Oakland A’s stadium situation continues to get backed up

Posted Sunday, Jun. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Ooh, that smell.

The Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners could smell that smell a week ago, when the plumbing on the lower levels at the O.co Coliseum became blocked and started flooding the lower levels of the stadium with waste water and sewage.

The pipes at the worst ballpark in the majors — so bad that Tropicana Field seems like Eden — couldn’t handle six days of relatively large crowds and started backing up because of an “unidentifiable mass.”

A giant rat probably wouldn’t surprise anyone. Maybe that’s where Jimmy Hoffa has been all these years. Josh Hamilton’s final series there last year made a lot of people sick and lingers still.

Whatever it was rendered the A’s and visitors’ clubhouses a biohazard. Even the umpires’ room was at least ankle deep in, well, not Baby Ruth bars.

“We walked in and we smelled it, and I was like, ‘What is that?’” A’s first baseman Brandon Moss said. “I thought it was the food. They said the sewage backed up, and it was literally poop in there.”

The good news, if there was any, was that the Oakland Raiders’ locker room was unaffected and ready for use. The best news was that it was getaway day, and there has been ample time to scrub, sterilize and disinfect everything.

The bad news is that the issue isn’t unusual, and it has happened when there has been no one in the stadium for extended periods.

The worst news is that the team isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, which just isn’t right.

The A’s are the baseball version of Andy Dufresne, who was wrongfully trapped inside a decaying facility until he crawled through a river of, um, sewage and came out clean on the other side.

Of course, it took the lead character in The Shawshank Redemption 19 years to escape his prison. The day when the A’s are freed from theirs, O.co Coliseum, also seems to be a pipe dream.

“Here’s the thing: If it happens, I’ll probably never get to play in it,” Moss said. “It takes so many years to get everything done. You’ve got to get the plans, and then you’ve got to break ground, and then you’ve got to build it. I would love to still be here, but who knows?”

While the Coliseum was being cleaned up, lawyers started shoveling through the sewage by suing. The city of San Jose sued Major League Baseball last week for refusing to let Oakland move to the 10th largest city in the country, population 984,229.

There are another 825,000 people in Santa Clara County, from Gilroy to the south to Palo Alto to the north.

At issue are the territorial rights that the A’s kindly gave to the Giants in the 1990s to allow the Giants to try to leave their crummy ballpark, Candlestick Park, for San Jose. But the Giants aren’t being so gracious 20-plus years later, fearful that the franchise would lose value should its territorial rights be revoked.

That seems outrageous in one breath but makes sense in another.

The Giants have been entrenched in the Bay Area longer and have one of the jewels of baseball as their home ballpark. If fans in the San Jose area who attend Giants games were to suddenly start going to A’s games close to home, those seats would almost certainly be filled.

After all, the Giants have won two of the past three World Series and are second in attendance this year.

But it’s not just butts in seats that they fear would be lost. Advertising dollars could go elsewhere, and the Giants’ television package could lose value if the companies carrying their games decided to not increase the prices on their customers.

The great equalizer, as the players caught up in the Biogenesis mess are learning, is that MLB has deep pockets and can flash its cash to settle up any dispute. If the Giants were to lose their territorial rights, MLB could throw them a lump sum or even an annual payment to make any losses go away.

The commissioner also could lean on his power to do what is best for the game. Keeping the A’s from moving to a larger market and into a shiny new ballpark — with reliable plumbing — is not in the game’s best interest.

MLB’s blue-ribbon committee looking into the issue should have unearthed that on Day One, but four years later there has been no report given. Maybe the lawyers will light a fire under the committee members.

Meanwhile, the A’s will keep waiting for their chance to escape, and will probably wonder what’s going to happen each time they flush a toilet.

“It’s out of our control,” Moss said. “It’s not state-of-the art. It’s not aesthetic. It isn’t appealing. It doesn’t have amenities. But it’s where we play, and we play pretty well there. I don’t think any of us shows up every day and is like, ‘Gosh, I wish we didn’t have to play here.’

“Would we like to play in a nicer place? Who doesn’t? You definitely want a place people can enjoy, and can enjoy being there, and it’s a good experience.”

Jeff Wilson. 817-390-7760 Twitter:@JeffWilson_FWST

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