49ers Stadium, Giants, A's, All-Star Tickets
by Glenn Dickey
Jul 04, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO mayor Gavin Newsom should keep his mouth shut about the 49ers. His statements are becoming more and more ridiculous.

Last week, he said that, if the 49ers build a new stadium in Santa Clara, he would (1) proceed with plans for a new stadium at Hunter’s Point and seek another team; and (2) petition the NFL to retain the name of 49ers, so a team playing in Santa Clara could not use it.

On the first point: Do you think another NFL team would move to San Francisco if there were already teams in Oakland and Santa Clara? Or that the NFL would put an expansion team there? No and no. As has been well documented, the 49er fan base has mostly moved down the peninsula. San Francisco is no longer a good sports town, as it was when the 49ers started, and it would be suicidal to put a third team there.

So, if San Francisco can’t get another NFL team, who would play in that stadium? Not a major league baseball team. The Giants contract with major league baseball prohibits another team in San Francisco, San Mateo or Santa Clara counties, the clause that has stopped the A’s from moving to San Jose.

So, that leaves what? Soccer? Whoopee.

Newsom cited the example of Cleveland retaining the name of the Browns when the original franchise moved to Baltimore, but that was a much different situation. The team was moving completely out of the area, and the NFL knew it would have to put another team into Cleveland, because of the fan support there. A move by the 49ers to Santa Clara would be about 40 miles, and they’d be moving closer to the bulk of their fan base, not away from it.

As Newsom indicated, the 49ers nickname is very specific to the area, but there is a precedent for pro teams retaining area-specific nicknames. In the NBA, Lakers was an appropriate name for a franchise in Minnesota, which is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, but hardly for Los Angeles, which would be a desert if water weren’t piped in from the Colorado River. Similarly, Jazz was a very appropiate nickname for a New Orleans-based team but the team kept that nickname when it moved to Salt Lake City, which is not exactly renowned for its jazz clubs. Compared to those examples, the Santa Clara 49ers wouldn’t be much of a reach.

In the NFL, there are examples both ways. The Colts retained their nickname when they moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis. When the Oilers moved from Houston, they kept that nickname for one transitional year in Memphis but switched to the Titans when they moved to their new home in Nashville.

And, as has been frequently noted, the Giants and Jets retained their New York designation when they started playing in a different state, New Jersey. With that as an example, the 49ers could still be called the San Francisco 49ers even if they played in Santa Clara.

Meanwhile, it’s by no means certain that the Santa Clara stadium will ever be built. The 49ers plans include building in the Great America parking lot; when the owners of the amusement park voiced their disapproval of that plan, it turned out the 49ers hadn’t even talked to them for eight months. The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight. If push comes to shove, who do you think the Santa Clara officials will back: A team that plays in a stadium 10 times a year or an amusement park that brings in visitors year-round?

Financing remains the big problem. Santa Clara can’t afford to give the 49ers any public money, and you can bet any attempt at a tax to help pay for a stadium will be overwhelmingly defeated.

At the moment, there is no money left in the NFL’s G-2 program to provide “loans” for teams building stadiums, though it’s expected that owners will find a way to replenish that fund.

Even if there is money coming from the league, the bulk of the financing will have to come from the York family, and Denise DeBartolo York has never shown any willingness to make that type of commitment. The 49ers are attempting to get money from investors but anybody smart enough to acquire enough money to make a substantial contribution is too smart to turn it over to John York.

Newsom grew up a 49ers fan in San Francisco, and he doesn’t want to be known as the mayor who lost the team. But he doesn’t really have to worry. What he should do is let the plan to build in Santa Clara fall through the cracks and then re-negotiate with the 49ers from a position of strength. Until then, keep your mouth shut, Gavin.

GOODBYE, MIKE? The emergence of Jack Cust has created an interesting situation with the A's. This business of having Mike Piazza as a backup catcher is, I think, only a way to keep Piazza on the disabled list longer. He could be a DH now, but the A's want to take a longer look at Cust. If he continues to hit as he has been, Cust could be the DH for years - and Piazza will probably be traded to an American League club which can use his bat.

WHAT HAPPENED? Brian Sabean made some excellent moves early in his career as general manager of the Giants, but in the last five years, he has made some very bad decisions.

I think the Giants loss in the 2002 World Series really changed Sabean. He was just enraged at that loss and told his public relations people to downplay the winning of the National League pennant because “we haven’t won anything yet.”

It was about then that he started making strange moves, signing Edgardo Alfonzo, for instance, though it was obvious to everybody else in baseball that Alfonzo’s back problems had robbed him of his power. He traded away Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser for A. J. Pierzynski, whose reputation as a bad apple preceded him. He’s been making desperate moves to try to build a contender around Barry Bonds, and we know how well that’s working.

So far, though, he’s escaped criticism from most of the media because writers and broadcasters seem convinced that his hands are tied, that owner Peter Magowan and chief operating officer Larry Baer are making the decisions.

Not so. It’s still Sabean making the decisions – he and his scouts were sold on Barry Zito, for instance. He has to get Magowan’s approval, and sometimes that has to do with finances, though the Giants have given away the store to Zito and Bonds, who will probably make $20 million this season because of a contract that has easily attainable incentives.

This year, Sabean put together a team that is on track to lose more than 90 games. That will cost him his job, and it should.

GIANTS PROSPECTS: Of the two outfielders the Giants have brought up this year, I prefer Nate Schierholtz to Fred Lewis.

Lewis is a sometimes spectacular player but he has holes in his swing; he looks like a career .250 hitter. Schierholtz has a nice compact swing, runs the bases well and is a good defensive outfielder. At 23, he’s also three years younger than Lewis. Age is a great predictor of success in baseball. A player who doesn’t come up until he’s 26, as Lewis has, is probably never going to be any better.

The Giants this week re-activated Lewis, who had been on injury rehab, and sent Schierholtz back to Fresno, but that’s probably good news for Schierholtz. They want him to play every day so he can develop, which is an indication they think he’s a better prospect than Lewis.

CRAZY COLUMNISTS: One Bay Area columnist claimed that Billy Beane’s decision to designate Milton Bradley for assignment was racially-based, a claim so absurd that his newspaper quickly withdrew his column from its web site. Another one predicted before the season – on two occasions – that Barry Bonds would not exceed 14 homers this season. Bonds had 17 at the halfway mark.

These two columnists have one thing in common: I’ve never seen either of them in the press box, on the field before games or in the clubhouse.

It’s hard to know what’s happening if you don’t get closer than your television set to the games.

FAMILIAR REFRAIN: After Barry Zito, a.k.a. the new face of the Giants franchise, walked five straight batters in the fourth inning of still another Giants loss, he said he was “too fine” and “nitpicking,” adding that, “I have to be a little more aggressive in the zone.”

Is there an echo in here, A’s fans?

SPORTS, CONCERT TICKETS: Tickets for the All-Star game and associated events are available on the TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! link at the bottom of my Home Page. Tickets are also available for the various appearances of Norah Jones and Diana Krall –as well as tickets for hot summer concert tours featuring Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and Gwen Stefani. among others. Click on the Bay Area or national links below and the whole list will come up.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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