Keep the A’s in Oakland: Will They Stay…or Move to San Jose?
Thursday May 10th, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: Whether or not the Athletics stay in Oakland has been an ongoing issue since John Fisher and his ownership group bought the team in around 2006. The A’s have played in a multi purpose stadium for baseball and football since the 1960s. At first, the stadium wasn’t bad, with a great view of the Oakland Hills out past the center field wall. When the Raiders returned to the Coliseum in 1995, their owner, Al Davis built suites and more seats (sarcastically dubbed “Mount Davis”) that stretched higher than the upper deck of the rest of the stadium. The once beautiful views were blocked and the stadium became a concrete bowl. In late summer and early fall, the centerfield grass (where the bleachers are placed for football) is in a state of disrepair compared to the otherwise perfect playing surface. Still, when the A’s were winning, they managed to draw crowds. The A’s had many prosperous years, winning the World Series in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1989, and losing in the World Series in 1988 to the Dodgers and in 1990 to the Reds. More recently, in their “Moneyball” season of 2002, the A’s won 20 consecutive games and made the playoffs, but lost to the Twins in the ALDS.
It’s been a long time since the local fans have seen a winning A’s team. The last time the A’s made the playoffs was 2006, when they lost to the Tigers in the ALCS. The only time they went .500 since 2006 was in 2010. This could be due to general manager Billy Beane’s knack for trading everyone away. Notable trades include Andre Ethier for Milton Bradley, Carlos Gonzalez for Matt Holliday, and Mark Mulder for Dan Haren (who eventually was also traded). The team hasn’t been consistent since 2006. Last year, the team looked like it was finally going to be competitive with pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson healthy and ready for the season. Top prospects Michael Taylor and Chris Carter were ready to make an impact. Unfortunately Anderson got injured and needed Tommy John surgery, Cahill didn’t pitch to his potential, and Taylor and Carter spent the majority of the season in the minors because they didn’t perform in the majors. The final blow came when this winter, the A’s traded Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals and Trevor Cahill to the Diamondbacks. All of these events together had the fans asking: are we ever going to contend again?
Over the past few depressing years, the O.co Coliseum has been visibly empty on weeknights and even weekends, except when the big name teams come to town (Red Sox, Yankees, this year the Angels). Since 2008, the A’s have been drawing less than 20,000 fans a game, and had to close off the upper deck. This could have been the result of the Giants’ sparkling ballpark just across the Bay and their winning the World Series in 2010, which caused m many A’s fans to jump onto the bandwagon. The more obvious reason could be the A’s poor performance. However, despite their struggles and their outdated stadium, the A’s continue to have a passionate fan base. Most every game, the “bleacher creatures” can be seen just above the out of town scoreboard in right field with multiple signs for various players.
From a personal standpoint, going to an A’s game isn’t a terrible experience. On any given day, most seats in the stadium are unsold, so there aren’t many restricted views, and there is a choice of almost any seat. Despite the pick of seating, the stadium still has many downsides. Often called the worst stadium in the league, the Coliseum reeks of garbage and sewage at times, and is visibly broken down. Compared with the relatively new and gleaming AT&T Park, the O.co Coliseum doesn’t hold a candle in terms of food, beauty, and overall experience. Although I enjoy attending games at the Coliseum now, I dream of a new stadium.
This dream almost became a reality for me when in November of 2006, new owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher developed plans to move the A’s to nearby Fremont into a new, baseball-only stadium to be called Cisco Field. The owners proclaimed staying in Oakland long-term was “out of the question.” The design seemed to be inviting. Fremont, only about 21 miles away from Oakland, offered a good place for the A’s to move, not too far away from where they resided for many years. In 2009, unfortunately, Lew Wolff said in a letter that he would stop efforts to move the A’s to Fremont.
The most recent proposal for the A’s move is to San Jose. Unfortunately for the A’s, the Giants have territorial rights to the San Jose area. The A’s went to Commissioner Bud Selig with this issue, and he proposed that the A’s directly settle this conflict with the Giants. In order to enable the A’s to move to San Jose, the Giants must either concede their territorial rights, or 23 out of 30 MLB owners must vote in the A’s favor in order to force the Giants to give up their rights. Adding more pressure to keep the A’s in Oakland, in a local newspaper on Tuesday, Oakland business leaders and A’s fans wrote an open letter to majority owner John Fisher pushing the ownership to either remain in Oakland, or to sell the team to someone willing to keep the team in Oakland. This gives the Giants an enormous amount of leverage at the next owner’s meeting. The A’s ownership says Oakland is not a suitable place for the team while local business owners say the opposite. So why allow the A’s to invade the Giants’ territory before exhausting every possibility to remain in Oakland?
Besides the Bay Area, there are several other possible locations that A’s ownership might consider. For example, the A’s could move someplace like Las Vegas. Las Vegas would be a good place for a Major League team as they have hosted the 51s for many years. The city has no shortage of economic resources and definitely wouldn’t have a problem filling the ballpark. Lew Wolff, who also develops property in Los Angeles, could move the team there. This would be a more unlikely circumstance because Los Angeles already has two teams in the Dodgers and Angels, and the Padres are close by. Brooklyn, New York is another possibility, but like Los Angeles, New York has two teams. Portland and Sacramento have been discussed, too, but are probably too small to support a Major League team. As of now, the Bay Area seems to be the most likely place for the A’s to settle.
In the meantime, all the A’s can do is wait for a decision while they continue to grind through each season. Now it looks as though the A’s will stay in Oakland and get a new stadium, or, in the worst-case scenario, move out of the region to the dismay of the fans and local business owners (Although that situation seems very unlikely due to the pleas from locals to stay). As the years go by, it increasingly appears to be a case of owners versus fans. In my opinion, I don’t think we’ll be seeing anything but the Oakland A’s anytime soon.
***Today’s feature was prepared by Bernie Olshanksy, MLB reports Intern. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Bernie on Twitter. (@BernieOlshansky)***
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Posted on May 10, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged a's, baseball, billy beane, carlos gonzalez, dan haren, john fisher, lew wolff, matt holliday, michael taylor, mlb, oakland athletics, san jose, stadium, trevor cahill. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.