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March 05, 2012

A's move to San Jose still neither dead nor alive

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.


Schrodinger's new stadium?

Posted by MarkH on March 5, 2012 08:54 AM

Thanks for talking sense about this. There is no decision, nor has there been. MLB will not revoke the Giants' exclusive rights to the South Bay unless 75% of clubs favor it. That's 23 teams. There is as yet no news, no change.

Posted by Oakland Si on March 5, 2012 11:50 AM

This notion that an A's move to San Jose would set a "precedent" and make all territories fair game is ludicrous beyond imagination, and I'll tell yah why:
1) the situation that currently exists in the Bay Area is unique amongst all of baseball; a two-team market that isn't a shared territory ala NY, LA and CHI. The Bay Area is currently breaking precedent by being insanely gerrymandered the way it is. Making the entire region shared, or at least Santa Clara County, would simply bring the Bay in line with the other markets.
2) All Territories would be fair game? OK...FOR WHO?! would the Pirates all of a sudden move to NY/NJ? The Padres to LA? Royals to Philly? See how ridiculous that notion is. Who's gonna move? All future relocations, IF they happen, would be looked at on a case by case basis. But other than the Rays, it ain't happening with anyone for a long while.
3) Why is SJ/SC currently exclusive to the Giants? Because THEY themselves were supposed to relocate here! It obviously never happened, and MLB is fully aware of this.

As for Selig needing 3/4 votes for this, he'll get it when he wants it. And for the record, perhaps the second strongest man in baseball Jerry Rheinsdorf (WS owner) thinks the A's should be in San Jose .. we all know how this will work out. Sorry Madden!

Posted by Tony D on March 5, 2012 12:16 PM

I agree with Tony. Oakland should be able to go anywhere in their territory, and it wouldn't set a precedent. No other team except the ones already there can just move into the territory. The Nets paid the Knicks when they entered their territory in 1976 but didn't have to pay again in 1977 when they moved and won't have to pay again this year when they move again within the same territory.

Posted by tom on March 5, 2012 12:28 PM

Indeed. The A's move to San Jose (back into territory they themselves ceded in anticipation of the Giants move there that never happened in 1992) would not set half as bad a precedent as the Expos moving into the then Baltimore Orioles territory in DC did a few years ago.

Posted by Dan on March 5, 2012 02:32 PM

Just listened to Bill Madden on KNBR out here in the Bay Area. What a @#$%& idiot! All of his bull $hit is just that..BULL $hit! Maddens taking a way to "black and white" view of this whole saga re MLB's constitution and territorial rights. Sounds like a sour old man just trying to get everyones ear (hey! I guess it worked!). Again, I reference my post above on why Madden is full of $HIT.

Posted by Tony D on March 5, 2012 02:42 PM

@Dan - Actually DC was never part of MLB-designated Orioles territory, it was set aside as a separate territory when the Senators left town, in anticipation of another team eventually moving to DC. Angelos (owner of the Orioles) extracted a lucrative deal by threatening to sue MLB for moving a team into the DC territory which had been vacant for over 30 years, and the Orioles drew a significant portion of their fan base from the DC area.

Posted by stan on March 5, 2012 07:31 PM

DC was however part of the Orioles TV broadcast territory, which had to be dealt with and meant more in terms of revenue than a geographic territory. Besides, relocating 1,000 miles to be within 35 miles of a team is a lot different than the A's moving 40 miles further AWAY from the Giants.

Posted by Tony D on March 5, 2012 08:14 PM

Tony is correct - the Orioles extracted their pound of flesh from the Nats in exchange for giving up broadcast rights, not territorial rights. I can't remember the last time a territorial rights issue had to be adjudicated in baseball - when the A's moved to Oakland, maybe?

