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Monday, October 19, 2009

Angels baseball beats Yankees baseball 5-4: battle of payrolls

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Angels win was a Money-ball story

The old saying: the more things change the more they stay the same. The Los Angeles Angels beat the New York Yankees 5-4 today in the AL Championship Series. They're back 2 games to one and could make a real game of it with another win.

But don't make the mistake of thinking that it was David beating Goliath, where the New York Yankees monster payroll was clobbered by the miserly fiscal practices of the Angels.


The truth is that the 2009 player expeditures for both teams are not far off. The Yankees payroll was between $192 million and $201 million this year; the Angels payroll was at $113 million.

Both teams are part of the top six highest payrolls in Major League Baseball, proving that it takes money to win, even in this post-Moneyball era. This was supposed to be the time when the Internet and sabermetrics created a baseball team that could consistently when with a low payroll.

But the reality in 2009 is the same as it was in 1993 and in 2002 when I created the Oakland Baseball Simworld in partnership with Forio Business Simulations, and 2003 when University of San Francisco Professor Dan Rascher and I founded Sports Business Simulations.

Payroll rules.

Our simulation was and is designed to reflect both the "Moneyball" approach and the more common "Pay-To-Win" strategy, but it's the latter that's hard to beat.

In fact, Smith college Sports Economist Andrew Zimbalist (who's also a member of our simulation advisory board) determined that after 1990 there was a more powerful correlation between higher payrolls and team performance.

I tried for years to make a team "work" in the context of the current Oakland Coliseum using the Oakland Baseball Simworld (which I developed from scratch for the purpose of teaching marketing, business, and sports finance in high school and college classrooms and is based on my work at the City of Oakland). It's hard to achieve the 250 and up score that indicates baseball business success.

The only answer is to build a new stadium. Location aside - Oakland's better - it's the best tonic to turn any Oakland-based baseball team into a winner, including the one currently called The Oakland Athletics.

Meanwhile, the Yankees and Angels will keep being in the hunt for the World Series. Some things never change.

CA DMV - Do you know where your registration money goes?

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 DMV: Where's the Money?

I just returned from another really harrowing experience with the California Department of Motor Vehicles office on Claremont Avenue in Oakland .

Between this and the taxi cab issue, and the Oakland parking problem, anti-car forces should not complain about California not charging enough to operate a car. In fact I've determined that many of them don't own cars; no bumming rides from me in the future, OK?

I think God's putting me through this just to shine a good media light on these problems.  So be it.  To that end, I got the email of the director George Valverde which I will not share, the DMV Twitter account, and his Twitter account, which I will share: @GVCADMV.

George Valverde

Mr. Valverde to date has been helpful in directing my emails, though we've not talked as of this writing, but it's these revelations below that really need to be looked into.  It may be that he's not aware of what's happening under his nose.  He should be. 

What happens, and this is from the personal experience I have gone through complete with extensive notes and papers, is that the registration paid to the DMV is not immediately assigned to whatever citations a driver gets. Plus, it may take as long as three years before a ticket or toll violation is paid from DMV to FastTrak or the California municipality!  

During that time you could wind up paying for a ticket twice and not be reimbursed - once to the DMV via registration or to clear a tow and once to the city or agency. How often this happens is not clear but I learned this from a very enterprising young man at the California vehicle collection division.

It was there that part of my horror started. They sent a "Demand for Payment" for an amount of money I already paid.

When I sent the cashier's check to prove it, it should have ended there, right? Nope. It got worse. Guess why?

They couldn't find it.

That's right. But the enterprising young man I'm taking about kept digging and determined that DMV never assigned my payment. Meanwhile the toll tickets I paid were gaining interest because FasTrak said they were not paid. It turned out that they never got the money from DMV. Now, that's not my fault - I gave them a cashier's check.

Turns out this happens to Californians more than a few times and especially when FasTrak's involved.

What's an outrage is that we allow this to go on without challenge or initiative. We as Californians worry more about being able to smoke weed than having correct and reasonable vehicle costs.

And the City of Oakland's not safe here either. It has parking records that are not accurately updated and suffer from the same DMV payment delay issues FasTrak has.  I have seen three documents with three different amounts on them. 

But what really galls me is today's discovery that DMV Sacramento can "at will" delay or adjust payments for you. It's up to how the manager looks at the situation - well, how the manager feels that day. It's discretionary, which means they can play favorites if they want to but it also means they can work to correct a mistake or at least not stick you with an obvious one.

Too much of what DMV does is so disjointed and uncoordinated that I'm really shocked the California Legislature hasn't called for an investigation. For example I got something like four different print letters from vehicle collections with different amounts. But a person in a good position at DMV told me today they should all be the same and not different. 

This person also told me that the agency - like FasTrak - that requests the money from DMV sends the payment amount and DMV doens't double check it. In other words FasTrak can send one request for $50 and then up it to $100 within a month and DMV will not question it - meanwhile FasTrak's charging weekly interest to the cost.  (Isn't that illegal?  Don't we have usery laws here?)

It's no wonder an irate Yelp user referred to FasTrak's accounting practices in a way that points to some untoward intentions.

But. But. But. She says DMV expects the documents to have the same amount. Isn't that crazy-making? But she said in one sentence that DMV doesn't care what they're charge or how it changes - (my words now) because they're just going to stick you with it, anyway.

Someone's making some extra money here. I said this to one Oakland DMV office staffer today and she agreed. "Not me" she said. But someone is. This money trail's not adding up properly, yet everyone I talked to agrees there's a problem.

This is not a good situation for the State of California to be in as it looks like and feels like it's trying to cheat California residents to clear a massive budget deficit.  I said it, and I challenge the DMV to show me that it doesn't look like that.  It does. 

Balancing the budget on the backs of California drivers is, to use a street term, just plain lame.  Ok.  It's criminal.  Moreover, it's a highly regressive practice, hurting the poor more than anyone else. A sad state of affairs.

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