It's amazing what a little flooding can do.
In an extensive interview on the John Feinstein show on CBS Sports Radio, Bud Selig weighed in on the Oakland A's messy stadium situation (skip to the 27-minute mark). The 79-year-old commissioner noted of the O.co Coliseum, home of the AL West champions:
Where will the A's new stadium ultimately be located?
“It's a pit.”
Selig went on to tell Feinstein:
We need to deal with that. I’ve had a committee working on it for two or three years, and there’s no question we’re going to have to solve that problem.
Selig actually formed the committee at the end of March in 2009. So, it's been closer to four-and-a-half years. The commissioner, though, didn't have an explanation for what exactly has been taking so long. He explained to Feinstein: "There is not an easy solution."
Whether or not there is an "easy solution," something will have to be done. This season, the problems at the Coliseum have been escalating rapidly. The trouble started with the first flood back on June 16. As noted by Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group:
New ballpark update: #athletics showers flood in Coliseum clubhouse, team has to shower in Raiders' locker room.— Carl Steward (@stewardsfolly) June 16, 2013
Coincidentally, the city of San Jose sued MLB two days later, on the grounds that the league was blocking the city from landing the team.
It's important to note that it was San Jose, not the A's, who were behind the lawsuit. As the stretch drive heated up, however, the team's owner shared his thoughts on the issues with the stadium and attendance.
On September 18, the day after the team began selling ALDS tickets, Lew Wolff told Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY:
It's depressing...I had a player come up to me and say, 'I feel sorry for you, Mr. Wolff.' I told him, 'Just keep pitching. And whatever you do, don't look into the stands.'
Or the dugout for that matter. That same night, the team's dugout flooded in the sixth inning.
Then, on September 21, there were more rumblings from within the bowels of the O.co. This time the sewage issues were located in the coaches' bathroom as reported by John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group.
The reaction to the most recent flooding, which had been caused by the rain, has been mixed. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle noted:
For all the flak the Coliseum gets, there is no better spot when the crowd is loud and into it, and the game an important one.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 22, 2013
Slusser is also the President of the Baseball Writer's Association of America and an insider for MLB Network and 95.7 FM the Game, the A's flagship radio station. However, not everyone agreed with her take.
Buster Olney of ESPN took note of the potential mess that awaits MLB (insider access required):
It’s like a perfect storm of... stuff...is gathering: It has been raining; the Raiders are playing; and the Athletics are a threat to play deep into the postseason.
Will the on-going plumbing issues help the A's land a new stadium?
That “perfect storm” is indeed on its way.
As Olney noted, a big flood during postseason play would be a big embarrassment to the league, Selig and the A's. But would that embarrassment be big enough to actually expedite the A's seemingly endless pursuit of a new stadium?
Selig told Feinstein: “Before I leave, I'm satisfied we'll work out something.”
That's a fairly vague plan of action. As far as the commissioner is concerned, however, it's a remarkably declarative tone. One of the most frustrating aspects of the A's unresolved stadium situation is that the issue has always appeared to rank rather low on Selig's to-do list.
Suddenly, though, that's starting to change. It's not much, but it's a start. For A's fans keeping score at home, Selig's term is up in January of 2015.