More news pointing to a SJ move...
Mark Purdy: More signs point to San Jose for the Oakland A's
By Mark Purdy Mercury News Columnist
Posted: 12/07/2011 08:31:59 PM PST
Updated: 12/08/2011 09:53:22 AM PST
The saga continues. The A's ultimate ballpark destination remains up in the air, a high and deep fly ball, with the entire Bay Area waiting to see in which glove it lands.
And despite what you hear, nothing is certain. Major League Baseball's so-called "blue-ribbon panel" still has not made public its report. Commissioner Bud Selig has not ruled on whether the Giants' territorial rights claim to San Jose should be overturned. Or whether A's owner Lew Wolff can pursue a San Jose stadium project.
However, the fly ball seems to be descending rapidly. Two recent developments -- a pointed comment by a powerful baseball owner and a lawsuit filed by a front group for the San Francisco Giants' interests -- seem to indicate that Selig and MLB are leaning toward a San Jose solution to the A's problem.
That should come as no shock. If the idea is for MLB to have two healthy Bay Area franchises, common sense says they should be located in the region's two largest cities, more than 40 miles apart, with both teams residing in modern new ballparks. That's instead of the current situation, with the Giants and A's just a short drive across the Bay Bridge from each other and the A's playing in a substandard, outdated and bleak hunk of concrete.
That common sense, however, acquired a strong voice this week at baseball's winter meetings in Dallas. Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was "totally supportive" of Wolff being able to pursue a ballpark project in San Jose.
"He needs to be there," Reinsdorf said. "It has to come to a head soon."
The "soon" probably translates to sometime in the next few months, most likely at an owners meeting in Arizona scheduled for next month. And for those who believe Oakland might still be in the picture, Reinsdorf threw in jabs at both the Oakland Coliseum and Oakland, saying the stadium was "past its time" and so was the city.
"Oakland's had plenty of opportunity to build a stadium and hasn't gotten it done," Reinsdorf said.
Those words could not have been spoken casually and cannot be overestimated. Reinsdorf has owned the White Sox since 1981. He is not only one of MLB's longest-tenured proprietors but also one of the most powerful, known to have Selig's ear. Reinsdorf also led the relocation committee that oversaw the Montreal Expos' move to Washington, D.C., and conversion into the Nationals.
Reinsdorf's statement about Oakland, meanwhile, outlines a chapter of the A's stadium pursuit that many East Bay citizens either forget or refuse to acknowledge. The chapter dates to 1994, not long after the Haas family sold the team to Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann. The two men had big plans for remodeling the Coliseum into a fine baseball-only structure. They requested a meeting with the Coliseum commission.,
"Here's what we'd like to do," Schott told the commission, outlining his remodeling ideas.
"That's all very nice," the commission replied, more or less. "But we have some news. The Raiders want to come back to Oakland, and we've got a financing plan to make it happen that will include building a new center field addition. You can't fight this, because the important people in Oakland want it to happen and they'll make it difficult on you if you try to get in the way."
Schott and Hofmann acquiesced. From that moment forward, the A's long-term future in Oakland was probably doomed. Years later, after Wolff and partner John Fisher bought the team, Wolff did assemble a new ballpark proposal near the Coliseum site. His plan involved mixed-use redevelopment and required Oakland's assistance to acquire the necessary land. The project went nowhere when the city did not or could not cooperate. Wolff then looked south to Fremont and spent years on another failed plan before finally settling on San Jose as his last, not first, resort.
All of that information is contained in the "blue-ribbon" report. The hunch here is that Reinsdorf has already seen it, which explains his assessment about Oakland.
It is possible, in fact, that the Giants also have seen the report, which might be why they backed a lawsuit filed last week by a group called "Stand For San Jose," which curiously is represented by a lawyer and public relations firm from San Francisco.
The lawsuit cites flaws in the environmental impact report for the proposed downtown San Jose ballpark and charges that the city's decision to give Wolff an option on the proposed ballpark property is illegal because the public didn't vote on it -- even though no ballpark could be built there without a public vote. Attorneys will hash out the whole thing. But we all know what this is about: The Giants want to delay and/or subvert any San Jose deal.
Clearly, the Giants are afraid that Selig will soon decide against them. Otherwise, why file the lawsuit at all? Why not let the other MLB owners decide the right thing to do? Perhaps because, as Reinsdorf's comments demonstrate, the Giants already know what that decision will be.
And that fly ball may plop into San Jose's mitt before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.