SAN JOSE — Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff said Wednesday that indecision by Major League Baseball over whether his club can move to San Jose has been "excruciating" but that he believes the process is finally nearing an end.
Just not as quickly as he'd like.
Taking questions at the downtown Rotary Club of San Jose, Wolff said the uncertainty about the possible move is harming the franchise more than anything. He's hopeful that a resolution from baseball is coming soon — a word that has been reiterated by many for years.
"I'm not going to continue this much longer," Wolff said. "What we want is an answer. We want a yes, you can relocate and share the district, share the territory. Or you can't. But not having any answer is very difficult. Not just for me, but for the people that work for us, for planning our baseball team every year."
The A's need approval from league owners to move to the south bay, where the San Francisco Giants hold territorial rights to the technology-rich region filled with fans and corporate dollars. Not to mention the Giants' Class-A affiliate is in San Jose.
Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a committee in March 2009 to evaluate the issue facing the Bay Area teams. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said Wednesday there was nothing new from the commissioner's office on the situation since Selig's remarks at the owners' meetings last month that the issue was on the "front burner."
Wolff again refused to give a time frame on a possible decision — perhaps because even he's not sure when one could come down — and hinted that he could force a vote by league owners in a few months if a ruling remains in limbo. He later clarified to reporters that he plans to wait for the committee's recommendations.
"We're following the process. It's excruciating," Wolff said. "We talk constantly on many matters. I think we're getting there. We have ways where we can be a belligerent owner. It's not in me at this point."
Among the other notable items:
•Wolff said buying out the Giants' territorial rights to San Jose "has not been discussed with us."
•He confirmed the team would be renamed the San Jose A's if it relocated. There was even a stuffed version of Stomper, the A's mascot, dressed in a "San Jose Athletics" uniform that greeted guest at the luncheon.
•Wolff said he'd be fine if the Giants wanted to keep their Class-A team in San Jose.
•The A's are not exploring a move to any other city and selling the team is not an option now.
•Wolff said the team took in about $32 million in revenue sharing from other teams last season. He said the franchise spent all of the money, about half on player payroll. He expects payroll to be about $65 million to $70 million next season.
Without a deal to move out of the outdated Oakland Coliseum, the A's maintain that they can't compete with other clubs. Oakland shed several of its best players this winter — including top starters Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and closer Andrew Bailey — for talented prospects in the latest payroll purge.
"I have one grandchild who still won't talk to me since we traded Gio," Wolff said.
Wolff, a successful Los Angeles real estate developer, reiterated the he has exhausted all efforts to keep the team in Oakland.
The A's also had previously planned to build a state-of-the-art stadium in nearby Fremont that they thought would eventually transform the small-budget club into a big spender. That plan, which would have been in partnership with Cisco Systems Inc., fell through because of a variety of complications — including public transportation issues.
There also are similar environmental and transportation concerns that could derail the San Jose project with a series of lawsuits, including one against the Silicon Valley city from a Giants-supported group called "Stand for San Jose." Wolff believes all those issues will be resolved and that lawsuits are often part of the process.
"If you have a cure for cancer in California, somebody is going to be against it," he joked.
Wolff declined to go into specifics about what is holding up a decision from the Selig-appointed committee. But he said everything has been researched and discussed by the club and all that's needed now is a decision.
"If baseball is hiding some magic formula," Wolff said, "I wish they'd tell me."