Last week the L.A. Times created some Bay Area baseball buzz when they reported commissioner Bud Selig had given the Oakland A’s tentative guidelines for a potential move to San Jose. The story said Selig could decide to let club owners vote on approving the move if the A’s can satisfy the concerns of the commissioner’s office.
The words that jumped out to me were: tentative, potential, could, if and concern. That doesn’t exactly sound like a road map of certainty to me.
[RELATED: Report -- A's get guidelines for move to San Jose from MLB]
The A’s have been trying to move out of Oakland for the last six years. Initially they were going to build a new stadium in Fremont. When that failed they looked further south to find a way to San Jose.
Four years ago after the A’s made their initial push for relocation to San Jose, Selig called for a special “Blue Ribbon” panel to look into this very complex and complicated situation.
The Giants have consistently and vehemently defended their territorial rights. It would take a 75% vote of team owners to overturn those rights. This territorial tug of war is becoming a local baseball version of Groundhog Day. No matter how much things change, the more they stay the same:
The A’s will open the 2013 season on April 1st against the Seattle Mariners at the Oakland Coliseum, their baseball home since 1968.
Here is my take on baseball’s Battle by the Bay.
Perception vs Reality
Lew Wolff has said that the stadium project in San Jose is “shovel ready.” Shovel ready isn’t the same thing as heavy-equipment ready, EIR (environmental impact report) ready, hundreds of construction workers ready, tied-in-a-bow financing plan ready, community support ready, MLB ready, or San Jose voter ready.
There have been serious territorial disputes settled more quickly than the border war between the A’s and Giants. Some that come to mind are the U.S. Civil War, England and Argentina over the Falkland Islands and the war of words in DC over sequestration.
Legal All-Star Team:
At some point the Giants, A’s, the cities of Oakland and San Jose and Major League Baseball will roll out the attorneys with the highest batting averages and best breaking balls to litigate. The most feared word in sports ownership is deposition, especially when it comes down to revealing a team's finances in public.
49ers & Sharks & Warriors:
The 49ers will be opening their new Santa Clara stadium in 2014. The Warriors are planning a 2017 opening on SF’s Embarcadero. HP Pavilion (the Shark Tank) has been packing them in since 1993. If the A’s work out a deal to move to San Jose, where will all that disposable income be coming from? The Niners, Warriors and Sharks are way ahead of the A’s in using their well-oiled revenue vacuums on corporations, advertisers and season ticket holders.
Lame Duck or Lame Elephant?
John Fisher, Lew Wolff and their partners have owned the team since 2005. Their upfront strategy of trying to get out of town to a new stadium has driven attendance down. Even with one of the most magical seasons in recent baseball history, they finished 27th in overall MLB attendance
New Ball Park:
The A’s desperately need one. No matter where it is built, a private financing plan to the tune of $500-700 million dollars will be necessary.
A Tale of Two Cities:
Oakland and San Jose are fighting daily battles to provide their citizens with basic services which don’t include financial support for owners of professional sports teams. Oakland is also trying to figure out a way to keep its three sports tenants as two of the teams are playing in a substandard dual-use stadium; the third is fast breaking to San Francisco.
Lets Make a Deal ($):
The color of the blood that flows through the veins of sports is green. How much would it cost the A’s to have the Giants change their minds about San Jose? If you compute a ballpark number of the Giants’ debt payments for the building of AT&T Park, it’s around $225 million. If the A’s wrote a cashier's check to SF Giants in that neighborhood, the roadblock may be softened.
Four years ago In the MLB press release announcing the creation of the Blue Ribbon territorial task force, the commissioner said, “The A’s cannot and will not continue indefinitely in their current situation.” Thousands of A’s fans are trying to define what ‘indefinitely’ means in their real world.