You have to hand it to Lew Wolff; only he can announce a potential tactical retreat that really isn’t, and an act of conciliation that doubles as a finger in the eye up to the second knuckle.
The minority owner/front man of the Oakland A’s delightfully quixotic search for a new stadium backtracked on several years of “We can’t see any future in Oakland” to “We can see a future in Oakland, but it’s not the future anyone else sees.”
Which is real estate speak for “You may be right, but for all the wrong reasons.”
Oakland’s movers and shakers, such as they are, have suddenly shown interest in a Howard Terminal stadium site, right on the bayfront where the Star Wars AT-ATs/container cranes currently are. So Wolff, whose impish side has usually been hidden beneath his forlorn looks toward Bud Selig’s office, decided to say in so many words, “I can see Oakland working again, right on the current site.”
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Which is not Howard Terminal.
This, while the San Jose plan is stalled in what will end up being a seemingly endless court battle. It seems like an abandonment of the South Bay but is more likely bet-hedging of the charmingly diabolical kind.
It’s as if he and John Fisher sat down and decided, “Well, what if we HAVE to stay?” And, distasteful as that was to them, they decided to prolong everyone’s agony, including their own.
And why shouldn’t they? I mean, if you’re going to take a ridiculous situation and make it fully preposterous, why not do it this way?
And in fairness, Wolff’s quotes did manage to give two entire city halls massive levels of agita, and taken out of the present context, who doesn’t think annoying politicians who are just trying to throw themselves at you isn’t a worthwhile pursuit?
But in turning Oakland’s newfound zeal on its head by jamming a new spanner in the spokes, Wolff managed to delay a process that is already in stasis. The San Jose lawsuit has begun its walk to Siberia, Fisher and Wolff know that Major League Baseball (which, contrary to oft-repeated nitwit opinion, is more than just Selig) is going to say no to anything San Jose-related until the lawsuit dies, and maybe beyond that if MLB prevails.
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In other words, Wolff was standing strong and pushing on a train that doesn’t have an engine. The process was already stalled, so what he threw into the sandpit was, well, sand.
What comes next will be fascinating. Does Oakland call his bluff, turn on a dime and say, “Okay, Lew, get John and we’ll talk about the Coliseum?” Do the pols take him for a walk while they wait for Fisher to weary of the chase that never ends? Does San Jose mayor Chuck Reed smell double-dealing, or does he promise more concessions down the road in exchange for victory in court?
Or does this simply represent Wolff amusing himself by poking the media that has grown old and tired watching this story go from Point A to Point Lower Case A, and will snap at anything that smells like movement?
Well, we’ll find out soon enough. In a few years, maybe. In the meantime, the A’s remain a delightful and bizarre floating crap game, only out in the open. Today, it’s at 66th and the Nimitz. Tomorrow, it could be Lake Merritt, or Livermore, or Los Gatos, or Los Banos. It depends on Lew Wolff’s rich sense of humor.