Suppose for a moment that you owned a Nordstom and that your shiny store was at the top of the block. Then imagine some new kid in town wanted to open a Neiman Marcus at the top of the block. Think you'd be concerned?
That's essentially what we're dealing here with the Giants ballpark and the A's proposed move to San Jose. It's an ongoing drama that got traction on Sunday and Monday.
On Sunday, before a sellout crowd, the Oakland Coliseum's toilets got backed up. An ensuing sewage back-up forced players from both the A's and Seattle Mariners to shower upstairs because some of the raw sewage entered the players and mangers clubhouses.
Coincidentally, two days later, (yeah, right), the city of San Jose and Mayor Chuck Reed's ego filed a mostly frivolous lawsuit against the lords of baseball challenging MLB's anti-trust exemption. As if San Jose has a right to steal the A's.
LET US acknowledge the fact that yes, the A's need a new stadium. The existing Coliseum is outdated, old, dank, and lacks the modern-day amenities that are consistent for every existing ballpark in the MLB chain. No one denies that.
But like everything else, there are issues. Lots. San Jose's move is mostly symbolic; it will not change the dynamics the least because, from a strictly legal standpoint, nothing is really unique here except for the fact that Bay Area and national media people were able to write a story about a subject matter that has been around for seemingly, an eternity, but nothing of substance has transpired.
Like it or not, the SF Giants currently possess territorial rights over Santa Clara County, including, of course, San Jose. That may seem very trivial and insignificant but it holds major cachet within baseball and carries mucho weight in the courtroom--we'll get to that later.
Baseball has an anti-trust exemption. It's been around nearly a century and no matter its merits, good or bad, (and there's plenty of bad), it still is the law of the land and it is not likely to be either challenged, much less even heard or, fantasy time, overruled by any court in the very near future beyond 2050.
There's a reason why the current impasse between the A's sights on San Jose, (namely owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff desire to seize Silicon Valley), has been put on the back burner for so long; the Giants unwillingness to allow a new neighbor, (Neiman Marcus), to take shop on top of their still tony edifice, AT&T Park, (Nordstrom). The Giants still have a mortgage on their waterfront palace, not to mention a slew of corporate sponsors and interests that make up the area directly in the A's radar. They're not about to relinquish that territory and bond without a fight and even if the A's and baseball ponied up a fat check, the Giants are dug in. They're not interested in any form of a settlement because over the long term, having the A's in their backyard compromises not just corporate interests but very significant things like, A. broadcasting/cable and TV rights, B. the value of the franchise, C. the direct threat on tickets from a fan base most of whom live and work in the South Bay and the Peninsula, you know, little things like that.
Moreover, the Giants could contend that their baseball palace was built, (privately financed), with the intention that those pesky territorial rights were to be honored. Think MLB owners and Bud Selig don't already acknowledge that and thus, the current stalemate that has been on the back burner for over 4 and a half years. The password is: stuck.
Baseball knows and understands that the A's need new digs. Duh! And here's the dilemma, dilemmas really: Bud Selig, his frat boy friend, Lew Wolff in dire straits in Oakland only Oakland, in spite of doofus leadership within the Jean Quan and city council zoo, has distinct advantages; namely the A's have played their 48 years and will probably play their at least 6-7 more years at at that dank old Coliseum; that Oakland has proposed giving Wolff and company two pieces of large acreage in Jack London Square, (Howard Terminal), or the existing Coliseum North Parking lot site that has infrastructure in place and where a new park could be up and running in less than two years. (The 49ers techno-glitz, at $1.2 Billion bucks and considerable more construction and technological works will take only two years to be built).
When Wolff and Fisher bought the team way back in 2005 they knew the obstacles. They knew that the Coliseum was Raidered. They knew that Mt. Davis was in place. They still bought the franchise and have a made a tidy sum. They made a lot of money at that dump. They made over $23 Million at that dump last year. They pay virtually NO RENT at that dump. They get virtually all the concessions, the food, the parking, at that dump. Is it then, no coincidence, that while Wolff and his yes men consistently complain, moan, groan, and dole out insult after insult at the old joint that they have repeatedly resisted the request that they SELL to a local set of investors that would like to buy the team and keep it in Oakland? Oh heck no, barks Wolff. I wonder why.
