Lawsuit update: MLB says Selig rejected A’s-to-San Jose move a day before lawsuit was filed

Michael McCann’s Sports Law Blog, which has been keeping track of the legal maneuverings in the MLB-vs.-San Jose case, has uncovered a bit of a bombshell (hat tip Nathaniel Grow). From the most recent filing (defendant’s section):

In fact, MLB denied the Athletics’ relocation request on June 17, 2013, one day before this lawsuit was filed. On that date, Commissioner Selig formally notified the Athletics’ ownership that he was not satisfied with the club’s relocation proposal. The sole basis of Plaintiffs’ only claims that remain after the MTD Order—the purported failure of MLB to render a decision within the initial two-year term of the Option Agreement—is therefore meritless.

MLB is arguing that the land option agreement the A’s and San Jose entered into in late 2011 is invalid, making the case moot. To back up its claim, MLB cites this heretofore (and still) unseen letter, the ongoing Stand for San Jose-vs.-City of San Jose lawsuit, and the lack of a public vote. To be clear, that last part is because Commissioner Bud Selig discouraged a vote way back in 2010 (which to this day I consider a strategic error on San Jose’s part). MLB wants to keep the letter confidential and doesn’t want to show it unless the plaintiffs agree to confidentiality.

Of course, that’s the opposite of what San Jose wants, because they’re pushing for complete discovery. From their filing:

In fact, Defendants’ sections of this CMC Statement are filled with Assertions of fact. This Court should order immediate commencement of discovery so that these “facts” (and others) surrounding the Athletics proposed move to San Jose and their reasons for entering into (and then not exercising) the Option Agreement may be explored.

MLB is fighting hard to avoid any degree of discovery.

Timing is the issue here. MLB argues that Selig sent the letter 19 months after the option agreement was signed, and that 19 months was reasonable timing for a decision, even though MLB started formally addressing the ballpark issue and San Jose two years earlier. Did San Jose file the lawsuit upon receiving the letter, or did MLB send the letter preemptively, knowing that the lawsuit was coming? I knew the lawsuit was coming the week it was filed, and I figure MLB did too. Addtionally, what other communications could be brought up that could contradict the letter?

Grow notes:

It is of course possible, and perhaps even likely, that MLB would reconsider the move [to San Jose] in the future.

While we’re left to wildly speculate on everything, let’s consider the idea that MLB doesn’t like San Jose’s proposed contribution of land-and-infrastructure, and wants more than that to seal the deal. And understand that all the activity we’re seeing is happening because of the lawsuit. Everything should be understood within the context of the lawsuit. For better or worse, that’s where we are. I won’t be in town next Friday for the hearing, but I’m sure it’ll be juicy.

173 Responses to Lawsuit update: MLB says Selig rejected A’s-to-San Jose move a day before lawsuit was filed

  1. Karim says:

    @muppet151 yes you are right, we all would like to see the true cost but what I was explaining was that the city was still offering up funds to help build a stadium which many pro SJ folks continue to say they never offered or wont spend any tax payers money. Victory court disappeared very quickly but we will never know the real reason. Maybe the city was trying to prove to MLB that they have a site and MLB rejected them and relayed to them that there preferred site was Howard Terminal? (i.e reason why all of the city’s focus suddenly shifted to CC and more importantly Howard Terminal and trying to gain site control.) No body knows all we can do is guess, and based off what Pro SJ people have been saying I am just showing that the city has/ is putting forth effort to keep them, how much they are putting forth we don’t know, but sooner or later its all going to hit the fan, and I believe and what I know regarding this issue is the city is in the fight to keep the A’s and running all of these study’s and reports and spending money for it and bringing in these investors is more than a smokescreen that the SJ folks keep preaching. Remember if Quan wasn’t in office the A’s most likely would be gone by now or in the process of leaving as the runner up to Quan took Lew’s money to not fight keeping the A’s in Oakland if he won.

  2. Tony D. says:

    Straight up: Quan is completely irrelevant to the discussion concerning the A’s future. If anything, she’s only reinforced the negativity/reality of Oaklands situation: broke, in debt, poor corporate market, rudderless when it comes to leadership, etc. Yes, this thing has taken a lot longer than all of us would have liked, but it has nothing to do with JQ.

  3. muppet151 says:

    @Karim Yes, I agree that most of this is a guessing game. But there is enough public information that we can have spirited intelligent debates on this subject without relying on talking points. In the end, that’s my problem with City Hall. It does appear Quan talks a good enough game (believe it or not) that she can buy time. But time goes by and results need to be delivered.

