Oakland A's owner Charles O. Finley said yesterday he believes the remaining 11 years of his team's 20-year contract with the Oakland Coliseum could be bought for $1.375 million to permit the club to move to Washington.
"I think something can be worked out. The leagues can work it out," Finley said of the possibility of the American and National leagues assuming the A's $125,000-a-year lease.
Such a team move, he said, would clear the Bay area of the Franchise congestion that is cutting into the A's and the National League San Francisco Giant's attendance and income.
There is little expectation in baseball circles that any action would be taken in for the 1977 season.
In return for buying off the lease, Finley said he would ask to have Oakland join the NL and switch to Washington if the Giants would also agree to play half their home games at the Coliseum and half in Candlestick Park.
But Bill Cunningham, general manager of the Oakland Coliseum, said recently that the lease agreement requires the A's to play all their home games at the Coliseum through 1987 and has no provisions for the buying out of any unused portion.
The city would likely seek an injuction if the A's tried to move, Cunningham said, adding that the club's presence brings an estimated $500,000 in revenue to the city annually.
"For anything else to happen, it would require the approval of the city, county and the baseball owners," Cunningham said of Finley's proposals.
Bob Lurie, the majority owner of the Giants, remarked, "It (the plan) could work and if it solves the problem, let's do it. It would be very tough, politically, here to sell the idea, but it's worth exploring.
"We'd have to find out whether they're willing to renegotiate the lease."
Lurie and Finley had called him about his proposal last December "and said he was interested in moving. I told Charlie we have a lease saying we have to play every game here. But I told him if he was interested in moving, we could talk about it."
Noting that the Giants lost almost $800,000 last year and that expenses are up $1 million for this year. Lurie said, "If he wants to move, I'll get him a bus ticket and help him."
I've had that feeling that he wants to get out of baseball. He has to be in the worst shape ever and he hasn't done a thing this year to promote the team. My feeling is that he does want to sell."
American League president Lee S. MacPhail said he has had discussions with Finley about his financial problems, but that they have not talked about a possible shift of the A's to the National League.
An NL team in Washington, Finley said, "would be a steal, a goldmine. The stigma left by Bob Short and Calvin Griffith (former Washington club owners) can be overcome by Charlie O - Charlie O. from Chicago."
In the past two months, Finley has often said he is interested in having the A's switch to the National League and move to Washington - a plan that would result in two 13-club leagues, with limited interleague play.
Those familiar with the A's situation believe Finley will try to sell the club before Judge Frank J. McGarr hands down his decision, probably in March, on Finley's $3.5 million suit against baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
In court testimony and in pretrial briefs, Finley said he needed the money to "remain in . . . baseball."
Adding to his financial burden is a pending divorce and the Internal Revenue Service's interest in his failure to file corporate income tax returns in 1975. "He has asked us for an extension," an IRS source said.
Finley said he does not have any particular timetable for a possible sale.
"I don't have anything to hide. Things are rough in Oakland and baseball can't survive here," Finley said recently. "I'm in a hell of a predicament. The fans here didn't support us when we were in three World Series and five consecutive championships.
"If I had the (choice) of staying or going, I'd say let the Giants go, but if not I'd willing to go. One team has to go."
Finley has set his asking price for the team at $12.5 million, a figure some people believe unrealistic because most of Oakland's best players have signed with other teams.
Because the Baltimore Orioles control AL territorial rights for Washington, Finley would have to switch to the NL if he came here.
The NL has suspended its unanimous-consent rule for a year on all matters relating to placing a club in Washington. But while the NL might approve taking in the A's, it is doubtful many club owners would welcome Finley in the package.
Asked if he would want to remain as a majority or equal partner with new owner in Washington, Finley replied, "It doesn't make any difference . . . I wouldn't make any commitment for that. I'd prefer to retain ownership in Washington, but it's got a must. The team has got to move."