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November 21, 2011

A's-to-San Jose tea-leaf reading

It's been six years since talk began of moving the Oakland A's to San Jose, and nearly three years since MLB commissioner appointed a three-man committee to write a report and then wait for him to tell them what the conclusions should be study the issue.

Since then, the two sides have largely become entrenched — A's owner Lew Wolff wants to move to San Jose, the San Francisco Giants say they won't give up what MLB considers part of their territory without a substantial payoff — so we've been mostly left to ponder rumors and the occasional outburst from Wolff about how long it's all taking. This weekend, though, took the cake as far as rumor-mongering:

  • It all started on Saturday, when Fox's Ken Rosenthal reported that Selig plans to meet with A's and Giants officials in the next two weeks to try to resolve the standoff. Of course, unless he starts actually twisting arms — something he's been loath to do in the past — it's hard to see what he'll accomplish, but it's true that it is action of a sort.
  • Rosenthal further speculated that if the Giants won't okay a San Jose move, MLB could buy the A's, negotiate a stadium deal with Oakland, and then sell them to a new owner, a la the Washington Nationals. Which assumes that MLB would have any better luck extracting a generous stadium deal from Oakland than Wolff or a new owner would, but again, sure, could happen.
  •, in reporting on Rosenthal's article, asserted that they've "been hearing" that "some sort of resolution is due as soon as January." Which could be true, or could be wishful thinking, or could be someone trying to put the heat on Selig — hard to say, with not even a hint of who the source is for this.
  • Finally, followed that up with a post speculating that the reason for the long delay has been that Selig was waiting for "Moneyball" to be out of theaters.

Most likely, all this is just blowing smoke, the Giants-A's standoff over territorial rights fees will continue, and January will come and go with no resolution. There is, however, one possible way that Selig could resolve things: If he genuinely thinks that San Jose is a better market than Oakland for MLB — which is an open question, but work with me here — he could have MLB pay part of the Giants payoff itself, a la what he arranged last week to grease the wheels for the Houston Astros' move to the American League.

It wouldn't be nearly as easy a lift — MLB only paid out $35 million in the Astros deal, and the Giants would no doubt want many times that to allow a San Jose move — but now that the precedent has been set, you can't totally rule it out. Once Brad Pitt has accepted his Academy Award, that is.


actually, talk of moving the A's to San Jose began as soon as Schott and Hoffmann bought the club from the Haas family (after promising that they would keep it in Oakland). So we're talking about a decade and a half.

Posted by Oakland Si on November 21, 2011 08:22 AM

Neil, Please show me or provide a link where the Giants say they will give up their South Bay Territorial Rights for compensation? This seems to be a large premise in your piece. From my research, the Giants have been clear that the South Bay Rights were "woven" into their overall funding plan. Actually, Neukom and Baer have never given any hope that they would give up the area which host's their Single-A farm team.


Posted by azephan on November 21, 2011 01:27 PM

An overrated movie about a team with only 1 playoff series win in the past 2 decades isn't going to seduce a townsfolk to fork over a few hundred millions for a new stadium based on sabermetrics - even tho Hollywood thinks it's lame enough that it could work.

I'll praise Billy Beane when he finally handles his pitching staff seriously & uses them correctly instead of riding them relentlessly hard & then dumping them to the curb at free agency.

On another note, had MLB never done its 1998 expansion and put the '93 Marlins in Tampa instead & left the Phoenix market alone, the A's would probably be playing in the desert right now.

Posted by Mark on November 21, 2011 01:31 PM

I don't think the Giants owners have said word one about a price for territorial rights, nor would I expect them to: Since they're happy with the status quo, they can just go on saying "They're not for sale" unless and until someone knocks them over with an offer they can't refuse.

That said, everybody has a price, and I'm sure that Baer & Co. wouldn't turn down, say, $50 million a year. (Not that Wolff or MLB would ever offer that.)

Posted by Neil deMause on November 21, 2011 01:45 PM


I think the issue is wanting to let the movie makes its money before it looks too outdated (meaning, besides the outdated-ness of thinking that the A's success had more to do with statistical analysis than having Mulder, Hudson and Zito while all 3 were on pre-UFA contracts).

Posted by Ben Miller on November 21, 2011 02:24 PM

Neil; With all the talk of the blue ribbon panel (any day now they'll find the pen I'm sure) flying around, do you believe that the territorial issue is the last significant hurdle for the A's to be resolved?

