The U-T opined in 1998 that Ryan Leaf would save the Chargers and the whole city.
  • The U-T opined in 1998 that Ryan Leaf would save the Chargers and the whole city.
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San Diegans think of former Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf as a draft bust known for drug busts he got nabbed in. But few remember that Leaf was another kind of bust: in 1998, shortly after the Chargers drafted him, the Union-Tribune wrote an editorial claiming that the quarterback would not only turn the Chargers around, he would turn the city around.

Yes, that was really written.

First, some background: on March 30 and again on April 2 of this year, Leaf was arrested for allegedly breaking into homes in Montana and stealing dangerous prescription painkillers. He has been charged with four felonies and is in jail without bond.

Leaf is an addict: three years ago, he was indicted on burglary and drug charges in Texas. At the time, he was going through drug rehabilitation in British Columbia. In 2010 in Texas, he pleaded guilty to eight felony drug charges. He got ten years of probation.

In 1997, as a star for Washington State University, he finished third in voting for the coveted Heisman Trophy. In the 1998 draft, the Chargers traded away two first-round picks, plus a second-round pick and a good player, to move up one notch in the draft to take Leaf second overall. Leaf got a $31.25 million contract — great money in those days. The quarterback who would become an icon, Peyton Manning, was drafted first by Indianapolis, but local sportswriters gloated that Leaf had more potential than Manning.

Soon, Leaf was fighting with the media and his teammates. He was missing meetings. His work ethic was abominable. He was a flop, with the Chargers and two other teams. An MSNBC commentator called Leaf “the biggest bust in the history of professional sports.”

Leaf’s “biggest robbery was me drafting him and him getting all the money from the team,” former Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard told USA Today this month. Beathard suspects that the quarterback’s Washington State coach did not level with the Chargers about Leaf’s proclivities.

Fourteen years ago, on April 20, 1998, two days after the Chargers drafted Leaf, the Union-Tribune penned an editorial titled, “New hope blooms with Leaf. Chargers QB may help quiet city’s controversies.”

Exulted the newspaper, “In a town where sports and politics have been inextricably bound for the past two years, Ryan Leaf means a lot more to San Diego than just a new quarterback for the Chargers. The controversy over Qualcomm Stadium has cast a shadow over so much in our city, such as the convention center expansion, the new ballpark, the main library, the political careers of Mayor Susan Golding and other city politicians and the relations between Chargers owner Alex Spanos and the people of San Diego.

“Leaf may finally put that controversy behind us.”

For those who weren’t in San Diego at the time, here’s some background: downtown power brokers, led by Copley Newspapers editor-in-chief Herb Klein, had arranged for then-named Jack Murphy Stadium, which was used for both football and baseball, to be turned into a football-only stadium at taxpayer expense. The Padres would get a new, heavily subsidized ballpark downtown. The deals were kinky and secretive and shoveled piecemeal to a naive public. The City guaranteed, in effect, that if the Chargers didn’t sell 60,000 seats per game, the City would pick up the difference. It was ridiculous because the Chargers’ previous attendance records had been poor. Many in the city smelled a rat (justifiably, as it turned out), but the Union-Tribune and downtown power brokers loved it.

The U-T editorial quoted Chargers president Dean Spanos bemoaning the “tremendous amount of off-the-field negative issues…Ryan [Leaf] will add a new positive image.”

Gushed the U-T editorial, “The rebuilding of the team, highlighted by but by no means limited to the signing of Leaf, will also rebuild a good relationship between the Spanos family and the people of San Diego.… With a better team and an impact player like Leaf, San Diegans will begin to see the stadium deal in a different light. An exciting team will draw more fans. Despite all the yammering about it, the only real problem with the much-maligned ticket guarantee is what happens when not enough tickets are sold.”

Then, enthused the U-T editorial, if the public were to look more favorably on the team and the stadium deal, “the rampant cynicism that spread to everything about local government could be diffused. That could result in the people of San Diego taking a less jaundiced view of other projects, such as the convention center expansion and a downtown baseball park,” which, of course, were being touted by the U-T in so-called news stories.

