Details are beginning to trickle out about baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, with the A’s getting some clarity on one important issue in particular.
According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the A’s will be phased out of Major League Baseball’s annual revenue sharing plan over the next four years. That’s no small chunk of money being taken away — the club has been receiving in the neighborhood of a reported $30 million annually in MLB’s attempt to redistribute wealth and help out the game’s “have-not” franchises.
With that source of money eventually drying up, it brings up lots of big-picture questions about the A’s future. Primarily, does it crank up the urgency for them to build a new ballpark, one that will attract more fans than the antiquated Coliseum and become in itself a vital new revenue stream?
It seems that urgency already has taken hold within the organization, perhaps in the anticipation that the revenue-sharing checks would stop being provided. Two weeks ago, the A’s announced that managing partner Lew Wolff was stepping down and selling his ownership stake in the team to the other owners. Majority owner John Fisher has taken the reins as the new managing partner, and given Fisher’s increasingly hands-on efforts in searching out a ballpark site, it only adds to the belief that team management is more serious than ever about identifying a site upon which to build.
Dave Kaval has replaced Mike Crowley as the A’s president, and Kaval’s experience in helping the San Jose Earthquakes build their soccer stadium was a main reason he was tapped for his new role with the A’s. His primary task is helping the A’s identify and build their new ballpark somewhere in Oakland, with Howard Terminal, Laney College and the Coliseum site itself all believed to be among the top locations the A’s are considering.
Other questions loom about the A’s payroll in light of the lost revenues. Will it slice into what they’re willing to spend this season? General manager David Forst, addressing reporters Wednesday afternoon before the CBA details were announced, was asked if he was worried about the potential loss of revenue sharing.
“That’s a question for Dave or for John,” Forst said. “We’re going to operate as we’ve done. I haven’t put a lot of thought into it until ultimately we know what’s going on.”
Will things run business as usual for the time being?
“I think that’s fair to say,” Forst said. “We’re in a place, we know we need to build and get better. … Billy (Beane) and I have continued to operate as we have in the past. And we’ll continue to work on the team and the things we’ve talked about.”
There’s also the possibility that Fisher goes the other way and, with the loss of revenue sharing, ultimately decides to start spending more on payroll in order to boost fan interest, perhaps fill the seats more at the Coliseum, generate more revenue that way and try to create some momentum going into a new ballpark, which could still be roughly four years away even after any announcement of a ballpark deal is made.
Kaval, addressing the media upon his announcement as the A’s new president, was asked about the possibility of the team’s payroll increasing.
“I think all that is possible. I wouldn’t rule anything out,” he said. “Billy has operated the baseball operations part of the business a certain way, and he has a great track record and done a great job with the resources he’s had … but (things) could slightly change, it’s certainly possible. All I want to do is make sure I support (baseball operations) in the best way possible.”