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.
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.