Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday the A’s need for a new stadium remains a top priority for Major League Baseball – and that the best-case scenario is for the A’s to stay where they are.
Manfred, who is visiting all 30 teams in his first full season as commissioner, was at O.co Coliseum on Friday and said he is “firmly committed” to the idea that the A’s can be a “well-supported, successful franchise here in Oakland.”
Manfred also said that A’s ownership has been “pretty clear” that the best place to build a new ballpark is on the site of O.co Coliseum.
Complicating things is that the A’s share the Coliseum with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, who are also seeking a new home. Manfred said he believes progress on a new A’s stadium has been impeded by the city of Oakland and Alameda County being in the “unenviable position” of dealing with the Raiders’ stadium issues at the same time.
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The current Coliseum is the only facility that hosts both an MLB and NFL team. And if the Raiders were to try to build a new stadium on the current site, Manfred indicated the A’s would have to look elsewhere for a new home.
“I think that my information is that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have two facilities on the current Coliseum site,” Manfred said.
The A’s have also eyed San Jose as a possible destination in the past, but the cross-bay Giants have prevented that move by claiming territorial rights. Manfred said that issue remains the source of “really significant litigation,” and, “I can’t foresee any movement at least until that litigation is resolved.”
While reiterating past comments that the A’s stadium situation is a prominent issue for the commissioner, Manfred stressed that MLB considers stadium issues as local issues.
“On stadium efforts we try to be as helpful as possible,” Manfred said, “but after trying to be helpful, our most important principle is to never lose sight of the fact that stadiums are a peculiarly local issue.”
Manfred urged that the city of Oakland and Alameda County “focus on the need to get something done in respect to baseball -- not to the detriment of football, but the need to get something done with baseball.”
“I’ve said publicly I think it’s absolutely vital to the long-term health of this franchise that the A’s get a new facility,” Manfred said. “It remains my goal, part of baseball’s long-standing policy, that we try to get that stadium built here in Oakland, where the A’s have been and have their fan base.”
During a roughly 20-minute session with reporters, Manfred addressed a variety of topics including fan voting for the All Star Game. Concerns have been raised about the fact that Kansas City Royals players currently lead at eight of nine American League positions in fan voting, which determines starters for the game.
Manfred said he believes the current system is “an important form of fan engagement” and that there are “protections” built in to ensure the best players appear in the game -- players and managers select the rest of the All-Star rosters, and managers decide who plays the majority of the game.
Beyond that, Manfred said: “Fans have a way of correcting (irregularities) by the end of the voting. We’ve seen already markets outside Kansas City where they’re saying, ‘Gee, it ought to be my guy.’”
Still, Manfred said if things do not self-correct, he’s open to examining the system.
“If after that game we look at things and decide the fan voting needs an adjustment, that will be an adjustment we make for next year, and I’m not closed to the idea there should be adjustments.”
In that vein, Manfred was also asked about recent comments that he might be open to a 154-game regular season. Manfred said Friday that would still allow baseball to preserve the integrity of its records, since previous seasons were played to 154 games. But he said that “leaning towards” that change “would be too strong” a term.
The major issue is the economic effect on teams and broadcasting agreements of taking away four home games. Manfred said that has caused a “reluctance in the industry” to even consider shortening the season.
“In the last couple of years, people in the game have shown more willingness to at least analyze what the ramifications would be,” he said. “But I think that’s really the best way to characterize where it is right now.”