New Oakland A’s president Dave Kaval spent a good two hours Thursday being as broadly informative and detail-vague as possible about the new stadium he has been tasked with building, which is probably the best way for him to proceed, given the following facts:
1. His boss, John Fisher, is in a hurry to get something done on a stadium as part of a broader culture shift for a team that has best been known for Moneyball and Revenue Checks.
2. He replaces both Lew Wolff and Mike Crowley as the second most powerful person in the organization because of his experience getting Avaya Stadium built for the Earthquakes.
3. His hurry to put shovel into dirt is being pressed at one side by Fisher and Major League Baseball, which is considering modifications or even eradication of the revenue sharing structure that the A’s have lived on for years now, and delayed on the other by the Oakland Raiders and the National Football League, which has its own multi-million-dollar trout to flambé.
But opportunity knocks when it knocks, and Kaval didn’t hesitate when Fisher asked him to find a way out of the elaborate trap that is the A’s. He got a small chunk of equity, a raise in salary and a challenge that has left dozens of others on the roadside in ruins.
And while he offered neither a location, a timeline, a deadline, a budget or really anything much beyond repeated talking points about “involving the community” and “studying multiple sites,” he left much to digest, starting with how he became the new Wolff.
Specifically, he built Avaya, the soccer stadium attached to North America’s largest outdoor bar, thus melding two of the planet’s most popular pastimes -- soccer and throwing up outdoors.
The move by Fisher reinforces the notion most recently advanced by his visit to the Howard Terminal site that he is losing patience with the A’s wait-for-an-opening strategy put forth by Wolff. If MLB wants resolution and is willing to cut off access to the revenue sharing cow, the reason why waiting makes sense is gone, and the need to act is nigh.
It also is an acknowledgement that the Raiders’ situation has festered too long for his taste. He thought the Raiders would be in Los Angeles by now with the San Diego Chargers. He thought Mark Davis’ flirtations with San Antonio might result in something. Now he is stuck waiting for a resolution in Davis’ attempt to move to Las Vegas, and either sees an opportunity to cozy in a meaningful and legally binding way with the twin political thickets of Oakland and Alameda County to get what he wants now.
In addition, Fisher knows that roughly half of the A’s day-to-day support has eroded since bought the team from Steve Schott nearly 12 years ago, and needs an infusion of excitement to replace the build-for-the-future mantra that has produced more build-for-the-future mantras.
Being a real estate man, he believes real estate can do that for him, and at least in the short term, there is little evidence to suggest that he is wrong. Whether cities should bear the brunt of those dreams is another debate, but Fisher has clearly decided he can no longer idle about waiting for the perfect confluence of outside events to dictate to him.
Thus, Dave Kaval, 40 years younger than Wolff, most publicly confortable than Crowley (and definitely more so than the hologrammatic suggestion that is Fisher), is now the man charted with extricating the Athletics from their self-imposed stasis. Whether or not he can manage this trick of the light remains to be seen, but time is a’wastin,’ both on his task and the time he can spend not explaining them.