The illusion of pendulum swings
There’s been a wide range of reaction from Bud Selig’s non-update yesterday.
- Gwen Knapp: “No decision means ‘no’ to the A’s. They aren’t getting the rights to San Jose, not yet, not soon, not even over Larry Baer’s stone-cold corpse.”
- Mark Purdy: “And no action was taken — although Wolff’s quotes do indicate the blue-ribbon panel’s findings back up his contention that none of the Oakland stadium ‘proposals’ amount to anything.” (Purdy also brought up a potential antitrust case on KNBR.)
- Ray Ratto: “So [the owners] see no compelling reason to hurry toward a decision they don’t want to make anyway.”
- Art Spander: “The solution to all this is for Wolff, who wants nothing to do with authorities and business people in Oakland, a place he doesn’t live, to reach a compromise.”
- Robert Gammon: “…it seems clear that the Giants’ presentation was more persuasive and that the rest of the league has no intention of overruling the Giants’ opposition to the A’s move.”
- Jon Heyman: “Some progress is seen in that a significant amount of discussion is being dedicated to the A’s to the point where the talk has moved from committees to baseball’s Executive Council.”
- Buster Olney: “The time has come for Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff to start firing off lawsuits in effort to move to San Jose — or sell the team.”
- Ken Rosenthal: “Do not get distracted by any of this. The A’s focus is still on San Jose. The focus of the entire sport is on how the A’s can get to San Jose.”
Here’s what we knew going into the meetings:
- There would be no official action taken on T-rights.
That’s it. Both the A’s and Giants made presentations, which some believe is encouraging and some don’t. Former Giants managing partner Bill Neukom was present at the meetings, presumably to plead the Giants’ case. It seems likely that both teams will continue to make presentations at future owners meetings until a decision is made.
The decision thing is the issue. The sad truth of the matter is that MLB doesn’t have to decide anything anytime soon, just as Lew Wolff doesn’t have to sell the team anytime soon. The A’s will stay afloat via revenue sharing through the end of the CBA, and as long as Wolff and Billy Beane don’t get out in front of their skis in terms of payroll, the team should continue to make money. In that short-term vein, the “best interests of baseball” may be to keep the status quo. You could easily say that Selig is kicking the can down the road, where his eventual successor will have to resolve the dispute. You might also say that the tossed off comment about moving outside the Bay Area is strategic one meant to incite at least a little panic. That may have worked in Miami and Minneapolis, but it’s not going to work here. It never has.
Eventually that short-term position will end and be replaced by a long-term, permanent solution. That’s when some kind of decision will have to be made. Unfortunately for us A’s fans, we have no idea when that might happen. There’s certainly no urgency on the matter. Maybe MLB is waiting for the Giants to retire debt, though the prospect of the team refinancing some of the remaining debt creates a gray area in its own right. The post-redevelopment world hasn’t shaken out yet, and won’t for at least several months.
Until some of these variables settle, it’s in baseball’s best interests to keep both Oakland and San Jose in play. For Selig to kill either option would be poor strategy on his part. San Jose boosters and politicians may be frustrated, but at least the city has most of its pieces in place. Oakland is finally getting some momentum thanks to Don Knauss, though it’s too early to tell if that momentum is real and sustainable. As long as a decision isn’t made on San Jose that shuts out Oakland, another lease extension at the Coliseum can be negotiated. This vague flexibility even opens up the possibility that Fremont could re-enter the picture, perhaps as soon as the next elected mayor takes office in 2013.
The wildcard here would be if San Jose decides to unleash the legal hounds. Again, this is where I think Selig’s M.O. comes into play. As long as Selig can say, “We’re still studying this,” there’s no specific decision to point to that San Jose can build an antitrust case around. Sure, they can make threats, but until someone files a case it won’t mean much.
Until then, what we’ve got here is a Mexican standoff. How do those usually turn out?