Posted by Neil deMause on March 5, 2012 10:40 PM

Gee whiz Tony, your profane rant is typical of the "us against the world" bay area mentality that is born out of the large inferiority complex when it comes to anything NY or coming from NY (Bill Madden).
The area can't "support" 2 mlb franchises at the same level with the current cost of doing business, the Gi-ants have had the corporate $$$'s sewn up for 15+ years and the A's slept.
With fewer corporate $$$'s to spend on entertainment these days moving the franchise to S.J. won't help, they'll still only get the scraps that are left over.

Posted by Paul W on March 6, 2012 12:32 AM

Neil, I think the Oakland area is shared territory with both teams sharing the region in the first place. Oakland likely gave sole rights to the Giants for San Jose. Knowing what is going to happen, it is very likely that the A's will be moving out of state within the next year.

Posted by Jessy S. on March 6, 2012 01:15 AM

Jessy, where? Portland has no place for them, and neither does anywhere else. Unless the point of this is to extort Oakland even further, there's no place for the A's to go.

And contraction is out of the question.

Posted by sjs1959 on March 6, 2012 11:24 AM

Jessy, where? Portland has no place for them, and neither does anywhere else. Unless the point of this is to extort Oakland even further, there's no place for the A's to go.

And contraction is out of the question.

Posted by sjs1959 on March 6, 2012 11:25 AM

Apologies for the double post.

Posted by sjs1959 on March 6, 2012 11:27 AM

Paul W.
My apologies if you find the following facts annoying. A Silicon Valley Leadership Group poll of 300 companies found that 75% did not do any business with the Giants. And the 15% who did sponsor the Giants stated they would continue that support EVEN WITH the A's in San Jose. The point: there's enough corporate support in the entire Bay Area for BOTH the Giants and the A's. Heck, I'd argue that half the Bay Area market is better than any of the existing markets thrown out by A's to SJ haters: Portland, Vegas, San Antonio, Charlotte. Go A's and Go San Jose!

Posted by Tony D on March 6, 2012 12:43 PM

Tried to post this last night but it got eaten: Jessy, there are no shared rights in the Bay Area. The A's have Oakland and Alameda Counties, the Giants have everything west and south.

Posted by Neil deMause on March 6, 2012 01:29 PM

A's should change their name to Baby and move to Vegas. THe big bad Giants don't want to deal, too bad.

Posted by runner on March 6, 2012 02:05 PM

Do the Giants really believe they can run the A's out of the Bay Area? It seems like Wolff cares more about development around his park than the team itself, why are the Giants playing hardball unless they think the A's will be forced to move away from the Bay Area?

And just where would they go? Portland is not viable, nor is Charlotte. Unless they would go to the Austin/San Antonio area, and I am not sure that would be a large enough area.

Posted by sjs1959 on March 6, 2012 03:21 PM


I believe that Oakland and San Francisco shared their territory through the time that the A's gave up their rights to San Francisco so the Giants can have San Jose. The reason for that is because the Giants originally had Oakland. The A's didn't come in until a decade later. Wolff might have thought that he would get the upper bay once the San Jose ballpark opened, but that didn't become the case. Instead he is left with a little sliver of land that makes it hard for them to operate.

As for the team moving, that is the only logical result I can really think of right now. While we are discussing this ancient issue, it is very likely that the A's and another city are deep in negotiations for 2013. Either way, this situation will get resolved quickly because the A's are about to have a losing season.

Posted by Jessy S. on March 6, 2012 05:08 PM

Just one more thing on the current A's vs Giants brewhaha. I am as stumped as any of you as to where the A's would go. However, this fact remains true, their days in Oakland are numbered.

Posted by Jessy S. on March 6, 2012 05:24 PM

It's not up to the Giants whether the A's move to San Jose ...TOO BAD!

Posted by Tony D on March 6, 2012 05:28 PM

There's nowhere they can go for 2013 that has a baseball stadium in place. Unless you consider Montreal an option.

Posted by Neil deMause on March 6, 2012 05:36 PM

Just because the A's have nowhere else to go doesn;t mean that they should go to San Jose. The A's moving to San Jose will hurt the Giants and that wouldn't be fair.
To the gentleman that mentioned the Orioles and Nationals, the Orioles never had territorial rights to DC like the Giants have in San Jose.

