What a slow and boring past three years it has been for the Oakland Athletics organization regarding its interest in moving to the Silicon Valley.
Three bogus years of contrived interest in solving the issue of the Athletics' owner Lew Wolff’s desire to move the team down to San Jose. Three years later, and there’s still no resolution. Not even close.
It’s almost as if nothing has happened.
The hope was that a consensus would be found for what would be the most feasible solution given Wolff’s desire to move to San Jose. Or at least one would assume that some movement would be made in one particular direction—either I-880 North or I-880 South.
But, sorrowfully, seemingly nothing has been decided.
Fast-forward to May 2012, and this relocation issue remains a cold case. Selig’s detectives have come no closer to solving this problem. Though Selig did his first direct comments about the Athletics’ future in quite some time last Thursday, at MLB’s quarterly owners meeting, according to the commissioner, “there’s no timetable” for a judgment on this matter.
Which is the complete opposite of what he should be saying. The A’s need desperately to find a resolution to this problem. This dilly-dallying has completely taken its toll on the franchise as a whole, the team itself and, most importantly, the rabid fans—both the dedicated Oakland fanbase as well as the excited prospect South Bay fans.
Everyone knows about the territorial rights over the city of San Jose that belong to the San Francisco Giants. That has been a poignant factor from the get-go. The Giants have repeatedly affirmed they will not relinquish San Jose to the Athletics. At least, likely, not without some compensation.
But this is where Selig needs to step in and lay down the gauntlet and take a stand one way or the other about this humongous territorial roadblock. That’s what commissioners do—they make the hard decisions, swiftly, with conviction and confidence.
Could you imagine NBA commissioner David Stern dragging his feet in the sand regarding a franchise relocation possibility? No way.
The Seattle SuperSonics disappeared from the Pacific Northwest in the time it takes to finish an NBA postseason schedule—which as we all know is excruciatingly long. Just like that, they were relocated. No waffling. No debate.
And just last season, the Sacramento Kings petitioned to keep their franchise in California’s state capital, a move that Stern approved with uninhibited celerity. Closer to home, on Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors announced plans to relocate to San Francisco, a decision that went from desired rumor to stark reality in seemingly no time.
Yes, the NBA seems to have a firm grasp on how to properly handle relocation issues. No politicking. No preservation of feelings. Just going about the business as if the NBA is—a business.
Meanwhile, business as usual for Selig and MLB is blatant procrastination of a firm decision. On Thursday, Selig basically shrugged his shoulders, contending that Wolff could in essence consider alternative site options anywhere else outside of the Bay Area.
In fact, Selig suggested that Wolff had the authority to move the A’s anywhere, saying, “They could be all over the world, for that matter.”
That ambiguity is often ascribed to Selig’s longtime relationship with his college bud, Wolff. Selig certainly doesn’t want to deny his friend’s ambitions. Which is why the commissioner hasn’t completely shut the door despite the Giants’ territorial rights.
But he also knows not to offend an Oakland fanbase that has loyally stood by the A’s for more than 40 years, creating a support system for six American League pennants, four World Series titles and numerous superstar accolades.
How can Selig unconsciously exile the Athletics, a team with such a storied history? In an area—the East Bay—that has produced such rich talent (local baseball products include Hall-of-Famers Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan and Rickey Henderson).
Selig knows he can’t unemotionally move the A’s to San Jose. He has chosen to be diplomatic about the entire idea, keeping one foot in Oakland with one of baseball’s more successful franchises (the Athletics rank third all-time with nine World Series titles) and one foot with his homeboy Lew Wolff.
But it’s that game of footsie that has turned out to be a big tease for the city of San Jose and its fans who await a ruling. Wolff, himself, is ultimately losing this battle of attrition with MLB. Will he patiently wait longer? Will he grow tired of reiterated parroting from Selig?
Absolutely not. But Selig’s decision not to decide makes things murkier than they already are—if that’s possible. He needs to put his foot down, be firm and take a stance—either denying the Athletics’ move due to the Giants’ ownership of San Jose or overturning those rights and allowing the A’s to relocate.
Selig and MLB need to take a page out of the NBA’s relocation playbook, taking a gander at the Athletics’ roommates, the Warriors. If the Dubs can be so decisive with their move to San Francisco, why can't the A’s as well?
A settlement to this drawn-out ordeal has to be made. But that will happen only if Selig steps up to the plate.
Until then, this story will just become an incredibly beaten dead horse.
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