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Greed is good, and that means A’s fans have to wait

MLS: Chicago Fire at San Jose Earthquakes
A’s managing owner Lew Wolff (left) and John Fisher (right) open Avaya Stadium in San Jose
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” said Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film Wall Street. Let’s keep that in mind as we consider what might be motivating current ownership on the A’s stadium situation, brought to the forefront by yet another missive that the A’s need new ownership that will magically forego revenue sharing and build a new ballpark tomorrow, environmental contamination and site control be damned.

I don’t really get this focus on the A’s receiving revenue sharing and an owner still making a profit. Who gives a shit where the money comes from? Do you think that if us fans magically ponied up $34 million more than we already pour into this team that the money would be spent any differently than it is now? Do you think that if the team suddenly lost a $34 million revenue stream it wouldn’t just cut spending by $25-30 million to do the thing that billionaires do, earn a return on their investment?

Greed is good, then. I don’t really care whether 29 other billionaire ownership groups hand this particularly billionaire ownership group $34 million every year. That’s great! Take the money.

It seems to me that all the propositions to sell the team and find owners willing to build a stadium NOW NOW NOW seem to miss one thing: If any of them wants to break ground on a new ballpark next year, they’re going to insist on public money from Oakland or Alameda County to do it. Both entities have said no and are on the brink of losing the Raiders because of it. I believe both government agencies should continue to say no, save infrastructure improvements to handle utilities, traffic, and public safety, because there are greater public needs in Oakland than to spend money for a billionaire to get a faster return on his investment.

The answer is to play the long game. John Fisher and Lew Wolff will build their stadium with their investors’ money on the least expensive site possible, because there isn’t an appetite for spending public money on stadiums in the East Bay. Money spent on environmental cleanup or acquiring site control is money down a sinkhole, and doesn’t maximize dollars for the Athletics Investment Group LLC.

The least expensive site possible is where the Coliseum now sits, and it’s just a matter of waiting for the Raiders to leave for Las Vegas (or Los Angeles) or for Ronnie Lott and his investment group to come up with a master plan that also brings the A’s along as willing participants instead of see them and the Raiders jointly reject the debacle that was the Floyd Kephart plan nobody asked for.

Any plan that sees them spending huge amounts of money on cleaning up environmental contamination or buying up parcels from unwilling sellers is a no-go because, let’s remember, greed is good. If all it takes to get a new stadium done without spending one extra dollar is waiting, then they will wait. Because greed is good.

To sell to another ownership group doesn’t change the mantra that greed is good, though it perhaps changes how aggressively that mantra is pursued. But consider this. In the pursuit of fast returns, isn’t it possible that a new ownership group willing to be more aggressive with spending money on a new stadium will decide that their best course of action is not to sink money into one of the alternative Oakland sites but rather an alternative city? Are the Montréal Athlétiques really that farfetched an idea?

Do I care whether Lew Wolff and John Fisher make money? No. But it’s important to understand what motivates them and the rest of the Athletics Investment Group LLC. It’s greed. And their greed is what is keeping them in Oakland.

If you want to build a better near future, improve team facilities not fan facilities

So what to do about the Oakland Coliseum now so that the A’s aren’t throwing 70-win teams out there until a new stadium brings in new revenues? Do the Oakland Coliseum’s facilities suck? Of course they do. I think the state of training and clubhouse facilities for the A’s is a severe detriment to the club in free agent negotiations. Consider that Jon Lester’s experience in Oakland after spending his whole career in Boston affected his free agent decision at the end of 2014, writes CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney:

The Oakland Coliseum doesn’t have a reputation for being family-friendly, and the Cubs played up all the planned amenities at a renovated Wrigley Field during Lester’s recruiting visit to Chicago, paving the way to a six-year, $155 million megadeal with a last-place team that needed to show the franchise would be serious about winning.

Or how much better Chris Coghlan felt upon returning to Wrigley Field and its new clubhouse after experiencing Wrigley’s older, smaller clubhouse in previous years and Oakland’s this year, writes Bruce Miles of the Chicago Daily Herald:

How does the new compare with the old?

"Oh, it blows it away," he said. "I tell guys all the time I'd take the old clubhouse, it's so much fun around here. But this facility is top of the line. It's so unique. It recruits itself when everybody hears about it and everybody wants to know about it. It's pretty cool."

The flipside of those comments about the Cubs are the rumors that Adrian Beltre and Rafael Furcal passed on Oakland’s big free agent contract offers because of the state of the Coliseum.

Anyone who has taken the tour of the A’s clubhouse during FanFest or on a stadium tour has to come away with the impression that it all seems terribly small. Short of the Raiders moving out so that the A’s can take over the football locker room, what can be done to just create more space?

I’m not as much concerned about the superstars getting $20 million plus annual value deals as I am about the role player who has several shorter term offers in the $4-5 million range. It feels like lately the only way the A’s have been able to jump on those sorts of players has been to simply be the first to the table with an aggressive offer, such as in signing Rich Hill.

Even journeyman Matt McBride, initially signed on a minor league deal, told me back in spring training that he came to Oakland because, among other reasons, “They were the first team that called the first day you become a free agent so I knew they were interested right away.” That comes with the risk of bidding way above what the market would settle on if the A’s could just sit back.

Rhamesis Muncada at considered the hypothetical of what the A’s might do for the fan and player experience immediately once the Raiders move out, but let’s say it will be a few years, somehow. There doesn’t seem to be a way to do it just by pushing various stadium-located offices to temporary facilities.

So maybe this is the level that the A’s have to play at until the cornerstone is laid for John Fisher Field at Cisco Ballpark. Hope that early free agent offers are enough to entice marginal players and pray that the club can develop a position player or three on their own, for once.

Maybe it’s time to go full Disastros. It’s not like the fans are coming to see this representative product anyway.