Friday, November 21, 2008

Veeck, Finley, or O'Malley?

Ray Ratto looks at Lew Wolff's recent moves -- pushing the park in Fremont, trading for Matt Holliday, floating his one-and-done playoff idea -- and sees an owner with an identity crisis:

It's just a phase he's going through. And no, we're not referring to his age here, so put your lawyers back in their holsters. We're talking about ownership phases.

He has already completed the first one, in which he comes in as the purchasing hero . . . He has gone through the stage where he is applauded just for walking down the Coliseum aisle with his grandson, or shaking hands with someone as he presents an oversized cardboard check to said someone's favorite charity. He's the good guy. Phase Two is the part where we find out why he's actually in this. It's to build a ballpark village in Fremont . . .

. . . In addition, he's gone through Phase 2.5, wherein he looks like a cheapskate. Tarping the upper deck to cut down on staffing costs made the park look sort of Tampa Bay-ish, the operation looked dowdy and hand-me-downish when compared to the Giants, and the club's 2008 payroll was cut nearly in half while the revenue sharing check from Major League Baseball more than doubled.

He is now entering Phase Three, where he realizes he isn't going over well and wants to do something about it (while, of course, still getting what he wants). He wants to seem less skinflinty and more the baseball guy. In fact, with this new idea, which he actually said he would share with Commissioner Bud Selig (yeah, like he hasn't got enough spam on his plate already), he is trying to decide whether he wants to be Bill Veeck, Charlie Finley or Walter O'Malley.
I'm not a huge Ray Ratto fan, and I really don't care much about what Lew Wolff does, but I find the Veeck-Finley-O'Malley ownership phase matrix to be fairly insightful. Really, those are the options, and it's always good to know where your team's owner falls on that scale.


leez34 said...

I gotta admit - I am quite familiar with those three guys, but I am unsure what parts of their personalities are being represented here. Veeck was an outgoing, well-liked showman who kept buying and selling teams. Finley was a cheapskate and basically the A's manager who everyone (fans, players) basically hated. And O'Malley had a lot of success in moving the Dodgers to LA, but fought a lot with Branch Rickey and made an effort to spite those he didn't like.

Could you explain a little what you think makes an owner fall along the Veeck-Finley-O'Malley personality spectrum? The men are just too wildly different for me to see what it would look like. Does falling closer to O'Malley mean he wants to be the guy to move the team (Fremont hardly qualifies as a move like NYC to LA)?

Craig Calcaterra said...

It's obviously not perfect and there's a lot of overlap between the figures, but I break it down like this:

Veeck: loveable guy who, in his later days, anyway, acquired a good reputation and roughly fits that "happy to see him around, applauds when he sits down with his grandson" thing Ratto mentions. This obviously ignores a lot of Veeck's history, but it's what people think of when they think of Veeck today.

Finley: some of the Veeckines at first, but he's the guy Ratto is referencing with both the "we know what he really wants to do" line, in that Finley really intended to move the team out of Kansas City from the moment he gained controlling interest despite tossing some bones to the Kansas City people. Likewise, Wolff has probably always been about getting out of Oakland and into a new stadium.

O'Malley: while famous for the move, I think Ratto is really getting at the reputation O'Malley gained after getting the team to L.A., and that's one that was classy, respectable, baseball-first owner who would always spend money if it meant a good product on the field.

Like I said, they're rought categories, but Ratto's comparison resonated for me as soon as I read it.

Anonymous said...


Wolfe is certainly being more visible, which I think is part of the immediate plan to stem the tide of attendance decline.

Every once in a while I drive by the empty space that could be the A's new home. My brain mentally imposes the renderings of Cisco field on the 140+ acres and voila! I'm stuck in traffic.

Individual voices are powerful in SoCal, but ultimately, this thing will get done. Fisher/Wolfe may have to put more into infrastructure around the proposed stadium, but it is wanted by most people here, I think. Certainly it's wanted more than the Bay Meadows racetrack redevelopment taking place across the Bay in San Mateo. That took a long time to get approval also.