Everybody LIMBO!

(originally written 2/11/12)

One is large. One is small.
 
While not twins, both are 46 and both underwent major makeovers in 1996; unlike the small one, the large one's new look left plenty to be desired.
 
Any and all compliments directed toward the large one's beauty ceased post-makeover. The small one isn't necessarily a knockout, but easily compensates for any physical imperfections by being a regular source of excitement, attracting people from throughout the area looking for fun times.
 
The large one doesn't have much of a future; the combination of age, money issues, and of younger, prettier competitors sprouting up left and right have pushed away a load of once-loyal followers. The small one is always entertaining a crowd, and gives every indication of doing so for years and years to come.
 
It's hard to believe two total opposites going in two completely different directions can share the same living quarters...but the dreary, deserted Oakland Coliseum (or whatever they're referring to it as this week) and the always-poppin' Oracle Arena do. 
 
Just how dreary is the Coliseum? The A's recently held their FanFest at Oracle Arena. In clear weather.
 
You can't blame the fans for supporting one team but not the other. Over the past decade+, the A's budget limitations—caused in part by low attendance at their run-down park—have forced them to trade or let go one star after another in, or even before, their prime. That was bad enough, but at least the stars stuck around for five or six years and the team competed. Now, they are traded before even reaching arbitration!
 
WHY would anyone support a team whose best players are spread out among the other 29 clubs?
WHY would anyone support a team that will be broken up if it is successful?
WHY would anyone go to a ballpark that they know the employees (players) don't even want to be at?
 
The Athletics desperately need a new park, but the Giants and MLB itself stand in their way.
 
I'm not an A's fan, but I'm a baseball fan, and watching the Coliseum saga unfold—or, to be exact,fail to unfold—is nothing short of disgraceful and contemptible in my eyes. Need I remind you the A's are an original MLB franchise lingering in limbo for three years running. Could you imagine Jason Priestley getting hooked on...I don't know, banana chips...going broke, and 90210 not offering him a five-episode guest spot to help him out? (For the record, those are the only circumstances I would ever watch that squalid excuse for quality television—Brandon's return as behooven by Jason's banana chip addiction. The first 90210 was equally garbage after he left. But I'm not here to talk about the past.)

Much is made of the fact Lew Wolff (A's majority owner) and the Commish were old frat buddies. You would think this fact would accelerate resolution to whether or not the A's can explore building a ballpark in San Jose (Giants territory), or elsewhere. Now I wonder: 
 
a) did Lew sleep with the Commish's mom back then, like Finch with Stiffler's in American Pie, and this is his shot at revenge? Or
b) if the Wolff/Commish connection really is speeding things up, and that investigation of any other similar situation would take a full decade?
 
This whole A's/Giants/territorial rights issue began way back in 1990, under different ownerships for both teams. Back then it was the A's on top of the baseball world---believe it or not, without ghastly tarps impeding them, a league-high number of fans attended A's games that year—while the Giants sought ways to escape their dump of a home ballpark (Candlestick). Let's talk about the past for a moment...


In order to go through some stupid referendum in pursuit of said park, Giant owner Bob Lurie asked Athletic owner Walter Haas for territorial rights to the South Bay. Again, the A's were on top of the baseball world; the Giants could have asked them for live footage of Dave Stewart going to the bathroom and odds are, they'd have gotten it. The G-Men did get their territorial rights...and kept them...long after their own ballpark situation was settled.
 
This is the equivalent of giving your loser friend a suit to wear for a job interview. He gets the job, and decides he's keeping the suit as well.
 