Posted by ted on March 6, 2012 09:15 PM

Jessy, while there is no identified market as of yet that would definitely take them, there are markets out there that could support the A's quite well. There are in fact 8 media markets out there bigger than MLB's current smallest media market (Cincy) and most of them not only have the TV/radio's to support a team but also the population base. All it would take is a dedicated local owner and some civic effort to build a stadium (something that is FAR easier to do outside of California).

Posted by Dan on March 6, 2012 10:49 PM

Since Dan's statement above made me curious, I looked up the Nielsen DMA list. Here, for the record, are the untapped media markets that could claim to be Not The Smallest In MLB:

Salt Lake City

None of these cities have even the glimmer of an MLB stadium campaign in the works, and none especially seem like an upgrade on Oakland. I guess you could make a case for moving to Portland, say, as a lateral move that would make sense if you got a mostly publicly funded stadium, which you won't...

I still say by far the most viable MLB relocation target is Montreal, but I'm pretty sure we won't see that in Bud Selig's lifetime.

Posted by Neil deMause on March 6, 2012 11:56 PM

Well of course none of them have any stadium effort yet, the team isn't "on the market" as it were. That won't happen until Wolff or MLB (after Wolff sells the team back to them), puts them on the market. All except Columbus are bigger than 3 current MLB markets. And most of them have populations big enough to support an MLB team quite well (better than Oakland has "supported" them).

And I agree that Montreal is probably a pretty viable relocation location (as well as Vancouver) in addition to the US cities. Particularly since Montreal has an MLB ready stadium to act as a temp venue. Of course in no city is any of this going to happen overnight.

Posted by Dan on March 7, 2012 12:21 AM


The "75%" problem is an interesting one.

Certainly some owners would think "if they can do that to X, they can do it to me too".

On the other hand, let's be realistic: There are precious few existing markets that have "surplus" territory that could be split successfully. If you are the third team in NY/NJ, yes, you might do better. But would any owner be interested in splitting, say, Tampa/St.Petersburg or even a fine baseball market like St. Louis (been done, of course, unsuccessfully)?

Doubtful. Moving from a weak market to a second banana position in a middling market (or a poor one) isn't likely to happen, even if votes weren't required to approve it. It simply makes no financial sense for baseball or the individual owner(s).

The story is rather different with NY & LA, though. You've got roughly 23 other owners who can clearly make the case they'd be better off as the third team in the New York CMA (or CDP, if you prefer). Not only that, but the owners who don't get to move there also benefit, as the major market is split three ways instead of two. Thus (at least in theory... and probably not immediately) the earning/spending power of the two NY franchises is reduced.

I'm not saying it's going to happen, mind you (among other things, MLB needs only 8 votes to block - thus only a couple of owners need to be bribed), just that the rank and file owners might see their way clear to approving a move into either NY or LA for a struggling club not just to benefit that club, but to pull the Yankees/Mets/Dodgers/Angels back to the pack a bit. There would seem to be little downside in that the four major NY/LA clubs would have trouble retaliating against the other 26. They lack the voting power to heavily modify baseball's revenue sharing agreement, as I understand it. Other than whine about how unfair it is, really, what could they do?

Like all great aspects of true capitalism, this mechanism would be self correcting, in that once an equilibrium in spending/earning had been achieved for the major markets, no-one else would want to move there as there would be no financial advantage to doing so.

In fact, levelling the playing field between have and have not clubs could much more effectively be done via expansion/relocation than by public (stadium) subsidy. But then, it's really never been about levelling the playing field, has it?

Posted by John Bladen on March 7, 2012 01:56 AM

The contentions that it's a solid 2-team sized market is another of the "we really do matter" mentality that comes from the inferiority complex.
The Gi-ants have a stranglehold now which the a's (as in a daze) can't overcome - even in SJ.

Posted by Paul W on March 7, 2012 04:44 AM

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