November 14, 2006
After months of rumors, the actual announcement was a little anticlimactic. The Oakland Athletics have agreed to purchase a 143 acres of land from Cisco Systems on which to build their future home. The new stadium will be called "Cisco Field" under a 30-year naming rights agreement, with payments of about $4 million per year. (Thirty years? In the high-tech sector, the likelihood that even a solid company like Cisco will keep the same name for three full decades is just about zero.) The A's will continue to play at Oakland (McAfee) Coliseum through at least 2010, with an option to play through 2013. See MLB.com. Note the words "with the intent of constructing..." The important thing to remember is, this is not a done deal. The A's could sell that parcel of land, possibly making a profit, if San Jose or Oakland (hey, anything's possible) come up with better deals. I admit I've been skeptical about this project all along, but I really don't think the A's would go this far on a major deal with a mega-corporation like Cisco unless they were serious about seeing it through.
I think it's a shame that Oakland, Berkeley, and other cities on the north east side of the Bay could not support a successful franchise like the A's. Moving south toward Silicon Valley makes economic sense, but the idea of building a new ballpark in the suburban wilderness is highly questionable. It reminds me of the failed proposal to build a baseball stadium next to Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia, which would have been a disaster for the Montreal-Washington franchise. If it weren't for MLB's dumb, short-sighted territorial monopolies (which have hamstrung the Washington Nationals, thanks to Peter Angelos, as we all know), the A's could simply move straight to San Jose without a hitch.
Mike Purdy, of the San Jose Mercury News, suggests that the team be called the "San Jose A's of Fremont." (That story includes a photo of the stadium site; hat tip to Mike Zurawski.) If they are going to hype their new high-tech association, then "Athletics" isn't as appropriate as it used to be. How about the "Silicon Valley Techno-Geeks"?
As expected, Manny Acta was officially named as the new manager of the Washington Nationals today. General Manager Jim Bowden said, "It was evident to me that Manny has a tremendous blend of intellect, motivational skills and discipline." That combination of attributes would seem to make him an ideal candidate for the position. See MLB.com or Washington Post. The fact that Acta worked under Frank Robinson in Montreal is an additional plus. That makes me wonder, is there any chance that Frank will be asked to serve in a semi-official transitional capacity between now and spring training?
I'm familiar with a lot of Spanish surnames, but I've never heard of the Acta family before. I did once purchase an outliner software program called "Acta," however.
I really think this marks the first major landmark of the Washington Nationals as a truly independent, competitive franchise. Until the sale was completed in June, all personnel decisions were constrained by the lack of a solid long-term commitment. The trading decisions in July and since then were mainly of a short-term, maintenance character. Now the Nationals are moving ahead with a clear plan of action and the means to put together a winning team. Look out Mets, here we come! (OK, maybe not until 2008, but we're on our way!)
Mayor-elect Adrian Fenty is pushing the City Council to pass a scaled-down stadium parking plan. Instead of the fancy retail/high-rise complex outgoing Mayor Tony Williams wanted, Fenty wants to build two plan garages north of the stadium. Time is of the essence if the city is to finish the stipulated parking facilities by April 2008, but there are sharply different estimates on how much the fine would be. Herbert Miller, who was going to build the cancelled mixed-use project, is suing the city for $40 million, alleging breach of contract. See Washington Post. For many fans in Maryland and Virginia, it will be easier to get to the stadium from the south, crossing the Frederick Douglass Bridge which spans the Anacostia River. It is aging rapidly, however, as is Route 295 that connects with the Beltway further south. I expect there to be a lot of heated debate on rebuilding those road connections in the next five or so years.