Merc News columnist: “Almost zero chance” that MLB will okay A’s move to San Jose

I honestly don’t know what to make of this Tim Kawakami piece on the Oakland A’s, which uses unsourced claims to argue six ways from Sunday that the A’s move to San Jose is completely, utterly dead:

The A’s dream of moving to San Jose is all but barricaded, at least for the foreseeable future…

The move to San Jose — as it stands now and probably for at least as long as Fisher and Wolff own the A’s — is not happening…

For months, every credible independent source I’ve talked to about the A’s future has insisted that there is almost zero chance that a move to San Jose will be approved.

Specifically, these sources — all involved with the highest levels of the sport — say that the A’s chances at a San Jose move were always distant.

And after the lawsuit filed against Major League Baseball by the city of San Jose, the idea of a move has essentially lost any ownership support they might have ever had.

Kawakami specifies that these “independent” sources are independent of the San Francisco Giants, who are trying their darnedest to put a stake through the heart of any San Jose A’s talk. He also writes that “these sources also emphasize that Fisher and Wolff have not endeared themselves to other owners by crying poor while simultaneously collecting massive revenue-sharing checks — $30 million per year or more — and turning very nice profits.” Which would seem to mitigate for them wanting to get the A’s into San Jose and off the revenue-sharing list — big-market teams were barred from getting league payments in the last collective bargaining agreement, which runs through 2016, but Oakland got an exemption until they get a new stadium — but you never can tell with baseball owners.

Anyway, I’m certainly as pessimistic as anyone about an A’s move to San Jose ever coming to fruition, but this seems to be another level of coffin-nailing. Kawakami was one of the first to notice that the Golden State Warriors‘ San Francisco arena plans were running into trouble, so maybe he knows something we don’t know — or maybe he just needed some way of getting a column topic out of A’s manager Bob Melvin not complaining about the latest Oakland Coliseum plumbing problems.

40 comments on “Merc News columnist: “Almost zero chance” that MLB will okay A’s move to San Jose

  1. If San Jose is dead and the Raiders wind up leaving, I wonder if it would just be easier for the A’s to demolish Mt. Davis that would then bring back the great view of the hills. Fix the plumbing issue and do some other basic renovations. Maybe put a waterfall or something where Mt. Davis is now like they have in Kansas City or other stadiums or something that is relevant to the east bay.

  2. San Jose was never a truly viable alternative, either because MLB and the Giants objected or because Muni Stadium is a 3,800-seat antiquity that’s one of the smallest ballparks in a CLASS A league. If the A’s really want to bring the hammer down, they should set up temporary digs in Sacramento (which at least seats 12,000) while they sort out where to play permanently.

    Besides, even though the A’s have won six pennants and four World Series since 1972, Oakland has never really supported them. They’d be better off in a place where people gave a rip about them. The Bay Area doesn’t.

  3. Guilty, Muni stadium never played into any discussions in San Jose. Wolff’s plan from the get go has been to build Cisco Field in downtown SJ. Also the city of Oakland just admitted they are 500-600 million dollars short on coliseum City which currently is only planned to have a football Stadium. It would obviously be even more in the hole if a ballpark and/or arena were involved. So if not San Jose for the A’s… where?

  4. @Trueblood – if you can believe it, the taxpayers of Oakland (or is it Alameda County?) still owe in the nine digits for Mt. Davis. Unless there’s a major overhaul of the entire stadium, that thing ain’t coming down.

  5. Do they ever renovate old sports facilities?

    With the exceptions of Wrigley, Fenway and MSG, I don’t think they ever do.

  6. Mark, what? You are discounting the possibility of the mother of all insurance fires??

    Not surprised at this ‘development’ re: San Jose. If they A’s wanted to be there, they know the process they have to go through with MLB. Signing a land option is not the first step, and Wolff knows that.

    He thought he could pressure his ownership brothers into letting him get something without paying for it. He was wrong about that, and he has pissed off quite a number of them in trying I’m sure.

