It is not the intention of Swingin’ A’s to chronicle every single day of Rob Manfred during his tenure as baseball commissioner but we’re two for two so far.
Today we’re going to look at an interview Manfred gave to the Associated Press in which he says he’s “hopeful we can make progress on getting a new stadium in Oakland in the relatively short term.” He goes on to cite their recent victory in the San Jose litigation which, despite Oakland A’s ownership having no involvement in, was creating a roadblock on the path to a new stadium as well as the new mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf as positives in the long dragging case for a new stadium for the Oakland franchise.
The problem with his comments, though, is that he really has no power or sway in getting anything done in Oakland. Bud Selig, Manfred’s predecessor, was involved in the matter solely because of the territorial rights issues and if Lew Wolff and company had decided to build in Oakland right from the start, he’d have very little to do with the process.
Further, he specifically says that he believes something can happen in the “relative short term” which should make some of us take pause because it’s an open ended, non-committal, passive-aggressive way of saying, “we’ll just wait and see.”
To acknowledge that the A’s need a new stadium is a pretty safe statement to make. The current home of the Athletics has been a joke on ESPN for well over a decade and if you listen to our chat with Richard Paloma (which you can find here) it’s been a mocked stadium for 30 years for one reason or another. So, Mr. Manfred, coming out and grabbing the lowest hanging fruit in regards to Oakland is hardly progress. The fact that this issue is on his radar does very little to encourage me that my season tickets will be in a nice new park any time before I’m 45 (which is over a decade away).
As I was writing this article, our friend at newballpark.org tweeted out a little reminder as to why we probably don’t want Manfred getting his hands too dirty in our playpen anyway.
Both of these tweets bring up excellent points. If you’re not familiar with the Miami stadium fiasco that included an SEC investigation and the end of many political careers, go check out the Wikipedia page for that park. Ultimately, this is an issue to be negotiated solely between the team who is paying for it, the agency that owns the land and the city that will have to pay for infrastructure enhancements. As long as they’re not moving into someone else’s territory, major league baseball has no real influence on the negotiations other than to strong arm cities into submission if the need arises (see 2014 lease extension).
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This is not to say that I don’t think progress is being made on the stadium front. I think Libby Schaaf is already establishing a more healthy relationship with A’s owners than Mayor Quan ever dreamed of having and the scuttle in the organization over the past couple weeks leads me to believe that the Oakland Athletics are actively working on an Oakland solution. As was tweeted above, after it’s all said and done, Manfred can cut the ribbon and take all the credit for building a new stadium simply by virtue of being in the right place at the right time after years and years of inactivity and ignoring.
Don’t get too wrapped up in the rhetoric of a new leader who is trying to establish his platform, distance himself from his predecessor’s short-comings and earn the respect of an office who has lost a great deal of credibility in the past 20 years. There’s not much he can do about an Oakland stadium other than tell reporters he thinks it can be done and what little else he can do could make stadium construction a long, tedious, expensive endeavor that benefits very few people in the long run. Stay local and get excited by what you hear from the Oakland mayor’s office and the A’s front office. That’s where the real news is going to come from.