The big A's ballpark tease continues. For both Oakland and San Jose.
As the Athletics of baseball continue their improbable playoff push, the honchos of baseball continue their championship foot-dragging.
In many ways, we are officially no closer to learning the A's ultimate stadium future than we were three years ago. Will owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher be permitted to pursue a new home in San Jose? Or will Major League Baseball support the Giants' claim to territorial rights in the South Bay and nix such a move?
Month after month, the team's fans all over the Bay Area have tried to read every twitch of MLB commissioner Bud Selig's eyebrows, looking for a sign.
The latest twitch arrived over the weekend. The Los Angeles Times quoted an anonymous baseball source and said there were "indications that Selig might rule" on the A's situation by the end of 2012 -- and that instead of saying yes or no, the commissioner could issue a "Solomonesque" proclamation.
What does that mean?
Uh, good question. But let's take a stab. The A's could be required to guarantee they can both pay for the ballpark privately and still spend enough money to field a competitive team. Wolff and Fisher also might have to promise they would not sell the team within five or 10 years for a quick profit.
And the Giants? They could be forced to pledge that the franchise or any franchise affiliates (sponsors, etc.) won't file any lawsuits connected to a possible San Jose A's move. In return, MLB would set up a proactive formula/matrix to calculate the Giants' monetary situation five years after the A's are playing in the South Bay -- and after that review, compensate the Giants for any damages they might suffer.
There also might be requirements for San Jose to meet in terms of city cooperation and land acquisition. For Oakland, there could be firm requirements for the city to meet if it still wants to be taken seriously as a long-term home for the team.
But those are all just guesses. The mind of Bud Selig is a funhouse corridor filled with mirrors. Murmurs are indeed rife in the baseball world that an announcement about the A's situation will occur before the next scheduled owners' meeting in mid-November. However, when Wolff was reached by telephone Monday at his Los Angeles office, he had no information about any imminent announcement and had no comment on the Los Angeles Times report.
And as usual, Wolff reiterated his belief that Oakland is not on his list of possible solutions. He noted that the so-called "blue ribbon" committee to investigate the A's ballpark issue was appointed by Selig in March 2009 and that after examining all options over those three years, the "blue ribbon" experts have not publicly identified any Oakland site that works.
"If the committee had discovered a pathway for a new ballpark in Oakland, we would have been there a long time ago," Wolff said.
Which just goes to show how different people can look at the same picture and see different shapes. To many A's fans in Oakland, baseball's inaction is a sure sign the team will be staying in the East Bay. To Wolff and his people, Selig's inaction is a signal that nothing has been found in Oakland to contradict the A's claim that the city has no real ballpark possibilities.
So. The saga drags on. In the L.A. Times story, Wolff was quoted as saying that he would not be pleased if Selig's eventual decision includes numerous conditions that might require a year or more to fulfill.
"They might as well just tell us 'no,' " said Wolff, who in the past has said he might sell the team if he can't get a new ballpark built.
Wolff didn't deny the Times quote. But he acknowledged on Monday to this newspaper that nothing is totally cut and dried. Wolf also affirmed that he will not encourage any federal antitrust action against MLB that has been mentioned by San Jose politicos as a way to get Selig off the dime.
"I'm in baseball because of Bud Selig," said Wolff, who was a college fraternity brother of the commissioner.
In fact, Wolff's friendship with Selig probably has been the largest stumbling block, all along. The Giants and CEO Larry Baer have approached this whole A's ballpark battle as the biggest game of the World Series. The Giants are playing for keeps, hiring lawyers to hint at lawsuits and lobbying other MLB owners relentlessly. Meanwhile, the A's and Wolff still are treating the situation as an exhibition game, believing it's a collegial dispute that, despite any thorny details, can surely be resolved in an amicable fashion.
If Wolff truly wanted a rapid decision on a San Jose move, he should have been much nastier from the onset. He would have made Selig's life miserable every day until the answer came. Heck, if someone like Al Davis owned the A's, they'd probably be in San Jose already. At the very least, both Oakland and San Jose would know where they stand. Instead, the two cities continue to be frustrated pieces in a jigsaw puzzle only one man can solve.
Isn't it finally time for your move, Mr. Selig?
Contact Mark Purdy at email@example.com or 408-920-5092.