    I wonder how long he and Fisher hang on to the A’s now?

  7. Bud Selig was on TSN in Canada last weekend and said (in response to a question about possible expansion or relocation to Montreal) “really, none of our teams have an interest in moving”.

    Now, he is unlikely to reveal it if they did have said interest when talking to a reporter from a tv network. Having said that, given the fact that Wolff has bee very public about wanting to move for some time, I found this interesting. Perhaps MLB has made an accommodation with Wolff and his partners that we don’t know about yet…

    If so, I wonder if that accommodation will see them continue as owners in Oakland?

  8. Guilty Bystander: Actually, the A’s outdrew the Giants from 1970-76, 1981-85, and 1988-92. So it’s not quite fair to say that the Bay Area never supported the A’s, though clearly the Giants’ fan base has been stronger since they moved downtown.

    Mark: If Mount Davis isn’t earning any money, why keep it? The debt is a sunk cost.

    John: I expect that was an answer for the Montreal market not to get its hopes up. (Or, alternatively, “Come talk to use once you’ve sweetened the pot.”) Wolff does seem to have been backing away from San Jose of late, but I suspect Selig would have said the same thing regardless.

  9. The A’s will not leave the Bay Area because of the fact the Giants cannot stop them from being televised to 10M people all over Nor Cal.

    It is because of TV the A’s are not dead last in payroll (25th in 2014) even though they have the lowest revenue of any team in MLB.

    Kawakami does not understand MLB thinks they are a monopoly and when San Jose wins its court case everything will change. It did with Seattle and Tampa Bay years ago, this is no different.

    In a new San Jose stadium, the A’s would be worth 800M-1B dollars. The Giants are worth 1B in SF right now and the A’s are around 500M in a dump 12 miles away.

    The Bay Area is wealthiest market in the US and if you look at the other two team markets every team are in the top half in value except the A’s and it because of their location in the market and their stadium.

    The greatest marketing tool is the stadium period for a baseball team. With so many games, you need a ballpark to survive and the Giants and Oakland plus MLB have ensured they are small market. It violates the entire Sherman Act and then some.

    The only prayer the A’s stay in Oakland is if the Raiders move to Santa Clara or the middle of nowhere leaving the Coliseum open for Wolff to develop. Wolff would have major leverage if the Raiders left.

    There is no way they can build at the Coliseum site with all 3 teams there still. The Warriors/Raiders would complain all day about parking issues.

    The moment San Jose was allowed to appeal its case to the 9th Circuit it put MLB on the edge….They will be pushed over very soon.

  10. @SBSJ – St. Petersberg (Tampa Bay) actually had an above average chance of winning it’s suit, which is why it got an expansion team, so they’d drop the suit and make challenge to the anti-trust rules go away.

    The A’s are trying to argue out something they agreed to when they sold the territory to Giants back in the 90’s. The court has a strict “no backsies” rule when both parties are competent and well represented in the negotiations.

  11. Tampa Bay also was in a different federal district that was known to be tough on antitrust. And, most important, giving Tampa Bay a team didn’t require upsetting any other owners — it was just a matter of bumping them to the head of the line for the next expansion.

  12. MikeM,

    Older stadiums get renovated all the time. Usually new ones are only built if the old footprint is too small (Chicago Stadium, Metrodome, Boston Garden, St. Louis Dome), the shape is wrong (multi-use “spaceships” from the 70s, St. Louis Dome) or the location needs improving (LA Forum, Turner Field, St. Louis Dome)

  13. and in the mean time another city manager of Oakland resigns…Fred Blackwell was the point person for their negotiations with the Raiders–note before he announced his resignation that there is a $600M funding gap to try and build a new stadium for the Raiders. So while LW was brought in to find the A’s a new home by his buddy bs he has come to the same conclusion of his predecessors as well as presumably the BRC–you can’t privately finance a new stadium in oakland…and that assumes that there is a economically viable site which at this point in time is still in question. without bs providing leadership and opeing up SJ the A’s in the Bay Area are pretty much screwed as they are limited to 2 counties while the gints have 6–including the 2 wealthiest counties. Ultimately the gints may achieve their true objective which is to force the A’s out of the Bay Area all together so that they have the market to themselves.