I wonder how, in spite of Wolff's repeated and endless piss-on the A's fans in Oakland; his through and complete screw you Eastbay/Oakland! folks and his 4-year and running pursuit of the prom queen called San Jose, that Athletics fans still support him, having been kicked to the curb for countless years. That Wolff and Fisher has alienated an entire city, community, fan base that has supported the team is nothing short of remarkable. And get this, Lew: the A's players themselves have adulation for the fan base. Sure, they get 10,000 on average nights in the old dump but how supportive would you be when the owner of the team continually, consistently, openly tells Oakland/Eastbay fans that he's got two feet out the door once he gets the green light.
Only that is years and decades away, at best. For one, San Jose has no stadium and that takes at least 3 years with ending EIR reports, infrastructure enhancements, political deals settles and, oh, did I forget the lawyers? No matter what, the lawyers need to get paid and they'll be plenty of lawyers here: MLB lawyers, SF Giants lawyers, Oakland/Alameda County lawyers, and yes of course, San Jose lawyers. Didn't I just read that San Jose has had to lay off a multitude of cops and firefighters; that the city has to return several millions of dollars of redevelopment money to the state because the state didn't authorize that very money designated for the new stadium that was intended for the A's? Oops.
Let's all of us get a firm grip here. As of today, the Oakland A's are going nowhere. And at the vest best, they'll be in Oakland for at least 5-6 and possibly 7-8 years. These things take time especially when the lawyers get involved. San Jose's hail Mary legal maneuver, if it even ever gets to court, (and that's years and decades away), was intended to move the meter, to reconfigure the dynamics; basically move the fences in to use a baseball metaphor only time is not on San Jose's side.
Wolff is in his mid 70's. He and his kids and grand kids, I'm assuming, want a new stadium badly, but in Oakland? Not really. I'm convinced that Old Lew, the owner of hotels in the SouthBay and real estate, would rather die before the thought of making a deal in Oakland. Lew is stubborn. Lew never intended a thought about a new stadium in the 510. He can still prick-tease the local press that he tried to work a deal in The Town but those of us who are wise to Lewis Wolff know better. We know, for instance, that his early Oakland offer was a total sham; he knew full well that a ballpark village south of 66th Ave. would never fly; that in order for the sham to have any chance that it would require the dismantlement of several old businesses and require Oakland to induct eminent-domain; yeah, Lew, we're hip to you.
Lew has a problem. So do San Jose boosters and politicians. This late-stage rally is not really a major concern. It would be like the A's are up, 6-1 in the ninth, and the visitors put two on and the umps rule a non-home run when the replay shows clearly the ball went over the fence. So then, the game is played under protest. San Jose is essentially playing this A's dynamic under protest. They're pissed off. They're frustrated. They think they're entitled to the A's, a team, at least some team. And get this, they may be right only the A's are a pipedream and a pipedream at best.
The Giants aren't interested in settlements. Why would they be? And again, they're dug in and a very prominent presence in the owners minds and pocketbooks. It's called cachet and influence. The Giants, indirectly, are Oakland's best advocate. It's the Giants and really, MLB, that are in Oakland's corner. The Giants, for reasons already explained, and MLB, Selig, who are stuck, (remember that word?), because Selig doesn't want, nor can't make a decision on this, because in addition to the Giants issues, also very much believes that Wolff and the A's don't have all the money to know the way to San Jose. That's why this whole issue hasn't been resolved and why it's taken all this time. Gees, and you had to read it from a damn blogger!
A high-top Oakland booster who worked as an executive with the Haas family when they owned the A's told me directly that the "A's have been moving for the past 25 years; Sacramento, Denver, Las Vegas, Portland, San Antonio, ..." And they've played in that dump, the Oakland Coliseum, for the past 48 seasons. And they'll be playing there for many more years.
No matter what San Jose wants; no matter how much our so-called "press" thinks this day-after-toilet-gate lawsuit against baseball has merit and will really advance the story, the fact of the matter is that nothing has been advanced, at least in the practical sense. Except that a whole bunch of lawyers will be billing and that their accountants will be busy.
It's "OAKLAND" s A's and will be for the long, foreseeable future.
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*Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News will debate this topic with me on the radio show. Here's a link to the KSCO/KOMY streaming audio link. We debate from 2-3 PM, (the show is 1-4 PM, M-F)
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