Sly like a Wolff?

I was talking to a person whose opinion regarding sports I respect even more so than some professionals I’ve met, and he threw out a hypothesis regarding the A’s massive offseason and spring overhaul.

“I’m wondering,” this person said, “if Wolff is getting ready to sell.”

Now, understand, the true money behind the A’s is not Wolff, but rather billioniare John Fisher, the son of the Gap founder. Therefore, a decision to sell would figure to originate there, and not from the office of Wolff, the managing partner. And also understand that I haven’t  heard anything from anyone who would be in the know regarding such a scenario. Nor I have read anything about such a thing.

In other words, there’s no indication, anywhere that this is indeed what A’s ownership is intending to do.

But it would seem to make sense, I think. I know that most owners when preparing to sell a team tear it down, the better to rid themselves of expenses, etc. But in the A’s case, wouldn’t it seem prudent to do the exact opposite?

As it stands, the A’s are not worth a lot as baseball teams go. They play in a dilapidated stadium. Their brand name long has lacked star appeal. And they haven’t won a championship in two decades. So if you were Fisher and Wolff and you ineed wanted to unload, would you expect a ton of buyers at your door?

The additions of Matt HollidayJason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera and now Nomar Garciaparra has changed part of the equation. There is name value attached to the A’s now, players who give fans a reason to turn out. Should those players contribute to a playoff run, and perhaps a deep postseason run, then the A’s suddenly would be a much hotter property than they are now.

Of course, until the stadium issue is resolved, the A’s will remain only so attractive to potential suitors. Which leads to another theory that’s floating — namely that in the wake of where this economy may eventually lead,  Major League Baseball may choose to contract some teams. Should that scenario occur, I would imagine the A’s and Marlins, two teams without a solution to their stadium issues, would be at the top of the list.

Question for the readers: What would you do if you owned the A’s?


  • Oakland Sí

    First, Rob Neyer had some good arguments about why the “contraction” talk has more heat than light (Field of Schemes website has a link to that article).

    Second, I’ve long thought that Wolff’s interest as managing partner was the possible development attached to the ballpark. With the economy as it is that’s not likely to happen anywhere in the short term, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him want out.

    Third, I’ve seen figures elsewhere (don’t remember where at the moment) that showed the A’s $$ worth increasing in recent years, not decreasing…if that’s true then a decrease in value is likely more due to the general tanking of the economy.

    Finally, as owner of the A’s I would stop dissing Oakland and the coliseum. Even if I wanted to eventually move it would make little sense to put people off from patronizing the place where the team currently and (at least for the time being) plays.

  • Teri

    If I owned the A’s I’d most definitely sleep with Jason Giambi!

  • Steve Toomajian

    I would take a serious look at the “Learning to Love Mt. Davis” article posted today at http://www.newballpark.blogspot.com. website. The proposals in their post for a renovation of the Coliseum really are quite ingenious. This would involve support from the current crop of Oakland/Alameda County politicians, something that has been problematic for a number of years.

    Should that prove fruitless, the site in San Jose near the Sharks’ arena already has an approved EIR report and will have access to light rail and a BART extension. That really makes a lot of sense if staying in Oakland is not practical. As for the Giants’ territorial rights, that is a totally bogus subject. The only reason the Giants have those rights is because the A’s gave them away at the behest of MLB. The same could happen in reverse, with prodding from Our Man Bud and a sufficient number of YES votes by the owners.

    Finally, I recall reading many of your posts from last season regarding the A’s no-name, no-runs offense and how boring it was to watch. I don’t understand why you now are also so negative when they take a totally opposite approach: trying to complement inexperience players with proven veterans to compete right now for the AL West title. Based on your previous negative take, I would think you would view it as a positive that the A’s want to compete right now while still developing young players. (By the way, isn’t this what the Giants have not done? They overpaid for Renteria and still have not addressed their need for one or two power hitters.)

    It never entered my mind that Mr. Wolff has a strategy to upgrade the team with a view to selling it. Rather, both he and Billy Beane are sore losers. Both of them want to win. The hugely improved radio and cable TV presence goes hand in hand with this effort to regain the fan base. Now, the trick is to get people to actually show up at the aging Coliseum until a more attractive venue can be provided.

  • cris

    perhaps revisit the old oakland stadium plan now that real estate and the economy have hit the skids. i’d imagine that those same business owners who balked at being bought out by the team or city might be more open to getting a little cash rescue if they’re still in business to begin with.
    with the raiders lease up sooner than later and big al most likely looking to get out of dodge if he can, maybe a renovation of the current stadium with its bart ready and freeway access might also be the way to go.
    who knows, but it’s not like oakland has much of a brand name outside of those two sports teams since the warriors don’t exactly make any effort to associate their brand with my hometown. so maybe with some creativity one team can stay without trying to milk the city and oakland can maintain some level of national relevance and exposure. other than what oakland is used to being in the news for nationally that is.
    whatever the case may be, by the time 2013 rolls around, wolff will be pushing close to 80. i’m guessing that he’s not planning to stick around invested in this little real estate/balkpark building project of his. either as the front man for another investor or as a partial investor himself.

  • If I own the A’s I would sign Barry Bonds. Bonds at 45 is still a better hitter than all the DH in the league. I know it will never come about because he is being blackballed by baseball. Barry has a great lawsuit in his favor.

  • Bee

    I suppose it’s possible that Lew Wolff is positioning the team to be sold, but in this economy I wonder if there are enough investors with cash to pay even a reduced price for the A’s. And I agree that I don’t think Billy Beane (and probably Lew W) will want to exit Oakland or the Bay Area with their tales between their legs.

    I do think there are some things that could be done to make the colliseum more fan friendly. As I wrote on the A’s forum a few weeks ago, some of the things that could be done to make the baseball experience better are: rehab the bathrooms, provide more interesting and healthier food choices (sushi? Grilled (not fried)chicken sandwiches, interesting salads such as whole grain, salmon, ceasar or other types of salads (www.beautifull.com, a wonderful SF company that sells really good healthy food), spiff up the parking lot with some trees, wifi connectivity thoughout the stadium, etc. That would improve the whole experience and make the Coliseum more enjoyable, and wouldn’t cost the kind of money than the newballpark.blogspot.com post recommended.

    As for contraction, I don’t see that happening, but I could be wrong.