Bud Selig did nothing to calm the unrest growing among Oakland fans on Thursday. When pressed for an A’s stadium update, Selig playfully responded, “You aren’t going to get a (expletive) answer.”
“I know people say ‘Gee, it should be easy to do,'” Selig continued. “Well, the more they’ve gotten into it, the more complicated it’s gotten. But we’re headed for resolution.”
Selig’s claim about the imminence of a resolution has been one he’s echoed for a decade, at least. Every time Selig reassures A’s fans of an impending stadium deal, an angel gets it’s wings. Unfortunately, these are angels of death, sent by Selig to kill stadium deals. Don’t worry though, they’re not violent. It’s only their apathy that’s lethal.
Over the past decade, Selig has continually clung to unwritten laws of “territorial rights,” noting that anarchy would exist without them. However, after the A’s deal with Fremont fell through, Selig promised to open all doors in all communities in his attempt to get the A’s a new ballpark? He set up a “blue ribbon committee” to investigate such moves. The result: Selig and his committee held secret meetings with the city of Oakland in August, despite early hinting at a significant progress in San Jose. In all, this apathy and ambivalence has resulted in the death of at least three stadium deals.
An abridged timeline of Selig’s (and Wolff’s) mal-handling of the stadium situation
Bob Piccinini, owner of the Save Mart supermarkets, attempted to purchase the A’s, but was denied without explanation. Said Piccinini, “The biggest thing I remember was the huge disappointment. We had worked for close to a year, and through that whole process, we didn’t see anything that was a stumbling block. When the rejection occurred, I thought it was bogus. … I’ve got several suspicions, none of which I can validate.”
Piccinini wasn’t sure if his denial was the result of collusion between Selig and then co-owner Lew Wolf, or the work of persuasive San Francisco Giants’ executives. “I can tell you there’s an executive with the Giants, who shall go unnamed,” Piccinini continued. “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.'”
In any case, Piccinini, as suggested by the Modesto Bee, was a ready and willing owner who would have likely forged ahead with the team’s relationship with Oakland. In other words, we wouldn’t be talking about a new stadium for the A’s, we’d be sitting in it.
The Santa Clara City Council began talks with the A’s regarding the possibility of the team moving to the South Bay. These preliminary talkes hinged on then A’s co-owner Steve Schott convincing Selig that a move to Santa Clara would not violate the Giants’ territorial rights. Months later, Selig reportedly had this to say at the Annual Congressional Baseball Game: “I watched 32 years ago the Kansas City A’s move to Oakland. They hurt the Giants badly. They never really did very well themselves. It was a horrible mistake.”
A’s were making no head waves in moving to the South Bay. Then Giants’ president and managing general partner Peter Magowan effectively blocked any such move.
“Everybody knows what territorial rights you have when you buy a team,” Magowan said. “We certainly knew in 1992 what rights we had. The A’s knew what rights they had. We’ve stated very consistently that we will do everything within our power to enforce our rights because they have a lot of value. We might not have bought the franchise without those rights and the Commissioner has gone on the record as being fully supportive of us.”
In discussing the sale of the then league-owned Nationals, Selig was asked about the territorial rights issue that had been plaguing the A’s. In response, Selig told reporters, “We have a sport where you just can’t have anarchy. You can’t be changing territories. It’s a territory that’s owned by the San Francisco Giants and that will be respected. You just don’t change those things and we won’t.”
The A’s are sold to Lew Wolff and an investment team, at which time Wolff claimed, “We’re not buying the team to move it.” Upon being asked about then San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales promise to urge Wolff to move the A’s there, Wolf said, “I’ll tell him our focus is on Oakland, we’re going to honor the territorial rules, and that’s the end of it.”
The A’s officially announce plans to build a stadium in Fremont. Selig announces that “San Jose is a dead issue.” “The thing that holds the sport together,” Selig continued, “is its own internal rules. If you start to break them, you’re going to have anarchy.”
After meeting push back form Fremont city officials, the A’s abandon the Fremont stadium. Selig effectively then retracts his previous unwillingness to deal with the issue of territorial rights, saying, “It is important that we get some resolution in the near future. As a result, I’ve decided that in the event that you are not able to promptly assure the implementation of the desired ballpark in Fremont, you may begin to discuss a ballpark with other communities. The time has come for the A’s to have their own new ballpark.”
Selig sets up infamous “blue ribbon committee” to essentially make sense of the A’s stadium mess. The A’s begin serious negotiations with the city of San Jose.
Selig tells reporters that the league is working at “a rather quick pace” in their attempt to resolve the the A’s stadium issues, particularly their desire to move to San Jose, which is in Giants’ territory. True to his words, in March, Selig notes that “Both sides are deeply positioned and I am in the middle of trying to fashion some type of an agreement. It is very complicated.” Unfortunately, only one month later, Susan Sussler reports that the A’s were unable to get their stadium issue added to the agenda of the May owners’ meeting. According to Sussler, “MLB has no current plans to delve into the matter.”
In August, Selig’s “blue ribbon committee” meet in secret with Oakland officials about the possibility of a waterfront park, leaving the San Jose stadium in serious doubt.
Then, in November, Selig defiantly rebuffs questions about the A’s future.