Wednesday, June 19, 2013

See You in Court!

Fed up with over four years of delays, the San Jose City Council yesterday officially agreed to sue Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball for blocking the Athletics' move to the city. The suit, striking at the very heart of MLB's antitrust exemption, is San Jose's nuclear option. South Bay A's fans overwhelmingly met the news with "it's about time" enthusiasm. As one Baseball San Jose supporter put it, "Will this materially hurt the Giants in a way that cannot be mitigated? No. I think this just about wraps this up. End of story, A's should be allowed to move to San Jose. Thanks for nothing Bud."

On San Jose Inside, Councilman Sam Liccardo explains why the city finally took this bold step, "We relish the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. This lawsuit is San Jose’s declaration of independence—the time is long since past for San Jose to take its future into its own hands. Our destiny won’t be shaped by billionaire team owners, their lawyers, or their lobbyists. And if Major League Baseball doesn’t want to allow one of their teams to move to San Jose, we’re happy to take their money—as federal antitrust law provides for treble damages for anticompetitive behavior."

Reaction from around the Internet has been largely positive:

  • The San Jose Mercury News: San Jose has waited four years for the inept Bud Selig to make the call on the A's request to move to San Jose. It would be more profitable for the team and for Major League Baseball overall, since Oakland is a losing proposition -- even when the ballpark is not flooded with sewage, as it's been this week ... Selig, the milquetoast head of Major League Baseball, has been cowed in part by the San Francisco Giants' threat of litigation if they lose San Jose as part of their arbitrarily-designated territory. Well, now Selig's got an actual lawsuit to fret over.
  • San Francisco Chronicle: Selig's foot-dragging over four years of study on the Oakland Athletics' wish to move to San Jose has been a disservice to almost everyone involved: to the A's and their fans, to the city of Oakland and its pathetically desperate efforts to appease an owner who wants out of town, to San Jose's urban revitalization dreams - and to the sport itself ... What Selig has done to Oakland and San Jose with his indisposition has been beyond frustrating. It has been costly and cruel to both cities.
  • ESPN: If only Al Davis had owned the A's maybe this would have been resolved years ago. But A's owner Lew Wolff has been a good corporate partner to the other franchises, as well as bud to Bud, sacrificing the wealth of his own franchise for the betterment of ... well, I guess, the Giants. The Giants have won two World Series titles in three years and have grown into one of baseball's big-ticket franchises, all because of the A's.
  • Bleacher Report: With a new stadium in Santa Clara County, the A’s hope to draw more fans, which would in theory raise revenues and allow them to keep more of their homegrown talent. This season, the A’s have the 23rd-best home attendance in baseball, according to ESPN. Back in April, Jim Caple of ESPN rated Coliseum as the third-worst stadium in the game ... It’s obvious that the A’s are determined to move to San Jose, and if MLB isn’t going to let them, the city is going to do everything in its power to change the league’s mind—even if it means a lawsuit.

Not surpsingly, MLB is not happy, calling the lawsuit "an unfounded attack on the fundamental structures of a professional sports league. It is regrettable that the city has resorted to litigation that has no basis in law or in fact." Of course, if MLB regrets this move by San Jose, then perhaps Bud Selig should've given Mayor Reed the courtesy of a meeting last April, no?

So, now is when things will get really interesting. Stay tuned.

You're up to bat, San Jose!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Feeling Flushed

Bowled over: Wolff's still not going to sell

Yesterday, A's owner Lew Wolff continued his due diligence and met with Colorox CEO Don Knauss. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss Knauss' desire to keep the A's in Oakland. Recently, Knauss, along with executives from Kaiser Permanente, World Market, and Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, announced that he was leading a consortium of East Bay business interests to keep the A's in Oakland. Additionally, he urged the current A's ownership to bow out and allow one of two new groups to buy the team. (Curiously, the identities of these two parties were not revealed; one is said to prefer to remain anonymous and other is said to be fromLos Angeles.) Of course, this new development made the "Stay-in-Oakland" crowd positively giddy. Okay, so maybe Don Knauss took hundreds of jobs out of Oakland in 2010, and maybe he's pushing for a downtown ballpark even as Mayor Quan and city leaders are still swooning over their pretty Coliseum City drawings, but beggars can't be choosers, right?

