great Carl Steward column on lease
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| By chris_d on Thursday, April 25, 2002 - 10:06 am:|
Thursday, April 25, 2002 - 7:55:10 AM MST
A's future in Oakland
OAKLAND -- Steve Schott is feeling so upbeat about the Oakland Athletics' baseball future these days that he can even find it in himself to feel sorry for Jason Giambi.
"I really think the fans are being too hard on him," Schott offered before the latest Giambi mega-roast Wednesday night at Network Associates Coliseum.
Come again, Steve? Too hard on the player who filed for free-agent divorce and signed with the big-market enemy, even after you offered him approximately 30 percent of your total payroll?
"I wish he was still here, but he had a right to do what he wanted to do," the A's owner said. "What I didn't realize until now was what loyalty Oakland fans had for their special player."
Loyalty. Funny word. Twelve months ago at this time, we thought Giambi had it. We were convinced Schott didn't, and we were suspicious about whether A's fans possessed it, at least in large enough numbers to matter.
But what a difference a year makes. Giambi is playing for New York now and being branded as the sellout and a traitor. Schott? He's on the verge of signing a new five-year deal with Oakland. Now he's the good guy.
As for the fans, in a scene as surreal as Schott's pregame statement, they showed up 54,513 strong -- the largest regular-season baseball turnout in Coliseum history -- to demonstrate their own definition of sellout. For the second straight game, they bathed Giambi in boos and exhorted the home club against the Yankees with decidedly heightened passion and intensity.
TO SEE SUCH an unbelievable sight at least pushes forward the plausibility that it someday could be recreated within the confines of a beautiful, single-use, downtown Oakland ballpark.
Yes, that's still a dream and perhaps still a pipe dream. But if it only took a year to apple-cart sensibilities and perceptions about Giambi, Schott and the A's fan base, what could happen in five years?
Schott himself offered one -- turning Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown into a sports fan and getting him behind the mounting momentum for the downtown park. It appears Schott is prepared to deliver the first key ingredient to that park, too -- a signed five-year lease extension that will guarantee the A's remain tenants here through at least 2007. The terms are essentially worked out. It simply has to pass muster with myriad civic boards.
"I think we're real close," said team president Mike Crowley before the game. "We've had some good talks for a number of weeks now."
Both Schott and Crowley made it clear that once that extension is signed, it opens the door for full-scale joint evaluation of a new ballpark's feasibility. Very encouraged by the exploratory steps the city has taken pretty much on its own, Schott can't wait for the A's to join in "so we can go forward, sit down, evaluate the sites and try to figure out a way to get it done."
THERE ARE MANY obstacles to overcome, but a five-year window at least provides a tangible framework. Within that time, Schott and the A's should also learn baseball's own economic framework for the future, which could significantly alter an Oakland ballpark's financing considerations.
"Obviously, we're hoping there will be some changes for the small-market team," Schott said. "I think you're going to need that for this to work. But for now, it's very encouraging what the city has been saying and doing."
Crowley said flatly that the relationship between the A's and the city "is probably as good as it's ever been" and is impressed that Oakland is already entered into Phase II of its ballpark study -- traveling to other cities that have built parks to see the impact on downtown districts. The A's helped facilitate those tours in key cities such as Denver, Cleveland, Baltimore and Seattle.
Ultimately, Brown's involvement will be critical, but don't rule it out. Word has it he's worried about the Oakland Raiders' suit against the city (Hey, Jer, didn't you see that even Al Davis was at Wednesday night's game?) but is not averse to listening to options and ideas relating to building a park.
Heck, before long, Giambi himself could be begging to come back.
Carl Steward can be reached at (510) 293-2451 or by e-mail at email@example.com .
This is good news and a lease issue was used by Minnesota to prevent the Twins from being contracted this season. But I wonder if the Naysayers who are against the new ballpark will say "you guy can't say the A's are in threat of being contracted if you signed." The naysayers need to get a clue if that is their line of defense. The A's need a stadium for a 100 other reasons, not just to prevent from being contracted.
correction: in threat of being contract if you signed A LEASE. (I think faster than I type
| By rono on Thursday, April 25, 2002 - 12:38 pm:|
I'm wondering if Sam Speer is behind this move. It is great PR and could have been done 5 or 6 years ago since it has an out if they get a new local stadium. I personally suggested this to Crowley three years ago and to Schott before that, at the season ticket holders meeting. They gave me their typical blank stare. I guess they finally got the message.