Oh Happy Charade!

Tonight was the first Opening Night I’ve missed since college, going back 15 years. Instead, I was with family and friends across the plaza at the Roaracle, watching a surprisingly entertaining game between the W’s and the Yao-less, T-Mac-less Rockets. Thanks to all who offered a drink tonight at the A’s game, I most assuredly would’ve taken you up on the offer if I was there. I’ll take a rain check.

To beat the traffic on 880 tonight, I missed the Friday episode of Chronicle Live, which had an interview with Lew Wolff and other guests. Greg Papa had Scott Ostler and SacBee columnist Paul Gutierrez in studio, more on that later.

Papa, who’s done a bangup job as host so far in the show’s brief history, did his level best to corner Wolff on several quotes and tough questions to get the A’s managing partner to make admissions about San Jose. Wolff wasn’t biting, however, and Papa realized this perhaps halfway through the interview. Hopefully there’ll be a rematch in the future and we can see Wolff dodge Papa’s thrusts again.

Papa’s best questions involved Wolff’s motivation for abandoning the Fremont plan so quickly. Here’s the exchange:

Papa: We were at a luncheon, if you recall, in late February… and I asked you about Fremont and where that was, and at the time you gave me some encouraging feedback that the Fremont ballpark option was there. In less than a week later I read in the paper that the Fremont option is no longer there. So what happened in a week’s time, what happened to Fremont?

Wolff: The only two sites that were available – we were hoping that at least one would work out – in one case we had adjacent property owners, retailers, who had a liability clause that we couldn’t accept. In the other case we had really well organized homeowners – we weren’t trying to hurt their neighborhood – but they were indicating that they were prepared, under CA law, to file a CEQA lawsuit which could go on a couple of years. We just didn’t want to continue under that circumstance. The City was fine, as was the staff.

Papa: Was the financing in place to get the ballpark built?

Wolff: We’re not as concerned about the financing as getting a place to build it. Because of certain income streams we have including your organization (CSN), I think we can do what we can do – our great ballpark. Remember we’re only talking about 32,000 seats. We’re not trying to emulate Yankee Stadium or the Mets.

CSN’s Chronicle Live site currently has truncated video segments. Here’s one of four:

Jumping forward a bit during the in-studio followup:

Papa: Listening to Mr. Wolff talk, I’m a little surprised why they gave up so early on Fremont. Because people were protesting outside? … if the financing is there, and you’ve got land to go ahead and do it, are you gonna back off? Anytime you build anything in this world you’re gonna have protesters. I think baseball would say, “Let’s go back and look at this Fremont deal a little closer.”

Ostler: Somebody on the Giants told me – I think they’re within their rights – when we were planning our ballpark if we had given up every time 50 neighbors got together to complain we would have never…

Papa: I can’t build a fence up in my yard without my neighbors protesting!

Gutierrez: The thing with Fremont to me, it never made sense because it was 5 miles from the nearest BART station.

Papa: You want them to go to Sacramento.

Gutierrez: I said it was a 10,000-seat stadium, it’s actually a 15,000-seat stadium that’s easily expandable.

Well, Gutierrez is right about Raley Field being expandable. Easy? Not so much. Can’t blame the guy for trying. It’s a civic duty of some sort, I suppose.

The most anticipated segment was to have San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and Doug Boxer, head of the committee to keep the A’s in Oakland and recently part of Oakland’s Planning Commission. Boxer happens to be the son of Stuart Boxer, longtime Oakland attorney, and Senator Barbara Boxer, she of the lovely letter to Selig from last week. Selig and the A’s stepped in to put the kibosh on that segment, probably in light of the recent tragedies. As noted by Papa, it would’ve been inappropriate to debate this now. It’s also an indicator that Selig is indeed tightening the leash and controlling the narrative.

Elsewhere, a commenter purporting to be Doug Boxer went on V Smoothe’s A Better Oakland blog to press the case for keeping the A’s in town. A comment that he might want to take back no matter how true it may be is this:

Have you watched Bud Selig as the Commissioner. He’s a dolt who doesn’t get it. I doubt he did any homework. He’s a college frat brother of Lew’s and I’m sure it has more to do w/ that than anything else.

I’m guessing that if you want to keep the A’s in Oakland, it’d be a good idea not to refer to the guy who holds the team’s fate in his hands as a dolt who doesn’t get it. Otherwise, the exchange between Boxer and V Smoothe is a good one. Definitely worth reading.

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