It’s all in the spin. Here’s how ESPN.com reported on the latest declaration yesterday by Oakland A’s co-owner Lew Wolff:
The co-owner of the Oakland Athletics says the team has ruled out remaining in Oakland as it pursues a new ballpark in Fremont, Calif., about 30 miles away.
“We don’t want to move. We don’t want to start pitting cities against each other, but it’s out of the question we’ll stay in Oakland,” Lew Wolff said Monday after giving an address and answering questions at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
Finally, a sports team owner willing to commit to a city before he’s extorted money from it with a move threat, right? But wait – here’s how the same story went in the San Francisco Chronicle:
The Oakland Athletics will leave Oakland regardless of whether Fremont approves plans for a new stadium, team co-owner Lew Wolff said Monday.
“We don’t want to move. We don’t want to start pitting cities against each other, but it’s out of the question we’ll stay in Oakland,” he said after a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
Suddenly we have not a promise but a threat. As columnist Ray Ratto writes in today’s Chronicle:
In fact, he said anything was possible except staying in Oakland, an almost clever way of saying, “Support my FisherWolff Baseball Village in Fremont, or you’ll never see us again.”
Almost clever, that is, because he was trying to reverse the balance of leverage without saying what his leverage is – because he, in his role as the front man for team owner John Fisher, doesn’t have any. He has the concept of Fremont, the reality of Oakland, and … well, nothing. No other city, no other plan, no other scheme.
And how do we know this? Simple. There is no other place for them to go – not Las Vegas, not Portland, not Monterrey, Mexico, nowhere. Fremont is the totality of Wolff’s plan, and if the voters or civic leaders balk, he has Oakland. Period.
Given that Wolff’s stadium talks with Oakland have been pretty much dead for almost two years now, he potentially gets a win-win here: Fremont officials can read his statement as a commitment to their city, while A’s fans can hear the underlying threat and rally around his Fremont stadium plans as necessary to keep the team local. Unless A’s fans read Ratto’s column, and Fremont officials hear the threat and feel snubbed, in which case it all blows up in his face. But that’s gamesmanship for you.
As for real news with any, you know, news to it, Wolff didn’t have much, dismissing fan concerns that his planned 30,000-seat stadium would feature traffic nightmares, higher ticket prices, and fewer available seats by saying he hoped those problems would be solved by the time the stadium opens. (Maybe we’ll all be using hexadecimal by then and 30,000 seats will really mean 196,608?) He also said he’ll be filing an official development application with the city of Fremont in the next two weeks, which hopefully will provide some hint of an inkling how the heck he plans to pay for it.