Dodgers investor and Warriors co-Owner Peter Guber yesterday said that he has "no interest" in buying the A's, despite a report by the East Bay Express that he and Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob were leading an "investment group exploring the possibility of buying the A's and building a ballpark in Oakland," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. Guber said, "Absolutely not true. 100% not true." Guber declined comment about whether Lacob "might be interested but called it 'categorically incorrect' to say he might be." Guber: "I have not had any conversations with the league or any of the owners about buying the team. I love the Dodgers. I love the Warriors" (L.A. TIMES, 12/19). The initial report from the EAST BAY EXPRESS' Tavares & Gammon cited sources as saying that Guber and Lacob are "part of one of at least three potential investment groups who are interested in buying the A’s and building the new ballpark." Sources said that the investor group "behind the Howard Terminal ballpark proposal" is willing to "partner with" current A's ownership to build a new ballpark. But A's Owner Lew Wolff earlier this week said that he had "no interest in the Howard Terminal proposal." Sources said that the group "knew full well that Wolff might reject their proposal," and that they made "contingency plans and have been shopping around the Howard Terminal proposal for potential investors, identifying at least three groups who are interested in buying the A’s and building the Howard Terminal ballpark themselves" (EASTBAYEXPRESS.com, 12/18).
SITTING ON THE DOCK: In San Jose, Tim Kawakami cited sources as saying that MLB "likes the waterfront area," and that Lacob "was VERY interested in the Howard Terminal site." But "you never know" with Lacob. Kawakami: "Who knew he could beat [Oracle CEO] Larry Ellison to the Warriors, so I don’t ever put limits on Lacob’s drive." Meanwhile, sources said that Guber is "tied to the Dodgers and not involved in any A's effort." But Kawakami noted that was "in July/August/September" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 12/18). Also in San Jose, Marcus Thompson writes keeping the A's in Oakland "is trendy again." The "question now is if these defibrillations are actually giving life to a new stadium or just the final twitches of a dead movement." On the "heels of colorful renderings of a ballpark on the Oakland waterfront, comes the jolt of possible Warriors involvement." But "in the end ... all that matters is how Oakland takes advantage" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/19).
COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN: A S.F. CHRONICLE editorial states MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's "failure to provide a definitive answer on the A's status amounts to cruel and unusual punishment to their ownership, their suitors in San Jose, their loyal legion of fans who keep the outfield drums beating in Oakland -- and the image of professional baseball itself." No one involved "wants to see the A's stuck in an aging, hulking Coliseum with its infamous sewage spills and tarped-off sections." Wolff on Tuesday said that "all he is asking for is an up-or-down vote of baseball owners on the move to San Jose." Wolff and co-Owner John Fisher would be "foolish to sell before then, and their patience and resolve is beyond doubt by now." MLB "needs to choose: Plan A with Wolff and Fisher or Plan B, presumably without them." But until that "happens, all those news conferences with beautiful renderings of a second ballpark on San Francisco Bay are just another form of fantasy baseball" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/19).
The Trail Blazers are off to a 22-5 start, and in conjunction, the team's ticket revenue has "more than doubled compared to this point last season and single-game ticket prices are increasing as the team continues to rack up wins," according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. However, the higher revenue has been achieved with a home arena in the Moda Center that "clearly has not been filled to capacity for at least eight of the Blazers' 12 home games this season." The team attributes the unfilled seats "in part to people who buy a ticket and don't show up or, more commonly, to groups that buy a block of tickets and end up with some unused." But the empty seats "also reflect the Blazer's ticket-selling strategy shift, which has coincided with the arrival" last year of team President Chris McGowan. Blazers VP/Ticket Sales & Service Tyler Howell said that the team previously "resorted to later-season, deeply discounted ticket packages or to selling blocks of tickets to secondary market brokers in the quest for the valued 'sellout.'" The altered strategy "is intended to protect season ticket buyers' commitment to a 44-game, regular season home schedule." The "hottest ticket of the season" is the Dec. 28 game against the Heat. About "200 tickets on the upper bowl that the team put up for sale Monday morning were sold within hours." The "average price for a ticket to the Heat game" is $95. The Blazers yesterday morning "took the unusual step on the team website of directing consumers to ticket brokers for Heat tickets as the team's supply is gone." The "lowest-priced ticket" yesterday on StubHub for the Heat game was $128.95 (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/19).
