Even as Major League Baseball remains mum -- after 40 months -- about the prospect of an Oakland A's move to the South Bay, its high-level committee reviewing the A's future quietly met last week with leaders in both San Jose and the East Bay.

As is customary in the discussions of the committee, appointed by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, public officials were made to promise not to divulge the content of the meetings. But observers speculated that after about a dozen years of scrutinizing ideas for new stadiums in Oakland and Fremont, yet another new iteration of the keep-the-A's-in-Oakland theme has been crafted.

In addition to city and county leaders, the East Bay meeting reportedly included developer Michael Ghielmetti and Clorox CEO Don Knauss, who has repeatedly suggested that A's owner Lew Wolff and co-owner John Fisher should sell the team to someone who will keep it in Oakland. Wolff has repeatedly said he and Fisher have no intention of selling their franchise.

"That has as much credibility as our group trying to acquire Clorox," Wolff fired back Sunday, as he prepared to board his private jet and return home to Los Angeles after a Saturday game that drew just 17,121 fans to O.co Coliseum. "It's just a sound bite."


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San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said he met for one hour Tuesday with the baseball committee at its request. In attendance was the mayor's chief of staff, Pete Furman, and the city leaders faced Corey Busch, Irwin Raij and Bob Starkey (the MLB "blue ribbon" committee). Also attending was Brad Ruskin, a sports industry lawyer with expertise in antitrust issues.

While Reed also refused to reveal the exact discussion, he did comment that the other meeting with Oakland and Alameda County officials doesn't worry him. "Lew Wolff wants to move to San Jose," he said. "The A's believe they will be profitable in San Jose."

The city has offered the A's an option on downtown land near the HP Arena to build a $500 million state-of-the-art stadium.

Another proposal?

Wolff wasn't invited to either meeting -- baseball's committee does its work independently. But when asked how word of the secret meeting leaked out, Wolff said it did not come from him or, he speculated, from Oakland city officials. The organization with a clear stake in the outcome is the San Francisco Giants. The team has refused to cede its territorial rights to the South Bay.

What's unknown is whether the meetings finally presage a decision by Major League Baseball on whether the A's will be allowed to move to San Jose. For that to happen, three-quarters of MLB team owners would have to vote to force the San Francisco Giants to cede their territorial rights.

Almost no one wants the A's to stay exactly where they are now, in the sagging Coliseum. But one of the surprises that seemed to move the needle back in Oakland's direction -- according to a rumor on SFGate.com -- was a presentation by Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana, Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Nate Miley and City Council President Larry Reid. They are believed to have told the committee about another plan: a waterfront ballpark site at the Port of Oakland's Howard Terminal -- a proposal long thought to have been discarded in favor of a project dubbed Coliseum City.

Both Wolff and Reed dismissed the report about Howard Terminal. A development there or nearby could make surrounding new retail and housing development more profitable.

"We have analyzed Howard Terminal upside down and sideways," Wolff said, "and it has no ability to be implemented for a ballpark."

State investigators

It doesn't matter what rival East Bay site might be proposed, San Jose spokeswoman Michelle McGurk said. "Oakland has come up with so many different plans, it's not worth our time to keep track of them."

In San Jose, the meeting took place even as California Controller John Chiang was investigating whether the city illegally moved funds from the city's dismantled redevelopment agency to buy land for a ballpark. Reed acknowledged that Chiang's investigators have been looking into the city's records for about two weeks.

Jacob Roper of the Controller's Office confirmed last week that his office was reviewing the transfer of redevelopment agency funds in several cities, including San Jose and Santa Clara.

Wolff said the possibility that the team might have to pay for the land in San Jose if the city can't, "is not relevant to us. It's insignificant to the cost of the ballpark." He also discounted the possibility that a better development deal in Oakland would renew his interest in staying put. "We have no ancillary real estate we're looking at in San Jose," he said. "We're just talking about building a ballpark."

Meanwhile, Reed said, the city is waiting for baseball owners to lift the territorial restrictions to permit an A's move south. He said he had no insight when that might happen. "Whatever they're doing is a mystery to me," he said. "That's truly inside baseball."

Staff writers Tracy Seipel and John Woolfolk contributed to this report. Contact Bruce Newman at 408-920-5004.