In the euphoria engendered by the arrival of the phenom Leaf, Mayor Golding could “regain her past vigor” and local politicians would not be sneered at, rhapsodized the U-T.

The editorial concluded with these words: “Leaf signifies that San Diego is moving forward.” Those who complained about the stadium deal “have just been proven wrong. Now maybe we can put controversy in the past and get back to the business of building a 21st century city.”

At the time this was written, Klein ran the U-T editorial page, as well as being a key leader of the downtown overlords pushing these corporate welfare projects. He also heavily influenced the reporters writing about the ballpark and football stadium makeover. As I have said before, Klein, now deceased, was a skilled lobbyist and public relations practitioner, particularly when seeking a government handout for the private sector. However, his title was “editor.” He was one of the reasons San Diego is at the brink financially.

Oh, yes. After Leaf and the City of San Diego plunged into a slough of despond, the U-T’s editorial writers claimed the April 20, 1998 piece was just a bit of satire that hadn’t gone over. I can’t imagine any intelligent reader believing that.

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Comments

ImJustABill April 19, 2012 @ 10:01 a.m.

This post might not be a direct response to the column but it's something I want to express. Sadly, I don't think Ryan Leaf is the worst recent draft bust by a San Diego team. I think Matt Bush was a bigger bust.

The Padres #1 pick Matt Bush has turned out to be a big disappointment as a baseball player and an even bigger disappointment as a human being. I think Bush's crimes and string of DUI's show a callous disregard for human life, whereas Leaf seems to be more an irresponsible drug addict who cannot control his addictions.

At the time of the draft, Ryan Leaf was considered a good pick by many - there was even some debate in the media regarding whether Leaf or Peyton Manning would be a better choice for the Colts #1 pick.

In contrast, at the time of Bush's draft, Bush was not considered the best prospect - but was considered to be more affordable than some of the other top choices.

So my view is that with Leaf, the Chargers made a big mistake - but at least they were TRYING TO WIN. With Bush, despite the claims of Prop. C propoganda the Padres were not willing (and/or able) to spend money to be competitive. The Padres were NOT EVEN TRYING TO WIN.

Per wikipedia's analysis,

" The Padres' selection of Bush in 2004 was controversial from the start. Justin Verlander, Jeff Niemann, Stephen Drew, and Jered Weaver were considered the top talents in the draft, but San Diego did not want to pay the premium bonus any of them would command as the top overall choice.[citation needed] Instead, they decided to take Bush, who was a talented high school senior from the San Diego area, but in no way near the prospect as the other candidates. The Padres' decision to bypass the top several prospects was widely criticized by baseball experts and fans in San Diego and nationwide"

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Don Bauder April 19, 2012 @ 11:49 a.m.

Interesting points. Yes, some sports experts outside San Diego thought Leaf a better prospect than Manning. Leaf supposedly had the better arm and perhaps more raw athletic talent. But it was known that he didn't have the self-discipline. I am told that had the Chargers done more homework, they would have found the skeletons in Leaf's closet. A Los Angeles Times writer (T.J. Simers, I think) did just that, I understand. The Chargers can't blame the Washington State coach, as Beathard seems to do. When you are spending that kind of money, you have to do some penetrating research. As to Matt Bush, I remember that the choice was controversial at the time. Sports buffs seemed to know that he was not a a great talent, as Verlander, say, turned out to be. And Bush, too, had off-field problems that should have been anticipated. Best, Don Bauder

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conanthequasilibertarian April 19, 2012 @ 10:24 a.m.

I recall another bit of BS regarding San Diego sports (although off-topic to the article). During the run-up to the downtown stadium for the Padres, it was asserted (by whom I don't recall) that such a stadium would be a tourist draw. Anyone with half a brain realizes there are only two reasons a sports team and venue combination would be a tourist draw: the team is one of storied tradition (e.g., the Yankees) or the venue is (e.g., Fenway Park). I would bet there's not a single person who has ever chosen San Diego as a tourist destination primarily because of either the Padres or Petco Park.

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Don Bauder April 19, 2012 @ 11:53 a.m.

