Bill Madden: Territorial rights will be upheld, no A’s to San Jose + Wolff response

Update 7:48 PM – BANG’s Joe Stiglich has a reaction from Lew Wolff:

“I spoke to Bud today on another matter, he didn’t bring it up,” Wolff said. “I think he would have told me if that’s the case. We talked about something else. I think he would have alerted me or the Giants if he had made a decision.”

Perhaps Bud doesn’t have the heart to break the bad news to his friend.


The last time NY Daily News baseball writer Bill Madden wrote about the A’s in terms of the franchise’s future was in November, just before the uneventful owner’s meetings. This is what he wrote back then:

Are the Oakland A’s finally about to know the way to San Jose?

According to baseball insiders, the reason A’s co-owner Lew Wolff, the L.A.-based real-estate developer and close personal Selig ally, is not going to be a bidder in the Frank McCourt Dodger auction (as had been frequently speculated) is because the commissioner has given him tacit assurance that his effort to move the A’s to a new stadium in San Jose is eventually going to be approved.

Once Selig completes his major accomplishment of ridding the game and liberating the Dodgers of McCourt – which hopefully will be before Opening Day – he can turn his attention to the A’s, who have been waiting more than two years for his relocation study committee to deliver its report on San Jose and the San Francisco Giants’ territorial rights there.

I followed up with a post. Now Madden’s back and his theory is that the votes aren’t there for the move. It’s better if I just quote Madden directly instead of paraphrasing:

To strip the Giants of their territorial rights to San Jose would require a three-quarters vote of the clubs, and as one baseball lawyer observed: “Clubs would realize what a terrible ‘there but for the grace of God go us’ precedent that would create in which all of their territorial rights would then be in jeopardy.” As an example of that, one can’t imagine the Yankees, Mets or Phillies voting to take the Giants’ territorial rights to San Jose away when it could conceivably open the doors for a team seeking to re-locate to New Jersey.

And that’s it. No other inside sources, named or unnamed, not even the typical political gamesmanship that A’s and Giants ownership have been playing against each other. Nevermind that Madden gets the history of Bob Lurie’s efforts to move the Giants to the South Bay wrong. It can’t happen because the big market teams feel threatened. That’s that.

Of course, there are plenty of other reasons why a team in New Jersey can’t work. To wit:

  • North Jersey’s awful history of supporting the franchises associated with the state (the NY football teams don’t count).
  • The lack of a real geographic center upon which a franchise can be based anywhere in the state.
  • Generally poor, small urban centers where you might logically put a team (Newark, Trenton, Camden).
  • A lack of a grassroots effort to bring MLB to New Jersey. (Baseball in DC and NoVa helped quite a bit politically)
  • Governor Chris Christie’s starve-the-beast fiscal conservatism makes any kind of new, publicly-financed ballpark deal difficult.

To follow Madden’s logic (and the Giants, hmmm), it’s the rights to the South Bay that allowed financing for the China Basin ballpark to happen. But if that sunsets after 2017, what other obligation does baseball have to the Giants? And since I haven’t heard this question asked, I suppose I should pose it now:

If Bob Lurie had not gone after the South Bay, he wouldn’t have been granted the rights by Wally Haas. After Lurie struck out in SF for the last time and threatened to move to Tampa Bay, Magowan/Shorenstein swooped in to save the Giants. Would Magowan have asked for rights to the South Bay in 1993-96 in order to finance AT&T Park, knowing that he wasn’t actually going to build there but rather in downtown SF?

I seriously doubt that would’ve happened. The dot-com boom had not started. Google had not yet been a startup. Yahoo! was in its infancy. Apple was near death. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t yet out of elementary school. Only “old school” tech companies like HP, Intel, and Cisco were the talk of the Valley back then.

Now, if the other big market Eastern teams are the linchpin to the A’s move and they actually feel threatened, that’s one thing. That’s one argument that the anti-San Jose crowd has been promulgating for some time. That’s entirely possible. If that’s the case, all of this drama could’ve been dispensed with years ago. Let’s remember that moving the Rays to Jersey, Charlotte, Las Vegas, or San Antonio is completely different from what the A’s and Giants are doing, because:

  • The A’s and Giants already share television and radio territories, local and regional.
  • The A’s and Giants are not restricted from marketing in each other’s stadium territories.

The two situations are not comparable other than the fact that the A’s and Rays are in bad ballparks in suboptimal cities (Oakland, St. Petersburg). If Madden’s right, then the contraction talk has to begin since no other market is really in a position to make a ballpark happen for the next several years. Then again, as I’ve argued before, are the owners ready to shell out $1 billion to contract two teams, kill 10 minor league teams, invite a Congressional inquiry while MLB is growing 7% every year, and get into a major battle with the players union over potential lost salaries? That to me seems like a much more difficult battle than dealing with the issues of two teams whose total impact on the league is 5-6% annually.