Sports stadium deals always have an element of ham & eggs about them. Owners/developers point to one item in particular as "the key" until it is moved out of the way (generally with someone else's money). Following that, they start talking about the next one and how it'd "be a real shame if all the work done thus far was wasted" etc.

Re: the Giants, I agree completely. The dumbest thing they could do is name their price. After all, Wolff and MLB might just pay it, meaning they could have asked for more.

They are treading on thin ice a bit, though. With the magical powers the commish possesses, he could simply impose a reasonable (for the A's) fee on them. I don't think he will do so, but if the stalemate carries on until he's about ready to leave office anyway (ahem) you never know.

Posted by John Bladen on November 21, 2011 02:49 PM

The Giants have lost.

Selig is going to offer a final ultimatum to the Giants in the coming weeks.

Selig waited nearly 3 years because he has been dreading doing what he is going to do....Revoke the Giants rights to Santa Clara County.

The evidence is right there:
1. The fact MLB stated they want the stadium to be more than 32,000 seats tells you something distinct. Oakland's proposal was 39,000 seats. Why mention that #? 32,000 is San Jose's ballpark proposal.....interesting.

2. Oakland did propose a 250M dollar package. But that was for buying and moving 16 businesses and re-doing the transportation infrastructure at Victory Court. They have maintained from day the A's would have to pay for the ballpark themselves.
Tells you how bad the site Oakland has is and how much time it would take to get it ready.

3. MLB would buy the A's and move them if a free ballpark was waiting in another city. At this point with the recession hitting there is no way Selig could pull of another Washington DC. This was plan A. He had his BRC team look around and no city is in any condition to do what DC did right now or the extended future.

4. Wolff securing the land with options in San Jose tells you he got "tacit assurance" from Selig. Why waste $$ even if it is a small amount?

5. 2015 was the deadline Selig set for a new ballpark in Oakland, San Jose or another city. San Jose has to put a special election March which will pass with ease. 6-9 months for permits and 2 years for construction. San Jose is the only city ready to meet the 2015 deadline.

In conclusion, Selig stated this "was a complex situation" and unless "all options were exhausted" he would not make any decisions.

Now, all "options have been exhausted" and San Jose is the only way.

After all these years Selig is going to do the "right thing" and open up a sleeping giant in San Jose that has citizens/corporations with $$, a downtown site, and good transportation access.

It is about time the "A's found their way to San Jose".

The Giants have lost....they just don't know it yet...The calm before the storm.

Posted by Sid on November 21, 2011 05:24 PM

Wolff "wasted" $$ buying land in Fremont. Just getting an ok from the San Jose city council on the options to buy land (which apparently is quite controversial for many residents) does not in itself indicate anything.

Posted by Oakland Si on November 22, 2011 07:30 AM

The irony here is that the giants have poached more A's fans by moving to the Bart and East Bay friendly China Basin. Oakland used to sell the Coliseum out in the late 80�s and 90s before the Giants moved to AT&T. Since then the A�s have closed off the top deck.

Posted by John on November 22, 2011 06:17 PM

John B.: I don't think we have any idea whether this is the final hurdle. As Ray Ratto wrote yesterday, "Do the A's have the money to do this? Wolff says yes, but as there is no independent way to know, there is no reason to believe or disbelieve him."

Speaking of Ratto, he also sums up what's going on now with Selig pretty well: "What Bud Selig is actually trying to do is what he does best - back-channel everything so he can find a dollar amount that the A's would be willing to grease the Giants with to buy their acquiescence and silence. The A's are standing with their original offer of nothing, and the Giants are insisting that no amount of money actually exists because their long-term plan has always been for the A's to be nowhere near them."

Posted by Neil deMause on November 23, 2011 07:43 AM


Interesting argument from the Giants perspective, Neil. While they can include any item they like in their long term business plan (all other teams leaving California, for example, or the state making attendance at Giants games compulsory for all citizens etc), it isn't particularly realistic to include factors like other teams disappearing/moving/voluntarily donating their local tv revenues to SFG.

Although I'm loathe to credit Selig with something when he isn't really doing anything... the tactic he has taken here does make sense. If he imposes something on the Giants (or the A's), he risks offending far more owners than just the Giants/A's. That said, rewarding someone for an intransigent position is ultimately self defeating, as every parent knows...

Thanks for the link.

Posted by John Bladen on November 23, 2011 03:33 PM

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