    Take Howard Terminal for example; while Quan and stAy-crowd boosters continue to talk up the site as a location for the A’s, along with the importance of site control, the Port of Oakland has spent the last 2 months working to find new maritime-use tenants to operate Howard Terminal. All proposals were due on Dec. 6th and might be discussed at Thursdays Port Board meeting. The Port is largely autonomous and needs to be self sufficient. A vacant Howard terminal will cost the Port $10 million per year. They’re seeking new operators to take over HT, and in all likely hood would negotiate a lease of at least 5 years in length. How does that fit into the talking point of “site control”? It doesn’t. But what depresses me as someone who wants to see what Oakland’s best viable (should there be one) option is, is that these things are public knowledge. It’s no secret the Port is trying to re-rent Howard Terminal for maritime-use and yet A’s blogs, twitter, sports talk radio is flooded with talking points such as “site control” that don’t match with the reality that’s taking place right in front of you.

    I live in Alameda, work out of San Ramon and hardly go anywhere further south than the Coliseum. A move to San Jose would be a major inconvenience – but I’d get over it. If you don’t want to deal with this inconvenience then I highly recommend avoiding anything that can be used as a pro-Oakland talking point and spend more time examining what moves are being made by city officials that could prevent making Oakland the permanent home of the A’s. There are MANY examples. And this is before we even talk about the actual cost of such a project.

  4. Karim says:

    @muppet151 oh yea she does have good game to stall this whole time, just like her game that got her into office (if not first vote for me second lol) and yes I have heard and read up on Howard terminal use for maritime use first and hopefully that will get settled soon but just my take from Quan lol and Fred Blackwell who seems to be leading the way and in the know for CC. They seem pretty confident that the maritime use will not be a issue, ( looking at Blackwell’s response to the question asked at the meeting with alco) this makes me believe it’s a technicality and backdoor/ behind the scenes Oakland is taking site control. Yea 10 mil annually is a lot but just my thinking. I want the A’s in the bay no matter what, but my personal preference is Oakland do to the history I have with them. And I truly feel that a new park in Oakland can and will work but time is ticking fast.

  5. Karim says:

    @Tony D she is irrelevant, she’s really just the face of the issue as this as been going on for many mayors. But she has helped bring lots of money/investors so far to Oakland, hate it or love it. The only person worthy of credit is Larry Reid everyone else is fighting, lying etc for there own political moves of money/elections. That’s why I see there might be something that comes out of this as Reid was the lead person negotiating with the developers to bring them on board and sway them to get involved. Reid is a no B.S person and is straight to the point plays no politics like others, as we can see by already calling them out by letting them know “show me the money” lol. He also negotiated the firm dates to resolve this by next year one way or another. We will know soon. Hopefully it’s positive for A’s fans

  6. GoA's says:

    @Karim–i respect your hopefulness for Oakland but keep in mind these “investors” didnt get rich by giving things away. If Oakland needs to pony up $300M each for the Raiders and A’s stadiums and you expect the “investors” to pay this tab then there better be some revenue streams from their development in Oakland. Assuming this can happen then the city is giving away more than 1/2 of a billion dollars…doubt that will be an easy sell. And btw the Raiders and A’s will still be expected to be paid back for anything they contribute…

  7. Karim says:

    @Go’A’s Thanks I am hopeful and do see the both sides of the issue just see a lot of Pro SJ love on here, and i am throwing out Oakland’s side from what I’ve read heard etc. I know the Pol’s over there suck but and money needs to be invested from the city no matter what not just land and from what I’ve read and heard I believe Oakland has greater chance than what most on here want to believe or give credit to Oakland as a city. The facts I point out to of everyone discrediting the city with the investors as more smokescreens are the fact that Jean Quan helped secure 1.5 billion for Brooklyn Basin. There is no denying that when it was proposed so long ago that Gov Brown was in office and she got “Hard Cash” for it and the development is getting started soon. All Brooklyn Basin is, is retail and high rise condo’s but the developers liked it to invest. Hey they can always build a casino buy the airport lol. We should definitely have a clearer picture within the next few months about these developers and we will really know about the future of the A’s.

  8. Dan says:

    muppet, I’d almost forgot about that meeting. Hopefully the port does find an operator for the HT site taking it out of the discussion. As much as it would be the “best” site for the A’s in Oakland, it’s also as it stands now a self defeating location vis-a-vis Coliseum City.

