Memo to Lew Wolff: Time to Move Oakland A's Far Away from the Bay

Barry ShillerContributor IIIMay 11, 2011

A's manager Bob Geren visits the mound during recent game
A's manager Bob Geren visits the mound during recent gameEzra Shaw/Getty Images

Forget Fremont. Or San Jose. Or even downtown Oakland. The best destination for the Oakland A's is the 916 (Sacramento) or the 702 (Las Vegas). Maybe even the 503 (Portland). 

It's high time Lew Wolff moved his club to a city that can viably support a major league franchise in good times and bad. Failing that, he should sell the team to someone who will.

The Bay Area is the weakest (and smallest) of the four two-team markets in major league baseball. The top three, New York, LA and Chicago, have substantially larger populations. All six of their franchises play in new, recently renovated or iconic ballparks. None is at risk of moving elsewhere.

Changing demographics also suggest the A's are better off finding a greener pasture. The Bay Area isn't even the fourth-largest market in baseball any more; Philadelphia and Dallas/Ft. Worth both are larger; both have but one (and thriving) franchise. 

But it's more than demographics. While the world champion Giants play in front of sellouts in fan-friendly AT&T Park, the A's play in the dreary Oakland—I cannot write or say "" with a straight face—Coliseum. It's over 40 years old, was never iconic and its last major renovation rendered it virtually uninhabitable for baseball.

Ticket-buying A's fans may be few and far between, but they're not stupid.

They are, however, angry at the Giants for refusing to relinquish territorial rights to San Jose. They're also misplacing their anger. Giants brass (and fans) have long memories. They remember the bleak days of 1975 when the Stoneham's had a deal in place to sell the Giants to a Toronto brewery before baseball intervened and Bob Lurie emerged a local hero.

And they remember 1992 when Lurie, weary of playing in decaying Candlestick and frustrated by failed stadium votes, was ready to sell to a Tampa/St. Pete ownership group before MLB again stalled the sale and Peter Magowan's group stepped in.

I don't recall the A's owners or fans lending a sympathetic hand to the Giants then. 

San Jose is a critical fan base for the Giants. It is home to one of its minor league affiliates. The club has every right—and plenty of motive—to protect that turf. If the A's were thriving and the Giants struggling, do you think Lew Wolff would surrender his territorial rights to Walnut Creek, or Pleasanton, or any East Bay venue where the Giants theoretically could have relocated?

No way. No Giants official would ever dare say it aloud, but the A's departure would be a moment to celebrate (in private, of course). Meanwhile, A's fans have two choices: start buying tickets at a clip that will allow the ridiculous tarp to be removed from the Coliseum's upper deck, or call Lew Wolff and urge him to take a drive to Sacramento. I hear the folks up there are pretty good at holding onto a team.