Oakland Athletics hit by threat to move franchise

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If the team and stadium can't come to a lease agreement, the Athletics might have to move (©GettyImages)
If the team and stadium can't come to a lease agreement, the Athletics might have to move (©GettyImages).

Local politics are ugly. There are idle threats and there are real ones. The problem, many times, is separating the two.

The Oakland Athletics are having an outstanding season. They are in first place in the AL West and just bolstered their starting rotation for the stretch run with Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

The problem is their lease at the Coliseum into the future. They want a 10-year deal done. The city and county must approve it. And city officials remain opposed to the deal.

So it's time for the threats.

Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid told that the A's have options, and they include moving to San Antonio or Montreal.

We know how well the last baseball team did in Montreal. It went so poorly that MLB had to take over the team and, after splitting time between Montreal and Puerto Rico, the team moved permanently to Washington, D.C. after Montreal refused to build a new stadium for the team.

San Antonio would have its own issues. Yes, Texas is a huge state much like their current California home. But the state already has the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. That doesn't mean that MLB couldn't find success in the city, the NBA has teams in all three locations. It just would be a factor when considering TV rights deals.

The Athletics and Coliseum Authority have been working 14 months to get an agreement, reported.

A's spokesman Ken Pries told SFGate the team is “sitting back and waiting to see what happens (with the Coliseum lease) and hoping for the best.’’

At issue in the agreement, SFGate reported, is whether the city or county will share in the advertising revenue for the $10 million scoreboard the Athletics have agreed to install. They also want the team to have a longer guarantee before they can terminate the lease but the stadium also want an out clause if the NFL's Oakland Raiders find a way to build a new stadium on the site.

While negotiations continue, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig stepped in last week.

"I was informed tonight that Commissioner Selig, due to the possibility of not having the hearing and vote that we were purported to receive from the JPA (Joint Powers Authority), that we will immediately be allowed to seek a temporary or permanent location outside the city of Oakland," reported last week that Athletics owner Lew Wolff wrote in an e-mail sent to city, council and A's officials.

So, there is plenty of political maneuvering going on and it's hard to decide what is real and what isn't. It's clear both councils have plenty of opposition to the terms of the deal, but they also don't want to have the Athletics bolt town, especially with the way they are playing right now.

They love that the Athletics will be installing the new scoreboard, but now they want their hands in the till of the revenue generated by that scoreboard. The problem is, the Athletics have all the power in the situation as far as the baseball part goes and, if the city isn't putting up money up front for the scoreboard it's hard to imagine how the A's would agree for the city to take revenue from it after it's built.

In reality, though, that's what happens with every public-funded new stadium in the country. The public pays for it to be built. Then the public pays more to attend games and buy food and drinks. They fund it, but they never see any of the revenue from the team returned.

It will be an increasing struggle as sports team revenue continues to rise. So, expect more of these threats and not less into the future. And, maybe someday, you'll see a team actually move to San Antonio because of it.

MLB American League
Oakland Athletics
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