Two days after the (expletive) hit the carpet, it finally hit the fan.
Talk to any veteran Oakland Athletics player, and the raw sewage backup that spilled into the O.co Coliseum clubhouses on Sunday was a long time coming. A similar sentiment surrounded the long-overdue antitrust lawsuit the San Jose City Council filed against Major League Baseball: Someone in this foul, festering mess preventing the A's from moving to Silicon Valley was going to get litigious. It was just a matter of when and who.
Turns out it was Tuesday morning and a group of politicians that couldn't pass up an opportunity like the (expletive) storm that erupted in the A's clubhouse. Whether the timing of the suit happened to coincide perfectly with the backup that serves as a perfect metaphor for the entirety of this situation is immaterial. Years of thumb-twiddling, pat-a-cake-playing obstructionism finally can yield to a substantive solution.
If that means the A's stay in Oakland – an unlikely outcome – fine. Should the council get its wish, see the San Francisco Giants yield their so-called territory to the A's for hundreds of millions of dollars and absolve MLB of responsibility in the matter, the A's will get what they want – a new stadium in an area rich with corporate sponsors – and an issue that should've been solved a decade ago will finally go to the baseball graveyard, secrets and all.
Like: What the hell took so long?
It's been almost four years since commissioner Bud Selig assigned a panel to assess the A's ballpark situation. Four years. One more time: Four years, or close to 1,400 days, or more than 33,000 hours, or 2 million-plus minutes, all devoted to one issue on which it has not offered a single recommendation Selig saw fit to take public.
Considering the zealousness with which MLB has pursued new stadiums in practically every other city, the stonewalling of the A's – spearheaded by the Giants and, from the league's lack of action, tacitly endorsed by Selig – remains curious at best. Never did A's owner Lew Wolff, Selig's old frat brother, raise a stink publicly or threaten legal action. Upon the news of the suit, in fact, he bemoaned San Jose for choosing such a tack.
His patience borders on lunacy. With Billy Beane and David Forst, the A's are led by two of the game's finest minds. Their manager, Bob Melvin, is likewise near the top among his peers. They've got an excess of good, young pitching, a bullpen with powerful arms and a lineup that has turned the coliseum into a pinball machine of runs. They lead the American League West, and over the last 162 games, they are 102-60. And they're doing this on a budget that's half of what it could be in a market like San Jose's, with revenue that San Jose could provide and a fan base like San Jose's that would embrace the A's much as Washington, D.C., did the Nationals.
The suit could merely be a gambit to force MLB into settling by threatening its antitrust exemption. The lengths to which MLB has gone protecting the exemption makes this a strong possibility. On the other hand, San Jose is suing based on an idea – the A's should be allowed to move here – rather than a concrete contract that has been blocked by the league. Should MLB resolve to fight the suit, San Jose arguments will face stiff refutation from the league. And as proven by the unconventional lawsuit that prompted Biogenesis clinic operator Anthony Bosch to cooperate, the league employs a cache of brilliant lawyers to parry these very sorts of legal contrivances.
For the fans caught in the middle, this is welcome. Because at least it's something. The cadre of Oakland die-hards who patrol the bleachers and dress up and yell want the A's to stay, and no wonder. The millions of people who live in San Jose want a professional-sports brother to the Sharks. The sooner this can find an answer, the better for all parties involved.
They know a bad situation when they smell it. And as long as the A's are at the coliseum without any resolution in sight, it will smell some kind of awful.
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