Canzano: Seagull feasts on sports executive -- and an update on tricky Trail Blazers' lease
News, musings and commentary...
Count me among those troubled by the bizarre act of Oakland A’s president Dave Kaval. He’s been all over the place but reached a new low this week when he mixed it up on Twitter on Wednesday night with an account run by a seagull.
The gull was declared the winner by knockout.
The whole thing goes back to the A’s dismal attendance this season. The roster was gutted in the offseason. The franchise is busy flirting with Las Vegas and posturing as if it’s going to ditch Oakland. Last week, the A’s drew 2,703 fans for a game against the Orioles.
Kaval’s feelings must have been hurt. There is no other reasonable takeaway. Because on Wednesday night as the A’s visited rival San Francisco, the executive took to Twitter and attempted to mock the Giants “sad” attendance.
The announced attendance for the game: 32,898. It was, in fact, the lowest attended Giants-A’s game ever held in San Francisco. Kaval pounced. But the attendance figure was also more than four times the average turnout for an Oakland baseball game this season.
What happened next?
Wrote one observer: “What’s that thing they say about stones and glass houses?”
Wrote another: “Bizarre behavior from the president of the Oakland A’s.”
Then the seagull flew into the fray.
The gull account blistered Kaval, who clapped back during the game by pointing out in a tweet, “And you are literally a seagull.” The esteemed president of the A’s didn’t stop there, unfortunately. He crafted two other tweets aimed at the bird. The final one included the score — a 1-0 win by the A’s — and an insult that barely got off the ground.
Kaval looks like a loon here. The team president is literally debating with a parody account with his insecurities on full display. It’s making me re-think whether the Portland Diamond Project should actually engage with the troubled franchise or if it should just turn the focus to MLB expansion.
Remember, Kaval told the Portland Diamond Project last year in a phone call that he and Fisher were going to visit and tour Portland stadium sites. When that got out and A’s fans revolted Kaval then reversed course and claimed there was no such plan in place. Imagine what a serious negotiation with Kaval and A’s owner John Fisher might be like.
Portland would love and support an MLB team. The diamond project would build a stadium and entertainment district and foster healthy culture. Basically, the opposite of what is happening in Oakland. Kaval’s act is a bad look. He’s all over the place. And I’m left thinking maybe the seagull did us all a favor.
LEASE UPDATE: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is telling staffers that he anticipates a smooth renegotiation of the Trail Blazers’ lease with the city, per a source.
The NBA franchise owns Moda Center but the city owns the land the arena sits upon. The lease agreement expires in 2025.
Long-time Wheeler aide, Tom Rinehart, was running point on the negotiations with the NBA team. In early April, it was announced that Rinehart was departing Wheeler’s staff after five years. The Mayor appointed Michael Jordan — no, not THE Michael Jordan — as the new lead on the lease negotiation. Jordan is the director of the Bureau of Environmental Services.
Said a City Hall source: “The Mayor is telling everyone this won’t be a problem.”
Mixed up in all of this is the growing potential for a franchise ownership change. A source at Vulcan, Inc. tells me Portland’s NBA team is being prepared for a sale in the next 18 months. That’s not a shock. The whisper is that Vice Chairman Bert Kolde will lead the effort on behalf of the Paul G. Allen Trust. I’m told Kolde and Paul’s sister, Jody, are closely following the auction of the NFL’s Denver Broncos. Five bidders are set to meet with the Broncos in May.
We all know the Blazers can be difficult. The Allen family prefers to keep its plans murky. But nobody I’m talking with believes the NBA team will ever leave Portland. Also, everyone thinks a new lease will get done. Still, I can’t help but wonder about how one thing might be leveraged against the other.
Former Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish died in early 2020 from abdominal cancer. A year before his death Fish expressed that he was nervous about the lease negotiations.
“The current lease with the Blazers is very favorable to the city,” Fish told me in 2019. “I would expect the renegotiation of that lease to be more challenging.”
Fish was focused on the development of the Rose Quarter at the time. The lack of restaurants, housing and entertainment around the arena has been a missed opportunity for both the city and the NBA franchise. The hope here is that the lease negotiation goes smoothly, and that the team is transferred to an owner or ownership group that will love it and nurture it. That has been absent for too long.
DRAFT BUZZ: The Pac-12 Conference had three players picked in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. I think the conference will fare better in 2022.
Among the Pac-12’s potential first-round picks today:
DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
WR Drake London, USC
LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
CB Kyler Gordon, Washington
Thibodeaux is projected to be drafted in the Top 10 by most. USC’s London could be the first wide receiver off the board. Free-agent wideouts have commanded huge premiums this offseason. London on a rookie salary feels like a bargain. And Utah’s Lloyd is going to be a great pro and was easily the best defensive player in the conference last season.
If the conference can get a fourth player drafted in the first round — McDuffie or Gordon? — it would snap a streak of three straight drafts in which the conference only had three first-round picks.
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John, excellent article as always. I would love to believe that MLB would grant Portland an expansion franchise, but given what has become of our city, what makes you think that the city “officials” such as they are, could ever convince MLB to expand in Portland. When you talk about “entertainment districts” I can’t help but envisioning them with homeless encampments strewn all about. Our city officials might try to negotiate with the team owners to allow our neighbors experiencing homelessness to pitch tents in the outfield when the team is on the road. I can hear the rally cries of the left-leaning citizens “What do you value more, human lives or sports”? I truly appreciate your optimism, but am I wrong?
I wonder if a major issue with the Blazers lease with the city will be around the ticket tax. As I understand it, the revenue from the ticket tax at the Moda Center goes to pay off Providence Park bonds. That can't sit well with the Blazers. I figure any renovation of the Moda Center would be paid for in part with that ticket tax. Problem is that there's a lot left to pay off at Providence Park. Who's gonna pay that off?