Well, not you, Gentle Reader. Lew Wolff and Larry Baer, to be specific. Both respective team head honchos were interviewed on The Game as part of the Newsmakers week of sitdowns with owners. Baer talked mostly about the Giants’ franchise, but was also asked (by Bucher & Towny) about their apparent cockblocking of venue efforts by both the A’s (San Jose) and the Warriors (Piers 30/32). Baer indicated vague support for both teams’ efforts, but would not comment further on what that meant.
Then on Tuesday, Lew Wolff had an absolute disaster of an interview, one where he hesitated, fumbled, and dodged. By the end, everyone including the interviewers were clearly frustrated, Wolff even half-jokingly saying that he wanted the A’s PR department to get him out of the interview.
Wolff’s prior-held opinions on Oakland and San Jose were repeated, but it took only 30 seconds for Wolff to give the first of an endless stream of “No Comment” responses to many of the solid, pointed questions that were aimed his way. “No Comment” has come about because of the gag order imposed by Bud Selig over Wolff and Baer, who had been previously sniping and using the media to their own ends at regular intervals.
Beyond the ongoing rejection of Oakland having any viable sites, Wolff also repeated the mantra that he has been guided to put baseball first, team second. That means no antagonistic PR battles or lawsuits, no waging the territorial rights war. What it also means is that the A’s will continue to be in limbo, at Selig’s and The Lodge’s behest, until Selig or his successor deems the A’s dilemma important enough to resolve in a meaningful way. Lew has always painted himself as a go-along-to-get-along guy, even if the scope of that philosophy is limited to baseball and alienates A’s fans everywhere, along with friends in the South Bay.
Lew is clearly grateful to Bud for bringing him into the Lodge, that much is clear. Thing is, now that he’s in, it’s hard to get him out. Besides the ownership group or individual partners going into bankruptcy (no sign of that happening), there’s little anyone can do in The Lodge or outside it to force anyone out. Lew knows this and has tried to work the process (calling for a vote, etc.) to no avail. It wouldn’t hurt to fight for the franchise instead of always taking one for The Lodge, as is happening now. If the idea is to curry favor with the other owners for something down the road, there’s no indication of such a deal.
I think we’re seeing a repeat of what happened with the 49ers and the Yorks, where Dr. York spent a few years fumbling around as the head before handing the job over to the more media-savvy Jed York. Lew’s son Keith Wolff has had his hands full taking care of the Earthquakes stadium, and may be wary of absorbing the arrows anew with the A’s after having completed an arduous, albeit smaller, task for the soccer franchise. Nevertheless, if Keith is up to it, he’s the guy to smooth things over. Even then, nothing can actually be smoothed over until Selig provides better answers and more information. As the team gets further into the season and off-season without an inked extension for whatever length, this is only going to get weirder and uglier. And as long as the gag order is in place, there will be no point in having additional interviews like Tuesday’s.