PHOENIX -- The dynasty started 40 years ago in 1972. The A’s won a World Series. Then another. Then another, an achievement since unmatched.
This is going to be a season of celebration, of memories, and two of the greats from the era, Rollie Fingers and Bert Campaneris, stopped by spring training before a recent exhibition game, living reminders of the way it was.
Such a glorious past for the A’s. Such a problematical future.
Spring is supposed to be a time of rebirth, the time in baseball when there is only optimism.
The A’s do have their prospects and their hopes. They also have the stadium issue, which in actuality is an issue with the Giants.
An issue which seems unsolvable. An issue which has A’s management frustrated and angry.
“That G on the Giants’ spring training hats,” said someone close to the A’s organization, “the A’s think it stands for greed.”
The Giants think it could stand for grief, which would be the result if they are forced to cede their territorial rights to San Jose, the only place Lew Wolff, head of the A’s, wants to build the new ballpark.
With seats in the upper deck of the O.co Coliseum covered by tarps, with few stars on the roster, with a policy of selling or trading their best players to get more money and players to stay on the treadmill from which there seems no escape, the A’s are understandably troubled.
It was Wally Haas of the A’s who in 1989 agreed to give then-Giants owner Bob Lurie the San Jose-area territorial rights so Lurie could try to get a ballpark there, which he couldn’t, losing two elections on measures for public funding.
The park, AT&T of course, eventually was built in downtown San Francisco with private funds, necessitating a huge debt being paid off with money from sellout crowds boosted in part by fans from San Jose.
Thus, the Giants contend, they cannot afford to let the A’s have one of their major sources of revenue.
Thus, the A’s contend, unless they can have San Jose, meaning the wealth of Silicon Valley, there will be no new ballpark. Oakland be dreary and be damned.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig could invoke the “best interests of baseball” powers and award San Jose to the A’s, and his fraternity brother, Wolff.
Which Bill Madden, the New York Daily News baseball columnist, wrote Selig would be reluctant to do, because he couldn’t get votes from owners of other teams who worry their own territorial rights could be endangered.
Madden claimed the A’s and the Tampa Bay Rays, who like the A’s have stadium troubles (Tropicana Field) and attendance failings, might be eliminated, or in the phrasing of baseball “contracted.”
“The A’s and the Rays are both in hopeless situations,” Madden quotes an unnamed baseball official, “and there’s no place to move these teams. Hard as this might be to swallow, it would be in the best interests of baseball to contract both of them.”
That won’t happen. The A’s and the Rays are going to continue playing baseball, but for the A’s, the question is where. They don’t want to be in Oakland, and the Giants don’t want them in San Jose. What a mess.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.