Shortly after Commissioner Bud Selig convened his three-man panel to figure out what to do with the A’s, all sorts of political machinations started happening. That included then-Oakland City Attorney John Russo (now City Manager of Alameda) penning a lawsuit threat against the A’s. I wrote back then:
What recourse do the Giants have, then? They can try to go to bat for Oakland, even though they have no history of doing that previously. Even though, in moving to China Basin, they’ve actively siphoned East Bay fans away from the A’s. Even though they’ve held a regional hegemony for decades. It wouldn’t be hard to posture themselves as saviors of baseball in Oakland – no matter how strange that sounds – as it wouldn’t require much effort and could be done in a sort of stealth mode. It wouldn’t be difficult to get a few letters from prominent pols in order, so no problem there either. The best part is for the Giants is that it works. It paints Wolff as a villain and Oakland as a victim, despite the backstory’s greater complexity.
Now we have word from the Trib that Jean Quan has met with Giants ownership. That wouldn’t be the first time. Perhaps it’s completely altruistic, in that they’re instructing her on how to put together an AT&T Park-style stadium deal, the kind that Clorox CEO Don Knauss is pursuing. (Knauss also had a lengthy interview with KQED.) Then again, this is the same Giants ownership group that may have pulled a power play to kill the Piccinini-Dolich group’s chances to buy the A’s, because the Giants didn’t want an Oakland-based group owning the A’s:
More likely, Piccinini suspects the San Francisco Giants ownership had a hand in convincing Selig to make sure the deal never materialized, especially since Selig has called the A’s move from Kansas City to Oakland “a terrible mistake.”
“I can tell you there’s an executive with the Giants, who shall go unnamed,” Piccinini said. “I ran into him at a Warriors game. He said, ‘I hear you’re getting involved with the Padres. We want you in San Diego; we just didn’t want you here.’ “
Speaking of Piccinini, he’ll be available soon if he wants to deal with the struggle to be an owner again. Piccinini is part of the Moorad group who were teased the Padres, only to have the rug pulled out from under them. Moorad won’t be able go after another team, knowing that there are permanent veto votes against him within the Lodge. Much of the rest of the Central Valley base of the ownership group should be available, and they could pull in another frontman – Andy Dolich, perhaps?
If Piccinini’s right, the Giants don’t care for the A’s in Oakland or anywhere else in the Bay Area. That makes it frustrating to see Quan consult with the Giants. The Giants aren’t doing the City of Oakland any favors. Just because they may have a somewhat allied interest (keeping the A’s out of San Jose) doesn’t mean they are allied.
If Quan’s smart, she’ll ask for some of the SF sponsors that Oakland will need because as much as the East Bay wants to puff its chest out , the pickings are slim. The Chron 200 is an annual list of the Bay Area’s largest independent, publicly-traded companies by revenue. Generally these are companies with revenues over $100 million annually. Some private companies, like Bechtel, or subsidiaries, like Matson (Alexander & Baldwin), and nonprofits (Kaiser Permanente) are excluded. Distributed by region, San Francisco has 19 of 200, with 5 in Marin County and 26 in San Mateo County. Santa Clara County has 102, or 51% of the list. Oakland has 3 companies on the list, the East Bay in total has 38.
If you combine SF, San Mateo, and Marin Counties, you get 50 companies. That’s not significantly greater than the East Bay’s 38 – or 40 if we include Kaiser and Matson. Straight up it would appear that there’s enough corporate strength in the East Bay to make a privately financed, $500 million ballpark happen. But the Giants’ argument for years has been that they needed the South Bay to finance AT&T Park. If that’s true then there’s a logical incongruence at work. Either the South Bay was required and there’s no other way but to include them, or the South Bay wasn’t required and the strength of the West Bay is enough. So which is it?
Also, check out the imbalance of companies in the Giants’ designated territory and the A’s. The Giants have over 75% of the Chron 200. The A’s have less than 20%.
The secrecy of the mystery ownership bidder is also a bit baffling. Lew Wolff has said that no interested party has asked him directly about selling the team. Instead, whoever’s interested has chosen to use back channels to engage Wolff – once. What is the point of that? If the East Bay coalition’s goal is to first work with the current ownership group to develop a plan to keep the A’s in Oakland, why have they never directly called Wolff once? They’ve gone semi-public twice in the last several months to indicate there’s an ownership group in waiting. Seems to me it’s a lot harder to put together a press conference than to call Wolff or arrange a meeting. For whatever reason, they haven’t done the latter. In the last comments thread, a question was posed, “Why doesn’t Lew listen to what these guys have to say?” I think the answer is that they have to present something to the man first. They’ve presented a plan to MLB three years ago that went unanswered. If they want to work with Wolff, they might want to first try to, you know, work with Wolff instead of posturing. It’s somewhat embarrassing that Mayor Quan has probably spent more time talking the Giants brass than the A’s. If A’s ownership is the enemy, don’t pussyfoot around it or hedge. Declare it and get to work. Otherwise it’s just another exercise in scoring PR or political points. And the only real winner in the end is the Giants.