New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden dropped a bombshell on the baseball world this weekend by reporting that MLB commissioner Bud Selig is going to confirm the San Francisco Giants‘ territorial rights to San Jose, leaving the A’s stuck in Oakland. As Madden wrote:
MLB is going to uphold the San Francisco Giants’ territorial rights in San Jose… 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…
With the Giants adamant against making any financial settlement with the A’s on San Jose, Wolff and Fisher would appear to have only two options: Find a suitable site for a new stadium in their own (East Bay) territory, possibly right next door to the Coliseum, or sell the team.
Both Selig’s office and A’s owner Lew Wolff immediately denied the validity of Madden’s report, with the commissioner’s office telling SF Gate’s Henry Schulman (off the record, just like whoever gave Madden his information) that, in Schulman’s words, Madden’s article “does not accurately reflect the current situation.”
So who’s lying? In all likelihood, nobody. After all, it’s always been exceedingly improbable that Selig was just going to strip the Giants of their territorial rights and hand San Jose over to the A’s, for exactly the reason that Madden’s unnamed lawyer says: Other teams would be freaked that they’d be the next to have their monopoly market power undermined. (Just look at what happened last year in the NBA, where territorial rights aren’t even as all-important as in baseball.) The real question is whether Selig (or their fellow owners) will arm-twist the Giants owners into lowering their price, or at least naming one, at which point Wolff can quit staring longingly into the South Bay distance and get down to the business of haggling.
So far, Selig doesn’t seem inclined to force a resolution — but then, we’ve known that for eons. The upshot of Madden’s article and the resulting uproar, then, seems to be that the status quo is holding: The Giants owners won’t talk, Selig won’t make them, and Wolff is still waiting impatiently. Eventually something has to give, but as we’re seeing, “eventually” can take a while.