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March 08, 2012

Giants, A's duel over territorial rights, as San Jose official raises antitrust suit option

There's started to be some fallout from last weekend's Bill Madden pronouncement that the Oakland A's won't be allowed to move to San Jose, though it's too soon to say what to make of it yet:

  • The A's released a statement reiterating their case for getting rights to San Jose, which is based on the argument that "MLB-recorded minutes clearly indicate that the Giants were granted Santa Clara, subject to relocating to the city of Santa Clara." The Giants fired back with their own press release, essentially saying, "Nuh-uh, it wasn't subject to nuthin'."
  • The Oakland city council unanimously approved spending $3.5 million on developing a plan for a stadium-and-arena-and-other-stuff complex on and around the current site of the Coliseum that would cost, um, something, and be paid for somehow. It would include a stadium, or maybe two stadiums, or maybe an arena and would — you know what, I'm not even going to attempt to summarize it until there's some indication this is more than just some not-all-that-pretty pictures.
  • San Jose councilmember Sam Liccardo says somebody should challenge baseball's antitrust exemption if MLB doesn't allow the A's to move, though he stopped short of actually threatening that the city council would do so itself.

In all likelihood, none of this means much, but it's at least worth watching the antitrust thing to see if that becomes serious. After all, fear of an antitrust challenge is what drove MLB to create the Tampa Bay Rays — and it's always possible that this could be the lever that would push MLB owners to lean on the Giants to, if not give up rights to San Jose completely, at least name their price. Not laying odds on that happening just yet, mind you, but possible.


It'll definitely get MLB's attention that's for sure. They never tuck tail quicker than when the ATE is threatened. Just ask the Rays, Royals, and Rangers (ex-Senators II).

As for the dueling press releases, the A's revelation that the rights to Santa Clara Co. were issued subject to the move by the Giants to Santa Clara is new and interesting. But regardless of what it all means the fact this has become a public spat like this shows Selig is losing control of the situation. A situation he's largely ignored for 1091 days while his blue ribbon panel has twiddled their thumbs.

Posted by Dan on March 8, 2012 12:05 PM

What's the point of building a new arena and stadium at the current Coliseum site? One of the major drawbacks to that location is, and sorry to say so bluntly, it's a dump. The BART link is the only saving grace for that place. C'mon Oakland, think big! Downtown and Lake Merritt are beautiful areas of the city. There has to be a way to build something there. If the Giants could shoehorn a park into China Basin, certainly Oakland can build something spectacular downtown.

Posted by Justin on March 8, 2012 12:59 PM


It is a very interesting take on the situation that Wolff has put forward. I wasn't aware of the details relating to the Haas approval either. It did always seem odd that any baseball owner would give anything (other than bobbleheads, of course, and who can't get enough of them?) away absent significant consideration from the beneficiary or MLB itself. Clearly, Haas felt the 'trade' (the Giants present territory - or part of it - for Santa Clara) was equitable. Last time I looked, the legal definition of a trade/swap includes both parties giving something up. At present, it appears SFG have not surrendered anything.

If true (and if supportable in court), this could be a game changer for Wolff. However, as Neil suggests, if this IS MLB's interpretation also, why has it taken 3 years and a Blue Ribbon panel full of 'deliberation' to get to this point?

Looks like years of legal fees still in the offing... if nothing else, Wolff will likely be able to drive up his "Buy me out then" price to MLB a bit further.

Posted by John Bladen on March 8, 2012 01:42 PM

The real answer to all this is simple:

Get rid of that *&@#ing antitrust exemption.

(Sorry for my bad language. I'll be quiet now.)

Posted by MikeM on March 8, 2012 02:11 PM


Banning stadium subsidies to pro sports teams would do it too.

In fact, just making such gifts a taxable benefit for the corporation might be enough...

Posted by John Bladen on March 8, 2012 04:29 PM

The Giants are worried about losing market share to the A's...believe me if the A's continue to put the same team on the field, that "new stadium" will loose its luster really fast...Just like Seattle, Cleveland, Baltimore .....etc

Posted by Mark R on March 8, 2012 11:04 PM

I've read about baseball's ATE for years, but I still don't understand what benefit MLB gains by having it. Can anyone explain that to me?


Posted by Chris A. on March 9, 2012 12:15 PM


Baseball's anti-trust exemption is just like all other exemptions. That means that the ATE exists to keep other major league quality leagues from forming. This was put into place after the failure of the Federal League, which did give us Wrigley Field. You can do a search for the Federal League to learn more about that issue.

Getting back to the ATE, it exists because of the Reserve clause which was a clause that bound players to one team unless they were traded to another team. Without the ATE, and with just 16 teams in the Majors at the time, a new league could basically give other players a choice where to play and even start a war between leagues for the best players. This is exactly what happened between the NFL and AFL in the 1960's. This led to the NFL's ATE as a condition of the merger. As a result, it is hard to start new leagues in those two sports.

Posted by Jessy S. on March 9, 2012 03:09 PM

round and round they go, typical.
of course the gi-ants like the situation as it is now, they own the area and the a's (as in a daze) are an afterthought.
he who has the upper hand gets what they want...

Posted by Paul W on March 10, 2012 01:39 AM

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