San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo talks nuclear option

An updated version of Mark Purdy’s column from earlier today has an interesting quote from San Jose Council Member Sam Liccardo. Liccardo, whose District 3 includes downtown San Jose and borders the ballpark parcels, is a staunchly pro-A’s-to-San Jose.

Meanwhile, officials in San Jose said Wednesday they remain planted firmly in wait-and-see mode. However, Councilman Sam Liccardo, who represents the downtown area, for the first time raised the possibility of governmentally addressing MLB’s unique antitrust exemption, which permits the league to control franchise movement in ways other pro leagues cannot legally do.

Liccardo said that if the antitrust exemption comes to be viewed as an impediment to free-market competition and economic progress, perhaps it should be challenged.

“The Giants should have nothing to fear to see the A’s compete for fans in San Jose,” Liccardo said. “May the best team win. That’s the American way.”

I’ve written in the past that an actual legal challenge to the Giants’ territorial rights wasn’t in the cards because of the cost of making such a move and the City’s constant fiscal difficulties. On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council passed a controversial motion to put pension reform on the June ballot. Earlier today, I saw what appeared to be public employees picketing along West San Fernando and Almaden Blvd. There’s a new twist to the story, in that the City may run a surplus for the coming fiscal year. Even though the surplus may be a result of major cutbacks, it’s still easier to make legal moves in that environment than it would for a city running eight-figure deficits on an annual basis. It’s far too soon to tell whether or not to take Liccardo’s threat seriously. The way MLB jealously guards and protects its antitrust exemption, it could easily dig in for a protracted battle. Then again, it may run screaming from a fight and push the Giants to accept a payoff if that threat proves a little too real. There’s only one way to find out, I suppose…

42 thoughts on “San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo talks nuclear option

  1. While I’d love to see SJ do that and force Selig into quicker action, I think the chance of it actually happening is pretty close to zero. And the chance of success would be a fraction of that. Who knows though?
    It’s getting to the point that this all might make a good movie someday. Instead of Moneyball it can be Greedyball, in honor of the Giants role in all of this.

  2. What could MLB do about it if they disincorporated that block from the city of San Jose or gave it to some neighboring county that is in the A’s territorial area, or something extreme like that? Could something like that possibly work or is that too out there?

  3. A winning lawsuit? I think it is pretty likely. A web check — albeit a non legal mind at work here — shows history on the side of free market. Of course even a good whiff of the AE being diminished would send the lodge rushing to settle with the plaintiff. However, I doubt a councilman making a statement to a reporter constitutes anything remotely close to a whiff. The lawsuit would actually have to move significantly forward with legal pundits commenting on the likely merit of the plaintiff’s case (add in the concern about the general public learning about and seeing the AE in a negative light) and then yes! The lodge would settle positively with the plaintiff faster than a New York minute.
    But I agree, a lawsuit just isn’t realistic. The cost of pursuing a case against MLB would be costly (>5 million?). The anti stadium folks and the Giants subterfuge machine would have a field day accusing the SJ Pols of wasting of tax payer money to accommodate a wealthy team owner (among other charges). Unless there is a law firm out there looking to do pro bono on a highly public and visible case, no lawsuit is happening.
    IMHO, this statement by the councilman is just part of the response to the Giant media machine that has A) Generated the story from NY and B) Had their bay area sports media machine on radio and in the paper acting as if the story is true and the decision is decided against SJ.
    The A’s got their “we gave the rights to the Giants contingent upon their move to SCC (TR is not legit) out there, and now the AE could be in legal jeopardy (TR is not fair business practice). It’s just the A’s fighting back. Public attitude matters to the lodge. The A’s are right to try and combat the Giants subterfuge.

  4. TW – i would not classify Liccardi as just a mere city councilman. Not only does he have the charisma and pedigree to take on such a task, but he has already been touted as the next SJ mayor in line due to his huge popularity and advocacy in all things pro SJ. But I am with you thinking the city wont go this route unless all options have been exhausted. However, i do believe we will start to see a more stronger tone from both the A’s and the city of SJ as this TR debate heats up.

