WINTER MEETINGS — Because Oakland’s redevelopment agency is in much better financial shape than San Jose‘s, the city may be in better shape to put together a deal for a new Oakland Athletics ballpark — or at least give cover to the MLB committee charged with recommending a location.
Though San Jose officials have pooh-poohed the notion that the city can’t afford to put together a land/infrastructure package for the A’s, it’s not a secret that city’s redevelopment agency lacks the funds to do so and could only do so if A’s owner Lew Wolff lends the city the money. By contrast, Oakland has $20 million or so in the bank available for putting together a site near Jack London Square for a new ballpark.
That financing wherewithal is expected to carry a lot of weight with the special committee weighing the location of a new A’s ballpark. It’s also expected to give them cover: the mantra from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is that his sport is loathe to allow a franchise shift unless all efforts have been made to keep the team in its current community. If Oakland has a site, the money and the will to put together a ballpark package, we’re guessing MLB will take the safe route and recommend the team stay there, as opposed to creating a messy territorial battle by allowing a move to San Jose. Indeed, the talk at the Winter Meetings is that an Oakland recommendation is now pretty much a done deal — with the additional spin (albeit accurate) that this proved the committee was right all along in waiting things out before making a recommendation.
Which, of course, puts Wolff in a terrible position, one getting worse day by day. Wolff has pretty much burned every bridge possible in Oakland, but should MLB not allow him to move the team, he’ll be stuck there. He’s also stuck with the same ballpark deal he pitched in San Jose: city pays for site and infrastructure, team pays for ballpark. He’s hemmed in by those terms, and the trouble is so is any other potential owner of the team if Wolff throws up his hands and walks away. Wolff may end up regretting offering the farm so early in the process.
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