    The Coliseum City plan needs the ballpark to pencil out, yet with HT still on the table the city is simultaneously still pursuing the more expensive (but better) ballpark option at Howard Terminal. In essence they’re undermining their own plans at Coliseum City because of HT. It would make far more sense to get behind the Coliseum fully if they’re going to do it. If HT goes to a new maritime user and dies as a ballpark site it might just save the city from themselves. Otherwise they’d need to tweak the CC plan so that it can survive with just the Raiders. Because right now “Phase I” isn’t going to cut it for a long term solution without their planned “Phase II and III.”

    That said ideally they’d tweak CC anyway and find the A’s a workable site in downtown Oakland that wouldn’t cost $700+ million to make happen, require major site remediation, and require a whole new transit build up.

  9. Tim says:

    “In essence they’re undermining their own plans at Coliseum City because of HT.”

    It’s almost as if this is really just smoke and mirrors and the city is doing whatever it can to make it look like it’s doing something . . .

  10. Dan says:

    Tim, I agree. That debacle of a meeting last week between the city and county for the Coliseum Commission shed more than enough light on the lack of substance to Coliseum City at present. But Howard Terminal suddenly being off the table would help give the Coliseum City plan a little more substance since it would be the only viable ballpark plan Oakland still had active (which is what CC needs to have any chance of being a workable plan). I mean it would still have it’s massive funding shortfalls, the fact it’s not a site MLB is particularly fond of, and the lack of support of two of the franchises… But at the very least it wouldn’t have competition from another of its own city planner’s other plans.

  11. Tim says:

    “Why in the hell would San Jose taxpayers (like myself) care if the major downtown hotels vote to tax themselves (through higher property assessments) for new/improved venues? Yes, it does matter who is paying the tax for convention center expansions and perhaps ballparks (most voters aren’t that stupid), and these funds can’t be used for other city services.”

    Higher hotel tax is going to result in a reduction of demand for hotel nights in SJ and that is going to put a drag on the economy of the city. It doesn’t just affect visitors (although the bulk of the burden would fall on them). And I don’t think it is a rule from God that those funds can’t be used for other things; if city council thinks that money would be better spent on schools or cops, they are free to change the law. That kind of thinking is what gets Detroit spending $261 million on a new arena while going through bankruptcy – “We have no choice! This money has to be spent on downtown development!”

  12. dmoas says:

    Dan, more to the point, it would help raise major red flags and (wishfully?) allow people to realize just how unlikely it is for it to happen. All the attention will be on it and nothing else which would force them to finally be serious about it for good or bad. No more misdirection, smoke and mirrors game playing. Face reality head on.

  13. Dan says:

    Speaking of new ballparks… I just read that HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa, AZ just closed a week or so ago to begin the city/A’s year long renovations to the venue for the A’s moving in come spring 2015. Visible changes to HoHoKam and neighboring Fitch Park are relatively minor but definitely aimed toward making it the new spring home of the A’s. The behind the scenes changes are apparently going to be pretty extensive.

    From what I see though it really looks like Mesa is going to make HoHoKam into the A’s home first and foremost which contrasts with Phoenix Muni which while having some small A’s touches like banners, was pretty nondescript (not unlike the Coliseum). What is really funny, or sad depending on your view, is that the A’s will now have an unquestionably nicer spring complex than they do regular season complex for both fans and players.

  14. Karim says:

    @ Dan how can you say it was a debacle? the County was raising legit questions that they want answered this time around that they were to dumb to ask the last time with Mt. Davis. This was the first meeting between the two regarding building the Stadiums and how would light be shed on the situation when the New group was just brought on a month or so ago, of course there not going to have some elaborate full fledged complete project to present to the city, with funding etc. All the questions raised were legit ones that have to be answered by the city and investment group in there study/reports. All but one council member pretty much supported the project but want the due diligence done so there is no repeat of Mt. Davis.

  15. Dan says:

    Karim, it was a debacle because we’re 15 years into this process and the city and county are sitting there actually contemplating how to be bought out by the other side. There’s no unity of purpose on the project. The plan itself is staged in such a way that it makes no economic sense unless they do all 3 phases, yet the city’s own plans elsewhere undermine that phasing. The county is saying point blank that no public funds will be provided from them. Hell they had to press hard to even get the remaining debt numbers on the existing Coliseum on the record from the city (and then stated no new project will be done until that $200 million is addressed adding to an already half a billion shortfall on just the football stadium). Not sure where you say that as supportive of the plan, to me it looked like the sides don’t know which way is up yet… and STILL have no idea how to pay for any of it despite MLB giving them 4 years under the BRC and the city and county having had 15+ years to make something work.