If the A’s are forced to stay in Oakland and the Wolff/Fisher group sells, then it will be incumbent upon an East Bay “Magowan” to save the A’s. There will be no hometown discount franchise price. One of Bud Selig’s biggest goals is to get as much for a franchise as possible, and a discount would run counter to that. He’s also not going to allow the A’s to “make it work at the Coliseum” indefinitely, because that’s not an improvement in his eyes, and probably not for his eventual successor either.

Madden’s article is what happens when there’s nothing to report. We’re in a vacuum right now, at least until the start of the season or even May. We should let actual news push the agenda, instead of letting someone’s agenda create the news. Or, as Rob Neyer wrote,

Forcing the A’s to remain where they are is good for nobody except the Giants.


38 thoughts on “Bill Madden: Territorial rights will be upheld, no A’s to San Jose + Wolff response

  1. hope this recent article is bs. still is mlb and their slow ass snail’s pace of going thru things that opens it up for people who maybe uninformed about the whole situation writing a piece like this.

    especially when nightengale during christmas said that a decision would be made sometime in feb and now we’re in march without still a decision made even though for months everything said and being done was projecting it that the a’s were gonna be allowed to move to sj.

  2. ML, please write to Madden with these excellent points.

    Oh, and I’m tired of people with short memories gushing about how the Rays are a winning franchise while the A’s are chopped liver. They forget how the A’s won more than the Rays have ever won, back when the Rays were way more terrible for more much longer than the A’s have ever been. The Rays winning now only proves that the draft can work the way it’s supposed to.

  3. This is clearly FUD from the Giants.

  4. Pingback: NY Daily News: Oakland A's likely to stay put - City-Data Forum

    • Update 7:48 PM – BANG’s Joe Stiglich has a reaction from Lew Wolff:

      “I spoke to Bud today on another matter, he didn’t bring it up,” Wolff said. “I think he would have told me if that’s the case. We talked about something else. I think he would have alerted me or the Giants if he had made a decision.”

      Perhaps Bud doesn’t have the heart to break the bad news to his friend.

  5. Am I reading too much into Wolff’s quote when it seems to imply that it’s Bud’s decision to make?

  6. Not really. It is Bud’s decision to make. The owners will do what Bud suggests in the end. If Bud says San Jose, it’ll happen. If he says no, it won’t.

  7. whatever happens selig is and will always be a weeny. the guy has no balls to make any tough decision and will always be hated by the majority of baseball fans no matter how much he feels he did “good” for the game.

    also agreed all these moves which looked like sj was almost near a done deal and all of a sudden selig is gonna pull the rug from under the a’s franchise?! i could understand if not for him hand picking the current owner and him being friends with him.

    as for baer, aka rat face, screw you and i hope at&t park collapses into the bay. my hatred for those asses from across the bay continues to increase every year for multiple reasons.

  8. whatever happens selig is and will always be a weeny. the guy has no balls to make any tough decision and will always be hated by the majority of baseball fans no matter how much he feels he did “good” for the game.

    also agreed all these moves which looked like sj was almost near a done deal and all of a sudden selig is gonna pull the rug from under the a’s franchise?! i could understand if not for him hand picking the current owner and him being friends with him.

    as for baer, aka rat face, screw you and i hope at&t park collapses into the bay. my hatred for those asses from across the bay continues to increase every year for multiple reasons.

  9. Lesser of all evils?

  10. Madden’s a columnist, right? So why would anyone put more weight on his opinion when he first says “It will happen” then “It won’t happen” than in Ray Ratto’s when he does the reverse?
    It wasn’t a news story, nor did it purport to be. The byline says MLB “likely” will uphold T-rights, and that Bud “probably” doesn’t have the votes. It’s wild speculation.
    Move along folks, nothing to see here.

  11. @bartleby.. My guess is Ratto is a known commodity here and will say asinine things. While Madden is not known here. So people are probably thinking why would a writer on the other side of the country with no known side agendas write this unless he might of possibly heard something.