You are correct. Pro sports stadia do not draw tourists except for events like Super Bowls, and their effects are greatly exaggerated. One of the few exceptions, incidentally, is the surge of Los Angeles fans coming to San Diego to see Dodgers/Padres games. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston April 20, 2012 @ 9:04 a.m.

I would disagree here slightly. It's neither the venue, Petco or the "storied tradition", the Padres, that draw us Angelinos, it's actually the Dodgers. We come down to see the Dodgers kick the Padres' butts. It doesn't matter if it's Petco, the Murph. Hell, we would still come down en masse if it were Westgate or Lane Field. We don't come down because of what the stadium has to offer, we come down because our team is there.

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Don Bauder April 20, 2012 @ 11:05 a.m.

I agree, Tom, and I hope I didn't mislead you. I never meant to imply that Petco is the draw bringing Angelenos to San Diego to see the Dodgers. The L.A. folks will come here to watch the Dodgers at any venue. Best, Don Bauder

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conanthequasilibertarian April 20, 2012 @ 11:27 a.m.

I think you're pretty much on the same page as me (and I'll venture to say Don). The point is you don't come here to see the Padres per se. Nor do you come here for Petco Park. You'd come here if the Padres still played at Jack Murphy.

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Don Bauder April 20, 2012 @ 3:02 p.m.

Angelenos would come here if the Padres played the Dodgers at Lane Field. Best, Don Bauder

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conanthequasilibertarian April 19, 2012 @ 10:26 p.m.

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking how odd it was that Mark Fabiani went from his position in his book Major League Losers, telling everyone what a bad idea publicly funded pro sports facilities are, to promoting public funding of the Charges (to one extent or another).

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Don Bauder April 20, 2012 @ 7:45 a.m.

The author of "Major League Losers" was Mark Rosentraub, not Mark Fabiani. Fabiani is the mouthpiece for the Chargers. You are correct on Rosentraub's switcheroo. He was opposed to public subsidization of pro sports facilities, as just about all objective economists are, but then came to favor the subsidies if the team spearheads some development in the surrounding area. He wrote another book touting the concept. He was on John Moores's payroll in the development of the ballpark area. The last I talked with him -- a couple of years ago -- he did not know that the condos in the area were darned near empty. I can't remember whether I told him that Moores is believed to have raked in $700 million to $1 billion in the ballpark district deal by getting the land at early 1990s prices and dumping at much higher prices. Best, Don Bauder

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conanthequasilibertarian April 20, 2012 @ 11:24 a.m.

Thanks for the correction, Don. And your answer helped explain why I got confused.

I did write a letter to the U-T after the Chargers signed Leaf to that contract. In my letter, I expressed disbelief at paying an unproven athlete that kind of money, and stated I would prefer to do yard work rather than watch the Chargers. They gave the letter the tag line "From Leaf to leaves."

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Don Bauder April 20, 2012 @ 3:05 p.m.

It's not only the fat contract the Chargers paid Leaf. It was giving away those high draft choices and one top player just to move up a notch in the draft. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 21, 2012 @ 4:05 p.m.

In another slightly off-topic post: So apparently the MN legislature caved in to Goodell's threats/bribes/schoomzing/who knows what else. Vikings will get their taxpayer subsidy.

I wonder what effect this has on the Chargers - most likely AEG will sweeten their offer for the Chargers move to L.A.

Or maybe AEG will delay building the L.A. stadium?

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Don Bauder April 21, 2012 @ 5:31 p.m.

Hmmm. Blatant blackmail. Goodell should be criminally prosecuted for getting away with this. Only a couple of days ago, the new Minnesota stadium was dead -- at least for another year. After the Goodell visit, it has been moved out of committee, but I don't think it is a fait accompli. Goodell is pulling the same scam on Miami and other cities. Best, Don Bauder

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conanthequasilibertarian April 21, 2012 @ 11:55 p.m.

The Chargers can go back to L.A. for all I care. If a city needs a sports team for civic pride, that must be some pretty weak pride.

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Don Bauder April 22, 2012 @ 7:36 a.m.

