Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Photo Op

You might recall that in May Mayor Reed sent Commissioner Selig a letter asking when he could expect a decision on territorial rights. As you know, the City of San Jose has already selected a site, purchased property, and completed an economic impact study. In short, the project is shovel-ready and just awaits the go ahead for conducting an election that would ask San Jose residents to approve construction of a ballpark. Alas, Mayor Reed has yet to get a response and it seems he’s becoming a bit antsy for a conversation and will just about resort to the most jovial of attempts to get it .

In today’s San Jose Mercury News, columnist Mark Purdy writes that Mayor Reed is considering a photo op with the commissioner, or at least with the statue of him that stands outside the Brewer’s ballpark in Milwaukee. Putting an A’s jersey on the statue, Mayor Reed would pose for a picture in an imaginary conversation.

Postulating about the committee formed to study the A’s stadium issue, Reed is quoted by Purdy as saying,

"I think they did all their work in six months," Reed said of the committee members. "And since then, it's been a dodge."

Mayor Reed’s frustrations are starting to make him wonder if it’s time to consider challenging Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption granted to them in 1922. The process would have to start with congressional hearings, and while the Mayor hasn’t had conversations with San Jose’s local delegation, might it be just around the corner? Mayor Reed says,

"We haven't gone down that path. Not that we won't. But if Lew hasn't wanted to do it, we don't want to do it. I think Lew should be steaming angry."

While Lew isn’t steaming angry he has every right to feel as frustrated as Mayor Reed. One way or another, Commissioner Selig should be as diligent in dealing with the A’s stadium issue as he has been about the ownership issues surrounding the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers. Baseball fans in San Jose and Oakland deserve a decision so we can enjoy the game on the field without the distraction of wondering where the A’s will next be playing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Summer of Discontent?

It's been a hot one in Silicon Valley this week. And while the heat has a way of making some people feel listless or languid, it can make others agitated and distressed. Lately, waiting on a decision from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig inspires more of the latter. To illustrate this,, probably the definitive guide for the Athletics' stadium saga fiasco, has a daily counter of the number of days its been since "MLB started reviewing the A's stadium situation." At this writing, it's a depressing—and astonishing—828 days! Speaking of, Jeffrey August recently vented his own frustration with this painfully (and needlessly) slow process in a post entitled "The Cost of Indecision." Taking a uniquely Silicon Valley perspective on the issue, August wrote:

At Facebook, there are signs posted all around the place that say “Done is Better Than Perfect.” I think Bud needs to visit and catch a glimpse of how business is done these days. At Pandora, I am sure that copyright law policy and advertising sales campaigns and boosting subscription service account holders are all issues worked in unison. No, the “Dodgers and Mets have really screwed up… everything else is on hold” sort of dalliances don’t usually hold muster at companies that own the future.

Having a consensus builder at the helm isn’t exactly like having a visionary running the show. Having a man who can’t make a decision without the approval of those he “leads” is cutting into our fan base. And by our, I mean we. Me and you and all of us who should be preparing for a new yard instead of bickering about where that home should be.

Imagine if Selig had treated the A's with half of the urgency he's given the Dodgers. Instead, every day that passes without a decision, the Athletics are left to wither on the vine just a little bit more. Selig's impotence has put the team in a increasingly precarious position. Let's face it, soon more and more doors will be closing for the A's. Howard Bryant's excellent article on last week only further confirmed this impending sense of doom:

The ultimate decision of whether the A's will be allowed to move to San Jose belongs to Bud Selig alone, but pressure has created a four-way, high-stakes game of chicken between Selig and the A's, the A's and the Giants, Selig and San Jose and Wolff and Oakland. The one absolute to the convolution is that the Oakland A's are cornered -- to the south by Selig and in Oakland by the combination of Wolff's conviction that no workable site exists in the city and an expiring lease in a stadium that is unlikely to be renewed while Wolff intimates that he wants to leave town. 

But out of this gloomy scenario has sprung an interesting Facebook group, Hey Bud, PleA'se Stop the TeA'se. It's the brainchild of Athletics Nation's emperor nobody and borne out of frustration from Bud Selig's seeming lack of initiative, leadership, and care. The group is a sort of neutral zone for A's stadium boosters, advocating for neither San Jose or Oakland specifically, but simply for a decision from Bud Selig—one way or the other:  

We come to you today to ask you to set aside your nominal differences and your petty divisions as fans and embrace with us this program of building a movement to get Commissioner Selig to make a decision ... We also feel that as complex as all this is, the simple core of it is that Bud and Bud alone has the power to make it come unstuck, by whatever means he has at his disposal to do so in his role as head of MLB.  We are looking for him to exercise his office and do his job, and to do whatever it is going to take to show leadership in these circumstances so the A's can emerge out of their current wildernessitself a result in no small way of this pattern of neglect and diffidenceas a product, as a team, and as a proud and historic franchise.

So Commissioner Selig, it's getting hot. And we're getting restless. Make it official already. The San Jose A's are ready to go.

You're up to bat, San Jose!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Peter Gammons Has Something to Say

Last Friday MLB Network Analyst and Hall of Fame Baseball writer Peter Gammons talked to the Murph and Mac Show on KNBR about Athletics issues, including the recent firing of Manager Bob Geren, Billy Beane, payroll and the Coliseum.