  12. Wake me up when we have news

  13. First, Nothing The Lodge does would surprise me.
    Second, this article clearly appears to be a “the A’s can’t go to SJ because of reason X. Reason X makes sense because of Y and Z”. It is nothing more than one man’s opinion. If it was a tidbit of info the article is based on, believe me, a sport’s reporter would boast that an “inside source” told me the it.
    Third, breaking down the reporter’s Reason X: The members of the lodge believe their own TRs are placed in jeopardy if they were to “revoke” the Giants TR. He uses the example of ‘now any team could simply move to New Jersey and hone in on the huge NY market’. There is no way to interpret — and I mean NO way — reason X (and therefore the story) as anything but egregiously simplistic thinking. A) The A’s are approx. 30 miles from SCC. B) The A’s stadium is probably closer to SCC than the Giants stadium. C) The A’s gave away these TR to the Giants for free. D) The SCC territory itself is part of a bay area that everyone in the bay area realizes is almost one big metro area.
    Taking A+B+C+D, it obviously equals a situation vastly different than a situation where a team moves to NJ. If the Lodge thinks the circumstances surrounding the A’s, Giants and SCC are equivalent to a situation where a team from out in left field simply plunks down in a territory they previously had nothing to do with? LOL, the Lodge is beyond paranoia.
    Lastly, IF baseball turns down the A’s and says no to SJ, if I was Lew I would immediately look to MLB and the Giants to recompensate them for these TR they gave away for free. The lodge simply cannot call SCC a sacred cash cow that is untouchable yet expect the A’s to be ok with never having been compensated for it.
    Bottom line: The A’s are going to get the go ahead for SJ. This article is non sense. As stated before, the delay is a strategic delay (unless one is to believe that the question of the move actually takes a laughable three years). The delay is about pushing the possible opening of Cisco Field out to as close to the 2017 as possible. However, if paranoia rules the day and the Lodge does turn them down, the A’s are leaving California. And that would be a shame.

  14. After my post I was told that Madden doesn’t have the same line into Selig and Reinsdorf as he used to. So if he were talking to anyone, it’d have to be either someone close to the Giants or one of the Steinbrenners.

  15. I wish they’d just make a decision already. One way or the other. Just get it over with so we can all move on and stop with drivel like this.

  16. Selig said the A’s are on the front burner. But he also said that there would not be a vote on the matter as long as the there is pending litigation against the stadium effort. Selig effectively gave the Giants the key to cock block this matter for the next several years or at least through 2017.

  17. ML When I read it I read it like a poison pill article like is done on campaigns. I think you are right that it came from someone with an interest instructing some doubt in advance of a potential vote. Who knows where the votes are at, speculating is dumb us someone has done a whip count. Who knows yet if we even get the ok. Lewis is smart, he, Crowley and PR team are not putting out ghostwritten pieces hitting the Giants, they selling the case for SJ in public and behind the scenes with who matters, owners. Its all gamesmanship to figure out compensation.

  18. If the madden article is true, which I doubt, then why all signs the A’s have already started the move to the south bay?
    Wolff buying hotel next to the proposed site, Beane signing a long term contract, sj authorizing road construction around the proposed site, big contract for Cepedes.
    The evidence is contrary to what madden presents.

  19. @Vince:

    To be fair, anything the A’s or Wolff does can hardly be seen as “evidence”. Sometimes you roll the dice, regardless of any assurances that you are going to get what you want. And also, they could be “forcing” the issue precisely by signing Beane to a contract, signing Céspedes, buying Hotels, to sort of build momentum in the eyes of the public. And it works: people hear about Wolff buying a hotel in SJ and assume the A’s to SJ is a done deal. Sometimes, building the perception that you are going to get your way goes a long way towards actually getting your way.

    Which is why the “poison pill” theory from Nicosan is spot on. Sounds like somebody (Yanks?) doesn’t want the A’s and Rays around anymore and are trying to influence public (or just the Lodge’s) perception.

  20. Why would MLB reject a solid solution to the A’s problem in favor of letting the team continue to require $30 mill subsidies every year in a substandard, empty stadium? Does MLB have someone in mind ready to spend $1 billion to buy the A’s and build privately in Oakland? Does MLB have an acceptable stadium site in Oakland? Didn’t think so.

  21. Seems more likely the Giants would be the dicks introducing a poison pill. It fits with their MO the last 3 years. Which could be a good thing. If they’re desperate enough to start fighting in the press…

  22. we all know this isnt true. ML please dont try to make this seam real because we all know it isnt. if it was real there would have been way more articles on it besides just this one. secondly, selig is an idiot but hes not SO unprofessional that hes going to just not tell the involved parties in a huge issue like this.

  23. ans the votes are there for the move. the territorial rights thing is not an issue for other teams and theyll have no reason not to let the athletics move 40 miles down the road. we already know that MLB will benefit from the A’s making more money which they will make at cisco field. plus two owners have already said theyll vote in favor of the A’s on this issue and im sure more will follow suit when the situation progresses further

  24. All this fodder would go away if Selig could just get this done.

  25. Yes, no, maybe so. In the meantime, hanging out in a sunny garden listening to A’s baseball. Life is good.

  26. I hope all of you who are enraged at the Giants and their fans not only read Henry Schulman’s 3/4 splash post, but note that he was the first (and, at this point, the only) Bay Area beat writer to report the (somewhat vague) denial from the Comm’n’s office. Some sort of deal has to be made.

