Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A's vs. Raiders Ultimatum Facing City Council, Fans

The A's lease imbroglio continues to fester in the sun, wafting an acrid smell into the Coliseum as the team thumps their neighbors across the Bay. The Oakland City council, with a lease approved by the JPA, is risking nuclear fallout from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig who has already issued a statement letting the A's move should the lease not be approved.

Meanwhile, the Giants are salivating at the prospect of having the Bay Area all to themselves and the Raiders are increasingly getting restless as they want to control development of the Coliseum site.

The one positive thing, in this complete and utter mess attributable to long-term neglect more than anything else, is that definitive resolution seems inevitable. The option of the A's and the Raiders continuing to share the Coliseum is no longer tenable. What the future holds is anyone's guess.

Relocation to Where?

It was interesting to hear Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid mention that the A's threat of relocation, assuming lease peace cannot be reached, is actually a real possibility.

Reid apparently mentioned Montreal and San Antonio as possibilities. Realistically, either destination would be a stretch. Here's why:

Montreal -- On the plus side, the city has a stadium available that could host MLB games. Olympic Stadium did so just this pre-season for two Mets-Jays tilts. However, Olympic Stadium would move the A's to arguably a worse facility than the Coliseum. Montreal is also, for all intents and purposes, prime Blue Jays marketing territory. MLB would be crazy, just plain crazy to allow a franchise to move to Montreal without having a new facility fully planned-out, funded and approved by the provincial government (an additional hurdle in Quebec). Also, consider if the A's moved to Montreal -- even temporarily -- realignment would just about need to happen. A real mess to consider.

San Antonio -- The Alamodome can, sort-of fit a baseball game in it. To call the facility Major League-ready is beyond a stretch. The Rangers consider San Antonio part of their marketing territory and would be sure to oppose such a move. Moving the A's to San Antonio would stack three AL West teams in Texas and in the Central Time Zone, making following road games harder for Angels and Mariners fans. A minor concern, as well, is that the A's would need to compensate the Padres for displacing that team's AA club.

It is far more likely that MLB would either ask the Giants to share ATT Park or that the A's would consider moving north to Sacramento.

Why Sacramento?

1. The A's would not need to compensate the River Cats as they are affiliated with the team.
2. Sacramento's media market (Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto) is robust, ranking at #20.
3. Raley Field, while still not MLB-ready, is arguably a better temporary facility than either Olympic Stadium or the Alamodome. (As a historical note, the Seattle Pilots in 1969 played in a AAA stadium and the Montreal Expos began their existence by playing at Jarry Park, also a minor league facility.)

In light of all of these machinations, the news in May that the River Cats are being courted by the Giants -- as their affiliation with the A's expires this season -- is all the more notable. After all, a minor tactic employed by the Giants in San Jose is use and ownership of the team's A-level club to partially block the A's. At the very least, ownership of the little Giants ensures the parent team extra compensation should the A's ever be granted the right to move.

If the A's and Giants swapped AAA locations, there is basically no chance that Fresno would be considered a spot for the A's to decamp to.

Affiliating with Sacramento, and investing in the team if possible, would be a savvy move by the Giants and further the team's ultimate goal -- elimination of a major competitor. Of course, on the other hand, blocking Sacramento might lead to temporally sharing ATT -- a Catch-22 for sure.

Choose and Lose

Anyone who thinks that Raiders owner Mark Davis and the Athletics ownership could join together and build Coliseum City is utterly naive. (They are doubly-naive if they include the Warriors ownership in the group as well.) Witness today's news that the Raiders development group has issued a letter to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and the city council basically imploring the city to pick a side:

"the current proposal ... simply allows the A's to buy more time to find a site outside of Oakland ... and disrupt the ability to deliver a stadium for the Raiders and the ancillary developments adjacent to that stadium."

Read:

  • Approve the lease and risk the Raiders. 
  • Deny the lease and risk the A's.

It is also important to note that the Raiders want to knock down the Coliseum next year.

In a world of limitless funds, free of CEQA and where sports teams were all owned by owners more concerned with community harmony than money, Coliseum City might actually happen. This is not the world we live in today. Note the Raiders' letter's use of the phrase "ancillary development." Both teams want this because club revenues cannot be counted on given the ebbs and flows of attendance and the endless upward march of salaries.

The Coliseum, despite its historic playing field, is emblematic of the sort of hybrid-Frankenstein that trying to satisfy both a baseball and football team has produced. Has a stadium ever undergone a renovation so universally poor? Witness even the Raiders, the team it was expanded for, tarping off 10,000 seats this past season. "Mount Davis" is miserable in terms of sight lines and truly an architectural blight blocking out the Oakland hills. The real cherry, however, is that the city and county are on the hook for bond payments for years to come. As of early last year, about $100 million was still owed for this 1995 "renovation."

Make no mistake, the A's lease situation is fast becoming a showdown. It is understandable and laudable* to want all three Oakland-based pro teams to stay. The reality is that fans are fast being asked to choose sides and there are really only two potentially viable options: 1) save the A's; or 2) save the Raiders. (The Warriors are gone and have no interest in Coliseum area development.)

There is no middle ground and hoping for a "White Knight" to buy the A's, move them to the Howard Terminal site (one rejected by MLB) and thus somehow satisfy the Raiders by freeing the Coliseum just seems unrealistic and dangerous. Oakland simply can't "split the baby."

The latest sordid turn in this affair is that Raider and A's fans are now poised to be pitted against one another.

*Editor's Note -- My intention is not to question the passion of fans interested in keeping all of Oakland's teams. I have enormous respect with such groups and individuals. Personally, I may even agree with their end goals. However, passion and realism are sometimes opposing forces. Unless a major sea change occurs, vis-a-vis team ownership, it seems unrealistic that the city will save even two of these teams.

2 comments:

  1. In regards to your San Antonio comments.....

    Not only do the Rangers consider San Antonio part of their marketing territory but the Astros do as well. Up until about five years ago SA was always more of Astros territory then Rangers territory. The Rangers rise, Astros demise, and Astros switch to RSN CSN Houston has made SA more of Rangers area.

    Also, you mention "Moving the A's to San Antonio would stack three AL West teams in Texas and in the Central Time Zone, making following road games harder for Angels and Mariners fans." That could also read "having three AL West teams on the West Coast makes road games harder for Rangers and Astros fans". That argument doesn't hold water.

    IF the A's did move to Montreal I guess the Twins would move to the AL West and the Rays to the AL Central.

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