I agree, Conan, especially when you realize that keeping the Chargers for the sake of civic pride will cost taxpayers more than half a billion dollars. It is unthinkable that with the infrastructure rotting, services slashed, and outlying neighborhoods in bad repair, San Diego would put that kind of money into subsidizing a football team owned by a billionaire family. But the downtown overlords are thinking just that. Best, Don Bauder

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conanthequasilibertarian April 22, 2012 @ 3:44 p.m.

My thinking is that if a sports stadium is such a great business idea, why aren't businessmen and -women eager to pay for it? The Spanoses could write a check tomorrow, methinks.

It would seem that sports facilities are only a great deal for private business if government at least partly foots the bill.

Ironically, among the most vociferous supporters of public money for sports venues are undoubtedly people who otherwise characterize themselves as "fiscal conservatives."

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Don Bauder April 22, 2012 @ 4:59 p.m.

You are exactly right, Conan. These sports stadiums are not good investments. That's why pro sports owners want taxpayers to pick up a good part of the tab -- well above 80% in some cases, above 65% in most cases. Quintessentially, it is a racket. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill April 23, 2012 @ 10:26 a.m.

I like the Chargers and I hope they stay in San Diego.

I just think it's grossly inappropriate to spend any taxpayer dollars to build a statium for the Chargers - or any other sports team. Municipal government spending should be for things that benefit many people - schools, police, fire - or things that benefit the needy.

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Don Bauder April 23, 2012 @ 12:39 p.m.

Good point. All of us who opposed the Chargers deal at the stadium now named Qualcomm, and opposed the Padres deal downtown, did not want either team to leave. We wanted stadiums to be built for both. But, importantly, we wanted stadiums to be built BY both -- that is, no taxpayer money should go in. Stadiums should be paid for by the owners of the teams; if the leagues want to help, fine. But only private capital should go into the stadiums, except expenditures for surrounding infrastructure can be publicly-financed in many circumstances. Best, Don Bauder

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conanthequasilibertarian April 23, 2012 @ 2:57 p.m.

I don't want them to leave, I just don't care if they leave. San Diego would do just fine without an NFL team.

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Don Bauder April 23, 2012 @ 6:17 p.m.

The purported leadership of so many cities will claim that a city can't be "big league" without a pro sports team. Los Angeles hasn't fallen apart after the Rams and Raiders departed. Some think that if a billion dollar stadium is built in L.A., and one or two teams brought in, Los Angelenos may not enthusiastically support either. That was the situation with Rams and Raiders. Best, Don Bauder

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conanthequasilibertarian April 24, 2012 @ 7:56 a.m.

All the San Diegans with an inferiority complex re: L.A. should use a Chargers departure (if it happened) to demonstrate that San Diego can weather the unthinkable horror of no NFL team just as stalwartly as L.A. can.

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Don Bauder April 24, 2012 @ 8:33 a.m.

I believe the Chargers have been plotting to leave since the late 1990s; the original contract to redo the former Jack Murphy Stadium gave the team a path out of town. However, L.A. projects are stalled for now. The Chargers are making bundles of money at the Q, where they pay little rent, thanks to a sweetheart deal from former mayor Dick Murphy. So I think any Chargers departure won't happen soon. But I could be wrong. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston April 24, 2012 @ 10 a.m.

I disagree with your characterization that we Angelinos didn't support the Rams after the Raiders came to town. The decline in Rams attendance was directly related to their decline in performance. After the Raiders came to town, the Rams still averaged over 90% of capacity close to 60k per game, excluding the strike year, while they were winning. Many games were sold out. I know because I was a season ticket holder. During John Robinson's tenure as coach, the Rams went to the playoffs 7 out of the first 8 yrs. Attendance began to decline only when the team started losing. In their last 4 yrs, attendance dropped almost 30% while the Rams were averaging less than 5 wins per year. That's why attendance dropped, because they were losing, not because their were 2 teams. Like I said, I know because I was there. As to your supposition that LA won't support 2 pro teams in the same sport, I need only point to the Dodgers and Angels. Over the last 30 yrs, The Dodgers have led baseball in attendance and the Angels have been consistently in the top 5. And they haven't exactly done a lot of winning in most of those years.

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Don Bauder April 24, 2012 @ 11:28 a.m.

