Selig rejected A’s move to San Jose in June, but can still unreject it later if he wants

Here’s one I missed from over the weekend: In a court filing late Friday, MLB lawyers revealed that league commissioner Bud Selig formally rejected Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff’s request to move the team to San Jose:

MLB lawyers revealed that the league denied the A’s relocation request in a June 17 letter from Selig, who “formally notified the Athletics’ ownership that he was not satisfied with the club’s relocation proposal.” San Jose filed its lawsuit against MLB the following day, alleging the league had violated antitrust laws and unlawfully interfered with a November 2011 option agreement between the city and the A’s to buy ballpark land.

That’s big news, since we’ve been waiting for years for Selig to rule on whether the A’s can move to San Jose, right? Except that’s not what he actually did, reports the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser:

Multiple sources with knowledge of the case said that MLB did not outrightly reject an A’s move to San Jose, despite that contention in court documents filed Friday as part of the city’s lawsuit against the league…

Selig’s June 17 letter addressed only the details of the stadium relocation proposal – not the principle of relocation, the sources say.

That’s all a bit vague, but still, the upshot is clear: Selig was just rejecting this request for the A’s the move to San Jose, not ruling out such a move forever. That decision is still in limbo pending the resolution of the A’s territorial-rights battle with the San Francisco Giants, which will be happening right about the time that the universe is destroyed by a new universe bubbling up to replace it.

The bigger question now that we know that Selig sent this letter back in June, meanwhile, is: Why back in June? Did Wolff issue some formal request for relocation back in May that we didn’t hear about? Does Selig just send out these letters every couple of months, in case his lawyers need them in legal proceedings? Is the Higgs boson really going to kill us all? (Okay, that’s actually four questions, but you know what I mean.)

13 comments on “Selig rejected A’s move to San Jose in June, but can still unreject it later if he wants

  1. Neil, I asked your last serious question over at newballpark and the response was that Wolff did formally file for relocation some time ago. Which would explain why Wolff was previously pushing for a vote and then backed off. It also might explain why Bill Shakin seems to have known MLB had issues with the finances and the design of the stadium back in Feb.

    Regardless of why however, it does put the A’s in quite a pickle. They’ve got an costly and uninteresting to them Coliseum City plan and unworkable Howard Terminal plan in Oakland on one side, a plan in San Jose that’s been rejected and is in need of changes that would likely bring it before a time consuming and costly public vote on the other side… And worst part is they could potentially be homeless before long if the Raiders somehow make Phase I of Coliseum City a reality (though that’s a big IF).

  2. Same pickle they’ve always been in, really. And I still don’t get why Coliseum City would leave them homeless even on the off chance it really happens — there’s plenty of land to build in phases if it comes to that.

  3. Neil, it would leave them homeless because Phase I is to demolish the existing Coliseum and build the new football stadium where right field and part of the south parking lot currently are… (There’s Oakland’s ever so intelligent pols for you). This is at the Raiders urging as they’ve obviously got a back up stadium in Santa Clara to use for a year or two and they want the prime site in the center of the development near the BART bridge. The city, as they always do with the Raiders, has obliged.

    Here’s a link to a grainy image of the Phases the city presented during their circus of a meeting with the county last week.

    From what I understand Phase I would open in 2018, while Phase III if they did it wouldn’t open until after 2020. The old Coliseum would close in 2016 presumably after the existing leases with the two teams expire.

  4. Yeah, I guess I don’t take plans like those seriously at this stage of the game. Agreed that the A’s would be in trouble if Oakland actually tried to evict them, but I think it’s more likely that that’s the “once the A’s move to San Jose” plan.

