Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff is getting increasingly brash about his strong desire to move the A's to San Jose. He hasn't quite gotten an "I Heart SJ" tattoo on his buttocks yet, but it's getting there.
The latest round of Wolff's aggressive flirtation with San Jose came yesterday with assorted Bay Area sports reporters in the lobby of a posh San Francisco hotel (does this guy just not ever even set foot in Oakland anymore?). Wolff declared San Jose as the frontrunner city for the A's relocation, and openly scoffed at the idea of the A's playing in any city not named San Jose, California. "We are really saying that we'd love to stay in Northern California, and go to San Jose," Wolff told reporters.
But what about just staying in the East Bay? The team has "fully exhausted our time and resources over the years with the city of Oakland," Wolff has said. Okay, then -- how about the Sacramento option? "If we want to stay in Northern California we don't want to get on a plane and go to another city... I won't name that city," Wolff answered, though a reporter already had named that city in asking the question. And the Las Vegas rumor? "I swore I would never do that," Wolff vowed. "We don't want to go to Las Vegas anyway."
Wolff is beginning to resemble Mike Myers' "Scottish father" character on Saturday Night Live. You can practically hear Wolff shouting in a fake Scottish brogue, "If it ain't San Jose, it's crap!!!"
There's only one thing keeping Wolff from living out his San Jose fantasy, and that's the San Francisco Giants holding the territorial rights to the San Jose area. The Giants are unwilling to budge on that one, and they're doubling down on their angry public rhetoric. "Baseball's constitution defines Santa Clara County as the Giants' territory," Giants spokeswoman Staci Slaughter said. "It's the heart of our fan base in many respects."
San Jose is the heart of the Giants fan base? Does Giants spokeswoman Staci Slaughter know where the Giants play their games?
This will manifest as a war for the hearts and minds of Major League Baseball owners. MLB comissioner Bud Selig, Wolff's former fraternity brother, is already down -- writing in a January letter that he supported the San Jose move. The owners would have to approve the move with a three-fourths majority. It's a double-edged sword for them. They share revenue, and owners would love to see profits maximized within the Bay Area's largest and wealthiest city. They would all profit from that move. On the other hand, this opens the door to other teams moving into their markets, so they'd have to consider the precedent that their own turf could also be put up for grabs.
The Baltimore Orioles attempted to similarly block the Washington Nationals from moving into areas to which they owned territorial rights, and MLB gave the Orioles a sweetheart deal limiting the Nationals' broadcasting rights. So paradoxically, this move could lead to fewer A's games being broadcast in the Bay Area. It may take blackouts of A's games in San Francisco and the Peninsula to get the Giants to permit this move.
So the A's and Giants will definitely take the fight to one another this year, in a matchup that will surely get nastier and more contentious than any of their contests on the baseball diamond.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who wishes he had the territorial rights to Burt Bacharach songs with San Jose in the title.