A’s prep for grand opening in San Jose

It almost seems like a dare.

The Oakland Athletics are again dismantling, this time in preparation for a move to San Jose that baseball has yet to formally consider, much less approve.

“We have no chance but to operate under the possible illusion that we’ll get a new stadium,” A’s general manager Billy Beane said Friday. “It’s really the only answer for us.”

So, here we go again.

Baseball needs to resolve the Athletics’ future, and soon.

But for now, the opening date for Cisco Field in San Jose remains the Twelfth of Never, and Athletics officials do not consider Oakland a viable long-term option.

In mid-November, I reported that baseball was trying to accelerate a decision on whether to allow the A’s to relocate to San Jose and that a meeting between commissioner Bud Selig and San Francisco Giants officials would take place within two weeks.

That meeting still has not occurred, according to major league sources. The Giants remain adamantly opposed to relinquishing their territorial rights to San Jose and the South Bay region. And the Athletics’ situation will not be on the agenda at the next owners’ meetings in January, sources say.

Full speed ahead!

The A’s, forced to prepare for another season in limbo, assessed their position relative to their two principal division rivals, the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers and suddenly free-spending Los Angeles Angels.

The assessment, which took about six seconds to complete, produced the obvious conclusion: The Athletics have zero chance to contend in 2012.

Hence the white flag, which the A’s are waving quite prominently, certainly high enough for Selig to see.

If baseball allows the Athletics to move to San Jose, the A’s will be ahead of the curve with their latest rebuilding plan, timing the development of their young players to coincide with the opening of the new park. Co-owner Lewis Wolff has said that once the team is free to move, the park could open in 30 to 36 months.

But if baseball continues to delay approval — and keep in mind, Selig appointed a three-member committee to study the franchise’s situation in March 2009 — then the Athletics will continue to assemble one cheap young team after another, operating in accordance with their sinking revenues.

Right-hander Trevor Cahill and lefty Gio Gonzalez, the latest veterans traded by the A’s, were not all that established or expensive, at least not for any team living above baseball’s poverty line.

Cahill, 23, is under club control through 2017, with team-friendly salaries that top out at $13.5 million in his final season. Gonzalez, 26, is under club control for four more years, albeit at arbitration-inflated numbers.

Both had to go, in the Athletics’ judgment.

Time to get younger players, and start their clocks anew.

Cahill went to the Diamondbacks, Gonzalez to the Nationals. Closer Andrew Bailey, 27, will be next, possibly followed by catcher Kurt Suzuki, 28. Both are under club control for three more seasons.

“Given the strengths of a couple of teams in our division and their offseason expenditures, it would be Pollyanna-ish to think we could patch something together with a $55 million payroll and expect to compete,” Beane said.

So, why bother?

Beane, according to rival executives, did well for Cahill, even better for Gonzalez. The GM’s plan is to collect as many prospects as possible, sync up their developments and then open Cisco Field in grand style.

“The most successful organization opening a stadium was still the Cleveland Indians,” Beane said, referring to the Indians’ opening of Progressive Field (then Jacobs Field) in 1994.

“For me, they provide the model entry into a new facility — not just having a good stadium, but having a good young team that you can sustain over a long course of time. That’s what we’re using as a blueprint.”

Good idea. Strong execution.

Alas, the park remains an illusion.