When life hands you overflowing toilets, make … you know what, I’m not sure I like where this headline is going

When the Oakland A’s sewage system backed up on Sunday, it was clear that two things would result: renewed calls by the team for a new stadium, and poop jokes, plenty of poop jokes.

  • It’s all a bunch of crap,” A’s owner Lew Wolff told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, who suggested that Wolff sabotage the plumbing at the next MLB owners’ meeting “to let his peers know just what it’s like these days playing in the Oakland Coliseum.”
  • “As we have stated many times, the Oakland A’s need a new ballpark,” wrote MLB in a prepared statement. “Sunday’s unfortunate incident is a stark illustration that they need a long-term solution. … The situation in Oakland is particularly complicated, evident through the years of work it has required, yet we remain hopeful that a resolution can be reached so that the A’s can secure the 21st Century venue that the franchise and its fans deserve.”

In other words, it’s still the status quo: Wolff still wants a new stadium in San Jose, the San Francisco Giants owners still have no intention of giving up the territorial rights that they got with the franchise back in 1992, and Bud Selig isn’t going to smack any heads together to get this resolved, no matter how many carpets need to be changed.

As for whether all this means that the O.co Coliseum — and man, do you think Overstock.com is happy they bought the naming rights to a building that is getting their name mentioned in this context? — is actually in any direr need of replacement, probably not: The A’s equipment manager told the San Jose Mercury News that plumbing problems have occurred “periodically” going all the way back to 1975, and have always been repaired. Which isn’t exactly reassuring, but given that there have been plenty of bigger crowds over the years than last weekend’s without sewage backups, it does seem that this isn’t a sign that the Coliseum is obsolete for modern crowds or anything; it’s just a building that’s always had somewhat (ahem) crappy plumbing. All should be well for the next A’s homestand; I’ll actually be in attendance at one of those games, so if HTML5 can ever get those <aroma> tags working, I’ll post a full report.


14 comments on “When life hands you overflowing toilets, make … you know what, I’m not sure I like where this headline is going

  1. Neil, you should take the Amtrak from the O.Co Coliseum up to Sacramento and check out the Downtown Plaza site for yourself (walking distance from Sacramento’s Amtrak station). You’ll get to see the railyards of 2012 Term Sheet fame.

  2. San Jose getting impatiently litigation happy: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/sports/pro/baseball&id=9143281#&cmp=twi-kgo-article-9143281

  3. I’ll have more to say on this tomorrow, but now things get really, really interesting. Whether San Jose has a good case or not, MLB is absolutely *terrified* of risking its precious 1922 antitrust exemption – hell, it created the Devil Rays just to avoid that possibility. So this could definitely be what it takes for Selig to start leaning on Wolff and Baer to cut a deal, though I expect they’ll try to get it dismissed first.

  4. Man, I am rooting hard for San Jose to win this lawsuit.

    I tell you, models of cities where these things work, and where they don’t work, are getting clearer rapidly now. Honestly, because of the number of events in Brooklyn, I fully expect them to never have a problem (sorry, Neil, we may be on opposite sides of this argument) with Barclay’s.

    On the other hand, there is absolutely nothing they can do to make it work in Glendale, Orlando, Indianapolis and Louisville.

    And then there are cities like KC who say it can only work with tax hikes.

    Where does San Jose fit on this? It’s going to be more like Brooklyn.

    And how about Sacramento and Oakland? Just look at the demographics; the number of corporate HQ’s, the average incomes, the population density… Sorry, but we’re more like Orlando. But we could move into the KC grouping, IF taxes are approved first. It’s not even that much; $20/house for 30 years. Big deal. But they have to ask first.

    Ranting now, sorry. But go San Jose; I’ve been waiting for this day. And by the way, this absolutely WILL impact all other sports leagues. The NBA thinks its rules regarding team moves are legal? Think again.

  5. Thanks for posting the link, 1014… this type of challenge is very interesting (and long overdue).

    Mike is right, if by some miracle this suit is allowed to proceed and SJ ultimately wins (which, at first blush I find highly unlikely, but one never knows what might come up/out in court… if they ever get there…), it changes everything for all the major pro sports. It might even force them to accept any applicant/city that can demonstrate they meet certain (in this case MLB-defined) standards into the “club”. But now I’m just dreaming…

    I’d also suggest it doesn’t necessarily have as much to do with the “A’s moving to San Jose” as it does San Jose ‘qualifying’ as a major league baseball city. Put another way, if the unthinkable occurs and multibillion dollar sports leagues find themselves in court and lose this case, San Jose might be first on the list for an expansion franchise, but not necessarily the A’s (or Rays or….). MLB will always be able to choose where their existing franchises play. They may not always be able to limit the number of franchises available – and that would be a good thing for taxpayers everywhere.

