A's, Giants lacking grounds for compromise

ON BASEBALL

March 14, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

The Bay Area rivalry between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants has gotten personal, and it bears a hint of the animosity that has developed in Washington over the Orioles' reluctance to endorse a second team in the region.

The A's would like to have the option of building a new ballpark in the South Bay suburb of Santa Clara, but the Giants insist that they own territorial rights to the area and do not want any competition for the affluent fans that come into the city to attend games at SBC Park.

Needless to say, there isn't a lot of love lost between A's co-owner Steve Schott and Giants owner Peter Magowan, who insisted again Monday that the Giants would not give up their territorial claim - not even for a price.

"Obviously, Magowan feels strongly about that," Schott said during a state-of-the-team conversation with reporters at the A's spring training site in Phoenix. "He came out just the other day with a statement. I don't know if it was to diffuse the bigger problems he might have. I'm not sure what those all are, but he said that there's territory rights and blah blah blah."

Schott claims that the Giants are trying to have it both ways, since they originally got permission to move south, but ended up building their new ballpark right at the entrance to the Oakland Bay Bridge.

"I'm not a history buff by any means," Schott said. "But I believe that when Charlie Finley moved the A's out here, and the Giants were already here, there was no questions and no discussions about territorial rights. The only way the Giants ended up with territorial rights was because they were going to build a stadium down in San Jose.

"There was no question about whose territory it was. They had to get permission from the A's. They didn't pay for those territorial rights, by the way. Now, in the meantime, they built a stadium closer to Oakland than they were before. And now, if we talk about another stadium down in that area, they go berserk. It's like my 4-year-old granddaughter says sometimes, `crybaby, crybaby.' They like to cry a lot about it."

The A's can only dream of a setup like SBC Park. They are mired in a small-market morass that will only be solved by the increased revenue that would come from a new baseball-only ballpark. Schott indicated that he would like to keep the team in the East Bay, but he wouldn't entirely rule out a legal battle over the territorial rights issue.

"If push comes to shove, I'm not exactly saying what we'll do, but there will be a time when we'll have to do something because we can't exist in the situation we are at," Schott said. "And I don't intend to continue to exist how we are."

Sensitive subject

Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker recently compared the growing steroid scandal to a "witchhunt," and he feels he has the right and the duty to speak up before the rush to identify possible steroid users scars a lot of innocent people.

Baker knows what it is like to be painted with a broad brush. He was pushed out of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in the mid-1980s because of rumors of drug use, and revealed recently that he was forced by then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth to submit to regular drug testing for the remainder of his playing career.

"That's how I knew what I was talking about," Baker told Chicago's suburban Daily Southtown. "I've still got the newspaper articles. I've still got everything in a drawer. Someday, when I write my memoirs and everything, I'll talk about it again. Right now, I'll leave it there until then."

Ueberroth singled out Baker because his name was mentioned by one of the central figures in the Pittsburgh drug scandal that led to disciplinary action for several big-name players. Baker was never implicated in the criminal proceeding, but guilt by association was enough to prompt Ueberroth to order testing for Baker and nine other players.

"It was bad on my family," Baker said. "It cost me a lot of money. It cost me a lot in reputation and there was a cloud that took years to go away - and it'll never go away in my heart."

Prior hurting

Cubs pitcher Mark Prior, who has been hobbled by an inflamed Achilles' tendon, may have to start the regular season on the disabled list. He has begun playing catch, but there is no timetable for his first exhibition appearance.

Baker still is holding out hope that Prior will be ready to open the season on time, but he isn't frightened by the possibility that the young power pitcher may have to remain at extended spring training for a week or two.

"We're not even looking at that," Baker said. "If that possibility is there - I'm not saying that's the case - we used to keep Bobby Welch behind every year in spring training. If you're behind, you've got to catch up at the normal pace. You can't catch up at an accelerated pace or something else may happen."

Baker was referring to a chronic elbow problem that plagued Welch in spring training when he was with the Dodgers and Oakland A's.

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