In one of the most bizarre twists of San Jose’s five-year-long odyssey to move the Oakland A’s to a downtown ballpark, team co-owner Lew Wolff on Saturday confirmed he is weighing the possibility of a temporary baseball stadium if he cannot extend his team’s two-year lease at the Oakland Coliseum.
According to San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, among the sites Wolff is considering: San Jose Municipal Stadium, home of the San Jose Giants, the Class-A team of the San Francisco Giants, which has fought furiously against an A’s relocation to the South Bay, claiming “territorial rights.”
The San Jose Mercury News article on all this is pretty breathless, and there’s a lot going on here, so let’s try to untangle it. From the sound of things, Mayor Reed told the Merc News on Saturday of the temp stadium gambit, explaining, “It’s pretty simple. They have got to go somewhere. If [Wolff] can’t stay at the Coliseum, the commissioner is not going to tell [the A's], ‘You can’t play baseball for a few years.’” Wolff later confirmed these plans, saying, “If we cannot accomplish a lease extension, I hope to have an interim place to play in the Bay Area or in the area that reaches our television and radio fans — either in an existing venue or in the erection of a temporary venue that we have asked our soccer stadium architect to explore.”
Why are we hearing all this now? The key is that mention of a lease extension: Recall that Wolff is in the middle of hardball lease talks with Oakland on the Coliseum, and presumably needs to have some response handy if city officials come back with, “What are you going to do if you don’t like it, go play in the street?” Admittedly this isn’t a much better threat than playing in the street — the San Jose minor-league stadium only holds 4,200 people and is solidly in the San Francisco Giants‘ territory (if MLB were willing to let the A’s move to San Jose, they’d be there already by now), and Candlestick Park, another rumored option, is set to be demolished at the end of this year. But if you need leverage, any port in a storm — don’t forget that the Toronto Blue Jays owners once threatened to move back to their old home of Exhibition Stadium during a lease dispute with SkyDome, notwithstanding that the Ex had already begun being demolished at the time.
The other possibility here, of course, is that Wolff and Reed are somehow trying to pressure MLB to change its policy on territorial rights (the city of San Jose’s appeal of the dismissal of its lawsuit against MLB over this recently got fast-tracked), but “If you don’t let us move to a new 30,000-seat stadium in San Jose, we’ll move to a 4,000-seat stadium in San Jose” doesn’t seem like much of a threat. This being a lease negotiating tactic makes far more sense, so it’s probably best that no one get too excited about this for the time being … crap, too late.