Monday, February 21, 2011

A's Facts and "Conspiracy Theories"

In this never-ending 16-year A's ballpark odyssey, one of the weirder chain of events happened one year apart, in 2005 and 2006. And it helps explain why so very few people trust Lew Wolff and John Fisher.

On March 31, 2005, the day before Wolff and Fisher officially took over the A's, the San Francisco Chronicle had an article where longtime South Bay baseball booster Larry Stone went into elaborate detail to predict what Wolff would do with the A's. Stone said, "Wolff could demonstrate that he tried to make a deal in Oakland and then say, 'I tried, I have to look elsewhere.' We hope and believe that one of the places, if not the only place, is San Jose."

Five months later, Bud Selig gave a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Jose, which was attended by A's president Mike Crowley. The host/emcee of that public event was the same Larry Stone. (Stone also wrote a Chronicle op-ed guest column last year, demonizing Giants owner Bill Neukom and arguing that the A's shouldn't have to pay the Giants anything for moving into their territory, unless it's proven after the fact that it affected the Giants. Good luck with that argument.) Needless to say, Stone has been carrying Wolff's water for at least six years.

Then, on March 12, 2006, San Jose Mercury News sportswriter Mark Purdy wrote a column that exactly echoes Stone's detailed prediction. In early 2006, Wolff had hinted he was looking to move the A's to Fremont. But Purdy, a tireless Wolff supporter, wrote in the column that Wolff really might not be trying to move to Fremont, after all.

By saying he was going to the move the A's into the furthest part of their East Bay territory without actually crossing the border into the Giants' South Bay territory, Wolff was just bluffing, Purdy wrote. Wolff instead was merely going to threaten to move to Fremont and then rename the team the "San Jose A's of Fremont," and then, just before signing the deal with Fremont, he would go to the Giants offering a deal to let Wolff move the A's to San Jose, Purdy predicted.

Purdy wrote that Wolff would say: "Look, if I go to Fremont and call the team the San Jose A's, the Giants get nothing. But if you agree to let me actually move the team to San Jose, you'll get some compensation. How about it?"

Remarkably, Wolff told Purdy he wouldn't rule out any of this detailed hypothetical scenario.

Let's review:

In March 2005, South Bay baseball booster Larry Stone said that Wolff will only make it look like he tried in Oakland and Fremont and then will try to move the A's to San Jose.

In March 2006, South Bay baseball booster Mark Purdy wrote that Wolff will only make it look like he tried in Fremont and then will try to move the A's to San Jose.

Also in 2006, Wolff said that he had spent the previous three years (2003-2006) trying to buy out the Giants so he could move the A's to San Jose.

In 1998, Wolff told the San Francisco Chronicle that if he were running the A's, he "wouldn't spend five minutes on any other city" than San Jose. Wolff also said in the '98 article that he would work directly with San Jose's mayor and its redevelopment agency on a new ballpark. Since taking over in 2005, that's exactly what Wolff has done.

In fact, in his six years of ownership, Wolff has done exactly what Stone and Purdy publicly predicted a half-decade ago.

If any pro-Oakland booster had laid out those detailed scenarios that Stone and Purdy did, they would have been accused of being "conspiracy theorists." But they weren't Oakland's "theories" at all. They were the words of Wolff's biggest supporters, who somehow, someway knew exactly what Wolff was going to do before he went out and did it.

Stone and Purdy may or may not have been publishing Wolff's playbook, before the fact.

But Oakland fans don't need to try to guess or theorize. With Wolff and Fisher so inartfully showing their hand through the years, we'll just stick to what we know.

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