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.”
All of that came from a few rather innocuous quotes from Bud Selig. At this point it doesn’t matter what Selig did or didn’t say – the quotes have been twisted so completely that anyone can weave their own “truth” from owners meetings.

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?

73 Responses to The illusion of pendulum swings

  1. Dan says:

    Chris, if they’re not investing now, they’re not going to invest in the future. Just look at how many of the SVLG companies that signed that letter DON’T have sponsorships or suites with the Giants despite their top notch ballpark because they’re too far away. An A’s stadium in Oakland would have the same problem. No amount of new stadium in Oakland will change the fact they’re 45 miles from Silicon Valley.

  2. Sid says:

    The A’s have tried in vain in Oakland for years and due to the sheer ineptitude of the City of Oakland we are in the situation we are in today.

    Oakland in fact is closer to San Jose by a significant margin rather to San Francisco and Bud Selig has shown how much of a coward he is to do the right thing.

    The owners if asked to vote will side with Wolff guaranteed……If not, Selig would never try to broker a deal unless he had a consensus from the other owners as why waste time?

    If Oakland had a viable site why waste time brokering a deal to San Jose? These questions must be asked when trying to see the logic or lack of there of.

    Wolff must call for a vote in August and explain to the other owners that if the vote is not approved he will not stand in San Jose’s way if they wish to file an Anti-Trust lawsuit that would have great merit.

    At this point after 1160 days what else is left to do? The Giants will not negotiate ever and Wolff/San Jose must take things into their owns hands or let Selig decide their fate for them.

    I have been skeptical of this from the get go as the signs would seem MLB wants the team in San Jose but the Giants hold on unconstitutional t-rights that the other sports do not have and are playing their hand and will not budge.

    The time has come to make this “complex” with a forced vote and an Anti-Trust lawsuit.

  3. Dan says:

    Sid I wouldn’t say “significantly closer.” Downtown Oakland is 42 miles from Downtown San Jose. Downtown San Francisco is 47 miles from SJ. Not a big difference. Both are too far away to get anywhere near the investment from SJ a downtown SJ ballpark would. Difference is SF can live without outside investment on a private ballpark as they have been for over 10 years, Oakland can’t.

  4. Ren says:

    ML, Thank you for newballpark…just need some clarification…

    Selig won’t give an answer because once he does, it could mean an anti trust law suit? Which is also why the A’s is not on the agenda? So he decides not to answer and prolong the A’s to stay in limbo.

    Is Dublin or Pleasanton an option? I’m a San Jose resident and want them to stay in the Bay. Oakland, San Jose..it does not matter. What’s best for baseball.

  5. letsgoas says:

    what’s best for baseball is the a’s to move to sj and get into that silicon valley money that hasn’t gone into sf for the past decade despite a new park and likey won’t get in any new oakland park.

    said all along i want a new park anywhere in the bay area. sj is imo by far the best option and i still believe it’ll happen eventually, but if it doesn’t then those from the oakland side of things better weren’t bs’ing about having a group willing to buy the a’s and keep them in oakland. still don’t know how they would be able to build a 450-500 million dollar stadium in oakland hopefully somewhere other than the coliseum parking lot. course the cynic would say would selig even would allow the a’s to be sold to a “pro oakland” group after the piccinini fiasco back in the late 90s.

  6. Marine Layer says:

    @Ren – That would only apply if Selig unequivocally said no to San Jose. With Oakland there’s no real legal challenge since everything there is tied to the existing Coliseum lease.

    The Tri-Valley area could be an option, but it would be difficult to pull off without a healthy amount of government assistance (subsidized land).

  7. A's observer says:

    May 18, 2012 San Francisco Chronicle article.

    Please check out SaveOaklandSports (www.saveoaklandsports.org)
    mentined in the article:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/05/17/…DTL

    A’s Observer

  8. Marine Layer says:

    @A’s observer – That appears to be a dead link. If you can email me the link I’ll get it fixed. I’m not clear on what article you’re referencing.

  9. mrsteve5150 says:

    Interesting idea. Selig doesn’t make a decision to keep legal action at bay from either side. Could that really be his goal? As long as he’s “studying” the issue then everyone has to wait right? No legal challenges from the Gnats front group and no legal challenges from San Jose. All the while the A’s rot in a mausoleum. I guess at this point, I wouldn’t put it past him to sacrifice the A;s (and their fans) to keep a lid on this issue.

  10. baycommuter says:

    Tri-Valley could use more exploration. Since they have BART, the village concept could work better there than it would have in Fremont, but of course the real estate market would have to pick up.

  11. travis says:

    As a lifelong Tri-Valley resident, having the A’s here would be a dream come true.

    That being said, the idea just seems strange on its face. Where would it go, Camp Parks? Didn’t Dublin flat-out say ‘no’ to the Raiders building there?

  12. duffer says:

    Selig’s suggestion that the A’ could move out of the bay area and into a smaller city (with a smaller MLB fanbase) is foolish. The A’s are not dumb enough to make such a move. The television cable rights income that the bay area can provide is potential much better than the small market cities (Portland, Sacto, Las Vegas, San Antonio, etc.) can provide. All those cities (including their surrounding suburbs) have fanbases which are 2.2- 2.3 mil. in size. Also struggling MLB cities such as Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland are all that similar 2.3 mil. size – the MLB does not need one more of those franchises.

