Site icon Oakland A's UK

The Only Win That Really Mattered This Week

Saturday’s walk-off loss to the Seattle Mariners was the latest in a long line of depressing results that we’ve suffered through the first half of the 2022 season.

Paul Blackburn pitched extremely well once again, keeping his stock high as the trade deadline approaches at the end of the month. Unfortunately, allowing only one run doesn’t guarantee a starting pitcher anything with the A’s this year and, sure enough, he ended up getting a no-decision as the A’s lost 2-1.

In New York

Oakland’s ability to find new ways to lose games was on full display this week, frustratingly so given that a bunch of us had gone out to New York to watch the series against the Yankees.

Dom and Matt flying the UK A’s flag outside of Yankee Stadium, June 2022

Tuesday’s 9-5 loss, in which the A’s squandered an early 5-1 lead, was a mini tragicomedy in its own right. The bottom of the seventh inning saw the A’s give up 6 runs in part thanks to two catcher interference calls against Sean Murphy and A.J. Puk hitting a batter along the way.

It said a lot about where the A’s are right now that the usually abrasive Bronx crowd went easy on those of us wearing the green and gold as we were heading out of Yankee Stadium. It felt like a mix of understanding – knowing how badly A’s fans have been treated by ownership – and pity, which is a sorry state for us to be in.

However, getting swept at Yankee Stadium really didn’t hurt all that much. Firstly, it was to be expected given the relative strengths of the two teams this season. Secondly, the only thing that mattered this week was the result of Thursday’s meeting of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

I was sat at JFK Airport glued to my Twitter timeline as the updates came through. When we hit the magic 18 “Yes” vote mark it took all of my self-discipline to refrain from running victory laps around the departure lounge.

What happened at the meeting?

The land that the A’s want to develop on the waterfront at Howard Terminal was covered by “priority port use” designation. This meant that the land could only be used for port-related activities and that any planning application to develop the site for alternative uses would fall at the first hurdle.

Whilst it was expected that the vote would go the A’s way, that didn’t remove the suspense. If the BCDC had not agreed to remove the port designation then the whole project would have been killed stone dead.

The BCDC voting in favour of removing the designation on Thursday, and doing so with a comprehensive 23-2 vote, was a huge step along the way to keeping the A’s in Oakland.

Working Towards An Agreement

Part of the whole point of the Howard Terminal plan – for the A’s, for A’s owner John Fisher, and for Oakland City Council – is that it will be a major waterfront development that will extend far beyond a new ballpark.

From the outside it feels like the current A’s ownership have gone all-in on a final attempt to build a ballpark in Oakland at Howard Terminal. It is arguably the most challenging option that the A’s could have opted for, given the many complexities (environmental, financial etc) involved in trying to make the site work, but at the same time it is also the site that has by far and away the most potential.

What’s becoming increasingly clear, however, is just how much work has been going on between the A’s ballpark team, the City Council and other related parties in recent months. It’s the nitty gritty, boring detail stuff that doesn’t make news headlines, nor is likely to be of any great interest to A’s fans, but is absolutely vital.

A good example of that would be the development agreement and community benefits package. From the City Council’s side, it’s entirely right that, in allowing a private company to take forward a major development, they ensure that the proposal will benefit the local area, and the community that lives and works within it, rather than it solely benefitting the bank accounts of the developers.

You don’t need to be an expert in this area to realise that these are hugely complex negotiations in which everyone wants to make sure they are getting an agreement that works for them. There is no deal until a deal has actually been agreed, yet the noises coming from A’s President Dave Kaval and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf over the past few days suggest that the parties are much closer than perhaps some would believe.

The Main Danger

In a project as complex as this there is always a potential problem around the corner; however the main one is a matter of timing.

Mayor Schaaf’s term in office will come to an end in November when a new Mayor and councillors will be elected. As is the case with local government bodies around the world, when a new Mayor/Council Leader and new ruling group is elected there is always a period of stasis in which decisions are put on hold as the newly formed Council reviews what’s in progress and sets out its priorities for the term ahead.

Measures that have been worked on for months, if not years, can suddenly grind to a halt, whether that’s because the new administration doesn’t support the activity or, more often, they would prefer to divert potential funds away from it to a topic that they campaigned on.

The current timeline, building in a few inevitable delays, puts the A’s on track to open a ballpark at Howard Terminal in 2027. Even if a new administration ultimately voted in favour of the plans, delaying a binding vote by 4 months or so could actually mean delaying the project by an entire year and a launch date of Opening Day 2028.

This is why the A’s are campaigning so strongly for a binding vote to take place in September or October. Whether that is achievable could go a long way to determining if the A’s stay in Oakland or move their attention to Las Vegas.

All of the work that has been completed over the past three years, let alone the money the A’s have already spent on the Howard Terminal project, leaves me in no doubt that the primary objective of John Fisher and MLB is to stay in the Bay Area if everyone can make it work.

Hopefully the BCDC vote this week will be a springboard to getting a binding vote over the next 3-4 months and making that dream a reality.

Further info

Casey Pratt continues to provide outstanding coverage of all the intricacies around the Howard Terminal project. His interviews with Kaval and Schaaf after Thursday’s vote are linked to below.

Exit mobile version