If you’re Bud Selig or Lew Wolff, sometimes you don’t have to play your own cards when others play them for you. Case in point: Oakland CM Larry Reid and AlCo Supe Nate Miley both brought up the specter of the A’s leaving Oakland, perhaps for San Antonio or Montreal. Nevermind the likelihood of it happening, it’s part of the threat, and the City of Oakland should take it seriously. Even sports economist Andrew Zimbalist says so, though the relocation doesn’t have to be as far as Canada. Zimbalist:
“What they could do is make a short-term arrangement to share AT&T Park with the Giants, and you know that could go on for a couple years until they found an alternative stadium situation.”
MLB wielded the move-to-AT&T card last November and the Giants were mum about it. MLB could move the A’s there temporarily while something was worked out elsewhere. Over the last few weeks I saw some discussion about whether the Giants’s Charter Seat License program could muck things up because CSL holders may have first dibs on any regular season games at China Basin, not just the Giants. I’m not so sure about that, since the license agreement indicates that “Home Games” are specific to the Giants. There’s a gray area in how another home team’s games would be handled, but since there are already provisions for offering and distributing tickets for non-Giants game events (“Classic” events), I figure this isn’t a huge obstacle.
That aside, relocation outside of the Bay Area should be taken much less seriously. Field of Schemes’ Neil deMause lays out the difficult cases for each market and includes San Jose, which has the Giants’ territorial rights claim as its because hurdle. If MLB wants to go through the same charade for the A’s as it did for the Expos, there isn’t a huge pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Oakland is in no position to give up a publicly financed stadium to the A’s. Portland, San Antonio, Charlotte, and Montreal can be best described as mid-level markets, and while some of those cities don’t have problematic stadium T-rights situations to deal with, a relocated team will still be invading existing TV territories, which are arguably just as valuable if not more so. Hell, it’s been a decade and MLB is still trying to unwind the O’s-Nats TV mess.
So for now, there’s nothing to see here. There’s little real action, only theatrics on the part of the JPA and Oakland. If the City calls the Wolff/Selig bluff and sends back a revised offer, then we’ll see the threats fly in earnest. Or not.
P.S. – Keep in mind that until November and last week, MLB has been playing nice with Oakland. They allowed Oakland to entertain the Howard Terminal concept. They didn’t nudge Oakland to choose the A’s over the Raiders. Now all of that has changed. Howard Terminal has been shut down via the lease talks. MLB is waiting for Oakland to partner with the A’s after the dissolution of Coliseum City. If that doesn’t happen, MLB will have a clear indicator of how Oakland wants to proceed.