Tuesday’s Merc article by Tracy Seipel indicates a sense a desperation among the San Jose boosters and Wolff, in that they need Bud Selig to render a decision on T-rights in order for San Jose to move forward with a ballot measure. In weighs Roger Noll, who feels that Selig hasn’t acted prudently on behalf of either the A’s or Giants.
Roger Noll, a professor of sports economics at Stanford University, said Wolff’s frustration means “Selig isn’t doing the job of a commissioner, which is getting the Giants and the A’s to talk together.” He has predicted the two teams could strike a financial settlement for the territorial rights.
“It’s very difficult to reach a deal without the commissioner coming in and saying, ‘Look, I want a deal… and you guys need to work it out,'” said Noll. “‘And if you don’t, I will impose one on you.”’
Now that would be fantastic for the pro-San Jose folks. Unfortunately, it’s not realistic. From what I’ve gathered, there has been little discussion about prioritizing this issue. Even if Wolff brought it up at the brief owner’s meetings and in the process set himself on fire to get everyone’s attention, I still don’t think Selig and the owners would take action immediately. I could be wrong on this, but I’m going with what I’ve been stating the last six months: San Jose has to get its ducks in a row first, then the owners can talk. Unfair? Yes. Unexpected? Not in the least.
The question arising from this is: What risk is there to the political process if MLB doesn’t take action in time? Well, that’s not easy to quantify. Perhaps some group is taking a poll now on this, but I suspect that trying to explain the history and vagaries of MLB’s Santa Clara County territorial rights to the voting populace would be an exercise in futility. The last polls taken support a ballpark in a general way, so what’s the hold-up? In all likelihood, it’s the ballot language. The measure has a limit of 75 words, and the pols must have numerous drafts on hand, wanting the most ironclad (yet deliberately vague) version in place before they go to the voters. That’s the irony in all of this. MLB won’t budge until SJ has its ducks in a row, and SJ doesn’t want to move unless it has an indication from MLB that it wants to move forward. SJ doesn’t want the extra cost associated with a spring off year special election, and November 2011 is more than merely cutting it close, it’s practically late given a likely construction schedule.
It sounds like an impasse, except that MLB knows that it has survived just fine without a franchise in San Jose for the last century. Can SJ afford to be a little more patient? We’ll find out soon enough.
Note: The article mentions a new grassroots anti-stadium group called Better Sense San Jose. The site has been up since April or May and has a decidedly fiscal slant, though like Stand for San Jose, I’m skeptical as to who’s behind it. WHOIS lookups on the domain owner are blocked, whereas the contact address appears to be a P.O. Box at a UPS Store in the Rose Garden neighborhood. Come on, people, it’s okay to let the public know who you are.