I wasn't in LA during those days, but I disagree with your stats. The fact that you Angelenos stopped supporting the Rams after they started losing proves that LA is not a rabid football town. The damned fools in Chicago will support the Bears -- enduring 50 degree chill factors from Lake Michigan -- whether the team wins or not. Cubs support doesn't wane despite the fact the team has stunk for decades. Dallas fans support the Cowboys through thick and thin. Cleveland fans pack the Dawg Pound win or lose (mostly lose in recent years). Denver Bronco fans come out and cheer no matter how lousy the team is and how bad the weather is. These are examples of real fanaticism. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston April 24, 2012 @ 1:21 p.m.

I'm curious as to exactly which specific stats do you disagree with and what stats do you have in their place.
And I have to say that to me "real fanaticism" and "enthusiastic support" are not the same thing. I would never say that LA football fans were fanatical about their teams, anymore so than the SD fans are fanatical about the Chargers. That is unless you count the Raider fanatics (and for them I don't use the term fanatic in a complimentary way). In 2007, 14 teams, almost half the league, drew 100 percent capacity. Last year only 9 of 32 teams drew 100 percent capacity. How much of that draw was due to a winning history? Ten years ago, Buffalo drew 73k +. Last year, fewer than 63k, going from the top 10 to the bottom 5 in terms of percentage to capacity. Arizona was 4th in attendance in 2008, their Super Bowl year. Since then there attendance has fallen every year, dropping to 19th last year. The Chargers have never been one of the leagues top draws, usually falling in the mid 20's; last year they were 25th, which happens to be 1 spot better than the Browns, btw. (They may fill the dog pound, but they haven't filled the stadium in recent years). Even the vaunted GB Packers, the team owned by the people, the team who won the Super Bowl last year, only ranked 18th., Can you imagine that, the season after winning the Super Bowl, they actually drew less fans! In terms of fan support, San Diego hasn't given much more support to the Chargers than LA did to the Rams and Raiders. The difference is that the Rams and Raiders could walk away, at basically no cost, for a better offer. The Chargers can't say the same thing. In every sport, you will find a handful of teams with a rabid fan base who consistently buy a lot of tickets regardless of how well or poorly the team does. But those are the exceptions, not the rule, as I'm sure you would agree.

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Don Bauder April 24, 2012 @ 6:26 p.m.

The statistics I used were the ones you supplied. You made it clear that Rams attendance fell off when the team started losing. I don't know how well the Raiders drew in LA, but I understand it was not impressive. At least, it was not good enough to prevent the team from moving back to Oakland. I have read about Angelenos who doubt the city will support two NFL teams, partly because USC and UCLA are such big draws. As to Green Bay, look at the attendance as a percentage of the market area. Huge. And look at the weather there. Ugh. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston April 24, 2012 @ 7:21 p.m.

So you "used" the stats I supplied. But you said you disagree with them. Why is that? If you have no other to compare to, then I don't understand what you disagree with. The Raiders averaged in the low to mid 40k range in a stadium that hold in the range of 95k for football. In 1993, the attendance average was 41,000 for home games and the NFL average was over 63,000. You are correct in regards to Green Bay's attendance as a percentage of the market area. However as I said above, there are always exceptions. Green Bay is an anomaly that couldn't happen today. When they were formed, small town teams were commonplace in the NFL. That's the way it was until the 20s and 30s. And don't forget, their fan base does extend into the Milwaukee metro area and Milwaukee has always done a good job of supporting baseball and not so bad with basketball also. I don't know if I agree with the thesis that UCLA/USC would hurt the NFL. I think it's the other way around. I think we are pretty typical. We live close to UCLA and both of our daughters went there. We go to about half of the football games every year. We would be able to go to both UCLA nad NFL, by quire honestly, given the choice between the two, we'd pick the NFL. Most people we know feel the same in that we consider UCLA as a substitute, not a main attraction.

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Don Bauder April 24, 2012 @ 9:21 p.m.

I'm old enough to remember when the Packers played some of their games in Milwaukee, because there wasn't enough support in Green Bay. You are quite right: in the early NFL days, some small cities had pro teams: Decatur, Ill.; Canton, Ohio; Green Bay, for example. I am not sure I agree about Milwaukee. The Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta for lack of fan support, even though they had had some great years in the 1950s. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston April 25, 2012 @ 10:51 a.m.