  14. It was almost certainly intended for Montreal ears only, Neil… and just as certainly it was code for “when you have piled so much tax money on the table that we just can’t stop ourselves from leaping into the pile and taking a money bath…”

    But that said, he still said no teams were looking to move. It wouldn’t be the first time the Used Car Dealer has spoken an untruth… but given that this one was so obvious, it does make me wonder.

  15. jmauro:

    It’s true that negotiated agreements are difficult to get out of. It is also true that the A’s did consent to allow the Giants access to the San Jose market.

    Since it pretty much cannot end up in court, however, the legal ramifications of it are really a marginal concern.

    The A’s view of the transaction was that it was a trade: The Haas family agreed to allow the Giants access to San Jose if they wanted to move there. Their view of it is that they would gain San Francisco in a swap if the Giants were successful in moving to San Jose.

    Unfortunately for the A’s, MLB appears to have lost the Haas’ letter and only remembers it very differently (as a gift). We might all, as paying fans, be better off if sports business contracts were contestable in a court of law… unfortunately, all franchise agreements include language that makes it very unwise for owners to seek redress through the courts.

  16. @Bladen – Without the legal considerations there really isn’t anything the A’s can do since they have no leverage to force the issue. All they can do is pout to the media.

  17. Well, San Jose can sue, which is what they are doing. But until MLB sees some sign that a court is taking the suit seriously, it’s not going to scare them into doing nothing.

    (Another difference between Tampa Bay in the ’90s and the Bay Area today, incidentally: Twenty years ago, all of Florida was unanimously pissed that the Giants weren’t being allowed to move to St. Pete. Today in California, there are major local players — the Giants and any of their political allies, not to mention folks who want to see the A’s remain in Oakland — who would be opposed to a San Jose move. Whatever you want to believe about judges and their impartiality before the law, that has to have an impact.)

  18. Dodger Stadium underwent recent renovations. So, yes, they do renovate older stadiums.

  19. The Big A in Anaheim was renovated in the late 1990s. It opened in 1966 & is the 4th oldest MLB park.

  20. @neil- yup- and so in the meantime the A’s will continue to collect welfare from their mlb partners of 30-40M; not a bad position to be in as the franchise continues to appreciate also and the team is expected to do better than the gints again. It is painfully obvious that bs BRC has come to the same conclusion as LW and the previous owners of the A’s- can’t build a privately financed ballpark in Oakland; not to mention taking away their welfare check if they were to do so. Where this will get interesting is if Raiders stay and force A’s out (unlikely because Oakland nor the Raiders can afford even a remodeled stadium) or more likely, Raiders end up in SV as a tenant of Levi. LW becomes master developer of CC provided Oakland gives him the property. From my perspective A’s are playing this well- can’t build privately in Oakland- city has no money to subsidize a ballpark- u won’t let me move 40 miles further south away from the gints where I can build a privately financed ballpark so I will stay where I am until evicted and collect those welfare checks from my partners while also being projected to win the AL West again – and of course the occasional sewage spills only make MLB look foolish for its inability to lead- well done by the A’s

  21. To be fair, they’re not entirely “welfare checks” — it’s partly money from MLB’s central fund, which is in part collected from things like web media revenue. (Is the Green Bay Packers’ annual check from Fox “welfare”?) Though that’s certainly how the higher-revenue owners look at them, which is likely to become a big issue in 2016 when the new CBA is set to be negotiated, regardless of whether it’s the A’s or someone else getting the checks:

  22. @neil–don’t disagree but bttm line is the “wealthier” teams take dollars that would be in their pockets and give them to the “less fortunate” teams based upon market size and revenue. MLB has deemed the Bay Area a 2 team market and yet, unlike any other 2 team territories, has split up the 8 bay area counties with 6 going to the gints (2 wealthiest) and 2 to the A’s. A’s moving off mlb’s welfare system is unlikely unless they decide to treat the bay area like all other 2 team markets. So if SJ is off the table then A’s will have to stay on the dole–unless Oakland can build them that ballpark like Miami did for the Marlins–

  23. The Giants only “have” the 6 counties in terms of where they can move, and block other teams from moving. All of Northern California is shared TV territory.

