Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rumors Fly MLB Will Rule for Oakland

Much of the Oakland A's Internet world was abuzz with this Ballpark Digest article that reported that, because Oakland's redevelopment agency is in better shape than San Jose's, Major League Baseball is now looking more favorably at Oakland as MLB gets close to making their decision on the A's fate. Here's a quote from the article:

That financing wherewithal is expected to carry a lot of weight with the special committee weighing the location of a new A's ballpark. It's also expected to give them cover: the mantra from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is that his sport is loathe to allow a franchise shift unless all efforts have been made to keep the team in its current community. If Oakland has a site, the money and the will to put together a ballpark package, we're guessing MLB will take the safe route and recommend the team stay there, as opposed to creating a messy territorial battle by allowing a move to San Jose. Indeed, the talk at the Winter Meetings is that an Oakland recommendation is now pretty much a done deal -- with the additional spin (albeit accurate) that this proved the committee was right all along in waiting things out before making a recommendation.

This news, along with the Dec. 8 East Bay Express article that detailed Oakland's progress with MLB, revealed the growing positive momentum for building a new stadium at the Victory Court location by Jack London Square. The waterfront Oakland spot is preferred by Major League Baseball, according to Robert Gammon's Express story. It also shows the level of involvement that Major League Baseball has put into this project. While the Internet sewing circles speculated what this all meant, A's owner Lew Wolff was quick to dismiss it through Susan Slusser at the S.F. Chronicle and Jane Lee of While most of the response is the canned response we have heard for the last 18 months from Lew -- "We have exhausted every option in Oakland" -- one of the more interesting nuggets from the Slusser piece stated:

If the A's are not granted the territorial rights they want in San Jose, they are under no obligation to move to a site recommended by the committee. They can spend no money at all and stay at the Coliseum, or the owners can sell the team.

Under no obligation, Lew? Deciding the future location of the A's franchise is exactly why MLB appointed the three-person committee to study Bay Area ballpark sites. Also, if Wolff were to take this route, the people who claim that Wolff hates Oakland would only have a stronger case. It would be franchise suicide to not work with a viable Oakland ballpark plan like the one that the city and MLB reportedly have forged.

The Jane Lee piece reports that Wolff says he has not talked to the city in two years. That's a flat out lie by Wolff. (Given his past problems with telling the truth, maybe we shouldn't be surprised.) In fact, Wolff is well aware of the progress that has been made at Victory Court. However, I am starting to wonder how much Lew Wolff matters in all this. Remember, in March of 2009, Barbara Boxer and Ron Dellums sent letters to Bud Selig to address this matter and bypassed Wolff entirely, prompting Selig to form the three-member A's ballpark committee, which has caused all this controversy. All the news coming from the Oakland backers talk about working with Major League Baseball officials and not Lew Wolff himself. Judging by the fact that we have been hearing the same canned responses from Wolff in that time period, it leads me to believe that he might not be in the loop as much as he'd like to believe.

Also keep in mind that, while he is the A's ownership managing partner, his financial share in the team is about 10%. If MLB can convince other MLB owners that Oakland is a workable choice, they might be able to convince the A's other partners, including billionaire John Fisher, that investing in an attractive ballpark in Oakland can and would be a profitable enterprise, regardless of Wolff's personal feelings towards Oakland and San Jose. Then, Wolff could easily sell to a more enthusiastic team owner and still make a tidy profit in doing so.

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