"The Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta for lack of fan support, even though they had had some great years in the 1950s" Indeed they did Mr. Bauder. From 1953, when Milwaukee County Stadium opened, thru 1959, the Braves led in attendance every year except 1. In 1959, the Dodgers out drew them in the Coliseum by about 250k. The Braves attendance really didn't drop until the team was sold in 1962, when the new owner made it clear he wanted to move the team to a bigger market. Long story short, that's how they ended up in Atlanta. But since I'm not as old as you, I was referring to more recent years, like the last 20 yrs or so. From 1990 thru 2000, while the Brewers were still at County Stadium, they averaged just under 1.6 million per year. That's not bad for a small market team, especially when you consider the Padres only averaged about 1.8 million in a metro area that's close to what, about twice that of Milwaukee. And since the Brewers moved from County to Miller Park, they have averaged over 2.5 million and have out drawn the Padres over the time both Miller Park and Petco have been open. And again that's a team in metro area of well under 2 million outdrawing a team in a metro area of over 3 million. I would say that's pretty fair support.

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Don Bauder April 25, 2012 @ 12:26 p.m.

San Diego's metro area is a bit over 3 million, Milwaukee's over 1.5 million. So you are right: San Diego's metro is almost double the population of Milwaukee's. Those attendance figures at Miller Park not only speak well of Milwaukee, they speak horribly of San Diego, which has such better weather. When baseball season starts in Milwaukee, the snow may not be off the ground. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston April 25, 2012 @ 2:44 p.m.

Last year the Brewers won the Central and won 25 more games than the Padres. And that little metro area outdrew the team from the 3 million+ metro area by over 900k. Even the Dodgers, who were tied with the Padres for last place on July 1st AND were suffering through the Frank and Jaime McCourt debacle still managed to pull in almost 3 million fans. Seems that San Diego gives a new meaning to the term "fair weather" fans.

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conanthequasilibertarian April 26, 2012 @ 10:43 a.m.

"Seems that San Diego gives a new meaning to the term 'fair weather' fans."

You say that like it's not something to be proud of.

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Duhbya April 24, 2012 @ 2:40 p.m.

LA supports two baseball teams? Given the population of the two counties, Orange and Los Angeles, I think one would be hard-pressed to make a case for either county's denizens demonstrating overt allegiance to one team over the other. We are talking American vs National League here. I would posit that the majority of Angels fans reside in Orange County, and accordingly, the bulk of Dodger attendees are from the metropolitan LA area, thereby negating the claim that LA supports 2 pro baseball teams.

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Don Bauder April 24, 2012 @ 6:27 p.m.

Of course, if LA got two football teams -- a bad idea, in my judgment -- one would be in the NFC and the other in the AFC. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston April 24, 2012 @ 6:31 p.m.

Actually, I agree with you completely. I refer to both as LA teams in discussions such as these because unless I am mistaken, I have never read of Don Bauder referring to them as separate markets. Generally, I believe he refers to them both as being part of the the LA market. Now that being said though, I believe for TV ratings purposes the LA metro area does include both LA and OC as do the major pro sports leagues. So I guess in that sense he is correct. And of course at least one new football stadium dreamer/developer expects to draw not only from LA/OC but the entire southland as well. I live in LA and though I am a Dodgers fan, I am also and Angels fan. Always have been and at various points have had season tickets to each. At this point in the season, we have about 2 dozen tickets each for games this year; we will probably have more depending how certain teams are doing as the season progresses. But when having to make the choice, it's Dodgers. The same can't be said for football. I was a Rams fan from the start. When they moved to OC, that's where I went. I MAY have possibly gone to a couple of Raider games, but only because of the opposing team and it's something I will never admit to in any other conversation than an anonymous one. LOL

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Don Bauder April 24, 2012 @ 9:27 p.m.

