I attended a Q&A session involving A’s co-owner Lew Wolff this afternoon hosted by the Rotary Club of San Jose. It’s interesting to see Wolff operate in that kind of environment. He represents the bad guy to so many A’s fans. But he was on friendly terrain Wednesday, speaking in the same downtown area where he hopes to build his new ballpark someday – and he drew laughter with a few sharp one-liners. You can’t help but wonder how he would have been greeted in Oakland for a similar function. Here’s a few highlights from his 39-minute Q&A and the short media session he conducted afterward:
–If the team does indeed move to San Jose, they will be called the “San Jose A’s,” which has been assumed. Wolff pointed out how the franchise has moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland, always keeping the “Athletics” label. There was a stuffed Stomper on hand at Wednesday’s event, with the A’s mascot wearing a “San Jose Athletics” uniform.
— Wolff was asked about the possibility of the A’s simply buying out the Giants’ territorial rights to San Jose. “That has not been discussed with us,” he said. That’s surprising to me. Considering nearly three years has passed since Major League Baseball began researching the A’s stadium options, I’d be shocked if MLB hasn’t tried to broker a financial settlement between the teams regarding territorial rights, if indeed what Wolff says is true.
–Wolff said the A’s received about $32 million in revenue sharing last year from MLB. He claimed the A’s take that $32 million, along with all other revenue generated, and allocate about half of it toward the major league payroll. The rule of thumb, according to Wolff, is for major league teams to devote about half of their revenue to the major league payroll. The A’s carried an opening day payroll of roughly $67 million in 2011. “We use every penny of it,” Wolff said of revenue-sharing funds.
–Getting an answer from MLB on the stadium issue “in the next couple months would be great,” Wolff said. Someone asked how long he might wait for an answer before throwing in the towel on building a ballpark. “I’m not going to continue this much longer,” he said. “What we want is an answer. We want a ‘Yes, you can relocate and share the territory,’ or ‘You can’t.’ But not having any answer is difficult not just for me, but for the 130 people that work for us, for planning, for our baseball team every year.” So what happens if his timeframe expires and there’s still no answer? Would Wolff and his fellow owners sell? He said he’s not entertaining that option yet.
–Despite the trades of three All-Star pitchers over the winter, Wolff thinks the A’s will field a quality team this season. “We’re going to fool a lot of people with our team, I think,” he said.