    Interesting discussion in this newballpark post about the actual nature of the “territorial rights” at issue. Too many fans toss that term around without understanding how limited the rights really are. Similarly, I see a lot of A’s fans arguing that Wally Haas was just a great guy to make the territorial division when he did. The A’s obtained similarly exclusive rights to counties east of the Bay, didn’t they? In hindsight, it turns out to have been a bad business decision. Now, if Wolff and Fisher want to buy themselves out of that hole, they know how to do it. Most Giants fans I know don’t really care about this issue; because of my ties to Oakland, I do. I want the A’s to stay in Oakland. But if (as seems likely) that isn’t possible, I want them to stay in the Bay Area. So — pony up, Lew; make a deal.

  27. A’s territory: Alameda, Contra Costa counties.
    Giants territory: Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey counties….Sound like a fair split? Why didn’t the GIants just claim Hawaii while they were at it?…I would view the A’s being stuck in Oakland as a good thing if there were any possibility of a new ballpark being built there. But there plain isn’t one.

  28. Larry Baer knows all the prime spots in the East Bay to build a ballpark, just ask him. I hear there’s a great spot in where? Livermore?

  29. Stiglich’s last tweets indicate as much that this seems likely a plant by those parties ML mentioned a(SF/NYY) I still think its the former not the later. It’s not serious to move a team to Jersey. Why would Hank bring it up? More like Baer’s people bringing it up to peak their interest and that of Mintgomery in Philly. But that to me would be the wrong strategy because it would be showing their hand to A’s.

  30. xoot, incorrect. The A’s already had exclusive rights to CC and Alameda Counties prior to the early 90’s. Just as the Giants had exclusive rights to Marin, Santa Cruz, Monterey, SF, San Mateo, Sonoma and Napa counties. The only shared territory was the Santa Clara County. Now it was a very bad business decision to give the Giants exclusive rights to yet one more county in the Bay Area. But it’s also not something that is set in stone and can be undone under the right circumstances. Maybe waiting until 2017 when the Giants have no further “need” of it is the solution.

  31. Dan I would be pleased to review any actual authority you have your version of history. Can you offer some links? An interview with Haas I found on line led me to conclude otherwise. Frankly, I’ve had a difficult time getting the full picture on territorial rights in the Bay Area. In any event, if Santa Clara county was the only “shared” county, I will be interested in seeing exactly what was “shared.” Meanwhile, waiting until 2017 doesn’t seem to fit with Wolff’s agenda. The A’s can only suffer more if he doesn’t get his stadium.

  32. @Dan/xootsuit – Until 1993, Santa Clara County was not assigned to either the Giants or A’s. It was effectively open territory, except that if either team wanted to move there, that team would have to ask the other for permission. Whether you call that shared or not is entirely a matter of semantics.

  33. One of the most thorough (but predictably unscholarly) articles I’ve come across is this:

    Howard quotes an anonymous “baseball” source, as follows:

    >>’San Francisco baseball fans uninterested in driving to the South Bay during rush hour might be inclined to drive to Oakland instead. “There’s a little too much romance on that story,” said a baseball source. “This wasn’t done simply for altruistic reasons. There was business reasoning behind it. The A’s certainly would have benefited greatly if the Giants were no longer there. The problem is that no one anticipated just what those rights would be worth much later. That’s why you can’t project the future in business.” ‘<<

    So the business-decision prism works whether or not exclusive county rights existed for other counties in the Bay Area. Howard makes a point that ML explored in his 5/08 post — the odd nature of exclusivity as between the Giants and A's in the first place.

    As always, I greatly appreciate the intelligent information available on this blog.

  34. There have been a few heads on this blog who have speculated Selig does not have the votes to proceed and that he has been trying to get a consensus these past 3 years to move forward.

    Others speculate of an agreement being needed between the A’s and Giants.

    While others speculate Selig is being a pansy and will not do what is right.

    Or for that matter the Giants stadium debt is done in 2017 and that is when the A’s will be able to open up Cisco Field.

    All could be true or not but in the end this shows that MLB is not run in the correct way normal businesses or even the other sports leagues are…..hence the lack of logic all around.

    I think the votes are in hand as Selig will not settle for 75%…..he wants complete unanimity across the board before putting anything to vote.

    In that case Madden is way off and really there is a variable here that we all seem to be missing……..That variable is what is holding this up.

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