It’s been three years and two months since commissioner Bud Selig offered to settle the dispute between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants.
Selig put together a “blue-ribbon panel” to study the issues facing the A’s and their need for a new stadium. Oakland ownership, lead by John Fisher, has said to have exhausted all possibilities of getting a new stadium in Oakland and would like to strike a deal with the city of San Jose instead. San Jose, however, falls withing the territory awarded to the Giants, Oakland’s cross-bay rival.
Major League Baseball’s owners will meet for two days this week in yet another of their quarterly meetings. The agenda for these meetings contains no mention of the A’s stadium issue, though it’s hard to imagine a more pressing circumstance right now.
The Dodgers have been sold and Frank McCourt is no longer a member of baseball’s exclusive club. The Padres and reluctant owner John Moores are now drawing interest from those who lost out to Magic Johnson’s group in trying to buy the Dodgers. Baseball’s owners would have seemingly few issues as significant as the one causing a rift between the Giants and A’s.
Meanwhile, however, there has been no report released by Selig or Major League Baseball concerning the findings of the panel he assembled. There has been no official time spent even discussing the matter with ownership at large, though there apparently have been some “non-official” discussions within the ownership ranks.
Selig, it seems, is attempting to play both sides of the argument into coming to a compromise. Three plus years later, I find it hard to imagine one will be coming anytime soon. The Giants, by all accounts, have been unwavering in their claim of territorial rights to San Jose.
Yesterday, a group of high-profile A’s fans authored an open letter to Fisher and his partners. The letter detailed Fisher’s comments about his intent to re-locate the franchise and noted many of the reactions these words have caused. A once-flourishing franchise, the A’s have seen attendance drop by more than 25% in the past five years, settling last season at 1.4 million. Surely, the play on the field has been a factor, but it’s not as if Fisher and his partners have been dumping money into the on-field product. Oakland has been the beneficiary of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue sharing and luxury tax payments over the years and while the problem is not limited to Oakland ownership, the A’s have been among those viewed as pocketing that money instead of re-investing it into the club.
At the center of the misery is the Oakland Coliseum, one of, if not the worst baseball stadium in use today. With the Coliseum’s other inhabitants, the NFL’s Raiders, openly discussing a move back to Los Angeles, it seems the city of Oakland and Alameda County would be motivated to take as much action as possible in attempting to keep their pro sports franchises. If it were only the A’s that were leaving, they’d still have the Raiders, but would the specter of losing them both bring about action? Maybe, maybe not. Oakland and the East Bay is among the fastest growing areas in the country and is drawing more and more companies. The Coliseum property would bring quite a bit of interest if made available to the affluent companies looking to move into, or remain in, the East Bay.
As an outsider looking in, it appears that all parties are driving a strong agenda. The Athletics say there can be no deal reached to stay in Oakland, the Giants aren’t budging on their claim of San Jose and the city of Oakland continues to hold press conferences saying all the right things, but doing so without any action taken. They cannot come out and say they’d almost rather have no pro sports franchises (the NBA’s Warriors are considering moving to San Francisco as well) without risking public backlash and an ouster come election time.
Meanwhile, the A’s franchise and their fans are forced to wait as months turn into years since this problem was first placed into Selig’s hands.
A time will come, sooner or later, when the A’s will re-locate one way or another. Continuing to play in the Coliseum does indeed place the club at a strategic and financial disadvantage and before long ownership will seek a way out. I believe ideally that Fisher and his partners would be more than satisfied with a move to San Jose, but if Selig cannot convince the Giants to back off their claims of rights, Fisher and company may have no choice but to look elsewhere and leave Northern California with only one team.
Should it come to that, Fisher will forever be painted a villain, but it would be Charles Johnson, Larry Baer, and the Giants who would also be to blame as yet another fan-base will be turned sour by billionaires fighting over millions. The Oakland franchise, and their fans, deserve a better fate.
For more on the Athletics, head on over to Swingin’ A’s.
John Parent is the NL Editorial Director for FanSided MLB. He can be reached at [email protected] or via twitter @JohnJParent.