Monday, January 18, 2010

New Year and Old Threats

A recent New York Times article on Lew Wolff's ongoing stadium search examined Oakland's excellent new sites near Jack London Square. Three main points from the article stick out.

1. Lew Wolff's headstrong attitude about moving the A's
2. Political implications
3. Reaction of A's fans

One quote from the article additionally stood out: "... he (Wolff) has also raised the specter that the team would move out of state rather than stay in Oakland." Out of state? By making threats like that, Wolff seems to be taking a rather foolish "scorched earth" approach in order to move to San Jose. That strategy is controversial, at best, and it's unnecessary. Even if he gets his San Jose ballpark, he will need broad regional support, including fans he has angered in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The problem for Wolff is his scorched earth strategy will only alienate those fans even more. Second, what if the San Jose option falls through? There's a whole host of reasons why it might fail, and that's not even counting the territorial rights issue. Out of state? Really?! When he makes that threat, Wolff likely is posturing, especially given the state of the economy, locally and nationwide.

It has been speculated in some circles that Bay Area political leaders have played a little bit into lawsuit threats recently made against MLB by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. I prefer keeping the A's based on a solid proposal rather than a judge’s decision or an act of Congress, but these kinds of legal maneuverings illustrate that Wolff is making his stadium search more of a mess than it needs to be, and he's not covering all the necessary bases to fulfill his Silicon Valley dreams. After all, it's been almost seven years since Wolff was named A's V.P. of venue development, and what venues has he actually developed?

As for the reaction of Oakland fans ... Maybe A's fan Sara Buckelew said it best in the New York Times article. "I’m an A's lifer," Buckelew said. "But I think them moving to San Jose is giving up on fans like me." There’s no better indictment of how poorly Wolff is handling his stadium search than that quote. Instead, he could easily avoid the political fallout from a move out of his territory and win back fan approval if he works to keep the team in Oakland. Contrary to what you frequently read, Oakland officials been working very hard for more than a decade to keep the team here. 2009 was an especially productive year, as Mayor Dellums, Councilwoman Jane Brunner, Doug Boxer and others worked closely with MLB and found two new perfectly viable Jack London Square sites: 1) Jack London West, and 2) Victory Court. Wolff should look into working with city officials to make one of these sites the future home of the A’s.

In short, Oakland should get just as fair of a chance as Wolff gave Fremont and, is currently giving San Jose.

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