I was born and reared in Chicago. One was either a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan. There was a socioeconomic divide: White Sox fans were generally of lower economic status -- at least we Cub fans believed that. (The South Side of Chicago, where the Sox played, was definitely poorer.) I lived in a western suburb, so there were fans of each team, but overwhelmingly the folks followed the Cubs, to their great sorrow. I was one of the rabid Cubs fans. It has permanently scarred me psychologically. Best, Don Bauder

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conanthequasilibertarian April 26, 2012 @ 10:48 a.m.

The greater L.A. metropolitan area includes L.A., Orange, southern Ventura and central western Riverside and southwestern San Bernardino counties.

So in response to Duhbya, yes, L.A. does support two MLB teams.

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Burwell April 23, 2012 @ 9:15 p.m.

Leaf likely went over the edge and suffered a relapse after he learned his singing bonus was invested in non-traded REITs.

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Don Bauder April 24, 2012 @ 6:58 a.m.

You mean his ex-father-in-law, a media financial advice star, threw him a wobbly pass? (Leaf was married to the daughter of radio-TV financial host Ray Lucia. She had been a Chargers Girl. The marriage ended in divorce rather quickly.) In my Reader column of Oct. 9, 2011, Lucia praised non-traded real estate investment trusts. Best, Don Bauder

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David Dodd April 24, 2012 @ 5:01 p.m.

Now you're plucking the low-hanging fruit, making fun of the lads who worked in the toy department. San Diego sports media is and has been notoriously spineless. Sort of like most all San Diego media is now. Easy pickin's there Don.

In their defense, however, I point out that many high first-round draft picks have been complete busts (the Raiders are prime candidates for this every year). And for ImJustABill, Matt Bush was not THE first round PICK, he was chosen because Moores did not want to pay a true first rounder, he didn't want to pay Verlander's signing bonus. If you want more specifics on the Matt Bush drafting and signing, I'll be happy to oblige. And anything you read in here that I write negatively about Moores as an owner, you may point to this comment and you will get a foundation as to why Moores is a horrible MLB owner.

That's the stadium issue and the development hoodwink aside, I will always leave that for Don. My opinion is based solely on Moores' lack of interest in having a viable minor league system to bring talent up.

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ImJustABill April 24, 2012 @ 5:58 p.m.

Yes, I agree that Matt Bush was chosen because Moores didn't want to pay a big enough signing bonus (apparently a distaste for agent Scott Boras was a factor as well). In my opinion this decision broke promises made by the Padres to put a competitive team on the field if a new stadium was built. Maybe explicit promises weren't made per se to maintain a competitive team but I think it was strongy implied during the Prop C campaign.

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Don Bauder April 24, 2012 @ 6:36 p.m.

Of course the promises to build a good team were broken. John Moores rented a good team for the 1998 season so he could win the election. Then after he got his $300 million ballpark subsidy, and personally raked in $700 million to $1 billion on real estate in the ballpark district, he had no qualms about breaking promises to build a team. Indeed, right after he won the 1998 election, he let a bunch of the best players go. Best, Don Bauder

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krazdiego April 27, 2012 @ 5:50 p.m.

I will say this for Tom Krasovic who was the UT Padres beat writer at the time: Ted Lightner, a huge cheerleader for Prop C, had Tom on the radio and asked him if he agreed with Prop C assuming of course that Tom would absolutely say yes. Tom said something to the effect that he thought the city had better uses for public money. Ted actually was speechless for a few seconds thinking he must have heard wrong. Full disclosure: Tom is my brother and we both love your articles exposing the cronyism!

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Don Bauder April 24, 2012 @ 6:32 p.m.

From the fan perspective, Moores is a very bad MLB owner. But from the perspective of other owners, he is very good. After all, he made a bundle of money -- some say $700 million to $1 billion -- on the real estate deals in the ballpark district. What does he care if the team wins? He is raking in the bucks. The other owners understand that perfectly. The fans call it a game. The owners call it a road to riches. Best, Don Bauder

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conanthequasilibertarian April 26, 2012 @ 10:39 a.m.

Many people fail to grasp that the purpose of for-profit business is to make a profit. Everything else is ancillary. A for-profit company will serve the needs of its customers only to the extent that it costs more to not serve them than to serve them.

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Don Bauder April 26, 2012 @ 1:45 p.m.

