Leverage is a terrible thing to waste in the world of negotiation, but that’s what A’s president Dave Kaval appeared to do Monday during a meeting of the Oakland City Council.
He also didn’t appear overly concerned about it either.
The council voted 6-1 with one abstention to approve an amended counter proposal in regard to a Bay Area waterfront ballpark. That meant it was rejecting the team’s proposal.
Of which Kaval responded: “We hoped it’d be a vote on something we brought in April, or a derivative of it … From our perspective, this is not a term sheet that works for the A’s … The current term sheet as it’s constructed is not a business partnership that works for us.”
Which shines a brighter light on Las Vegas for potential relocation.
Cat and mouse
If the A’s have already established themselves in the role of a cat in Oakland, why now eat the mouse?
Is it enough to walk away after decades of back-and-forth haggling and proposals on the mere point that the team wants to provide fewer public benefits and affordable housing within a proposed $12 billion project?
No matter how many concessions the city of Oakland makes — and there were some major ones in the non-binding term sheet that was approved Monday — the A’s appear to have decided theirs is a future elsewhere.
“We’re looking at a waterfront ballpark here,” councilman Noel Gallo said. “There is no waterfront in Las Vegas.”
There is Lake Mead. Minus the part about water.
Let’s assume the A’s really are done talking in Oakland. Kaval is expected to make what will be his fourth trip to Las Vegas on Wednesday and is reportedly bringing along owner John Fisher and a team architect to study potential sites for a ballpark.
Backing off Oakland again brings into focus whatever public-private partnership might ultimately be struck here. The A’s suggested Monday they’re ready to punt on a deal in which the city of Oakland added $352 million for offsite infrastructure costs to be paid by taxes and not the team.
It would bring the city’s total public contribution to $800 million.
Read that part again.
And it’s not enough for the A’s or Major League Baseball, as commissioner Rob Manfred made clear in a statement following the vote.
Still, where else would the A’s be gifted such an enticing carrot or even one in the same stratosphere?
I wouldn’t think (hope) here.
Pursue best deal
Those local parties interested in building a $1 billion, 30,000-seat Major League Baseball stadium — from Henderson to Summerlin to folks like casino owner Phil Ruffin and various Strip properties — should now pursue an even better deal for themselves than many might have originally believed possible.
It’s time someone stands firm on the number of public dollars bestowed by billionaire sports owners, even if the project would be determined not to include a mixed-use development plan.
Let the A’s do their market feasibility and economic and transportation studies and vet potential sponsorships and research projected ticket sales. I suppose they can regain a portion of leverage by involving additional cities in their pursuit of a ballpark and the potential for redevelopment around it. Portland. Nashville. Vancouver. Montreal.
None of it, however, means whichever group the A’s might partner with in Las Vegas should overpay to secure a deal.
“I’m not exactly (sure) why we’re even here,” Oakland council member Carroll Fife said Monday before abstaining from the non-binding vote. “I don’t know where we go from here, after doing somersaults, after receiving insults, after being disrespected … . It’s not a negotiation. It’s really, ‘Do what we say, or we will leave.’ That is not rooted. That is not respectful.”
There is a warning in there for Las Vegas: Be the cat, not the mouse.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.