Posted October 10, 2013
Not to put any more pressure on you, Athletics, but there's more at stake in Thursday's game against the Tigers than simply a trip to the American League Championship Series.
The future of the ballclub in Oakland might hang in the balance.
None of you guys was born and raised in Oakland, and even if the team moves to San Jose, most of you won't be around by the time the move is made, so this might not be at the top of your worry list.
But before Thursday night's game, feel free to ignore the advice of team co-owner Lew Wolff, look into the stands, all the way up to the tarpland now filled with real people, and think of the Oakland fans. Think of the city that has been good to the A's and baseball for many decades, a city that could use a break.
A slam-bang series against the dreaded Red Sox, especially if it leads to a World Series, might be the tipping point in keeping the A's in Oakland, in a new ballpark.
Why would one game, or a couple of thrilling weeks in the postseason, make a difference in the geographical fate of the A's? Well, the people who make the decisions on ballparks - citizens, politicians, investors - are human, with some exceptions. They get caught up in waves of emotion. Some examples:
-- Maybe the York family was prepared to empty the family safe to build a stadium for the 49ers under any circumstances. Much more likely, the Yorks weren't going to build that place without considerable help from the friendly folks in Santa Clara and from wealthy ticket buyers.
Along came Jim Harbaugh, a surprise trip to the NFC Championship Game and the new promise of a bright future. That made the stadium a much easier sale. Had the Harbaugh Era dawned 8-8, would Levi's Stadium be rising?
-- The Seattle Mariners played their first 18 seasons in a dreary blimp hangar called the Kingdome and didn't make the playoffs. Then in 1995, the Mariners won a division title in a one-game playoff and beat the Yankees in a thrilling five-game ALDS, coming back from an 0-2 series deficit to win Game 5 in 11 innings.
Before those playoffs started, Seattle voters narrowly rejected public funding for a ballpark. After the ALDS, county officials, confident that giddy fans now would back them, approved a funding package for a ballpark, Safeco Field.
So there's your formula, A's. Create excitement, build a ballpark. Carpe diem, seize the day (technically the night, a 5:07 p.m. start Thursday). Jack the excitement level to crazy new heights and let the movers and shakers take it from there.
This might be a now-or-never opportunity, and a lot of things would have to fall into place, but momentum is building in favor of Oakland.
First, San Jose would have to lose its legal fight, scuttling the city's attempt to force MLB's hand on the A's proposed move and bust the barrier of the Giants' territorial rights. That's still in the courts, but the first round wasn't promising for the San Jose legal team.
If the court doesn't green-light an A's move to San Jose, MLB will direct the A's to find a ballpark somewhere. Glacier Bud Selig is retiring after next season, making way for a commissioner who actually might do something about the A's status.
A's owners John Fisher and Wolff happily would keep the A's forever in the Coliseum, a.k.a. the Leaky Tiki, collecting a profit every season, but MLB won't abide that. It will insist on a new ballpark, and that's probably when Wolff and Fisher would sell the team. Adios, muchachos.
Then Oakland would have a chance. The city has no money, but a Dubai guy with big bucks is sniffing around.
The A's will wind up in a new ballpark somewhere, which, in a way, will be sad. The nature and philosophy of the team will change. Instead of a relatively low payroll, and a clubhouse with more transients than a bus station, the A's would become more grown-up, like the Giants.
Oakland fans say, "Whatever." They simply want to keep their team. The excitement of another week or three of A's baseball might do the trick.
Oh, it's a long shot, but so is a collection of bargain-basement nobodies gloriously crashing the playoffs party two years in a row.
Scott Ostler is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @scottostler