  16. Tony D. says:

    Respectfully, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Higher hotel tax is going to reduce demand for hotel nights and become a drag on the SJ economy? Where the hell did you get that?! Better yet, please offer proof (I.e. facts) to back up such a statement. Facts: the major hotels within 2.5 miles of the SJ Convention Center chose (voted) to have their properties assessed higher in order to fund the facilities district (Mello-Roos). Key words being CHOSE and VOTED. The hotels feel (rightly) that an expanded, enhanced convention center will bring in more guests, patrons to their business. Yes, the higher tax assessment is paid for by increased room rates, but that’s paid for overwhelmingly by out of town visitors; that’s what we want. And again, NO; the funds generated by the facilities district can’t be used for anything else other than the convention center expansion/modernization, unless of course the owners have another vote and decide to fund other things (like a ballpark). Any questions?

  17. Tony D. says:

    Your last sentence re HoHoKam vs the Coli is spot on! I personally think our situation is pathetic and sad at the same time.

  18. Tim says:

    “Respectfully, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Higher hotel tax is going to reduce demand for hotel nights and become a drag on the SJ economy? Where the hell did you get that?! Better yet, please offer proof (I.e. facts) to back up such a statement.”

    How about the laws of supply and demand? You don’t believe in that? Sellers can just raise the price of anything as much as they want and it won’t impact how much they sell?

  19. Tim says:

    “Yes, the higher tax assessment is paid for by increased room rates, but that’s paid for overwhelmingly by out of town visitors; that’s what we want. And again, NO; the funds generated by the facilities district can’t be used for anything else other than the convention center expansion/modernization, unless of course the owners have another vote and decide to fund other things (like a ballpark).”

    It’s paid overwhelmingly by out of town visitors, which is what I said (“although the bulk of the burden would fall on them”). Tax dollars are fungible. Those tax dollars paid by visitors are tax dollars that could otherwise have gone to cops or schools if that’s what city council (or the hotel owners) wanted. If they want to spend it on the convention center, that’s great, but you can’t insist that is the only possible outcome with those tax dollars.

  20. Tony D. says:

    It’s all good Tim, you obviously don’t understand the ideals behind the facilities district/Mello-Roos. Recommend you read up on it to get a better understanding of what exactly it entails. FWIW, I live in a Mello-Roos and pay a slightly higher property tax for our local schools. I have NO PROBLEM paying said tax AND the funds generated can ONLY be used for local schools. BTW, thanks for the “facts.” Supply and demand?…

  21. dmoas says:

    Tim, ultimately if these Hotels are the ones who need to approve these added taxes, they’re only going to do so if they see a benefit to themselves. A convention center brings in out of town guests, therefore more people stay at their hotel. There’s zero economic benefit for them to approve general fund related tax increases for schools, police, etc. Tony, I’m not sure where the benefit to them comes into play for a baseball stadium. It may be a general economic driver, but it doesn’t mean much to them unless it involves a lot of out of town visitors. It’s debatable that that would work.

  22. Dan says:

    dmoas, there probably isn’t a benefit to them from a ballpark. You’ve seen it in San Diego where a faction within the city tried to derail that city’s convention center upgrades (which are being funded by a similar hotel tax imposed on the hotels by themselves) to use the funding to build a new football stadium east of PETCO Park. The faction was ultimately overridden as the hoteliers are ok funding an expansion of the convention center but saw no value in a sports stadium. This despite the fact a football stadium actually does bring in a fair number of out of town visitors to events like the Super Bowl and two college bowl games San Diego hosts annually at Qualcomm Stadium today and it was going to be designed to be utilized as convention space too.

    A ballpark in San Jose would have neither benefit as there is no bowl game for a downtown ballpark in SJ (and any south bay bowl games would take the obvious location at Levis Stadium) and it wouldn’t be capable of being a convention space. So even those failed benefits from San Diego wouldn’t be there for a San Jose ballpark.

  23. Tim says:

    Yes, they’ll only approve it if they see a benefit and they have to weigh any potential benefit against the fact that their customers will be the ones paying for it. It’s not free money, as people often seem to think when discussing hotel and rental car taxes.

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