Rob Manfred, the Bud Selig for the 21st Century, has decided to weigh in on the Great Oakland Matter, and unlike his predecessor, he decided to make a stand.
And exactly like his predecessor, it left all stones unturned because it really isn’t a new stand at all. It’s just a new turn of the old hamster wheel, with the added ingredient that the A’s and Raiders are dependent upon the San Diego Chargers for word on their futures.
Talking with The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser in Phoenix, Manfred went all specific on the A’s-Oakland situation, a very un-Selig-y thing to do.
“The A’s feel the Coliseum site is the best site, transportation-wise, and we’ve actually had a number of people look at it and they’ve all reached the same conclusion,” Manfred told Slusser. “I think that there is a lot of activity (re: the Raiders’ latest flirtation with Los Angeles) that could clarify the situation, and I’m not going to go beyond that, that I think could create an opportunity to move things along in Oakland. I think the A’s are willing to explore Oakland if they can find a workable arrangement and it’s always been our preference to keep clubs where they are.”
But the truth is, he merely restated the A’s stated wish not to have a new ballpark anywhere else, which has nothing to do with the current state of play, to wit:
The person who has the most say about the A’s is, weirdly enough, Chargers owner Dean Spanos.
Spanos has had his own frustrations getting a stadium deal out of San Diego, and his latest idea, spurred by Stan Kroenke’s race to get his St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles, is to tell San Diego officials that if he doesn’t see a concrete plan for his own benefit, will join into a partnership with the Raiders to build a separate stadium from the Rams’ Hollywood Park facility.
In other words, with a bit of patience, the A’s can find themselves with all the leverage they need in Oakland, as long as they are willing to let Spanos carry their piano for them. If he can be trusted to do so, that is.
See? We’re only nine paragraphs in, and you’re already confused. So let’s deliver the new updated Oakland primer, which is mostly a lot of gears turning without actually becoming machinery:
1. Neither the A’s nor Raiders have a new stadium plan in Oakland, and though Oakland has a new mayor in Libby Schaaf, it still has little money to brute about for one new facility, let alone two, despite Schaaf’s quixotic attempts to make a two-team plan somehow work. This is not new, except for the name of the mayor.
2. The Rams have jacked up the timetable for leaving St. Louis, making the NFL’s race to Los Angeles a sprint rather than a marathon, and both the Chargers and Raiders will be left without leverage if they don’t act quickly -- entering into a deal with the city of Carson to match the deal the Rams have at Hollywood Park. This is very new, and has a hastening deadline.
3. The NFL which wants to control the situation in L.A. as best it can, is trying to keep Kroenke happy while reminding him of league rules about asking permission to move, and doesn’t mind the Chargers and Raiders adding their oars to the growing maelstrom.
4. Oakland and Alameda County have responded, in their own glacial way, to the new Raider developments, understanding that their strategies with both teams have mostly been to move one pot from the cold part of the stove to the warm part without ever letting either one actually reach a boil. Right now, it’s the Raiders’ turn because Kroenke and Spanos say it is.
5. The city’s political structure leans pro-Raider because their constituency within the city limits skews Raider-y, while the county has been less willing to join them because the A’s pencil out as a better investment – 81 stadium dates as opposed to 10, and all.
5A. Or 77 stadium dates, if Manfred isn’t just bloviating about cutting the season back.
6. And Manfred is trying to remind the city and county that the A’s shouldn’t have to wait for Dean Spanos to hear from San Diego to get the answer they want in Oakland.
Got it? Of course not. But if it helps, Manfred kicked in with a quasi-opinion knowing that Spanos, who cares exactly zero percent about baseball, controls the process here, and he is responding to Kroenke by dragging Davis into the game. He wants Oakland to do something for the A’s when it is the Raiders’ turn to be the civic irritant.
And the A’s, who dithered their way out of the South Bay by Lew Wolff thinking Selig would take care of him, are unhappy that yet again they can’t get their agenda heard because of the other agendas in play. It has always been thus, and only Dean Spanos can say if there is an actual end to this seemingly eternal end-game.
Whether A’s owner John Fisher, who actually has the most skin in the baseball game, wants the new stadium to make his reluctant long-term stand in Oakland or merely to increase the franchise’s resale value matters not. The truth is, the A’s are waiting for the Raiders now, just as it was the Raiders’ turn to wait for the A’s when San Jose was getting dope-slapped in court.
It’s just the latest turn of the hamster wheel, and Rob Manfred is finding out that having to pretend to answer questions on behalf of Dean Spanos is just as rewarding as it was for Bud Selig to pretend to answer questions on behalf of Al Davis.
But to Manfred’s credit, he hasn’t yet had time to poll the owners on creating an even bluer ribbon commission. In decades of inertia, that’s still the best form of inertia ever, and the most accurate metaphor for the entire tale.
At least until Dean Spanos pulls out of Carson, leaves Mark Davis high and dry, puts the A’s back in stasis, and moves us all back to Square Zero for the eighth time in 21 years.