On the Coliseum Peter doesn’t have the kindest of words calling it the “Al Davis Dump”. When asked why the Athletics payroll doesn’t reflect their owners (John Fisher) riches, he says,

“Because nobody goes to the ballpark, there are no TV radio rights, and there not going to lose their shirts. The Oakland A’s either have to move or be retraced. They can’t exist in the dump. There’s no chance of succeeding there”.

Retracting the team would be an unfortunate turn of events, not just because the Bay Area would lose one of its cherished professional sports teams, but because Major League Baseball would be severing ties with a franchise that has a lasting connection to MLB's history, having been one of the American Leagues first 8 teams and a 9 time winner of the World Series (3rd most in MLB history).

The Athletics franchise is a testament of perseverance having already survived two moves, from Philadelphia to Kansas City (1955) and then to Oakland (1968). Surely a move 60 miles south within its already existing fanbase couldn't hurt them. Plus, there are plans in place to build a state of the art stadium in the heart of the country's 10th largest city with abundant amenities and a dedicated and loyal fanbase.

We still await a decision from Commissioner Selig on territorial rights, in the meantime, you can listen to Peter Gammons interview by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A New Addition to the Team

Yesterday Major League Baseball opened up their First-Year Player Draft. With the 18th pick the Athletics selected Vanderbilt pitcher Sonny Gray who just completed his junior season with a record of 11 -2 and a 2.01 ERA. At 5-11 he is being compared to former Athletics ace Tim Hudson (currently with the Atlanta Braves) and Philadelphia’s Roy Oswalt. Given the pitching talent the Athletics currently have on their roster, Sonny Gray would be a great addition, as according to Athletics scouting director Eric Kubot, Gray is an “incredible competitor”. With talent running thin in the Athletics farm system, Baseball America ranked the system 28th, there is defiantly room for improvement throughout the system. The next pick for the Athletics won’t be until third round (105th overall), having traded this year’s second pick to the Tampa Bay Rays for Grant Balfour.

In other Athletics related news…

If you are planning on attending an upcoming game at Coliseum, you’ll have a hard time finding the stadium as beginning today it will be known as Coliseum. Don’t fret though, hasn’t reneged on the six year deal it signed at the end of April, it’s just part of a shift in branding by the company.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Another Reason for Baseball in San Jose: The Fans

Does San Jose have a sustainable fan base to support a Major League Baseball team? As the U.S. Census Bureau reported in its 2o10 Census, San Jose has a population of 945,942,making it the 10th largest city in the U.S., so it would be easy to argue then that San Jose has a large pool of potential baseball fans to pull from. However, population alone isn’t a strong enough argument to make in the strength of a city’s fan base, as cities such as Minneapolis (48th) home of the Twins and Milwaukee ( 28th) home of the Brewers are experiencing good attendance, 4th and 9th respectively. In comparison, much larger cities such as Houston (4th) home of the Astros, Phoenix (6th) home of the Diamondbacks and San Diego (8th) home of the Padres are experiencing less success in filling their respective stadiums.

So how else can we determine whether San Joseans would support a Major League Baseball team? Perhaps by looking at attendance data for the four professional sports teams housed in San Jose, the Sharks (NHL), Giants (California League), SaberCats (AFL), and Earthquakes (MLS) and see where they rank in their respective leagues. These teams represent distinctly different sports, varying fans and popularity in their sport that can vary depending on local (ex. Hockey is much more popular in Canada than Northern California, in part because of their differences in whether).

Taking into account that teams play in facilities of varying size, total attendance and average attendance can skew results in favor of teams with larger facilities. This can present a false impression that fan support is much stronger than that of other teams playing in smaller facilities. So instead, for the purpose of this analysis, average capacity is used (including those examples above) which in our opinion is better reflective of each communities support of their particular team, as a stadium that is 100% full is a much more enjoyable experience than one that isn’t fulfilling its potential capacity.

As the proposed baseball stadium in San Jose shows, while it would be the smallest in Major League Baseball, it would bring a uniquely different experience that would further support there being an active and supportive fan base, but do San Joseans have the fortitude to be a perennial baseball fan for 81 games a year?

As mentioned above, currently there are four professional sports teams that call San Jose home, looking at their attendance – again, based on average capacity - each team in their most current season is averaging attendance in the top 1/3 of their respective leagues, above the average*.

Regardless of the sport, San Jose has constantly and consistently supported its local teams and in return has been rewarded with successes on the field/ice, with multiple championships being brought to San Jose over the years. Since 2000 the Giants have won 5 California League Championships (’01, ’05, ’07, ’09 and ’10), the SaberCats have won 3 Arena Bowls (’02, ’04, and ’07) and the Earthquakes (in their earlier adaptation) won 2 MLS Cups (’01 and ’03). San Jose still awaits the Sharks to bring home the Stanley Cup, but despite this they consistently are an NHL powerhouse, the last two years appearing in the Western Conference Finals and receiving the President’s Trophy for having the league’s most points during the 2008-09 season.

San Jose and Major League Baseball makes sense, more specifically the Athletics in San Jose. The support San Jose could give in filling an Athletics stadium is just another reason why Major League Baseball should lift territorial rights and open the door for an Athletics move.

* We acknowledge that the San Jose Earthquakes attendance is skewed given they play in the smallest stadium in the league - more than twice as small as the league average – however, it’s an experience that is unique to San Jose (yes, we know they play at Buck Shaw stadium in Santa Clara, but even when they move into their new home, capacity will only be slightly larger at approximately 15,000).