A general view of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim against the Oakland Athletics MLB game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
MLB will reportedly deliver the A's gift in February, but A's fans can celebrate now; their long-rumored move to San Jose is about to become a reality.
The [Insert Corporate Name Here] Coliseum was obsolete for baseball not long after the Oakland Athletics moved there in 1968. It became even more so after the Oakland Raiders returned there from their 13-year sojourn to southern California and the stadium was made much more suitable for the NFL with the addition of what was mockingly termed "Mount Davis", the enormous tier of seats that were great for Al Davis' Raiders but loomed over the outfield and were terrible for baseball.
It got so bad that the A's completely closed off the upper deck of the stadium for baseball with huge green tarps, reducing the baseball capacity to about 35,000. Even that didn't help. The A's last drew over two million fans in 2005 and ranked 29th in MLB in attendance in 2010 and 30th -- dead last -- in 2011, drawing just 1,476,791, an average of 18,232 per game, barely 40% of what the MLB-leading Phillies had in Citizens Bank Park.
It's been clear for many years that the A's needed a new stadium. Dank and concrete with poor baseball sightlines and enormous foul territory, the Coliseum isn't a place where even the die-hardiest of die-hard baseball fans wanted to go. By 2006, the A's had a plan to build a new stadium in Fremont, just south of Oakland; some wags predicted they'd follow the Angels' lead and be renamed "Oakland Athletics of Fremont".
It didn't happen. All logic pointed to the A's moving to San Jose -- the largest city in the Bay Area, and where a lot of their fanbase could easily reach a new stadium.
"NO!", yelled the San Francisco Giants. "That's OURS!"
MLB had granted the Giants San Jose as a "territory" decades ago, when the Giants were also considering a move there. But after the Giants built a shiny new stadium in San Francisco, many wondered why they wouldn't let the A's move to the South Bay, with a proposed stadium location 50 miles from AT&T Park. (For reference, the distance between Camden Yards in Baltimore and Nationals Park in Washington, another similar two-team market, is less than 40 miles.)
Well, the Giants had their reasons, I suppose. It wound up hurting the A's, as GM Billy Beane continually shed star players for prospects, something he did again last week in shipping Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals.
But now that appears to be part of a plan, given this tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale over the weekend:
If Beane goes ahead with his rumored plan to trade closer Andrew Bailey, the A's might be the worst team in the American League... this year. And maybe next year. But by 2014 or 2015, presuming they really do build this version of Cisco Field in San Jose, the A's should be ready to begin competing in the now-tough AL West.
Some have said that the Bay Area isn't big enough to support two major league teams. According to this list of "metropolitan statistical areas" in the United States, the combined population of the "San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA MSA" and the "San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA MSA" is, as of the 2010 census, 6,172,302. That (if they'd combine it as they have with the Washington/Baltimore area in that list) would make the Bay Area the fifth-largest metro area in the USA, just about the same size as Dallas/Ft. Worth and bigger than the combined Washington/Baltimore area. It's the No. 6 TV market. It's home to some of the wealthiest corporations in the country, exactly the type of businesses the A's could tap for corporate sponsorships or sales of suites... in a better stadium.
Which, it appears, they'll now get permission to build. Presumably, it'll be ready by 2014, or at the latest, 2015, and Billy Beane appears to be gearing the A's to become a contender right about then. "San Jose A's" has a nice ring to it. Putting a team where it has its best chance to succeed can only help MLB, and, say some, should even be a benefit to the Giants.
And A's fans, it's only 40 miles from the Coliseum to the proposed San Jose location. The A's could have wound up in Sacramento, or worse, contracted. Instead, they'll be just a little farther down the freeway. Do you know the way to San Jose?