Finding a good home for the Athletics

February, 25, 2009
Recently there's been some confusion about the Giants' "territorial rights" and San Jose. Might the A's be allowed to move there, or not? Well, after making a bunch of phone calls, the Mercury News' Mark Purdy seems to have figured it out:

    Selig and baseball wanted to straddle the line and have it both ways. They wanted to create leverage and put pressure on Fremont to reach a deal with the A's -- but did not want to peeve the Giants in the process.

    Well, after Tuesday, no more straddling is allowed. Fremont is dead. Do the MLB owners now want to give San Jose a fair shot? Or not? Earlier this month, Wolff met with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed to discuss the soccer stadium that Wolff wants to build for the San Jose Earthquakes. At that meeting, Wolff also briefed Reed on the A's situation. Reed simply listened.

    Tuesday, the mayor said he would eagerly meet with Wolff about a ballpark proposal whenever and wherever. Yet the first place for MLB to begin, in fairness to the Giants, is with an independent and impartial study by economists and marketing experts. The study would determine precisely what an A's move to San Jose would mean to the attendance, sponsorship and corporate support of both franchises.

    My strong hunch is that such a study would prove that the Giants' fears of losing fan loyalty to the San Jose A's are largely groundless. But the sports policy wonks can scientifically back me up.

    And then the negotiations could proceed. In his talks with Fremont, Wolff was not asking the city to pay a dime toward building the ballpark. His talks with San Jose need to start with that premise, as well. Would local residents go for a ballpark deal? Depends on the deal. But they deserve the chance to consider a deal instead of being treated as baseball non-persons.

    Because let me pound the drum once more: The people of San Jose, not the Giants, should decide whether the A's can move to San Jose. It is way past time for Major League Baseball and Selig to acknowledge that basic principle.

When I invited the Athletics to Portland on Wednesday, I was of course just fooling around; at this moment there is neither the political nor the corporate support for a $400 million construction project. Not to build a millionaires' playground, anyway.

The best outcome for the A's and their fans would be staying in the Bay Area. My only real concern is for those fans, many of whom would presumably have a non-arduous trip to a ballpark in San Jose. If you've been to the Bay Area -- and particularly if you've tried to drive from San Jose to downtown San Francisco during anything like rush hour -- you know the two cities don't feel particularly close to each other. For every San Jose fan the Giants might lose, they might gain a fan from Berkeley and Oakland.

Of course that's just idle speculation. Purdy is right; Major League Baseball should commission an independent study before proceeding further. But inaction at this point isn't fair to the A's or their fans.



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