THE SUNS WILL RISE AGAIN: In Phoenix, Bob Young notes the Suns went into their game last night against the Spurs "ranked 28th out of 30 NBA teams in average home attendance, with 14,158 fans per game." That is a "startling 1,274 fewer fans per game than last season." The Suns once "ruled the Valley’s sports landscape." But the "trouble with operating in a saturated market is that once the foothold with fans is lost, it’s difficult to stop sliding." Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said, "We had to go through a difficult cycle at the end of one era to start another one. It’s like a mourning process. You almost have to go through the grieving" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/19).
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday said Bucks Owner Herb Kohl "has been amazing for Wisconsin with the Bucks," but added Kohl is "going to have to have some more folks if the team is going to stick around." Walker, appearing on Milwaukee-based WSSP-AM, said the BMO Harris Bradley Center is "one of the older arenas out there" in the NBA, but a new arena is "not an obvious sell for the public." Walker: "Clearly, if something doesn't happen, a place like Seattle or somewhere else is going to come out and somebody's going to try and grab this team. So in the end, this massive group that's been put together of civic leaders will probably come up with a unique series of things that require some public, but also some private support as well, because that's going to be part of the key to getting this done." He added having the Bucks is "important just for a thriving downtown" to support local businesses, "but in a larger context for Milwaukee and even for Wisconsin it's important" because if an area has a "team and somehow the team leaves, there's something that goes far beyond sports to even what it says about a community." Walker: "That's why it's important we find a way to make this work ... (but) whatever it requires in terms of public support will probably require some sort of a referendum" ("Chuck & Wickett," WSSP-AM, 12/17).
GET THE BALL ROLLING: In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted Kohl by retaining Allen & Co. has ensured the process of adding investors for the Bucks "will be in secret and few, if any, leaks will occur until Kohl is ready to announce his new ownership team." Kohl's announcement on Monday that a "new arena is not just about the Bucks," was "his way of telling the local business community and potential local investors that it's time to start talking." The Cultural & Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force, which "met for the first time Friday, will spend the next year studying the various capital needs of the region's institutions, including" BMO Harris Bradley Center. At the same time, a "smaller group of Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce members is meeting and gathering information on what to do with the aging arena." MMAC President Timothy Sheehy on Monday said that he believes "with Kohl's announcement, local investors will spring forth" (JSONLINE.com, 12/17).
FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal reports Mariners officials "are signaling to certain agents and others in the industry that the team is near its payroll limit, though certain exceptions may be made for the right player." If the Mariners "are done spending" following the signing of 2B Robinson Cano, "then the only thing that can be said about their plan is that there was no plan at all." It appeared that the Mariners' signing of him "was an attempt to regain credibility, rekindle a dormant, disgruntled fan base." The Mariners "need to keep going," otherwise, the team "will risk wasting the early years of Cano's contract, which coincide with the final years of his prime" (FOXSPORTS.com, 12/19).
NATS TO KEEP CHIEFS: The Nationals yesterday announced that the team has signed a "four-year affiliation extension with the new management" of the Triple-A Int'l League Syracuse Chiefs. In Syracuse, Lindsay Kramer notes the Nationals' "current pact with Syracuse" runs through the '14 season. The longer deal "came at the request" of Chiefs President Bill Dutch. A big part of the Nationals' "comfort level with sinking deeper roots in Syracuse stems from the hiring" of new Chiefs GM Jason Smorol and his staff, a "turnover that helped eased concern about Syracuse's long-term viability." The Chiefs "lost almost" $1M in '13 (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 12/19).
LASHING OUT: Grizzlies Dir of Player Personnel & Basketball Development Stu Lash said of team GM Chris Wallace, "Chris is still part of the organization, maybe not as much on a day-to-day basis as he was." In Memphis, Geoff Calkins writes, "The truth is, Wallace is only a part of the organization in the sense that he continues to draw a check," as he "doesn't go into the office and he isn't consulted on moves" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 12/19).
SIXERS SYNERGY: In Newark, Eliot Shorr-Parks noted the 76ers "sent an email recently to their season ticket holders, asking if they wanted to buy" Devils tickets. Josh Harris owns both teams. The e-mail was "selling tickets" to the Devils-Rangers outdoor game at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 26. The e-mail stated the offer is" available exclusively for Sixers Season Ticket Holders" until tomorrow (NJ.com, 12/18).