    As Neil notes, broadly speaking, this is how the Rays came into existence in the first place.

    MLB chose to try and “equalize” markets that cannot be equalized by demanding extraordinary subsidies for stadia etc in smaller markets (which, ultimately, the larger markets not only got as well but exceeded). Another option would have been to simply expand within the major markets until the market share for each club was, more naturally, equalized. No-one should be surprised they didn’t do that, but it was an option.

    BTW, since a new team playing in NYC, for example, would be required to pay indemnity to the Yankees and Mets… can anyone provide a link to the check the Yankees wrote to the rest of MLB (in exhange for their new, larger territory) when the Dodgers and Giants left town?

  6. John it’ll never get anywhere near that far. MLB will quietly make a deal with San Jose and they’ll settle out of court. This suit will be lucky to even see the inside of a courtroom. The A’s will start the 2017 or so season in San Jose and that will be that. They’re not going to let their precious ATE get derailed for the likes of Oakland. A city that has no money to contribute to them, no downtown land to contribute and can’t even keep the plumbing working at their existing venue.

  7. Dan, that sounds like a solid theory, but let’s face it, the SF Giants are, well, one of the giant franchises; they won’t just go quietly into the night here.

    Something has to snap here.

    Off-topic: Las Vegas (the story that never ends):

    http://www.sacbee.com/2013/06/18/5505923/mgm-aeg-to-develop-20k-seat-las.html

  8. I’d be shocked if it got into court, Dan. But stranger things have happened. The question is “what deal” will they make with San Jose to placate them? Will it be “Ok you can have the A’s and we don’t care what the Giants say”? I doubt it.

    Some time ago we spoke about the suggestion that Selig might come up with a “Solomon-like” judgement – namely that the A’s don’t own San Jose and neither do the Giants, MLB itself does. So… if that were to come to pass, would Wolff be willing to pay more to get into SJ than Baer would be willing to pay to keep him out of it?

    I’m also of the view that SJ’s suit is less about truth, justice, fairness and enlightened decision making than it is “Well, this worked for Tampa Bay” (sort of…)

  9. “I’m also of the view that SJ’s suit is less about truth, justice, fairness and enlightened decision making…”

    Ain’t that the truth. Once again I’m thoroughly annoyed at this bastardization of the concept of “anti-trust”…

    “The city’s complaint is that MLB has unlawfully conspired to limit competition by controlling the location of teams.”

    …makes no sense at all. Limit competition? MLB has done nothing to prevent another league from putting a team in San Jose. And it can’t be guilty of limiting competition with itself. It’s no more “anti-competitive” than McDonald’s not letting you open an outlet across the street from one of their existing franchises.

    As John mentioned, they –might– be able to argue that MLB is in violation by limiting the –number– of teams. But in the case of San Jose you’d still have to convince a judge that that outweighed a business’s right to establish “geographic ownership” for each franchise.

  10. Keith, who knows what the arguments presented will be (in the unlikely event this case ever makes it to court. MLB will spend a great deal of money to prevent that from happening, but it isn’t actually impossible).

    If the phrase you quoted is the wording they used “controlling the location of teams” then I’m even less bullish on their chances.

    It’s perfectly reasonable for even a monopoly like MLB to tell an applicant they can’t have an MLB franchise in Oakland because one already exists there (and yes, NY, Chicago, LA etc… I know). It is less clear whether they could tell a city like San Jose that they can’t have an MLB franchise, ever, because both Oakland and SF already have them.

    Of course, MLB has not told San Jose anything of the sort so far as I know… they just haven’t approved a franchise relocation, so we probably are still in cart>horse territory here.

  11. The ultimate solution for all parties is to expand the “operating territories” of both teams, as seen in the MLB constitution… (http://www.bizofbaseball.com/docs/MLConsititutionJune2005Update.pdf)
    “Oakland Athletics: Alameda and Contra Costa Counties”
    “San Francisco Giants: City of San Francisco; and San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Marin Counties in California; provided, however, that with respect to all Major League Clubs, Santa Clara County in California shall also be included;”

    Just include Alameda and Contra Costa to the SFG territory (this would more than make up for the population numbers “loss” of Santa Clara County). After that, mirror-image the territories that SFG and OAK have – just like it is for CHW/CHC, LAD/LAA and NYM/NYY, and problem solved. Hell, toss in Solano, Sonoma and San Benito Counties into the mix if you need more “bodies” to make it work.

    Let the rising tide lift all boats.

  12. Someone stuffed something down the toilets, but they haven’t said what it was.

    http://blog.sfgate.com/matierandross/2013/06/19/coliseum-sewage-mess-blamed-on-mystery-mass-not-old-pipes

    I think that’s pretty ridiculous.

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