MESA, Ariz. -- New Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred listed the A’s unsettled ballpark situation as one of the most pressing big-picture matters for him to tackle.
Manfred addressed Oakland’s players Monday morning as part of a spring training tour he’s making between the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. He then talked with reporters briefly at Hohokam Stadium about the ballpark matter.
“Besides the day-to-day issues, when I think about the five longer term issues that need to be resolved, the stadium situation for the A’s is right at the top of that list,” Manfred said. “It’s one that does need to get handled.”
The A’s are no closer to getting a new ballpark now than they were six years ago, when former commissioner Bud Selig formed a three-person committee to research the team’s ballpark options and report the findings. Those findings never were made public and the committee was disbanded without delivering any clarity on the situation.
The A’s fate now seems tied, at least in part, to the Raiders’ own search for a football stadium. Both teams have expressed interest in building their own facilities at the current Coliseum site, but getting them to work together -- and in harmony with local government leaders -- has been tough.
Meanwhile, the Raiders also have discussed plans with the San Diego Chargers about the potential for sharing a new stadium down south in Carson. Were the Raiders to depart, it would seem to open up more avenues for the A’s to get a stadium deal done in Oakland. But Manfred said it’s his view that the A’s and Raiders’ situations are independent of one another.
“Look, the city needs to make a decision on where it’s going to be in respect to the two individual teams,” he said. “I see the two issues as separate. I don’t think one necessarily is outcome determinant of the other. But that’s really a question for the politicians in Oakland more than it is for me.”
Manfred officially took over the commissioner reins from Selig in January, and at least in his early public comments, he’s showing more openness to working in conjunction with the A’s to aid their ballpark efforts. He said he’s talked extensively with A’s co-owner Lew Wolff, met with Wolff and principal owner John Fisher, and talked with new Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Asked if he would consider forming his own committee to help find a solution, Manfred responded: “My preference at this point is to move in lockstep with the A’s, support them, guide them, give them our best views so that we’re working together to get a resolution to the stadium situation rather than having a more formal independent body.”
But he added that his influence can only go so far.
“Stadium issues are fundamentally local issues,” Manfred said. “It is the owner who has the feel, the pulse of the local market and knows what’s necessary in that market. I think Major League Baseball’s role is to provide support and information to the owners to move them along in that process.”
He declined to address San Jose as a potential landing spot for the A’s. That city is in the middle of a lawsuit filed against MLB challenging its antitrust exemption as it pertains to San Jose trying to lure the A’s.
In other matters, Manfred confirmed that he has received a formal request from Pete Rose’s representatives to consider lifting the lifetime ban of the all-time hit king. He also said he is generally happy with the pace-of-play changes being implemented this season, and that players as a whole seem responsive to them.