A general view before the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners Opening Day game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Why are the Oakland A's still playing in their concrete mausoleum? Bud Selig, that's why.
Well, here we are in February. Has anything happened?
::: crickets :::
Granted, February isn't over yet. But the silence from MLB had A's owner Lew Wolff speaking out at a Rotary Club of San Jose meeting on Wednesday. He sounds pretty tired of waiting:
"I’m not going to continue this much longer," he said. "What we want is an answer. We want a ‘Yes, you can relocate and share the territory,’ or ‘You can’t.’ But not having any answer is difficult not just for me, but for the 130 people that work for us, for planning, for our baseball team every year." So what happens if his timeframe expires and there’s still no answer? Would Wolff and his fellow owners sell? He said he’s not entertaining that option yet.
Even if they are interested in selling, who would buy the A's with the stadium issue unsolved? The future success of the A's is almost wholly dependent on getting them a viable stadium, which their current one is not.
The sticking point has been the Giants' unwillingness to give up the territorial rights to San Jose, which they were granted years ago when they were considering moving there. Twelve years after they got a spiffy new ballpark in downtown San Francisco, isn't it time for them to relinquish those? Yes, I know, corporate dollars in San Jose are currently spent on the Giants, and they'd suffer if the A's were right there... that's the argument. But a more compelling one is the fact that the Bay Area's combined population (2010 census figures) is over six million -- larger than the Washington/Baltimore area, which has two teams and would easily support both of them if they won.
The A's have a fanbase that will come out if they win, but won't go to their awful stadium if they don't, which has been the case the last couple of years, and could be the case again in 2012, given the dealing of players like Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and others. GM Billy Beane, recently extended to 2019, is clearly planning for a future that includes a new stadium.
It's time for MLB to just do it. Wolff said at the Rotary Club that a buyout of the territorial rights "has not been discussed", although he also said that the team would not object if the Giants kept their California League affiliate there. At the same time:
He confirmed the team would be renamed the San Jose A's if it relocated.
It's clear to me that having a strong franchise in a new stadium would benefit not only the A's, but the Giants as well, by increasing interest in baseball in the Bay Area. Though it's true that corporate dollars do go to the Giants' coffers, the average South Bay fan -- who lives 50 or more miles from AT&T Park -- wouldn't change his or her allegiance just because there's a team down the street. If you're a Giants fan, you'd likely remain a Giants fan; any "damage" to the San Francisco franchise would likely be minimal.
This CSN Bay Area article indicates that it's been nearly three years (March 2009) since Bud Selig created a committee to study this issue. And just where does that stand?
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said Wednesday there was nothing new from the commissioner's office on the situation since Selig's remarks at the owners' meetings last month that the issue was on the "front burner."
Must not be burning very hot or brightly. Time for Bud to broker a deal so that the proposed new Cisco Field can be constructed and the San Jose A's can begin play there, perhaps by 2014.
Bud? Bud? You awake in there?