    Also, MLB teams with larger fanbases and television viewers earn much more from their cable tv contracts than the small market teams do. For example, the Texas Rangers recently inked a tv rights contract where they are receiving $80 mil. annualy now – and will start receiving $150 mil. a year in ’15. Even the San Diego Padres now are earning $80 mil. annually with their new cable tv deal. Whereas a small market team such as Kansas City only earns $18 mi. yearly with their television rights contract.

    If a market such as San Diego can receive $80 mil. a year – the A’s (in the much larger bay area) should be able to fetch a tv rights deal for at least $100- $120 mil. annually.

    The difference between receiving $150 mil. annually compared to $18 mil. (as a Portland, San Antonio, or Sacto market would earn) is obviously staggering – a $132 mil. a year difference. Doing the math – that $132 mil. difference (using a $25 per ticket average MLB ticket cost as an example – equals an additional 5,280,000 fans per season – unbelievable!). Lew Wolff and the A’s know better and will not move into any of those small-time MLB markets.

  13. A's observer says:

    To Marine Layer:

    It is a 5/18 Chronicle article written by several reporters including Ron Kroichik (in sports section).

    I’ll keep trying to find the article.

    Thanks observer.

    A’s observer

  14. daniel says:

    latest new or guess from LATimes:

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-0520-down-the-line-20120520,0,6675337.story

    “Selig had better be wary. The A’s and Giants each pitched their cases to a committee of owners last week, and there is talk that Selig might actually impose a solution sometime this season.”

    talk of a solution ?

  15. daniel says:

    btw, look at this suit by baseball fans

    http://sports-law.blogspot.ca/2012/05/done-mlb-faces-antitrust-suit-regarding.html

    if it gets to SCOTUS somehow, Justice Roberts could seriously look at ATE finally.

  16. eb says:

    I wonder if Wolff cares about articles like this, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/05/19/SP3J1OKBQF.DTL&tsp=1
    At some point, and I’m no Wolff fan, this stuff must get to him. Besides Purdy, I don’t think I’ve seen many”pro” Wolff articles from the Bay Area. Could be a number of reasons for that, but it must frustrate him.

  17. Marine Layer says:

    @eb – Wolff said from the start that he wasn’t Wally Haas. He must’ve steeling himself for some of this blowback.

  18. Dan says:

    eb, I seriously doubt he cares about articles written by misinformed sensationalist boobs for local newspapers who are more interested in generating readership than in the truth. Selig for instance said nothing of the sort that the author ascribes to him. But that didn’t stop him from writing the article anyway.

  19. eb says:

    The local press makes an impact and I wouldn’t call all of them “boobs,” although certainly a handful would fit that title. People read the paper or online sports sites or listen to the radio and I’d imagine opinions are swayed by “expert” analysis. I mean Wolff has gotten booed at his own ballpark. Being called “the most hated man in Oakland” in a major paper isn’t a good thing. I’d imagine he doesn’t take all of this too personally, but I hope the A’s get that PR can go a long way because right now it seems to be all Giants.

  20. baycommuter says:

    My sense of the media is that in general they (we) are really rooting for Oakland over San Jose for the same socioeconomic reasons that Wolff would prefer San Jose even if Oakland had a site. Personally I just want to see the A’s in the Bay Area, I don’t care if they tie the ghost ships in Suisun Bay together and make it the foundation of a floating ballpark.

  21. pjk says:

    Bay Area columnists writing about the situation show an alarming lack of knowledge about Bay Area economics. If Wolff won’t build in Oakland he should sell to someone who will? OK. Where’s the viable site? Don’t bring up the already-rejected ones. And where’s the financing mechanism, besides the owners going broke?..

  22. dknight.007 says:

    baycommuter
    May 20, 2012 at 8:54 AM (Quote)

    My sense of the media is that in general they (we) are really rooting for Oakland over San Jose for the same socioeconomic reasons that Wolff would prefer San Jose even if Oakland had a site. Personally I just want to see the A’s in the Bay Area, I don’t care if they tie the ghost ships in Suisun Bay together and make it the foundation of a floating ballpark.

    ^^^^^^^
    Exactly!

  23. xootsuit says:

    daniel: interesting blog piece on the A/T action against mlb. Consumer A/T class actions are difficult to begin with, for several reasons. Also, that lawsuit involves mlb’s broadcasting policies, so the A/T exemption might not have any bearing on the case. mlb could defend without going there, in other words, and lose, and not lose any further piece of the exemption. But the lawsuit does highlight one thing very clearly, I think: mlb has become an international entertainment conglomerate. Back in 1922, one of the strangest rationales J. Holmes offered for the original A/T exemption was the essentially local, intrastate nature of “exhibitions of baseball.” Holmes also wrote that baseball was outside the traditional defintion of commerce because playing baseball did not “produce” anything for sale — “personal effort, not related to production, is not a subject of commerce.” No one in today’s world would agree with either of those notions. The courts since 1922, including the SCt, have devised other reasons to uphold the A/T exemption, but they’re not rock solid, either.

    As baseball has expanded to exploit larger audiences, for much larger profits, it has transformed itself into something veyr much like the “trusts” that the Sherman Act was designed to bust. mlb knows that, of course, and so mlb will do anything to avoid a big A/T lawsuit that goes right to the heart of the exemption. Even if a court upheld the exemption, the publicity might spur long-deferred Congressional action. No one in mlb wants any of that. They all just want to keep making money.

    My guess: Selig will broker a deal, but who knows which way it will go. Will Wolff and Fisher finally pony up the money necessary to buy off the Giants? Or will someone else buy the A’s from Wolff and Fisher and move them away? Or . . . . Oakland? As of today, I would put those three possibilities in that order of likelihood.

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