We’ve heard Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff say before (via his intermediaries in the newspaper columnist world) that what he really wants is to stay put for another decade at the Oakland Coliseum — Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reported as much last month, and Kawakami’s colleague Mark Purdy echoed that sentiment, saying all Wolff really wants is a long-term lease so that he can sink some money into a new scoreboard. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross joined the fray today, saying Wolff is ready to sign a ten-year lease extension at the Oakland Coliseum:
“We hope to have (a deal) as soon as possible,” A’s co-owner and managing partner Lew Wolff told us Tuesday. “It’s really up to Oakland now.”
The new lease could keep the A’s at the Coliseum until at least 2024. It calls for the team to make nominal rent payments in return for the A’s paying for $10 million to $12 million in stadium improvements.
On the one hand, this shouldn’t be all that shocking: Wolff’s attempt to move to San Jose is still spinning its wheels (that antitrust suit wending its way toward the Supreme Court notwithstanding), and there’s little chance of a new stadium in the East Bay happening in the next few years, and the A’s have got to play somewhere in the meantime. And if they’re going to be playing at the Coliseum anyway, Wolff may as well have a ten-year lease so he can plan ahead accordingly, and replace the bulbs on the Kittyvision.
Still, these reports raise a bunch of questions:
- Is Wolff serious, or is this just a negotiating ploy? Oakland has been dragging its feet on extending the A’s lease — city officials say they want to resolve the Raiders stadium situation first, which could involve building a new football stadium on the Coliseum lot — and this could just be the A’s owner calling Oakland’s bluff: If you want me to stay, then put the lease years where your mouth is.
- What happens to the A’s if the Raiders get their new stadium? Having been to the Coliseum, it seems to me there should be enough room to squeeze a new stadium in the parking lot without disturbing the baseball team. That said, Wolff told Matier and Ross that in the lease he’s working on, “There’s a clause that if the Raiders build a new facility, with some notice we will evacuate.” Which doesn’t seem like the security he says he’s looking for, but we’ll have to wait to see what the actual language says.
- What would this mean for the A’s cut of revenue sharing? Right now the A’s are exempted from the ban on big-market teams getting a cut of MLB revenue sharing, thanks to a special clause that allows Wolff to keep receiving checks so long as he doesn’t have a new stadium. That clause expires with MLB’s collective bargaining agreement following the 2016 season, however, and there’s likely to be a pitched battle among the owners about whether to renew it.
None of which is to say any of this is a bad thing: If Wolff and Oakland are close (or at least closer) to resolving their lease squabbles, this could be a way for the team to finally settle in and worry about building a fan base (and making some improvements to the home it’s stuck with, a la the Tampa Bay Rays) instead of going through this “Are the A’s moving to San Jose/Sacramento/Portland/Boise?” business every year. And who knows? Maybe if the Raiders leave the Coliseum, it might even be possible to knock down Mount Davis, the tower of football luxury seating that is worse than useless for baseball, and rehab the Coliseum into the not-half-bad baseball facility it once was.
Or it could just mean kicking the can down the road a few years, while Wolff bides his time, or more likely sells the team to someone younger who’s up for fighting the next battle. Either way, it’s not a resolution I think anyone would have expected even a couple of years ago, but baseball moves in mysterious ways.