  5. the roberts court would never uphold the antitrust exemption and everybody knows it…….

    the mere threat of a lawsuit is a huge gun to mlbs head because the chances of it being overturned are very real

  6. Anon – well, if Liccardi has the stones to go through with his semi threat, I’d give him credit for it. It would be a gamble with his political career. I respect someone who throws it on the line but I think it is a substantially uphill gamble. Worth it? Not so sure….
    I agree with your SJ/A’s taking a stronger tone and I think the Liccardi blurb is an indication of that. I believe SJ/A’s need to counter the Giants subterfuge. And I think their tact so far is a good one. The Giants are or will be using half truths, subterfuge and innuendo and they have the much bigger media megaphone. But a reasoned based argument (the Giants received the TR contingent upon them moving to SCC, a city should have the right to a team, all two team markets share the TR except the Giants) will have a stronger echo albeit with a markedly smaller media megaphone. They just need to make sure all Giant trickery gets a more reasoned reply. And every phony ‘Stand for SJ’ type maneuver needs a media ally to expose them. And it all needs to be immediate replies. Don’t let their trickery resonate as fact……

  7. I think Buster Olney is cribbing from your notes ML

  8. It was just a matter of time. Now all the San-Jose-Only folks start to sweat thanks to another bum Wolfe deal.
    Look at his track record:
    ALL the land between High St. & 66th, 880 & BART: FAIL. That was dumb as dirt.
    Fremont #1 and #2: FAIL and FAIL. And thank heavens, that was to be built on the mortgage bubble. While the Coli is under sea level, all those “luxury townhouses” would now be thoroughly underwater.
    San Jose: FAIL. That’s like it’s cool if I sleep with your wife if I drive her to a motel 35 miles away. Tell her we’re gonna be rich, indulge her sweet-tooth on candy-coated projections. And sell her sorry ass at the curb when I get bored.
    Wolfe has no business in baseball. He’s not an A’s fan. Put your crayons away, that’s not his product. He’s ignorant of sports, entertainment and marketing. He pissed off half the fan base and polarized that which remains. He bought the team dreaming of fast money shifting real estate and that’s all. He’s proven to be pretty ignorant about that, as well.
    At the end of this game, you’re left with nothing but an empty shell.

  9. I think offhand I would think repeal of anti trust in Congress would be extremely hard, but court wise I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer. The best thing that comes out of thesef flash points is that it calls attention to lack of progress by MLB and will shame the into acting. I’d want to know if Reed and the City Attorney are down to go to court. Selig needs to actually light the front burner and discuss reasonable options to outline a deal, agree to drop the SJ AstroTurf lawsuit and put it to a vote. The A’s have been quite patient and reasonable given the circumstances. If it takes unreasonable action to get this moving, while not politically preferred it will damn well get the ball moving.

  10. @ Freddy- I might be inclined to begin seeing things that way, were it not for the fact that the only alternative the city of Oakland has is “Coliseum City”- a delusional pie-in-the-sky political shell game in its own right. It’s even more delusional than anything else we’ve seen because it’s contingent on the other sports teams besides the A’s staying in Oakland. Good luck with that.

  11. Is there a South Bay congressman who would be favorable to the A’s position? The best way to advance the threat of revoking the antitrust exemption would be at the federal level, it seems to me.

  12. It’s looking more like San Jose has nothing to lose by going after the anti-trust exemption. Time to file a lawsuit in the 9th Circuit federal court.

  13. Don’t believe it will come down to the nuclear option, don’t want it to come down to the nuclear option. That said, I commend council member Liccardo for suggesting it. This is America after all (not Cuba).
    Now that the dust has largely settled from the “news” of the past week, if you take a step back and take all into consideration (3 years of “study”, the A’s personnel moves, Cisco Field renderings, Reinsdorf/Loria statements, Rosenthal/Nightengale pieces, recent comments by Baer that suggest compromise, etc), is there anyone who really doubts the A’s WON’T get San Jose? Its gonna happen!

  14. Also forgot Selig “frontburner” statements and optimism of Wolff/Beane. 😉

  15. The Supreme Court specifically upheld the antitrust exemption, deferring to Congress. What makes anyone think a court would overturn it? Although the Ninth Circuit might do anything.