    And “dollars that would be in their pockets” is a very hazy term when it comes to sports revenue — it’s not like the split of visiting and home team shares of ticket sales, for example, was handed down on stone tablets. There are many ways for leagues to decide how to divvy up the pie, and somebody’s always going to feel like they’re getting the short end. Of the pie.

  24. Given that MLB “welfare” (that would be a more accurate description of the tax dollars MLB extracts… revenue sharing is not welfare) will go to another team (or teams) if the A’s get a new ballpark, getting the A’s off revenue sharing (or just reducing it) really doesn’t save the big market owners any money… they just send it to someone else.

    Like it or not, Wolff & Fisher knew what the rules were and what they were buying when they bought. If they didn’t want to own the Oakland franchise, they should have tried to purchase one of the others instead. They didn’t do that…

    Why would anyone feel sorry for owners who are making millions owning a professional sports team? Because they should be making more? Why?

    If they wanted to own the Giants, they really should have ponied up when Lurie had them for sale (of course, they would also have had to pony up for a privately funded stadium… something they have not been willing to do in Oakland). Lew Wolff is not a victim, despite the protests to the contrary.

  25. @ john- LW was brought in by bs to get the A’s a new ballpark- it was bs who opened the can of worms when he said the A’s could pursue SJ and established the BRC 5 years ago. Who is feeling sorry for LW? I’m not- in fact the point I made is how he could probably care less. His franchise has more than tripled in value, he gets 30-40M of welfare while getting to televise his team in a very lucrative market and he fields a winning team with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. He can handle playing in a shithole (literally) which is why he has asked for a 10 year lease extension. Who gets embarrassed every time the sewers back up and it makes national news- not LW- but good ole Bud and MLB who can’t figure out how to get the A’s a newballpark in one of the most lucrative markets in the nation. NFL figured it out pretty quickly- MLS figured it out, NHL understands- but MLB is stuck with one of its franchises preferring to compete in the courtroom v the field- all in an effort to drive the A’s out of the Bay Area.

    Neil- why a second standard for the Bay Area compared to LA, Chicago or NY- where territories are shared?- if it’s irrelevant that the gints own 6 and the A’s 2 because TV is king then why hasn’t bs made the easy decision to share the territory like all other 2 team markets?

  26. Actually, Texas/Houston and Washington/Baltimore are also two-team TV markets that are split up into multiple territories. And that’s before you even get into things like three teams sharing Iowa:

  27. @neil- really – Dallas and Houston as an example? Baltimore was a single team market and they decided to make it a 2 team market and allow the nationals to move 40 miles away- about the same distance the A’s would be from the gints if they moved to SJ- currently they are about 10 miles apart- makes complete sense- and of course another embarrassment for Oakland tonight- rainout due to rain 12 hours earlier- wait till an earthquake hits and someone suffers an injury there- then MLB will have a problem

  28. Earthquakes strike the bay area with some regularity, as I’m sure you know. That is apropos of nothing – other than being in poor taste given recent natural disasters.

    To your earlier post:

    Neither of the A’s and Giants are competing in the courtroom. They’ve never been in a courtroom and they aren’t likely to get there. This is an internal MLB matter.

