you’re not willing to risk that — and the risk is pretty minimal, given the A’s other options — then why go through the motions of standing up to Wolff last week?

    Unless this was all a shadow play, where Oakland officials figured they’d make a show of getting tough with Wolff, then when he pulled out the big popgun, could say, “Well, you got us there.”

  4. Honestly I think it was political grandstanding Neil. The city’s main representative negotiating the lease (the one the city later rejected) was Rebecca Kaplan who as of now is the front runner to be the next mayor of Oakland running against current Mayor Quan. Quan holding a hard line makes herself look fiscally responsible and at the same time made Kaplan look dysfunctional and bad at communicating what she’d been negotiating with the rest of her peers on the city council. And if you read comment sections and talk to people in Oakland their opinion of Kaplan has taken a hit because of this debacle. I’m not sure the A’s really even factored into this ultimately. It was a political game more than anything.

  5. It could just be that Oakland officials were believing what they read on this site about having leverage.

  6. @Dan could not agree more!! This has always been a political fight between pols in Oak. Local talk radio for the last week as been talking about how the mayor race in Oak is getting ugly. Its not just Quan and Kaplan but other city council members have thrown their hat into the ring. This is a clear situation where they can hurt a front runner and not allow them to use this lease as a positive on the campaign trail.

    We been hearing versions of what the lease frame work was for the last few weeks, look at the final version.. what changed? seems pretty similar to me. The difference is probably very minimal…

  7. Yep they just held the vote and approved it but Kaplan, who was one of the city’s primary negotiators and drivers of the lease, voted against it. Either she was bid to by the the city council, or she voted against it herself because someone else’s fingerprints were now all over it. Oakland’s dysfunctional government at it’s best for all the world to see. Imagine having to live with these idiots full time rather than every few years for a lease extension.

  8. Next round will be Monday when the Oakland city council takes up the lease which they and Alameda County separeately now have to approve. And it looks like the 2 no votes in the 6-2 vote both came from Oakland representatives to the Coliseum JPA.

  9. Precisely. “We will be allowed to seek other temporary or permanent…”

    When, exactly, has MLB ever prevented any owner from “seeking” other locations? Is there a single instance in any sports league where a commissioner prevented (or disciplined) any owner from talking to someone about building them a stadium or hosting their team? I can’t think of one.

    Oakland may look foolish here, but let us not forget it was Wolff who sent the email – the same Wolff who has been trying to get out of Oakland for years – and that the email seems likely to produce a new long term lease in the existing facility in Oakland, not in his preferred destination of San Jose, Fremont, or some other allegedly lucrative location.

    So… assuming this plays out the way Wolff seems to want it to, we have the curious situation of people crowing about Wolff’s “win”, when what he appears to have won is not the right to move his team where he wants it, but the right to stay in the same stadium he has been bitching about for nearly a decade.

    Maybe he got some of that Charlie Sheen tiger blood thing happening…

  10. A baseball team that plays in a sewage pit and hasn’t made the world series in over twenty years is a point of civic pride?


  11. Jerry T: There are FOUR World Series Championship flags flying at the Coliseum. Yes, the A’s are very much a point of civic pride.

  12. John: It’s not a lease in the sense of being a commitment to stay, though. It’s a lease in the sense of “if I choose to keep playing here, you have to let me, at this price.”

    Presumably Wolff still wants to go to San Jose if he gets the chance (I’m not holding my breath, but there is still that court case), and wants a new stadium in Oakland if he doesn’t. It’s negotiating *that* that’s going to be the important battle — and if nothing else, he’s now shown that he holds a card that scares the bejeebus out of the city.

  13. And Oakland’s position becomes even murkier. Apparently Kaplan was ORDERED to vote against her own proposal by the city council. However Councilman Reid voted yes as did one of the appointed city representatives.

  14. A weak and empty threat: “Selig gave me permission to leave” To leave where ?and when?…tomorrow? Take the baseball and go home? Ten year lease? It is not a ten year lease….it is a free ride until he finds a place and a way out of Oakland!
    The politcians just needed an excuse to justify voting for a very bad deal for Oakland taxpayers. Wolff and Selig used the same methods they’ve been using for the last 19 years throwing in theirTrojan horse at the last minute to convince weak minded politicians to bend down at the proper time. Why all the surprise…my revenge will come when San Jose (or any other sucker city) taxpayers find out they’ve been taken to the cleaners by the usual extortionists characters MLB Mafia is composed of with Selig as their Godfather. That’s when I want to see their civic pride!!!! I’m just sorry this beautiful game is in the hands of such sordid people and I feel like an enabler for loving this game so much. Too late for me to give it up though…..already survived the live ball and the steroid era….I’ll survive watching their ongoing blackmail and extortion of taxpayers….shameful!!!! I’m ashamed to be a baseball fan. Thanks for your reports Neil deMause….I enjoy reading you….

  15. Wolff hasn’t been an MLB owner for 19 years. And if you read the lease it is most definitely a 10 year lease. Sure it’s got an out clause with 2 year warning that goes into effect after year 5 but it’s the longest term lease the A’s were going to sign. And considering the deplorable condition Oakland has let the Coliseum decay into, I’d say the A’s were being generous in overall increasing what they pay at all.

