Could Oakland Athletics Wind Up In Sacramento?

A general view of the Oakland Athletics game against the Texas Rangers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The A's have struck out every time they've brought up the idea of moving from Oakland to San Jose. What if they tried a place in California that's nearly as close?

Well now, that's a provocative headline. Sacramento? Where'd that come from? The Oakland Athletics have been trying to move to San Jose for quite some time, only to be blocked by the San Francisco Giants, who own the territorial rights to the South Bay.

The A's had reportedly been granted permission to move last December, but then they weren't, and that made the Giants all mad, and then Bud Selig said a lot of words on the issue that meant, essentially, nothing.

So, several months after a report that the A's would be allowed to go to San Jose and three years after Bud said this was an urgent matter, we're still at square one. Maybe even behind square one, given Bud's dawdling.

That's where this Associated Press report sneaked in Monday:

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has given up trying to keep an NBA team and is instead aiming to lure a Major League Baseball franchise to his city.

Johnson and his Think Big Sacramento task force announced a plan Monday to market California's capital city as a possible landing spot for a major league team.

Sacramento. Capital city of California. 20th-largest television market in the USA -- bigger than seven markets that already have major-league teams (Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Baltimore, San Diego, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Milwaukee). Metropolitan Sacramento is home to about 2.2 million people, about the same size as metro Denver, Cincinnati or Cleveland. 87 miles from the A's home stadium, says Google Maps.

Why couldn't it be a good home for a major-league team?

First, A's owner Lew Wolff says the team isn't for sale, though anything can probably be bought for the right price. Second, Sacramento doesn't have a suitable stadium; Raley Field, the 14,000-seat home of the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, wasn't designed to be easily expandable, though this link suggests it could be (though for a minimum cost of $250 million, and that was written in 2009; it would certainly be more now). Such a renovation would bring its capacity to about 32,500 -- which would be the smallest in the major leagues.

It still makes some sense, if the money for stadium renovations could be raised. The River Cats have been Oakland's Triple-A affiliate since 1999, so there's some fan loyalty; it's within reasonable driving distance of Oakland (San Jose is almost half as far, 40 miles) so that some of the existing fanbase could still attend games; CSN California, the A's TV home, is carried on cable systems in Sacramento so MLB would actually be adding a TV market without losing one, and such a move wouldn't be subject to veto by the Giants.

Clearly, this is a longshot; there probably isn't money for the stadium they'd need, and so the A's will likely continue to focus on San Jose. But it's at least worth investigating by MLB, Lew Wolff, and the powers-that-be in Sacramento.

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