The hot news dump of the day is that the San Francisco Giants are “considering” the conversion of their ballpark to the home of Black Hole 2.0.
And by “considering,” we mean trying to figure out how much money they can squeeze out of Mark Davis’ claws to let them tear up the ball field 10 times. Or, more practically, whether they can allow the ball field to be torn up a minimum of three times for a ten-figure rent check.
For starters, this isn’t the first time the subject has been broached. The Raiders discussed the idea of playing at AT&T while the Coliseum would have been renovated several years ago, and Davis was considered to be bullish on the idea, according to two sources. Those renovations never happened, as events in Los Angeles and later Las Vegas intervened. It is not known how far along the Giants were in these discussions or whether they were involved at all.
Second, the number of potential options are almost nonexistent, as more than one source has said that San Diego is a complete non-starter in the eyes of the NFL with the Rams and Chargers up the road. Both teams are marketing heavily in San Diego and don’t want their efforts damaged by even a year of the Raiders.
Third, nobody -- including the league -- is very keen on Santa Clara except in a disaster scenario, which a deal at AT&T would avert.
And fourth, Oakland is still considered by most people around the process to be the most viable result, with a bit of lawyering between the city and the team the only real obstacle to a temporary cessation of hostilities.
But if Oakland is truly out of the picture, let’s consider the logistics.
The 2019 regular season will open September 5, a Thursday night which is traditionally reserved for the home opener of the Super Bowl champion. So no Raiders then, we can safely say ...
Thus, the season actually begins on September 8, which means that conceivably the Raiders could play their first three games on the road and then have their “home” opener in either London or Mexico City on the 29th, which also happens to be the final day of Major League Baseball’s regular season. They could also be among the first teams to have their bye week in Week 4, so assuming the Giants are not a playoff team (which is awfully safe even with Pat Venditte), the Raiders wouldn’t have to play a regular season game at AT&T until after the Giants season is over.
In addition, the Raiders could play at least one, if not both, of their exhibition games at neutral sites, which would mean they would only need AT&T for eight rather than 10 dates. That way, their cleats would only foul the hallowed grounds of the National League West’s last-place team twice at most and zero times at best, and Davis wouldn’t have his delicates in a clot over the shame of paying for more infield dirt.
Other possibilities, though less likely, include the Giants and Dodgers swapping their season-ending series so that the Raiders could have their home opener on the 29th, or the Giants swapping their last series with Colorado so that the Raiders could open on Thursday the 26th. Those are longshots, though, and would have to be cleared with Major League Baseball and its players association, if for no better reason than the optic of conciliation.
So that’s the logistics -- maximum money, minimum damage to the pasture of the real cash cow.
Now the psychic issue -- football on said hallowed grounds. Nice try, but no sell. The Giants have taken rent money from Vince McMahon for his XFL team. That means they would take money from nearly anyone as long as the amount meets the current industry standard of “all we can grab.” And the Giants are not averse to taking money.
Finally, there are the aesthetics of Raiders fans at Third And King v. the snobbery of your San Francisco sporting intellgentsia. Again, this is a minimal issue; they can tailgate on the ferries from Alameda and Oakland, or on BART, or if they’re really elitist, on the limo from Concord. There will be Parking Lot A for a precious few, but it might take some convincing just to get Raider fans to give the Giants the money they already are paying to cover Mark’s lease payments.
In short, this is not a difficult do logistically, financially or emotionally, unless the fans rise as one (or, in case there is only one fan left) and say they will not watch the Raiders play as the home team in San Francisco.
But as a cynical matter, Davis surely must regard the 2019 season as something to get out of the way before the fun of owning the team resumes in 2020. In that way, he’ll be a bit like Dean Spanos, killing time as the cost of doing business, only the likelihood of the Raiders winning the AFC West next year is a lot less than that of the Los Angeles Chargers winning it this year. Jon Gruden might complain about a potential competitive disadvantage, but having eight of the last 12 games at home would mean his objections would be effectively muted. That, plus the fact that the team he would bring to bear in 2019 would still be at least a light year from playoff contention, would nullify his objections almost as much as Mark Davis saying, “You make $10 million a year, play with pain.”
So yes, it can be done, for the right amount of money (the Raiders were willing to give $7.5 million to the city of Oakland, so Larry Baer would surely be looking at $10 million as a starting point for negotiations, or in the alternative the parking and concessions, making the Raiders a cash-poor team yet one more year). And if either Giants or Raiders fans find the concept objectionable, well, I think we can honestly figure that if the fans ever figured into this at any point, the Raiders wouldn’t be in the position they’re in today -- homeless, desperate, and willing to take a short-term punch in the face for a long-term home.