  16. Only issue I have with nuking the ATE is that it’ll eventually turn baseball into the other 3 sports where teams change cities FAR more often. One of baseball’s appealing aspects is the team stability.

  17. To those rationale thinkers who are regulars to this blog, lets all agree to keep this and all future threads troll free: don’t feed them and the haters! It does no good. Continue..

  18. Again, I personally don’t want to see the Nuke option and believe it wont be necessary. Its really not hard people: revert SCCO (or the entire Bay Area) to shared status, allow the A’s to move to San Jose, and provide the Giants with some form of compensation (guaranteed franchise value, revenue levels through 2017), take on all future relocations (if they occur) on a case by case basis. Very, very simple and provides a win, win for all involved. No nukes necessary!

  19. I’m going to look at this from the perspective of a Giants fan who lives in Santa Clara County and formerly in San Jose.

    I agree with Councilman Liccardo, and we as Giants fans should WANT competition. Here’s why.

    Larry Baer and this ownership group are becoming too complacent and down right greedy. It’s gotten worse since the World Series Win. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled at the 2010 victory. I also appreciate what this ownership group did in 1992, saving the team from moving away. But from a BASEBALL perspective, the Giants owners have become too comfortable with their current position to compete.

    Did anyone else follow their offseason moves? They made very little effort to go after a big bat. Yes yes I know Sabean had a budget, I know big name players were reluctant to play in a ballpark where their HR stats could go down. I get that. Nonetheless I saw little effort on their part. The fans came out. We’re buying all the junk and crappy merchandise. The band wagoners were in full swing following the best season in SF Giants history. Taking into consideration Zito’s contract, Rowand’s contract, the AT&T mortgage, and all that jazz, I still refuse to believe they couldn’t give Sabean more $$ to work with.

    The fact is the A’s in San Jose will be good for the Giants. It will force them to wise up and start competing to get GOOD players to try and WIN games. I love that we have a top of the line pitching staff. But a franchise worth this much can and should have both solid pitching and a top of the line offense. Strong competition 50 miles down the road will be good for the Giants and fans like me, whether the owners realize it or not.

  20. @Bill – The problem with disincorporating the land or swapping it with a another county is that when it comes to providing ongoing services and taxing the land, it becomes a logistical nightmare. I’m sure it would also require a legislative maneuver in the Capitol to pull off. It’s definitely a creative thought, not very likely though.

  21. TonyD: I don’t share your optimism. I believe there are enough selfish neanderthals in MLB who would rather just keep paying revenue sharing or contract teams over some paranoid fear that the Rays would move to NJ, where there’s no stadium site, no public funds available and little to no chance of wresting fans away from generations-long allegiances to the Yankee$ and Mets. The A’s-to-San Jose option makes so much sense, especially since no bank in its right mind would consider issuing $500 million in loans to pay for a ballpark in Oakland. The fact that MLB did not seize upon the San Jose solution years ago tells us we are not working with rocket scientists when it comes to MLB. I see A’s-to-San Jose slipping away. And with it, the A’s will end up leaving the Bay Area altogether. The notion that MLB has an anti-trust exemption because it is not really a business is absolutely mindboggling.

  22. @Demo J – bingo. About 95% of my friends and family are Giants fans, and I’ve told them for years that if the Giants succeed in pushing the A’s out of the Bay Area, be prepared to watch a mediocre (or worse) product for decades, and pay nosebleed prices for the privilege of doing so.

  23. George: Friends Don’t let Friends Be Giants Fans…If the A’s leave, I’m done with Major League Baseball or anything connected to it. But apparently, MLB views the loss of fans like me as acceptable collateral damage…

  24. Demo J,
    I commend you for your position as a Giants fan. Almost all Giants fans I know down here feel the same as you. As a longtime coworker who bleeds black and orange once told me “those rights are @#$%& bull shit.” I believe Bill Neukom wanted to invest in the team (ie go after a bat); hence he is no longer the owner. But I digress.
    One thing that gets lost in this discussion is this: the territorial boundaries (in this case county lines) do not prohibit movement across them. You always hear the lame argument that the Giants don’t want to give up their fans and sponsors in SCCO to the A’s …ridiculous is an understatement. Giants fans, like Demo, will continue to root for their team even with the A’s in San Jose, and nothing is to stop corporate sponsors from doing the same (all 15% of them). A healthy Giants franchise in San Francisco AND a healthy A’s franchise in San Jose…THAT is what MLB wants. Who can argue against that?!