⦁    For the next 15 years neither team really cared too much about the rights, at least not publicly. In 2005, shortly after buying the A's, Wolff attempted to buy land for a new park across from the Coliseum on 66th Avenue, but the owners refused to sell. Wolff's pleas to Oakland to help fall on deaf ears. Oakland would later reject a second site just south of the Coliseum.
⦁   Then, in 2006, Wolff announced a plan for a Fremont village—shiny, new, privately-financed park included—to be build on land owned by Cisco, a top partner and sponsor of the Athletics. It seemed like a done deal; the field even appeared on the A's official website. In the end, the idiot Fremont community resisted the Village and in June 2009 Wolff called it off. Boo.
⦁    Three months prior, in March of 2009, Senator Boxer wrote the Commish, asking him to do all he could to keep the A's in Oakland. Days later, the "Oakland A's Ballpark Committee" was born.
⦁    In July 2010—with the Committee now in Month 16—San Jose mayor Chuck Reed shelves a November ballot (at the Commish's behest) which could have secured voter approval of the SJ ballpark--provided MLB funds a special ballot when the Committee complete its' report. This special ballot can only proceed if the Giants stay out of the way (cough lawsuits cough).
⦁    September 2010: Top Silicon Valley CEOs including those of Yahoo, Sun and many more write the Commish, seeking approval of an Athletics' move to SJ. The Commish apparently uses the letter to line his birdcage.
⦁    November 2010: Oakland selects Victory Court, an area near Jack London Square, as a new ballpark site. It is rejected in early 2012 due to lack of redevelopment funds. (BTW, throughout this entire ordeal, Oakland has been claiming no stone left unturned to keep the A's, which is a flagrant, abject, provable lie.)
⦁    May 2011: Reed writes the Commish, politely but with a twinge of frustration, wondering what's the holdup. The Commish, shockingly, never replies.
⦁    November 2011: Wolff buys land near HP Pavilion in San Jose with all the dough soon to be saved by the trades of Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahill.
⦁    December 2011: "Stand For San Jose", a group supported by the Giants, sues San Jose for not giving a proper environmental review of the purchased land. A basically frivolous suit meant to stall things further.
⦁    January 2012: Committee Report allegedly completes its comprehensive report...but it does not come up at an owner's meeting. This is huge, because baseball has the right to overrule the Giants' territorial rights if 75% of the owners vote in Oakland's favor. We could have at least had an idea of where they stood.
⦁    Later in January 2012: The Commish says the A's situation is now "at the top of his list". Given the ensuing month of silence on the issue, he has clearly misplaced the list. I'm convinced the only way the A's ballpark could top the Commish's to-do list would be if the list resembled this:
 
 
  1. Give the Athletics an answer about their ballpark situation.
  2. Meet with connected gamblers about the upcoming 2012 "sleepers".
  3. Stand in batters' box vs. Carlos Zambrano after he's surrendered three home runs.
  4. Tongue-kiss Tommy Lasorda.
  5. Watch the entire Bonds On Bonds series in one sitting.

 


⦁    Season's end, 2013: The A's lease with the Coliseum ends. They were supposed to have their new park by now (Cisco Field in Fremont would have opened in 2011). Instead they'll have the same dump at what's sure to be inflated prices
 
Summary: The A's remain in limbo, fielding a team comprised mostly of scrubs and aging vets in an attempt to save money, maximize their roster, and/or get the right people to fully grasp what is happening to them. Looking at said roster, I'm seeing exactly two players in their prime who were productive in 2011—Coco Crisp and Brandon McCarthy. Everyone else is a scrub, health question, potential contributor coming off a bad year, or aging vet hanging on. THAT IS BAD FOR BASEBALL.

It is important that when the A's get their new ballpark, they do not screw it up. Below is a detailed list of what the A's new park, whenever it gets built, must be and must have in order to satisfy its' fans...
 
⦁    PICK A NAME, AND STICK WITH IT.

Since Cisco, as mentioned, is partnering with the A's and has been for a while, this shouldn't be a problem. I understand $1M is a ton of money for a franchise like the A's, but seriously...Overstock.com Coliseum? Makes your mouth dry just saying it. Not to mention all the wasted seconds (O.co isn't much better in either aspect). It's difficult to believe the simplistic Overstock Field wasn't suggested.
 
Don't forget the lamentable Network Associates Coliseum (people, NO ONE WAS EVER GOING TO CALL IT THAT) era or the McAfee Coliseum era (which actually wasn't so bad). There was another brief name change that I cannot remember—or probably blocked out for sanity purposes. The bottom line is, five names in a decade is a real turnoff. Could you imagine if a person did that?
When all those tech bigwigs in SJ come calling about naming rights...HANG UP! (Practice now by hanging up on rival GMs inquiring about Kurt Suzuki and/or Brett Anderson.)

⦁    HONOR YOUR RICH AND MEMORABLE PAST.

Unlike the Giants, who seem to unearth unconventional ways to honor their past stars before every homestand ("Come on out to AT&T Park June 6 when the Giants salute their 1982 Final Spring Training Cuts! First 10,000 fans will receive a replica empty locker!"), or invent jobs for them ("The Giants have hired former pitcher Scott Garrelts as Special Assistant to the Secretary of Ballpark Entry."), the A's have almost no ties to those who've come before.
 
How tragic was it when they hastily arranged their 20-year anniversary of the 1989 World Series team and all of 10 guys showed up (The Giants lost the damn series and still got more than 20). Granted, some work for other teams today, but you'll never convince me Jim Corsi had something else better to do than stop by the Coliseum for an hour.
 
