UPDATE: After a full day of meetings with MLB President Bob DuPuy yesterday, Mayor Chuck Reed has concluded that it would be best not to put the Downtown Ballpark Measure on the ballot until the MLB’s special committee makes a final decision whether to allow the Oakland A’s to move to San Jose. When questioned about the cost of such a vote, DuPuy reportedly told Reed that the MLB would help pay for it. According to some reports, DuPuy’s offer also implied that a decision would be made by the end of the year. If so, the special vote would be held in March.
It came as a big surprise to almost everyone, including Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig: Mayor Reed’s decision to go forward on the downtown baseball stadium. Is Reed’s push a smart move that will demonstrate the city’s commitment to host a major league team, or is it a desperate move that will destroy the chances to bring the A’s to San Jose?
“We were surprised and disappointed by the news…about the stadium referendum,” the commissioner’s office said in it’s release. “We were not part of the process and had no knowledge that a decision to proceed with the election had been made.”
It seems odd that the mayor’s office wouldn’t have given Selig a head’s up on the decision. The Mercury News reported that, “The mayor’s staff said Reed had tried to contact Selig about the ballot measure earlier [that] week but never heard back. Other sources, however, say the only outreach by the mayor’s office was early Friday morning [July 23].” Interesting.
It’s also curious that the local press (apart from this blog) has not picked up on SF Chronicle sportswriter Bruce Jenkins’ thesis, that Selig’s decision on the A’s is being held up for a reason completely unrelated from the territorial rights issue; that the commissioner wants to use the threatened elimination of two teams (the A’s and Tampa Bay) as bargaining chips in next year’s contract negotiations with the players’ union.
In baseball, one of the worst things that you can do is take a called third strike. The same is true in politics. If you’re going to lose, at least go down swinging. At first blush, I thought that Mayor Reed had blown it. Why act unilaterally, without the coordination (and tacit approval) of the commissioner’s office? But then I realized, that this is exactly the right strategy to pursue. Commissioner Selig’s hands (and tongue) are tied. He can’t say what he wants or doesn’t want. He can’t direct a course of action until sometime next year. Selig has to stall. So, why Selig is stalling, Reed is playing hardball! Push the referendum forward, take the commissioner’s “scolding,” and laugh all the way to the bank sometime next year when Selig arrives at an agreement with the player’s union, and announces a deal to compensate the SF Giants for their territorial rights.
Swing and a miss? Hardly…Reed may have hit a home run.