Bud Selig/Lew Wolff; Giants Case; Michael Kickham/Tim Lincecum/Angel Pagan/Gregor Blanco; Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl; NASCAR race
SAN JOSE’S filing of a lawsuit challenging MLB’s anti-trust exemption has brought out opinions from many people, which have shed heat but not much light on the situation.
For instance, I was greatly amused by a Chronicle reader who said the A’s owed the Giants because Horace Stoneham allowed the A’s to move to Oakland when he could have stopped them.
Wrong. Stoneham did not have any such power or he would certainly have used it. Horace wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer but he knew the A’s would cut into the Giants fan base in the East Bay. Giants attendance dropped below one million in 1968, the A’s first year, the first time that had happened since the Giants had moved to San Francisco. At that time, when there was no free agency and owners could control salaries, one million was usually the point at which teams made money. A lot of money, by the standards of the day.
A reader told me he’d heard that the attorneys handling the San Jose case were working on a contingency basis. I don’t think that’s likely. The usual reasons an attorney takes a case on a contingency basis are: (1) He senses a big payout at the end; or (2) It’s a case which will make his reputation. In this case, the lead attorney is Joe Cotchett, who is 74 and already has a considerable reputation. He has this case because of his reputation, and I doubt that he’s short of money. I’m sure he’s enjoying it, but I’’m also sure he’s getting paid on a regular basis.
I think it’s more logical to assume that San Jose mayor Chuck Reed is trying to put pressure on baseball commissioner Bud Selig, with Lew Wolff as his silent partner. Of course, Wolff says he knew nothing about the suit until it was filed. I wonder if he tried to sell that story to Selig when the commissioner called him, as I’m sure he did.
There is no question that losing the anti-trust exemption is Selig’s worst nightmare. With that exemption, baseball has been able to set up its rules without legal impediment. One element of that has been able to decide where franchises are. San Jose complains about not getting the A’s, but what about New Jersey, whose population of nearly nine million dwarfs San Jose. New Jersey has two NFL teams, though they still claim the New York name, but no baseball teams. If baseball lost its anti-trust exemption, how long do you think it would take the Tampa Bay Rays to move there?
Having a team in New Jersey would cut into the audience for the Yankees television network which, much more than their game attendance, is the biggest source of the Yankees wealth. So, you can expect the Yankees to pressure Selig to stop this suit before it reaches the Supreme Court. But, as powerful as the Yankees are, other teams wouldn’t be so eager to help them. That is especially true of National League teams, whose visitors’ revenue might be cut for games at AT&T Park. And any attempt to settle by allowing the A’s to move to San Jose would likely trigger a lawsuit by the Giants.
In the meantime, I’m having trouble envisioning the Giants as the villains.
Consider this: When the current Giants management took over, they took big losses for their final years at Candlestick, building up the team and doing as much as they could to improve Candlestick and make their fans more comfortable. Meanwhile, they were building a gorgeous park and a loyal fan base and, not coincidentally, winning two World Series.
Meanwhile, Lew Wolff and John Fisher have put an absolute minimum into the A’s, never better than third lowest payroll in major league baseball. Great work by general manager Billy Beane and his staff and scouts have built a winning team but Wolfff and Fisher have done nothing to help them. When the Coliseum had its sewage problem, Wolff excused the A’s lack of contributions to maintenance by saying the A’s weren’t the only team playing in the facility. Of course, the Giants were also sharing Candlestick with the 49ers when they made improvements on their own. And, BTW, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, which are much older than the Coliseum, haven’t had these problems. Neither has Candlestick, which pre-dates the Coliseum by six years.
It isn’t San Jose that’s at stake in this battle. It’s Silicon Valley. The Giants have used money from Silicon Valley to build their park and to support it since with purchase of luxury boxes and season tickets. Why should MLB just turn over this area to Wolff and Fisher, who have done absolutely nothing for the sport?
THE SAN JOSE columnist who has been pushing so hard for the A’s move claimed last week that Wolff had “exhausted all possibilities” in Oakland. In fact, Wolff’s supposed efforts in Oakland were a sham.
When Wolff announced his plan to build a park across 66th Avenue from the Coliseum, he did not show a park design at that news conference. That “plan” collapsed almost immediately and then Wolff announced the plan to move to Fremont, this time, displaying a design for the park at the news conference.
I wasn’t there but I went over next week to see Wolff’s son, Keith, who was in charge of the project. Keith laid out the plans for me. I’ve had a lot of experience looking at plans for parks and stadiums, and I instantly saw that this plan would not work in Fremont and it wouldn’t have worked at the 66th Avenue site, either, because it called for a mixed business/residential location. It would, though, work perfectly in another city. Guess which one. Keith even referenced Santana Row. That plan called for only 32,000 seats but an extraordinary number of luxury boxes, which would only be feasible if the A’s were tapping into Silicon Valley.
Wolff never had any intentions of building in Oakland. San Jose was always the destination.
THE GIANTS have made one of the moves I suggested earlier, recalling Michael Kickham to start tonight’s game in Dodgers Stadium. Kickham showed in his first brief start against the A’s that he had the pitches to be a winner in the majors. He lost control of his pitches after a good first inning and the A’s took advantage of that, but if he had a case of nerves in his first major league start, it’s understandable. I think he can be a part of the Giants rotation, which would mean that Chad Gaudin could again be used for long relief to shore up the embattled Giants bullpen.
