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OAKLAND – Bud Selig is making a farewell tour of ballparks that allows him to reflect on his accomplishments as commissioner of the Major Leagues.
He admitted Tuesday, while visiting the Coliseum, that one of his regrets will be the failure to get the A’s a new ballpark by the time he leaves office in January 2015.
Selig was peppered with lots of stadium and territorial rights-related questions during a press conference before the A’s played the New York Mets. He revealed very little in terms of fresh insight into the A’s struggle to build a new venue, which has been on Selig’s radar since at least March 2009, when he dispatched a committee to explore the team’s ballpark options.
He’ll retire after a 22-year run as commissioner that has seen the sport grow exponentially in terms of generating reveunue, and 22 franchises have moved into new stadiums on his watch. The A’s and Tampa Bay Rays remain two glaring exceptions of clubs who need new venues and have made little to no progress in building them.
“One of the reasons for the resurgence of this sport are the new stadiums, there’s no question about it,” Selig said. “I know better than anybody (that the A’s need a new stadium). It was and is complicated. I know people don’t understand that, but it is. And if it was easy, just like if it was easy in Tampa, I’d have been 24 out of 24. But I have hopes in both places. Do I wish it’d been solved? Of course I do. I wish it had.”
His successor as commissioner, MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred, will inherit a situation in which the Giants maintain territorial rights over San Jose, where the A’s have long wanted to build a new ballpark. Now the issue is in litigation, with the city of San Jose suing MLB over the right to lure the A’s.
Asked why the Giants maintain territorial rights to Santa Clara County even after they wound up not building a ballpark there in the early 1990’s – when the A’s reportedly granted them that territory for the sole purpose of building a stadium – Selig refused ot go into details, other than saying that issue was in the hands of each team’s former ownership. That would be former Giants owner Bob Lurie and the Haas family, which owned the A’s.
“Well, the parties at that time didn’t revert it back (to sharing Santa Clara County),” Selig said. “If you ask me why, I guess what I would say is you’d have to go ask them.”
Selig also defended himself against the view that he and his office have been a road block to the A’s being able to build a new stadium.
“I didn’t create the stadium nor did I create the controversy,” he said. “I’m the one sitting in the middle. That’s all right … What would I like to do? I’d like to resolve the issue like I did everywhere else. But this is unique in that you have two teams that have dissimilar opinions. Better they blame the commissioner than (A’s co-owner) Lew (Wolff).”