    With all due respect, I think your hatred for Selig is clouding the issue here. Oakland is a bottom quarter market in MLB. It is not the worst, and it’s some way from climbing to midpack. However, ownership is making money, MLB is making scads of money, and only the city itself is being embarrassed by the repeated sewage backups (which, as has been discussed on this site before, is something that has been happening since at least the 1970s and has more to due with the physical characteristics of the site than with the age of the plumbing etc).

    I understand that you want the A’s in San Jose. But as MLB has been saying all along, that is unlikely.

    It’s possible that the A’s in SJ could be a “Giants like” moneyspinner. But it is not certain, particularly not if Wolff ends up paying the full shot for his new stadium and has to pay Baer & Co. any sort of compensation.

    If Wolff was, as you say “brought in” to get the A’s a new stadium, don’t you find it odd that he categorically refuses to have meaningful discussions with Oakland regarding same?

  29. SJA’s: I’m just pointing out that if you’re comparing the A’s-Giants situation to “where territories are shared,” there are other regions where TV territories are shared but territorial rights are not. (See the map I posted.) You can argue that the Bay Area is special because it’s a single metropolitan statistical area, unlike Dallas-Houston or Baltimore-D.C., but there’s no rule saying that MLB has to follow the census bureau’s definition of what a market is.

    Also, D.C. was never considered to be in Baltimore’s territorial rights area — that’s why Peter Angelos wasn’t able to block the Expos’ move. Again, you can argue that this isn’t fair (though 40 miles to an East Coaster is very different than to a West Coaster), but MLB territorial rights has never been about fairness, or New York City would have five teams…

  30. @neil- and TR change as was evidenced in the Bay Area where SCCo was supposedly “given” to the gints forever by the A’s/MLB for no compensation and no requirement that they actually build a ballpark there. Obviously there is wide latitude in how MLB can make changes.

    @john- had to laugh at your response- you claim that LW is playing the victim card- I disagree and said he is more than happy to allow MLB continue to wallow in their own incompetence as he makes money hand over fist. Also, can you remind me of the site in Oakland that the BRC has identified after 5 years that makes economic senses for the A’s to build a privately financed ballpark. exactly- there isn’t one- LW is such a horrible person for be willing to spend 500M of his own money, no the publics, but prefers to do it in an area that he can make it work- sounds like the ‘9ers doesn’t it John?

    Regarding embarrassment- MLB can’t be happy that they are becoming the butt of many jokes for one of their teams to be playing in a ballpark that makes national news because of sewage spills- regardless of physical characteristics of an aging stadium. As one of the A’s players tweeted the other day- “commitment to excretment” is going to be the new logo of

    Finaaly, I live in the Bay Area- I was at the 89 WS when the quake hit and I can telll you first hand no one wants to be in an aging stadium when something of that magnitude happens- so don’t tell me that I’m trying to hype something- you said it yourself- earthquakes happen here all the time- MLB/bs had better hope that sewage spills and high tides/lack of tarping are all they have to worry about due to their inability to make a decision-

  31. A bit more nat’l attention on the incompetence of mlb and the A’s situation…

  32. Couldda’ told you it was gonna end like this 5 years ago. So the drum beaters and noise makers will keep herding themselves into the mausoleum cheap seats. Better take care of you-know-what before leaving “home”.
    Bahhh-bahhh, boom-boom…

  33. Unless you live in the Bay Area, it may be difficult to grasp that even though it is the 4th largest market, the Giants draw from all 9 Bay Area counties, and basically the A’s draw from Alameda and Contra Costa counties almost 100%. So, in actuality, the As are not a big market team. I spent 27 years working for the Bay Area’s Best, and almost everyone who followed the game rooted for the Giants. I believe the A’s will draw well in San Jose, and there is a small fan base already there. Also, since the Giants moved downtown and the A’s took the gas, the casual A’s fan has already jumped ship to SF. If the A’s leave, there won’t be a big influx of paid attendance or a jump in TV ratings because every A’s fan I know will never root for the Giants.