Meanwhile, the medical news bulletin yesterday suggests that Angel Pagan will have surgery which would essentially end his season, still another blow to the Giants, just as they got Pablo Sandoval back. Gregor Blanco is at least as good defensively – The Chronicle’s Henry Schulman, who sees the Giants almost every day, thinks Blanco is superior – but Pagan is a better offensive player, an excellent leadoff hitter who can get the offense jump started with a base hit and a stolen base. He also has some power with 51 extra-base hits last year, including 15 triples. Blanco is a career .261 hitter with little power. He’s a good player to have on the bench as a defensive replacement but. . . I’d like to see more of Juan Perez, who had an electrifying debut, making a catch while running into the wall.
The Giants have been fortunate to play in the NL West, which is mediocrity central. Now, though, the talented but rudderless Dodgers may get into the battle. They seem to have been revitalized by Cuban rookie sensation Yasiel Puig, who hit his seventh homer in just 20 games last night. If the Dodgers sweep this series, they’ll be only 2 ½ games behind the Giants, which makes it essential for the Giants to win at least one of these games. If they lose tonight, they have to go with the enigmatic Tim Lincecum in the next game. Not good.
It’s much too early to start talking about next year because the Giants may still be able to strengthen their rotation by taking high-priced starter Ricky Nolasco off the hands of the Miami Marlins, whose owner, Jeffrey Loria, makes Lew Wolff look generous. That kind of move might be enable manager Bruce Bochy to shift Lincecum to the bullpen, which more and more seems like his future, whether it’s with the Giants or another club.
But as I’ve written before, this definitely seems to be the payback year for the Giants’ good fortune in winning the World Series in 2012. Only the most ardent Giants fan could believe that the Giants were actually the best team in the sport last year but they played very well in the postseason and got a break when Cincinnati’s best pitcher, Johnny Cueto, had to leave with a back injury after throwing just eight pitches in the first playoff game with the Giants. Without that break, the Giants probably wouldn’t have gotten past the first round.
So, the baseball gods seem to be punishing them this season.
ONE-TIME 49ers receiver Brandon Lloyd is a free agent again and, despite his impressive receiving statistics, is not getting much interest.
When Lloyd was with the Niners, there was talk that he was not popular with his teammates, but that was also a time when the whole team was dysfunctional, from the front office to the coaching staff to the team.
Personally, I found Lloyd a delight, easy to talk to and articulate, neither of which was true of other 49er players at the time. He was aiming at a post-career job in television and an experience I had with him, when we were both guests on the weekly 49ers preview show, demonstrated that he could handle that kind of work easily.
From a playing standpoint, Lloyd lacked the blazing speed to be a deep receiver but he had great hands, much like the injured Michael Crabtree. I’d like to see the 49ers get him back now, if they can work him into their budget. I doubt you’d hear about problems with him in the locker room now. Winning takes care of many problems.
THE NEWS about the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl having a matchup of Pac-12 and big 10 teams brought inevitable comparisons to the old Rose Bowl matchups, but this is a pale reminder of that game, which usually matched the conference champions; the Big Ten had a rule which barred teams from successive appearances, so the second-place team sometimes represented the conference.
The new matchup will have lower-ranked teams but still will be a step up from what it has been. Now, the fourth team in the Pac-12 will be there. Before, it was the sixth team, and the bowl sponsors had to sweat when it appeared there wouldn’t be six bowl-eligible teams in the conference. The visiting team sometimes was an attraction – the Navy team in the last game had a built-in fan base – but others brought a collective yawn from Bay Area fans.
The game will also get a boost in 2014 when it transfers to the new 49ers stadium in Santa Clara. AT&T Park is a great baseball park but it doesn’t work well for football, though it had the East-West Shrine game there for years and Cal for one season while the stadium was being rebuilt. The press box, so good for baseball, is terrible for football because it’s in the end zone. When I was assigned to cover a Shrine game, I left the press box and went upstairs to a box where Bill Walsh, Bruce Snyder and Jack Hart were. Not only could I see the game better, the company was incomparably superior!
THE NASCAR event at Sears Point last weekend was billed as the No. 1 sports even in the Bay Area, based on attendance, which is accurate enough. As far as Bay Area interest, that might be another matter.
I covered that event once, in the 90s. I think the sports editor thought he was punishing me because it wasn’t a sport I wrote about. But I had always approached writing assignments with enthusiasm, everything from high school sports when I was working in Watsonville, to numerous assignments about motor sports early in my Chronicle career. The editor, Scott Newhall, was an auto racing enthusiast, so I filled in on the lesser sports, even covering drag racing. Hardly my favorite sport but I enjoyed the people involved, and they loved the coverage they were suddenly getting in The Chronicle.
By the time I was assigned to the Sears Point race, it had been many years since I had been involved with auto racing. Obviously, I wasn’t going to be able to do my usual analytical column, so I did something quite different, going around and talking to the people who had come to the race. I had a very enjoyable time, talking to people who had come in from all over the western states. I even got a couple of invitations to visit them if I ever came to their home areas! So, I had more than enough information to write an informative human nature column.
But, I didn’t get one e-mail on it, at a time when my computer was flooded with them. Obviously, not many Chronicle subscribers at the races. Surprise.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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