Before I get into today’s edict from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, let’s first sum up his position on the A’s with regard to a new ballpark.
- The A’s need a new ballpark.
- Oakland is the city for the A’s.
- The Coliseum is the only site under consideration in Oakland.
Okay, now let’s unpack what he said in today’s pregame press conference.
Via BANG’s John Hickey:
Speaking before the A’s played the Angels Friday night, Manfred said, ‘With respect to San Jose, all I can say is that we are still involved with really significant litigation, significant enough that it’s in the Supreme Court of the United States. I can’t foresee any movement until at least that litigation is resolved. That litigation has clearly been an impediment to things moving forward.’
At the same time, Manfred all but ruled out the A’s staying in Oakland if the Raiders attempt to build a stadium on the Coliseum site. The Raiders also are considering a move to Southern California, but Manfred suggested that if the NFL team stays, the A’s would have to go.
Another constant has been Manfred’s stance on San Jose. The South Bay city will not be in play as long as the antitrust lawsuit, which SJ city leaders are petitioning to have taken up by the Supreme Court, is still pending. MLB wants that little gnat gone, which should that happen by this fall, immediately brings up another question: What is MLB’s relationship with San Jose once the lawsuit is over? I’ve said all along that MLB is not going to kill San Jose while the A’s long-term fate remains unclear, especially in Oakland. That hunch certainly seems correct.
From the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Kawahara:
Manfred urged that the city of Oakland and Alameda County ‘focus on the need to get something done in respect to baseball — not to the detriment of football, but the need to get something done with baseball.’
‘I’ve said publicly I think it’s absolutely vital to the long-term health of this franchise that the A’s get a new facility,’ Manfred said. ‘It remains my goal, part of baseball’s long-standing policy, that we try to get that stadium built here in Oakland, where the A’s have been and have their fan base.’
There are some within the Oakland-only crowd who have been complaining endlessly about the A’s not providing a proposal to Oakland after the Coliseum City process was “opened up” last fall. Manfred knows this and is likely nudging Lew Wolff and John Fisher to get their ducks in a row. To me the idea of pushing Wolff has never made much sense. Wolff’s bargaining position will be best if the Raiders leave, and the lease gives him plenty of time to wait that out, plus there’s no indicator that he’ll get any financing help from MLB on an Oakland ballpark, so MLB can only dictate so much. Yet there’s a different suggestion that comes straight from Manfred himself, and it may come down to what Coliseum City has represented from the start.
Coliseum City was not originally conceived as a precise plan to keep all three current tenants in town. It was a mostly a plan to convince the Raiders to stay. It had a large, multipurpose domed stadium as its centerpiece. A ballpark was shuffled off to the northeast corner, a developmentally distant Phase B to the football stadium. The existing arena could stay – inadequate as the NBA sees it – or be replaced by a venue on the other side of the Nimitz. That new arena concept has practically disappeared as the scope of the project has shrunk, and while Floyd Kephart and CC proponents are still pitching separate venues for all teams, a distinct possibility is an either-or scenario, baseball or football. To that end Manfred has qualified his plea as “not to the detriment of football,” but he and his counterpart at the NFL, Roger Goodell, know full well what’s at stake. Neither league wants to share, or to put it more diplomatically, neither league wants to step on the other’s toes, which is exactly what would happen if both teams stay while a new venue is constructed.
If anything, Manfred seems to want the same kind of attention given to the A’s by Oakland as the City has given the Raiders. While Manfred strong-armed Oakland into signing the 10-year Coliseum lease last summer, he also did them a favor. Manfred kept the A’s in place for several years to come and enforced the territorial rights issue. If anything, Manfred wants Oakland to submit its own Coliseum-tailored-around-the-A’s plan. It may not be something that Wolff would sign on to, but it would likely curry favor with Manfred, and that tactic could be much more effective within the Lodge than keeping the A’s in their second banana status. Oakland tried to make this play before with Howard Terminal, but the difficulties there made it effectively infeasible, and OWB’s giving up on the site does nothing to discount that widely-held opinion.
From SFGate’s Lev Facher:
‘My information is that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have two facilities on the current Coliseum site,’ Manfred said, indicating that a successful Raiders project could preclude the construction of an adjacent baseball stadium.
‘The A’s folks have been pretty clear that they believe the Coliseum site is the best site for a baseball stadium in Oakland,’ Manfred said.
Manfred’s in Oakland’s corner. That is, until Oakland starts to act in a way that displeases the Lodge. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that picking the Raiders over the A’s at the Coliseum is a sure fire way to get Manfred out of Oakland’s corner and into Wolff’s corner.