San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed on Monday echoed frustrations expressed by A's owner Lew Wolff over how long Major League Baseball is drawing out a study on whether the team can move from Oakland to the South Bay.
"I feel like we're being jerked around, and it's time to make a decision," Reed said Monday.
Wolff's venting this weekend about the slow pace of talks to move his team to San Jose could be a sign the relocation effort is in trouble, one leading sports economist said.
In an exclusive interview with Mercury News sports columnist Mark Purdy, published Sunday, Wolff expressed his continued angst that a decision has not been issued by baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and major league team owners on whether to remove the San Francisco Giants' territorial claim to Santa Clara County.
It's been 16 months since Selig appointed a special committee to study the A's options, and neither Wolff nor San Jose leaders can fathom what's taking so long.
Timing becomes critical because the City Council must decide by Aug. 3 whether to place a measure on the November ballot asking voters to support a ballpark measure. Approval by a majority of voters is needed before the city can provide land for the proposed $461 million ballpark, which Wolff has agreed to build and operate with no further public investment.
Baseball officials offered no comment Monday on the Mercury News interview, nor did the Giants or Corey Busch, a member of Selig's
Wolff said he didn't know if Selig — a fraternity brother in college — had read it. He expects to meet up with Selig at tonight's All-Star game in Anaheim but predicted they "won't discuss difficulties" in what's meant to be a convivial environment.
"Bud has a full grasp of everything, and he's trying to make a fair and balanced decision between us and the Giants," Wolff said.
Roger Noll, a professor of sports economics at Stanford University, said Wolff's frustration means "Selig isn't doing the job of a commissioner, which is getting the Giants and the A's to talk together." He has predicted the two teams could strike a financial settlement for the territorial rights.
"It's very difficult to reach a deal without the commissioner coming in and saying, 'Look, I want a deal "... and you guys need to work it out,' " Noll said. " 'And if you don't, I will impose one on you.' "
He added that Wolff's move to go public with his complaints "must mean this is pretty close to the last chance."
What surprises Noll is that the other MLB owners haven't stepped forward to help resolve the issue. He surmised that Wolff's going public "is all about trying to bring this to a head at the owners' meeting around the All-Star game, so they can at least get the ball rolling for a resolution to the territorial rights issue.''
Absent a decision from MLB by Aug. 3, Reed said Wolff could request the council to put a measure on the ballot anyway, without baseball's sanction. Wolff on Monday declined to say whether he would push for that.
If no measure appears on the Nov. 2 ballot, the next option would be a special election on March 8. Political experts say that could bode well for ballpark proponents, even though it would cost the city at least $1 million to stage.
"It's a question of strategy," said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University. He noted that while special elections draw fewer voters, they tend to draw those who are most committed to a cause.
Another option would be for a citizens' initiative to be placed on the March 8 ballot. That idea — which would be less beholden to environmental restrictions than the city's current process — has been floated by Michael Mulcahy, a downtown San Jose businessman and co-chairman of a booster group called Pro Baseball For San Jose. Organizers would need to collect verified signatures from 8 percent of San Jose's registered voters, or 30,740 people.
But opponents of the stadium also are making plans. A new grass-roots group called "Better Sense San Jose" announced its official launch Monday, vowing to fight public funding for the park.
Marc Morris, a spokesman for the new group, is a 20-year-resident of the Shasta-Hanchett neighborhood near the site and filed one of three formal objections to the environmental impact report city officials prepared for the park. The City Council last month approved the report over those objections, which mostly focused on parking and traffic concerns.
Morris said his group is not affiliated with "Stand For San Jose," a separate grass-roots group funded by the San Francisco Giants with a similar goal to fight any ballpark ballot measure. Still, he added, "Never say never."
Wolff on Monday expressed frustration that "there is an argument between us and the Giants when I don't think there needs to be."
He also repeated that he believes the A's have explored "every opportunity we can find in Oakland and Fremont, and only then did we focus on San Jose. If the committee has discovered something we have missed, I would be happy to talk about it."
Contact Tracy Seipel at 408-275-0140.