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KronoRed
03-14-2006, 02:45 AM
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/14079100.htm
Mark PurdyMercury News


The fuss over Barry Bonds, first in drag and then under suspicion, has obscured the other major Bay Area baseball story of the spring.

No matter what happens with Bonds, in a year or two -- maybe even sooner -- he will no longer be playing baseball in the Bay Area.

Will the A's?

The answer to that question has more long-range implications for Northern California sports fans. When we last left the saga of the Athletics' attempt to assemble a new ballpark deal, the team was pursuing a potential project in Oakland, not far from the team's home at McAfee Coliseum. That would prevent a move to Las Vegas or Portland or wherever.

But guess what? There is a delicious twist to the story that is running white hot on the baseball grapevine: Within a few weeks, A's owner Lew Wolff will announce that because the Oakland deal is going nowhere, he will abandon those plans. And he will cast his glance southward -- to Fremont, where there is plenty of available land to build a ballpark complex.

Wait. There's more.

As we all know, the Giants possess the territorial rights to Santa Clara County, which ostensibly prevents the A's from moving to San Jose or Santa Clara or anywhere else within the borders of the Bay Area's most heavily populated county.

No problem. Wolff has supposedly come up with a novel plan.

He will move his franchise to Fremont, just north of the Santa Clara County line.

But the team will be known as the San Jose A's.

Could that happen? Absolutely. If you have followed the recent business of baseball, then you know that in Southern California, fans now buy tickets to see the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. So why not the San Jose A's of Fremont? Makes sense.

This is no fly-by-night rumor, understand. It has been flying in both daytime and nighttime, around the official corridors of San Jose power. One city council member even mentioned it at a recent public meeting.

To find out if this conjecture has any meat on it, I called Wolff the other day. He did not deny that Fremont is on his imminent radar.

``It's pretty much what I've said all along,'' Wolff explained, ``which is that by the beginning of the new season, if we don't have a solid path to a particular venue in the city of Oakland, we're going to look elsewhere. That doesn't mean we won't continue to look in Oakland, and at this stage, my feeling is we should try and do everything we can to stay in the East Bay and South Bay areas. Fremont hasn't been hidden. There may be some opportunities there. . . . I think we're following the game plan I said I would months ago.''

But what about the prospect of the team wearing uniforms embroidered with ``San Jose'' across the front?

``We haven't really thought about the name of the team,'' Wolff said. ``We've been the Oakland A's for a long time. I would consider that aspect something way down the road. . . . Obviously, if we moved in that direction, we're moving closer to the San Jose market. It's not an illogical thought. But I'm following the rules of baseball.''

The rules of baseball, interestingly enough, do not say anything about what the name of the team must be. That's supposed to be negotiated along with a ballpark deal, wherever that ballpark might be. When new Angels owner Arte Moreno decided two years ago that the Anaheim Angels would become the Los Angeles Angels, the city of Anaheim sued to have its name reinstated ahead of the nickname -- and lost.

Would the Giants have any issues with Wolff's move? Not if you go by the comments of Giants owner Peter Magowan over the years. As far back as June 2000, Magowan said: ``If the A's want to go to Fremont, we won't have a problem at all.''

Of course, that was before any mention of the name game. But what could Magowan do to stop it? Placing the ``San Jose'' brand on the A's would allow the team to market more aggressively to Northern California's largest city -- and the Silicon Valley companies that surround it. Santa Clara County has more Fortune 500 companies than San Francisco and Alameda counties combined.

The property in Fremont that the A's allegedly covet is a 143-acre parcel controlled by Cisco Systems, which acquired the land during the Silicon Valley boom as a potential expansion site. That site, along Interstate 880 at the Auto Mall Parkway exit, is just 7.9 miles from the Santa Clara County border.

The A's current home, McAfee Coliseum, is 7.2 miles from Oakland's City Hall.
A spokesperson for Cisco recently told my Mercury News colleague Barry Witt that the company is ``not actively marketing this property for sale, but we would entertain unsolicited offers on it.'' Another potential site for an A's ballpark is located near the Nummi auto plant, not far away.

Regardless, by moving to Fremont, the A's would basically become a South Bay team. That's why the territorial ``rights'' thing is so silly. We're talking about an arbitrary line on a map, nothing more.

That is why, in some circles, the speculation goes another step. The Fremont plan might spur San Jose, in the baby-steps stage of its own ballpark proposal, to move ahead aggressively in pursuit of the A's. Wolff would then go to Magowan and say, ``Look, if I go to Fremont and call the team the San Jose A's, the Giants get nothing. But if you agree to let me actually move the team to San Jose, you'll get some compensation. How about it?''

That seems a little out there, but you never know. This could get really wild. You're probably wondering why Fremont would go along with this plan, for instance. But if, as part of the package, Wolff agrees to develop a mixed-use ``ballpark village'' around the ballpark, the project would be an immense tax boost for Fremont.

And what would San Jose have to provide in exchange for its name on the team? Perhaps the city would provide more favorable terms for the soccer stadium Wolff is thinking seriously about building downtown in conjunction with a franchise he might control.

No matter what, you get the feeling that even though the A's ballpark issue has been around for years, the ride is really just starting. And it's going to be a wild one.

westofyou
03-14-2006, 10:03 AM
Fremont is not San Jose by any stretch, and it's not a nice place for a ballpark IMO.