  25. @Demo J
    Excellent, excellent post – one of the best yet. Giants ownership/management have become completely complacent and arrogant, and wanting to milk their unfair advantage over the A’s (6 counties to 2, twice the population, 80% of corporate base, the A’s in dilapidated Coli) to it’s maximum, and not even try to make the team the best it can be. Giants fans should be really, really irritated. Giants ownership/management don’t want to compete honestly. They don’t want to even try.
    And honestly, being more of an A’s fan, if the roles were reversed, I’d feel the same way.
    I come from a family that has historically favored the Giants (My Dad, brothers). In my family, I’m the only one who became diehard A’s. But I still liked the Giants as well (to me, it’s okay to like all the locals, and have one AL team, and one NL team). But this TR bullcrap has really really torqued me off. The whole arrangement as it stands now is so absurd and ridiculously unfair and unprecedented, it’s surreal. Nothing against you, or my family or any Giants fans (I don’t mind G fans or players) but until this issue is resolved fairly, the G’s ownership/managment are on my Sh!tlist. 😉

  26. Pjk,
    remember your comments when we’re enjoying a cold one at Cisco Field, Opening Day 2016! (Because of your negativity, YOUR TREAT! 😉

  27. Yes, I might even qualify for senior citizen discounts by the time Cisco Field opens, if it ever does. I’m not at all optimistic. In the NBA, cooler heads prevailed and quickly forged a settlement when the league was about to embark on its “nuclear winter,” as David Stern put it. In MLB, unworkable situations like the A’s being stuck in the Coliseum are allowed to fester for years and years, even with an obvious solution staring everyone in the face. It’s every man for himself – the Yankee$ don’t want the Rays going to NJ so they’ll contract the A’s and Rays instead. Any logic here? Not really…b

  28. All this talk of Giants complacency reminds me of a tweet war I had with the host of the Monty Show in which he was claiming the Giants had tons of payroll flexibility… I don’t think they are complacent as much as they made some bad decisions with Zito and Rowand. They’d love to go after Prince Fielder, or some other big bat… They are stuck because they decided to give $70M bucks to 5 guys this season (or something like that, I don’t have time to refresh my memory on actual numbers right now).

  29. the five guys I am thinking of are Brian WIlson, Aaron Rowand, Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.

  30. Friend of mine brought up an interesting proposal. We and MLB are acting like the counties are all some giant monolith structures. However anyone who has looked at a congressional redistricting map knows that they’re divided up all the time. Why doesn’t MLB just split Santa Clara County for the Giants. Give the A’s San Jose and Milpitas (connecting with their current territory) and give the Giants the affluent west valley areas (cities like Palo Alto, Saratoga, Cupertino, etc…) and then as payment for losing tech rich San Jose give the Giants some cities from the A’s current territory that are also full of affluent Giants fans already (like Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga and Berkeley which then connect with their cross bay territories in SF and Marin). Who says the counties have to be the level where the divides happen? They aren’t in almost any other facet of life.

  31. I have been saying for years on this blog a lawsuit maybe the only way to get Selig to move.

    In 1993 Vincent Piazza was going to buy the Giants and move them to Tampa Bay. MLB shot down the move and Piazza sued MLB and challenged their AE in Florida Court.

    The Florida Supreme Court ruled the AE did not apply to Franchise relocation and the next step was the Supreme Court of the United States.

    Selig and the other owners fearing they would lose their AE paid Piazza 16M (1993 dollars that is a ton) and granted him an expansion franchise….Tampa Bay Rays who ironically are a thorn at the side of Selig as well…The irony.

    Two outcomes possible depending on if Wolff supports it or not:

    1. The lawsuit presents problems though as without Wolff backing it the lawsuit would not work as even if San Jose was victorious they would not get the team necessarily as a result.

    2. On the other hand if Wolff were to support it then it would turn this into an all out war where the other owners would turn on the Giants very quickly and vote them off the island in an instant.

