Thursday, February 21, 2013

Good Grief! The Non-News News of the A's

Here is what we know.

Bill Shakin of the Los Angeles Times is reporting that MLB has laid out a set of conditions the A's must meet for a potential move to San Jose.

Has MLB confirmed these conditions? No. From the article,

"The committee continues to work hard on this very complex, complicated situation," MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said in the statement.

So what do we actually know? Nothing new.

We do get this unsubstantiated tidbit from Shakin:

The commissioner's office has expressed concerns about the viability of the proposed San Jose ballpark site and the financial projections offered by the A's in support of a move, according to people familiar with the discussions. It is unclear if the A's have been asked for guarantees on either score.

What should we take out of all of this? Not much.

Punting Leverage

The A's remain in limbo, yearning to move to San Jose while firmly planted in Oakland. MLB has taken so long to decide on a theoretical San Jose ballpark that it has actually created an opening for the city of Oakland to have some leverage.

Enter the spat between Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana and A's owner Lew Wolff.

On Dec. 21 of last year, Wolff released to the media and -- as we know know for certain -- sent a letter regarding an extension of the A's lease in Oakland past this season. The team clearly cannot open next season in San Jose as there will be no major-league ready stadium available and the Giants continue to hold territorial rights to Santa Clara County.

Fast forward to Tuesday and Santana tore into Wolff for not sending Joint Powers Authority (City of Oakland and Alameda County mutual governing body for the Coliseum) the letter. From the East Bay Express on Tuesday:

When you saw the recent letter Lew Wolff put out that was highly-covered through the media about his desire to stay and negotiate a lease extension for five years with the city and with the county, what you should know is that letter was never forwarded to the JPA or it was never forwarded to the city and county, it was forwarded to the newspaper. It’s just some of the game-playing we struggle with without them being at the table in good faith in order to have discussions around these negotiations when the media is feed a different impression.

Wolff, furious, responds by firing a trademark ALL CAPS email to Fred Blackwell, Santana deputy. From today's Oakland Tribune (sans caps):

I am surprised that you sought to discredit me....(It) is very sad when someone is devoted to harm someone else's reputation.

And, there goes Oakland punting credibility as a competent city. (It should, however, be noted that the Friday before a Monday Christmas is about the slowest news time of the year. Surely, it was not a coincidence that the team issued a hat-in-hand letter at that time.)

The article concludes by offering this insight into the upcoming  lease negotiations, which were termed as expected to be "grueling":

At Monday's gathering, city officials said they were seeking about $3 million in concessions from the team, including a demand that it turn over more parking tax proceeds collected during game days and share more game day revenue with the Raiders. 

Best Shot?

The reported stipulations the city are seeking are weak.

The other East Bay teams all have more plausible exit strategies they could employ, giving the city a greater incentive to keep the A's. The Warriors are free to go to San Francisco and the Raiders could return to L.A. (assuming league approval) where a new stadium is on the horizon.

The fact is that there is no major league facility in the United States or Canada (Olympic Stadium in Montreal is debatable) that is being built or is not in use for the A's to move to. For the next three-to-seven years the A's best, and possibly only, place to be is Oakland.

Oakland should demand that the team make a good-faith effort to engage in the Coliseum City planning. Despite the recent misunderstanding, Blackwell stood by remarks that the A's ownership refuses to discuss the concept. Again, from the Oakland Tribune:

I am still disappointed that our efforts to meet with the A's to talk about a new site were rebuffed and stand ready to have that conversation.

Stipulate that the A's send a senior official to planning meetings. Make the team produce a report saying why it objects to the plan. Push them.

In the End

Here is what we have learned:

1. MLB may have provided the A's with guidelines for moving to San Jose.
2. Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana did not see the A's letter regarding a lease extension. (It may be best to send her certified mail from now on.)
3. Lew Wolff either has a broken keyboard or a real anger/etiquette problem (see caps, all).
4. Oakland/JPA is seeking monetary concessions from the A's (some of which will go to the Raiders) in the team's next lease.

Get ready for another season of no news being the news when it comes to the A's off-field issues!

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