Ballpark Blues: Why the A’s Should (Or Should Not) Move to San Jose


Dec 6, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; General view of the NFL network television compound at the Coliseum before the Thursday Night Football game between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve ever been to a game at the Oakland Coliseum, you know the A’s have been in the market for quite a while now for a new stadium.  The Coliseum may have been a nice, modern place to catch a baseball game when it opened in 1966, but these days you’re more likely to hear people talk about it with all the fondness they’d have for a 1985 Toyota Camry.  In other words, it serves its purpose, but you’d like to have it replaced with something shiny and new.

I could go on for another 1,000 words about why the A’s need an upgrade from the Coliseum, but that’s why people write articles like this.  Personally, I enjoy watching games there.  Without the amenities and ambiance, you’re left with a baseball game to watch, which ends up being pretty entertaining in and of itself when you have a vested interest in the team.

But Lew Wolff  knows it’s the experience that brings people in, and unless you’re a huge fan of concrete and randomly placed structures, the Coliseum probably doesn’t have as much to offer as, say, that other stadium across the bridge.  So if the A’s want to actually make some money through ticket sales, they’re going to have to build a stadium that actually entices people to go there.

Now the real question: Where is that stadium going to be?

If you’ve followed this saga at all, you’ll already know that San Jose is the frontrunner to be the new home of the Athletics.  However, there’s a little hold up about four years in the making since Bud Selig’s blue ribbon panel was formed in 2009 to examine the issue of territorial rights in San Jose.  That panel has resulted in absolutely no progress in getting the San Francisco Giants to budge on the issue, and we’re left exactly where we started, only it’s now worse because it takes me damn near 15 minutes to get a beer because Oakland can’t even afford to staff all of the concessions anymore.

But let’s cut to the chase — how realistic is San Jose as the future home of the A’s, and is it a good thing for the fans?

San Jose is the best location for the A’s right now if for no other reason than the fact that they have the collective political will to get a deal done.  In other words, if another city wanted the team, they’d have stepped up by now.  As shocking as it is for the commissioner’s office to understand this, it’s not an incredibly popular political move these days to bring a baseball team to your city and come up with the funds for financing a stadium during a recession.  San Jose already has a proposed site, a built-in fan base, and a transportation system that could easily shuttle people to and from the stadium.

The only thing that seems to be holding this up is the Giants, who are keenly aware that Silicon Valley makes up a sizable chunk of their fan base, and they would prefer that those riding the Caltrain to a baseball game end up in San Francisco.  Now, I’m not sure why the Giants think they would somehow suddenly be unable to sell out home games if the A’s moved forty miles further away, but you can’t really fault them from a business standpoint for protecting their financial interests, even if it does reek of an antitrust violation, which doesn’t really matter since major league baseball has an antitrust exemption.

So what to do?  It seems like we’re at an impasse here, and unless someone drags the Giants and major league baseball to court, we’re just about out of options.

Well, good news everybody!  Litigation has been proposed as a means to force the Giants’ hand by none other than San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo.  I’ve never heard of Mr. Liccardo before this, and I’m sure you haven’t either unless you’re hip to the local political scene of San Jose.  But if this results in progress on a new stadium, he’ll be remembered fondly on a Wikipedia page noting his critical role in all of this as the guy who had the stones to sue the San Francisco Giants (it’ll also probably help him get elected to the mayor’s office, but nobody cares about that, this is an article on the A’s).

Here’s where I’d like to point out, from a fan’s perspective, that there are still plenty of viable options in Oakland for a ballpark.  There are plenty of people that would like to see the Athletics stay in Oakland, and while not all of these options are feasible in terms of how the stadium will be built or if the sites they’re supposed to be built on are realistically suited for a structure the size of a baseball park, that’s not stopping people from proposing new ideas to keep the team where it’s been for the last 45 years.

February 25, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff watches a bullpen session during spring training at Papago Park Baseball Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest hurdle to this is Lew Wolff, who has openly discussed that if and when the A’s get approved for a move San Jose, they’ll be ready to build ASAP.  This seems to make any negotiation with Oakland officials rather meaningless, and on top of that Oakland mayor Jean Quan and her staff don’t seem to be doing a great job at courting Wolff to stick around.

Still, whether it’s in Jack London Square, the Oakland Estuary, or even if they build a new stadium in the parking lot, many would be happy to see the A’s remain the Oakland A’s.  While this is a one-in-a-million shot considering the state of the city — especially when you’re competing with Silicon Valley money — and the inability to get anyone to seriously consider these sites, it’s a side of this story that rarely gets covered because it has to do with the one party that doesn’t really have a voice in all of this: the fans.

I’ll just come out and say that I’m one of those people if you hadn’t figured it out already, and my brain tells me that San Jose is a smart choice, it’s still in the Bay Area, and it’s much better to take a train ride to watch the A’s there than it is to lose them to somewhere like Las Vegas.

But my heart tells me that I want to see the A’s play in Oakland, and what do I care if the money doesn’t add up?  I like getting off of BART and walking 30 minutes to my seat.  I like the rowdiness of the fans, which can only fester in a scarcely staffed stadium like Oakland’s.  And damnit, I like the sound of the Oakland A’s, much better than the sound of the San Jose A’s.

And that’s where my argument ends, because yes, the Coliseum sucks.  So to answer the question that this article poses, should the A’s move to San Jose?  Yes.  If they want to become a stable franchise that’s actually respected around the league, they need the security and the money and the allure that, right now, only San Jose can offer them.  Do I want them to move to San Jose?  No.  I’m stomping my feet and making a scene like a five year-old and ranting against the smart thing to do because it’s my right as a fan to do that.  It doesn’t have to be reasonable, it doesn’t have to offer an alternative; it’s the only card I have left to play as a fan who enjoys having the A’s in Oakland, and I’m going to play it even if it doesn’t mean a thing to anyone besides myself.

But take heart, my friends.  We’ll always have the Fremont debacle as a slight glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, the planets will align in such a way that the A’s will have no other choice but to remain in Oakland.  If not, I guess I’ll see you on the train in a few years on the way to a game.