SAN JOSE -- Rest easy, baseball fans. McCovey Cove will not temporarily become Catfish Cove or Reggie Reservoir.
The A's will play their 2014 home schedule in Oakland at O.co Coliseum, not at AT&T Park in San Francisco. This statement is made with approximately 99.999 percent certainty.
The other .001 percent? That's up for grabs. So, yes, it was technically a legitimate threat when Major League Baseball said it could force the A's and Giants to simultaneously occupy AT&T for the next few seasons, as was confirmed by this newspaper late Sunday.
But as a practical matter, that's not going to happen. Actually, conversation about such a move has been in the air for
At that point, MLB officials became involved and the novel share-a-ballpark solution was mentioned in the context of a worst-case scenario. Such a scenario would develop only if the East Bay politicians on the Coliseum Board were idiotic enough to completely reject the A's offer of extending their expiring lease at the stadium for up to five years beginning next season.
And no group of politicians would ever be that idiotic, right?
Don't answer that question.
In truth, all signs point to a lease agreement being reached any minute.
"I think we are close to getting it done," A's owner Lew Wolff said Monday when reached by phone. "The Oakland folks have been very cooperative."
Nate Miley, an Alameda County Supervisor who chairs the Coliseum Board, issued his own Monday statement: "We are optimistic that a final deal is at hand."
Swell and dandy. How, then, did the specter of the AT&T Athletics arise?
It was because Oakland officials made the mistake of believing that they had leverage in their talks with the A's, who keep waiting for MLB commissioner Bud Selig to decide if the team can move to San Jose. The Athletics' lease at O.co expired at the conclusion of the 2013 season.
The Coliseum board wanted the A's to sign an extension through 2021 and alter some lease terms involving concession revenue. But the team wanted the extension to run through 2016 or 2018, with an escape clause if the Raiders are permitted to demolish the Coliseum and build a new stadium on the site. That is the NFL team's recent stated preference.
Naturally, the A's balked at the Coliseum's original terms for a longer lease. Miley and his fellow board members reportedly held firm, believing that the A's had no other options but to play at O.co in 2014. And at that point, MLB voices tossed out the concept of the A's playing temporarily at AT&T Park until a new ballpark project could be developed elsewhere.
Confused yet? Here's the most important thing to know: Major League Baseball truly is the driving force behind the A's future. Because of the sport's antitrust exemption, Selig has been able to keep the A's from moving to San Jose. For the same reason, he could force the Giants to house the A's in San Francisco, even against the Giants' wishes.
And for the same reason, Selig can ask for a two-year A's lease extension at the Coliseum and start looking for another city outside the Bay Area as a possible future home. It certainly seems Selig is running out of patience with Oakland.
Can you blame him?
If Oakland had decided in 1995 to spend a fortune on a new A's ballpark rather than finance the Raiders' return to the Coliseum -- for which the cash-strapped city is still paying back bonds to the tune of $10 million a year -- then the current mess might not exist.
If the Coliseum Board had not rejected two efforts by Wolff several years ago to initiate ballpark projects near the Coliseum site, the current mess might not exist.
And if Oakland politicians had decided to seriously pursue a promising downtown waterfront site at Howard Terminal by at least spending money on an environmental impact report -- instead of throwing their support behind a massive "Coliseum City" project that caters largely to the Raiders -- the current mess might not exist.
Meanwhile, in some quarters, Selig's trial balloon about the A's at AT&T Park was seen as a pointed message to the Giants, to remind them who, exactly, is the boss.
Don't forget, it's the Giants who are holding up an A's franchise shift to the South Bay because of territorial rights objections. Selig says he wants to get the A's ballpark situation resolved before he retires after the 2014 season. With this week's development, it's as if he is telling the Giants: "You want to keep the A's from moving to San Jose? How about if I dump them on you in your backyard indefinitely? Would you rather have that?"
We still don't know how the A's ballpark saga is all going to end. But if nothing else, this overheated fuss about a shared AT&T has brought into focus the real entities who have created the chaos. Hint: Not the A's or San Jose.