You are correct, Conan, but I don't think sports fans understand that; they think the owners always act in the best interest of the teams. I would also argue that making a profit is not the ONLY purpose of a for-profit company. If it is thinking long-term, it should be concerned about its employees, its communities, its vendors, etc. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh April 25, 2012 @ 8:20 a.m.

This article, if it were really satire, goes so far beyond anything usually seen as satire, to a point that nobody saw it as such. No, it was just an episode in that mentality that what happens in sports is more important than anything, more important often than life-or-death issues. It was a real "feelgood" piece for the newspaper readers who never saw any part of the paper beyond the sports section. Absolutely absurd is too weak a description.

Isn't it interesting that the U-T opined that “the rampant cynicism that spread to everything about local government could be diffused." I would say that the cynicism is now ten times as intense as it was in those days of yore and likely will only get worse. One dumb jock was going to turn it all around?

Final point: Beathard complains that the WSU coach didn't blow the whistle on Leaf. There would be no reason for him to reveal the truth, and every reason not to do it. Leaf could have suddenly gotten his act together and done well. The WSU football program has been a perennial weak sister in the Pac-8/Pac-10/Pac-? conference for about as long as it has played with the bug guys. Occasionally it does well, and when Leaf was the QB has one of those brief shining periods. Why would the coach rain on his own parade? To win a coach must recruit well, and Leaf's success undoubtedly aided recruiting there for several years. Beatherd always seemed to me to be a dumb jerk. His missteps in drafting Leaf without "due diligence" proves that. He was desperate to get a QB who could start winning games, and grabbed the first thing that came along. But ironically, picked the wrong guy who was going high in the draft.

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Don Bauder April 25, 2012 @ 12:18 p.m.

The claim that the editorial was just satire that hadn't hit the mark was ludicrous. It was dreamed up by editorial writers after the Leaf editorial had backfired so embarrassingly. As to Beathard: he should have done his homework much more thoroughly. To blame the Washington State head coach almost suggests that the coach was the only source of information. If you're going to spend $30 million-plus on a player, you have to do your homework. (Incidentally, I don't know how much of that sum Leaf actually received, but it would have been at least $10 million, which, if memory serves me right, was guaranteed.) Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston April 25, 2012 @ 2:53 p.m.

His contract was $31.25 million, including the guaranteed $11.25 million signing bonus. I don't remember the yearly breakdowns, but since Leaf was released after the 3rd year of a 4 yr contract, it would seem that he received the bulk of it, minus of course his various fines and what ever amount he lost while suspended. I'm guessing he got somewhere around $25 million total or so

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Don Bauder April 25, 2012 @ 10:01 p.m.

You may be right, Tom. I don't think we would know unless we saw the actual contract. If he wound up with $25 million, he should be OK if he practiced what he supposedly preached when he was a financial advisor for a short time. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell April 25, 2012 @ 7:57 p.m.

I looked Leaf up on Zabasearch.com and viewed his Montana house using Google Street View. He appears to be living in a decent, though modest, house. I expected to see him living in a hovel, but apparently he still has money. Unlike many who invested in non-traded REITs, Leaf may live long enough to see the return of his investment if he gets off the dope. He may be receiving a decent cash payout from the REITs, enough to maintain himself financially. Ray Luciani may be managing Leaf's money and keeping him solvent.

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Don Bauder April 25, 2012 @ 10:02 p.m.

It's possible that Ray Lucia, his ex-father-in-law, is managing his money. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh April 26, 2012 @ 8:20 p.m.

Leaf should be Ray Lucia's worst nightmare, especially after the big-mouth praised him on his radio show as a really great guy. Ray is, for all his logic-based investment acumen, a blowhard. He blew up the marriage of his daughter and Leaf to be the wedding of the decade locally (on par with Wills and Kate last year or the year before) and then said nothing when it went sour. Ray has his challenges, too.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2012 @ 9:04 a.m.

I can't respond to your comment, Visduh, because the only times I have heard Lucia's show was the handful of times I was on the program in its earliest days. But if memory serves me right, that was before Leaf was even in the picture in San Diego -- say, 1996 or 1997. Best, Don Bauder

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