  5. Neil, if that were the case, what’s the point of the ballpark in Phase III. No this is their plan, with or without the A’s go ahead as they’re focused right now on keeping the only team that is currently working with them (the Raiders). And the Raiders have made it clear they want the stadium exactly where it is located on those plans (though the roof in Phase II and III was a new addition in their most recent revision). The ironic thing is that the city is still focused on the overly expensive and likely unworkable Howard Terminal plan for the A’s at the same time which will cost $700 million minimum by their own projections. Yet also by their own projections to make Coliseum city pencil out financially long term they need either the Warriors or the Raiders to commit to the plan to be a part of it by Phase III. Otherwise they reason there won’t be enough foot traffic to justify all of the ancillary development being planned for Phase II. Phase I essentially just rebuilds a football only Coliseum similar to the current setup but prettier.

    If ever there was a need to use the term “clusterfuck” it’s to describe Oakland’s illogical and disjointed plans for their 3 teams.

  6. I’ll give you that. But I also know that plans change, especially this early in the game, so I don’t think it’s worth taking them too seriously.

  7. I’ll admit the plans could change, putting the football stadium on the current Coliseum’s footprint wasn’t in the original plan. That was added latter when the Raiders demanded it. But we’re also not entirely late in the game. Both the developer and the city have been studying the financial viability of the plan and the specifics for some time now. Granted they’re not totally locked in until they do they start actual construction. But the design as it exists now is how they’re selling it to their development partners and to the Raiders at the very least. I imagine if they intended to tweak it later the partners would have some say.

  8. Selig has some very expensive lawyers working for him. He is unlikely to issue any decision without consulting them.

    It is interesting that he felt the need to formally reject “this” San Jose plan in June however. I don’t believe you’ll ever see or hear any league commish issuing a “not now, not ever” edict in relation to potential relocations. Doing so invites nuisance actions, and discourages potential member cities from throwing massive piles of cash at said league…

  9. Dan: Anything is possible. But if it turned out that proceeding with any plan for the Raiders (or whomever) left the A’s with no place to play, don’t you think the city would require modifications to the development plans to accommodate the A’s (unless Wolff does his blazing saddles routine, of course)?

    Those could include adjustment of the planned new stadium site to allow the coliseum to exist until the new facility was ready (which would also help the Raiders, let’s not forget), or a change in the construction schedule that does not impact the A’s as much (or at all).

    Creating a sense of urgency is money in the bank for sports teams, which helps explain why both the Raiders and A’s have done just that.

  10. John, problem is that would assume Oakland’s leaders are intelligent… which they’ve never shown a predilection for being. And that they care about the A’s, which they’ve made very clear they don’t through their actions and words (at least not until Wolff comes crawling back to them which is their end game scenario). They’re proceeding with the one team that has seen fit to at least pay attention to them. If that eventually inconveniences the A’s they figure the A’s will have to get on board with them. Remember, Oakland thinks it has all the leverage here, even through MLB completely undermined that last month suggesting the A’s could be temporarily housed in San Francisco as an emergency measure.

  11. My guess is that if the A’s had no place to play for a year or two they’d bum over in AT&T Park across the bay. Kind of how the Raiders are expected to share Levi’s with the 49ers while the Coliseum is rebuilt and the Yankees occasionally had seasons in Shea when Yankee’s Stadium was being rebuilt.

    But only if it was clear that it was just for a year or two and not long term.

  12. Fair point Dan. I think I’ve already quoted it here before, but I remember Jean Quan (I believe) saying “this group has the money to build this development the way we want” re: the new partners. Obviously, the ability for any given development to remain solvent ranks far below the wants (much less needs) of city management on the importance scale.

    That said, my gut tells me that MLB has, during discussions with Oakland, made it clear that if they make life difficult for the A’s (you know, more difficult than modifying their stadium to suit another tenant anyway) and MLB is forced to move them even temporarily, they won’t be coming back to Oakland.

    It’s the sensible thing for specialists in extortion to do.

    I may be proven wrong, but I think the city and mlb will find a way to keep the A’s in Oakland, even though Wolff has made it clear he doesn’t care what they offer, he wants out. The interesting part to me will be whether MLB forces Wolff out if he won’t accept a deal they like, or whether he can be convinced that he has no other option than to make the best deal he can in Oakland.