The Mets made the implausible mistake of opening a new ballpark with no nods to its' own colorful past (that soon got corrected); the A's need to learn from that. World Series trophies aren't enough. Posters aren't enough. I'm talking an A's Hall-of-Fame. I'm talking REAL retired number displays, not just paint on a tarp. Fans need to know WHO these guys were, what they looked like, when they played, and why their numbers aren't in circulation anymore. 
 
Put images of Athletics' greats on the outfield wall, like the Braves used to have at Turner Field (and still should). Statues at every entrance, as well. Jackson, Rickey, Catfish, and Rollie are the obvious four candidates. Just because they left the A's in their primes, don't forget about Canseco, Zito, Hudson, Giambi, Tejada, McGwire, Vida, etc. Remember: Jackson, Rickey, Catfish and Rollie left the A's in their primes, too.
 
Recruit former A's to work for the team (although they'd probably clash with the Sabermetrics dudes). Fans want to see former A's heroes around the ballpark, like at AT&T Park and others. Even if they weren't superstars or even stars. It shouldn't have taken filming of Moneyball to get Scott Hatteberg back to the Coliseum. 

⦁    BE DISTINCTIVE.

Having a child plays a role, too, but these days when I'm watching MLB highlights, I can no longer discern every park from another just by looking at it. Too many of them copied each other, or lack distinctive features. You KNOW Rangers Ballpark by the patch of grass in CF (I'll refrain from using bad-taste joke here). You KNOW Jacobs Field by the tall, multi-level wall. You KNOW Fenway. You KNOW Minute Maid. You KNOW Kauffman. You KNOW AT&T.
 
The A's new park, in some way, needs an elephant behind the fence (mechanical, not actual), much like the glove at AT&T or Bernie Brewer + slide in Milwaukee. That dates back to the Connie Mack days and, by its' very presence, educate younger fans who may not know the team ever existed otuside of Oakland. Alluding to its' name, "Stomper", perhaps the elephant stomps its' foot when an Athletic goes deep? Maybe alternately paint the seats green and gold, much like the Dodgers mix blue and red. 
 
Whenever Cisco Field is seen in a highlight, there should be no doubt that it's Cisco Field.

⦁    UPDATE THE UNIFORMS...PROPERLY.

Many new ballparks of the last 20 years ushered in new logos/uniforms for the team wearing them. For some, the new looks worked (Padres, Rangers, Indians). For others...not so much (Brewers, Astros, Marlins). I appreciate the A's nod to their Philadelphia heritage in their current look, but that is one visage of their past that should be left there.
 
By no means should they abandon the green and gold---there is too much success tied to that unique combination. An updated "Athletics" across the front in a style similar to that of the Warriors should fit—along with a fresh, modern logo indigenous to San Jose (I'd suggest using a prominent San Jose landmark...but are there any?). Keep the all-gold alternate jerseys to honor the past. Retire the all-green ones.

⦁    REMEMBER WHERE YOU'RE AT.

Throughout the past 20 years, some 20 new parks have opened. The majority of them were "retro-classic", parks built in the style of yesteryear but with all the modern amenities. The A's do not need that; they will be playing in an area where the technology of tomorrow is already outdated. As unsettling as it is, their fanbase will be comprised not only of the BlackBerry/IPod/Google generation—it will be comprised of the people who invented that stuff! They won't know or care anything about Shibe Park or any other old-school parks. To them, a brick is a missed jump shot in basketball, not a building material.
 
The Marlins' new park, if you haven't seen it, is 100% modern inside and out, and Cisco Field should be, too.

⦁    REMEMBER WHERE YOU'RE FROM.

While the Coliseum itself isn't very appealing, once you get inside, the small-but-fiercely-loyal crowd provides a special electricity—a "feel", to be trite. There is a 100% difference in the feel of a Giants' crowd vs. an Athletics' crowd, and while there is bound to be a shift in the elements once the A's move, they should try to preserve the best parts of the Oakland experience.
 
A staple of any A's home game are the drum and the horn, and they should remain that way, even if it means packing the men who play them in the moving van, right along with the World Series trophies and home plate. Another staple are the "brothas"—these guys can produce some creative sh** talk while not being overly offensive; they keep things loose and fun. Sadly, the black population in San Jose is limited, and even if it weren't, they'd probably frighten the yuppies and wouldn't be welcomed.
 
Athletics: find a way to keep the brothas in attendance. Please.
 
Follow these suggestions, and Cisco Field, along with the fan experience there, will be a success—every bit the roaring good time that a Warrior game at Oracle Arena is.