  34. Baseball is not a “game” it is a “business” subject to the same laws as the other sports and free market enterprises. Tampa Bay won in the 9th Circuit, the same place where San Jose is fighting MLB right now. The judge or the actual location of the courtroom is relative, the precedence from Piazza still will be haunting the room.

    In fact, no other owner has publicly said they are against the A’s in San Jose. The White Sox and Ray’s owners came out in full support, the White Sox share their market with the Cubs. Kawakami is getting his sources from jerks like Robert Manfred and Company who think MLB is a monopoly when they are about to find out otherwise not from voting owners.

    MLB is desperate, San Jose was granted an expedited appeal in the 9th Circuit. MLB is trying to delay, they are arguing Stand For San Jose’s lawsuit hearing is in August and that will show San Jose has no standing. Huh? That makes zero sense, and to tie both together is a sign of desperation. The option agreement is valid and for 7M dollars. MLB also moved the state piece to LA County as they felt Santa Cruz county was too close to San Jose…..what? San Jose knows full well LA County is full of “Giants haters” and a jury trial down there benefits San Jose 100%. MLB is straight dumb to make that move.

    S4SJ argues the option agreement is below market value and should be sold for office space/retail when San Jose has so much empty office space and Valley Fair/Santana Row are 3.5 miles away. A ballpark is inherently “unique” and is for public use. How many ballparks does San Jose have? Zero. MLB’s argument is flawed and they are stating this because they know full well the 9th Circuit will not honor the ATE.

    T-rights are inherently illegal and the other leagues do not have them. Just general guidelines on TV and marketing for obvious reasons. The history of Walter Haas giving up the rights to San Jose is irrelevant. Splitting up a common market on territory is against the law in every aspect.

    It could be in football, baseball, building a gas station….The principle is the same. That is why MLB will lose this appeal and have to open their books and notes and explain themselves for not making a decision in 5 years about San Jose.

  35. Tampa Bay never filed a federal suit. The state of Florida filed a state suit, which it won, allowing the attorney general to begin an antitrust investigation of MLB, which eventually led MLB to create the Rays to make it go away.

  36. @Neil- I mean to say Piazza not Tampa Bay filed the anti-trust suit. Tampa Bay was just a beneficiary of the suit itself.

  37. @Neil-The State of Florida did file a state case and won. These were two separate cases and MLB lost both badly.

    Similar circumstances around San Jose but not exactly the same of course.

  38. Piazza didn’t win his case either — just a preliminary ruling that MLB couldn’t use its blanket antitrust exemption to get the case dismissed. It was settled before it went to a court hearing.

  39. “..LW is such a horrible person for be willing to spend 500M of his own money, no the publics, but prefers to do it in an area that he can make it work…”

    Actually, he ‘prefers’ to do it in a market he does not own the rights to.

    That’s problematic… and it is actual evidence that Wolff is playing the victim. He wants something for nothing (SJ). If he was willing to use his own money to get there, there wouldn’t be a 5yr old BRC and we wouldn’t be talking about whether or not Wolff can get to San Jose (which he can, if he pays. He won’t).

    Finally, if you are going to claim that potential loss of life due to an earthquake as a reason for a new stadium, then you’d better expect to get called out on such an inflammatory and ridiculous suggestion.

  40. @john- show me where I ever claimed loss of life due to eq- I said it would create a challenging issue for MLB if anything happened- pieces of concrete falling- ad they did at the stick- may not injure or maim anyone but the sheer risk could be avoided if MLB had acted.

    And I find your comment about LW being a victim hilarious- who allowed him to pursue SJ? Who established the BRC to validate his claims that there were no economically viable sites in Oakland- yup MLB/bs. Once again LW is fine collecting welfare, fielding damn good teams, tripling his franchise value while playing in a shitty stadium. He is looking for a 10 year lease extension- the fact that he won’t invest in an area with no return doesn’t make him a victim- it makes him a smart businessman. And if Oakland can pony up the $500M like Miami did then he will be happy to move his A’s in- otherwise status quo is fine-