    I say the 2nd option is the most likely as evidenced by the Piazza case years ago. Only when you push Selig to do something is when results occur…..Otherwise you get what you see in the past 3 years of doing nothing.

    But Wolff is Selig’s friend and what Wolff does not understand is this is “business” not “personal” and he has every right to protect his business even if his personal connections got him into the lodge in the first place.

    There are no loyalties in business and Wolff is being “too nice” of a guy to his frat buddy Selig who has not reciprocated the feeling….Any other owner would have lost their minds and had San Jose sue by now…

  32. @Dan- Your splitting hairs dude.

  33. Dan: Because right now, the Giants have it all and they’re not letting go. FWIW, the Giants owners are exhibiting all the worst qualities – greed, selfishness, lack of concern for others – that is stereotyped about conservative, money-hungry businessman. Want to guess which political bbparty Newcomb plays a major part in? It aint the GOP.

  34. @Dan – it’s a creative idea, but it wouldn’t work from the Giant’s perspective. The only real effect of the territorial rights is in locating the ballpark. If the A’s were in San Jose, they would still market to, and attract, fans in the rest of SCC, regardless of whether they owned the rights (as both teams do now to all of the Bay Area). The Giant’s don’t want the A’s anywhere in the South Bay (and preferably, anywhere in the Bay Area).
    Regarding the nuclear options, I agree with others that it’s more useful as a threat than an actual lever for change. But if it were to get traction, my bet is that it would be led by a coaliting of businesses (like the SVLG) rather than the city itself.

  35. Exactly Sid. Splitting counties more accurately. What rule says the territories have to be defined at the county level? If MLB can offer the Giants a bunch of rich guys in exchange for a bunch of rich guys (Walnut Creek and the “rich” parts of CC county they already are marketing to) it would be a fair trade for San Jose and Milpitas rather than just taking back all of SCC from the Giants.

  36. Hopefully not. It would have far more weight if the city or better still someone from the South Bay congressional group led the charge. MLB could care less what some booster group sues them about as it has no real force. What has force is congress (they who gave the ATE) threatening to take it away. Because the courts will up hold it as it was a congressional grant that they can’t overturn entirely as they’ve failed to do repeatedly.

  37. Hey so what are we going to do to celebrate day 1,095 (3 years)?

  38. @Dan. I don’t know, but it’ll be an odd day when (as A’s fans), we don’t have to worry about media coverage, politics, economics, business, etc. on the same levels as we do now. I know there’s going to be a sement of A’s fans with some variation of PTSD.

  39. @Dan – The celebration will be with the most depressing post yet.

    @all – I suggest you read my latest post.

  40. Briggs, I just hope that day we don’t have to worry anymore isn’t the day the A’s leave the Bay Area.

  41. @Sid “MLB shot down the move and Piazza sued MLB and challenged their AE in Florida Court.
    The Florida Supreme Court ruled the AE did not apply to Franchise relocation and the next step was the Supreme Court of the United States.”
    This is not accurate. The case was heard in Federal District courd, ED Pennsylvania. It was a rejection of a motion to dismiss, not binding precedent in any way. And the next step would have been a trial in that same court, followed, potentially, by an appeal to the Third Circuit. It was a very long way away from the Supreme Court.
    The U.S. Supreme Court has endorsed the AE three times, along with every Federal Circuit Court to consider the question (i.e., pretty much all courts that make finding Federal precedent). Since Piazza, tThe U.S. Congress basically endorsed the AE, as applied to franchise relocation.
    It is possible that a lawsuit would be considered enough of a turd in the punchbowl to influence MLB, but the chance of actually winning is slim and in any event would take so long the whole thing would be moot. The only realistic way the AE gets overturned is by Act of Congress, and the only way the Government is likely to influence this matter is by starting hearings on the subject.

  42. @ML – further to Bill’s question above, as opposed to having it as unincorporated land, what if SJ / SCCo “spun off” the stadium site as an entirely separate and new city and county, say, the City and County of Diridon? Would that materially affect your thinking? To avoid having much overhead / administration, couldn’t it contract for services from SCCo?

    And how does “ML for Mayor of Diridon” sound? Just floating the idea might be fun, to see if Larry Baer’s head would explode:

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