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Athletics offer to “assume control” of the Coliseum site from Oakland-Alameda

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Here’s a new twist in the never-ending saga that is the Oakland Athletics’ stadium search: the A’s have offered to purchase the Coliseum and the land on which it sits from the City of Oakland and Alameda County, California.

Well, not really “purchase it.”  Technically, they want to to “assume control of the Coliseum” in exchange for paying more than $135 million of city and county debt still owed on the stadium complex and property. The offer comes in the form of a letter sent Sunday by Oakland A’s president Dave Kaval, and which the A’s tweeted out a few hours ago (see below).

The A’s, Raiders and Golden State Warriors call the site home now, but the latter two teams are leaving for Las Vegas and San Francisco, respectively. That would leave the A’s as the sole sports tenants and, presumably, the acceptance of this offer would grant them development rights for the entire complex, which is roughly 120 acres and includes the Oracle Arena in which the Warriors currently play. That could serve as a massive source of revenue down the line. Notably, the right to develop real estate around a new ballpark was what started the A’s years-long stadium search off, back when they were hoping to move down to San Jose.

I have to applaud the Athletics for initiative here, but I’m struggling to think why Oakland-Alameda would agree to do this. The debt service notwithstanding, it’s very valuable land in an area with some of the highest real estate prices in the world. As the San Francisco Chronicle notes, the city has contemplated buying out the county’s half-ownership as it is, likely because there’s a ton of money to be made developing the site. There are also private developers not connected with the Athletics who have eyed the property too, no doubt thinking about all of the residential and commercial development which could be accomplished there. One would think that Oakland-Alameda could, if it so wanted to, sell the Coliseum property off for far more than the debt it carries and still get cash-in-pocket over and above that. After that, the land will still bring in tax revenue, whether it’s from the A’s and whatever it is they put on the land or whether someone builds, I dunno, an Ikea, a Top Golf complex and 1,000 condos.

No doubt this is part of the reason the city and county are so intent on the A’s looking at the Howard Terminal site mentioned in the letter. The A’s realize this too, as Kaval’s letter to Oakland acknowledges that it’s still looking at the Howard Terminal site, but highlights the challenges inherent in building there in terms of accessibility and transportation (which are legitimate issues with that site). To me it all seems like a very polite way of the A’s trying to pressure Oakland into giving them a sweetheart deal on the Coliseum site, with the most subtle suggestion that (a) it’s the only viable site left; and (b) if that doesn’t work out, well . . . maybe they move out of town entirely? Not that anyone has gone that far yet.

All very interesting, but unless I’m reading this really wrong, it strikes me that Oakland-Alameda giving the land up for debt service relief would be a tremendous gift that would serve as a far larger public subsidy of the Athletics than any voter in the region has seen fit to offer them or any other sports team in many, many years.

I suppose you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, but this seems like a shot that will miss.

 

 

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.