    And as for San Jose having to pay, San Jose is already paying for the infrastructure improvements around their desired ballpark site, with or without the ballpark. And they’re not paying a dime for the ballpark thanks to the city law they passed over a decade ago (not without a city wide public vote at any rate).

  16. You got this right Neil, except this was the County of Alameda stabbing the City (and Mayor) of Oakland in the back, making her look like an obstructionist for wanting a better lease.

  17. No when Schott and Hofmann bought the team they brought in Ed Avarez as VP in 1995 fired him when he didn’t succeed to make the Santa Clara deal…In fact S&H got sued and settled with Alvarez over a non payment of 2 million dollar promise. In 2003 S&H in April, 2003 – hired Lew Wolff who became VP for Venue development for the Oakland A’s and started immediately derailing the 20th/Telegraph project in Oakland bought the team, started pushing, with the help of Alameda supervisor Scott Haggerty (the same judas that sits of the present JPA) the Fremont deal where poor Mr Wolff claims to have spent in excess of 80 million. So interesting that he can spend his millions everywhere but cries about the 5 million of back rent he will now invest on a the scoreboard which will bring him loads of more millions from advertising…..Come to think of it…I think San Jose really deserves to get an owner such as Lew Wolff. That is the least I wish for a city that wants to steal oakland’s baseball team so desperately.

  18. The ultimate “tail wagging the dog” situation,
    Lew-Lew wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he couldn’t jerk around a 2-bit burg like Oak, the idiotic politicians allow this to happen by not being able to think their way out of a paper bag. They should use the Branch Rickey line “…we can finish last with or without you…”, force the A’z and MLB get their act together to end yet another nor-cal soap opera. The baseball “civic pride” is felt by few in the population, there’s larger numbers who would like badly needed police protection or better hospitals.
    Crazy Charlie’s loonie legacy continues in the “…luckiest city since Heroshima..”.
    And the sheep keep on spending, bahhh, bahhh, bahhh.

  19. The ultimate “tail wagging the dog” situation.
    Lew-Lew wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he couldn’t jerk around a 2-bit burg like Oak, the idiotic politicians allow this to happen by not being able to think their way out of a paper bag. They should use the Branch Rickey line “…we can finish last with or without you…”, force the A’z and MLB get their act together to end yet another nor-cal soap opera. The baseball “civic pride” is felt by few in the population, there’s larger numbers who would like badly needed police protection or better hospitals.
    Crazy Charlie’s loonie legacy continues in the “…luckiest city since Heroshima..”.
    And the sheep keep on spending, bahhh, bahhh, bahhh.

  20. Neil: It is his option to stay. That’s why I phrased it as the “right to stay” in the same stadium. He is not required to stay the full term as you say, but as I read the brief he does have to pay (very modest) rent anyway… though what Oakland would do if he stopped paying a year after leaving I’m really not sure.

    Maybe shake their raised collective fists and say “Youuuuuuu!” ???

  21. This is an interesting opening round that will continue next week with the Oakland city council vote.

    The real interesting part will start when the Raiders respond. The Raiders now know that they can’t have a stadium on the Coliseum footprint until 5 years from now at the earliest (2 years for the A’s to leave and then another 3 years to build). If they aren’t willing to accept a stadium in the corner of the extended Coliseum lot, then what do they do? Wait 5+ years for a new stadium or leave? Buy out the A’s lease and try to build earlier with someone’s money?

    We all have surmised that Oakland can’t afford two new stadiums, so has Oakland now chosen the A’s because they get to kick the can down the road the longest with the A’s?

    I think I wrote a few months ago (along with others) that it would not surprise me to see the A’s and Raiders still playing the Coliseum in 10 years. Of course, the Raiders lease is up after this football season. It will be interesting to see how the Raiders respond to the A’s new lease. Didn’t Davis say he wished he knew what Wolff was planning? He now knows.

  22. Ben,

    Leverage is probably the wrong word, but cities like Oakland do have it, particularly when a team wants to remain in a market.

    San Francisco gave itself leverage by repeatedly saying no to the Giants, and got a much better deal as a result.

    Oakland is in a huge TV market which is one of the few in the US to be adding significant wealth (both individual and corporate). Oakland also provides access to extremely lucrative TV cable deals (which act like a TV tax in support of organized professional baseball). Moving to Sacramento (or even Portland) gives none of those benefits, since this is where the real money is.

    Strange as it may seem, other than San Jose, there is probably no city in the US that would provide a better deal than what they are getting now, no matter what the condition of the stadium. I’d say that would be something for the As to consider.

  23. Cut the cable and watch Wolffie, Fishy and Marky Bowlcut see their fortunes implode. Watch for free on the internet. And save $10,000+ in ten years. Then maybe you’ll have something to fall back on.

  24. Seriously? Threatening to move is “the ultimate audible?” I was under the impression that the “get a new stadium” playbook consisted of just that one play.

  25. I like this Wolf guy. If he changed the “o” to an “i” we could be brothers.

    The greatest trick the devil ever played was making cities think they cant live without sports teams. Now where did I put my pitchfork?!?

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