Ever the gentleman, Wolff politely heard Knauss' rationale. However, in the end, Lew Wolff and the A's remain firmly committed to San Jose.

You're up to bat, San Jose!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Go South!

Greener pastures await you down south, dear Stomper

An astute friend of Baseball San Jose alerted us to an interesting post on Athletics Nation today. AN's BaseballShogun, as frustrated as everyone else by this endless saga, smartly went straight to the expert on MLB territorial rights. In this case, that's Villanova University School of Law professor Mitchell Nathanson. No schlump in matters of MLB legal issues, Professor Nathanson authored 2005's "The Irrelevance of  Major League Baseball's Antitrust Exemption: A Historical Review" in the Rutgers Law Review and 2012's A People's History of Baseball. Here's what he said to AthleticsNation about an A's move south:

I think that if the A’s want to move to San Jose, all they have to do is move there. Nobody is going to stop them. Technically, if the antitrust exemption had any teeth, you’re correct that a ¾ vote could stop them but since the exemption is meaningless, I don’t believe that MLB, or the Giants, would press the issue in a court of law although technically they’d have that right. Right now, the only thing that is keeping the A’s in Oakland is their desire to get along with their fellow teams – they simply don’t want to anger Selig or the Giants’ management. But they really don’t have to do this if they don’t want to. Trust me, if Al Davis owned the A’s, they would have been in San Jose 10 years ago, with or without an antitrust exemption. 

As for Congress, that’s a red herring. They don’t need to engage Congress and ask them to remove something that doesn’t have any real teeth in practicality anyway. Instead, all they have to do is move and put the pressure on MLB or the Giants to do something to stop them. My guess is that the most that would happen is that the Giants would file a grievance with MLB, alleging that the A’s violated their territorial rights. MLB would then compel negotiations between the A’s and the Giants to work out some sort of compensation system (sort of like what happened when the Expos moved into the Orioles’ territory back in 2005) and that would be that. Probably, the A’s would agree to give the Giants a percentage of their cable television income along with a large wad of cash up front. But neither MLB nor the Giants would ever file suit in court to enforce the antitrust exemption.

So, in sum, if the A’s want to move, they simply have to make their deal with San Jose and, as the Nike ad says, Just Do It. 


So, there you have it. (By the way, nice work, BaseballShogun.) All these years later, has this really just been a case of the A's begging for forgiveness rather than asking for permission? And are the A's and San Jose finally willing to play hardball with the greedy Giants? San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo has already raised the specter of a legal challenge to MLB's antitrust exemption. Are we tired of being pushed around? Are we ready to take what we deserve? Maybe it is finally time to just do it.

You're up to bat, San Jose!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Open Letter to Larry Baer

Larry is the Giants Chief Operating Officer

Dear Larry,

We need to talk. It started a few years back, when Lew Wolff got it in his head that Oakland wasn’t the best home for the ballclub he’d recently purchased. The A’s play in a rundown stadium in a decrepit area of town in front of a dwindling—albeit loud and loyal—fanbase. The organization’s limited revenue stream prevents it from building a consistent winner and essentially makes them a ward of the league.

Enter San Jose. After it became abundantly clear that the City of Oakland has no earthly idea what it’s doing, and the fever dream that was Fremont faded quickly away, Northern California’s largest city was left to reap the spoils: a professional franchise in a sport that actually draws national interest. 

Sure, we have the 49ers moving in next door, but they’ll still bear the San Francisco brand. Then there are our beloved Sharks, who play in a league without a decent TV contract; the Earthquakes, who play the wrong sport; and the Sabercats, who ... aren’t really worth mentioning.

Major League Baseball will always be just that: Major League. And San Jose deserves a taste of Major League action. But you just won’t let us have nice things, will you, Larry?

I’m a third-generation Giants fan. My roots stretch back to the Polo Grounds. I was going to see the Orange and Black 12 years before you and your golfing buddies saved the franchise from exile to Tampa Bay. I was there for the ‘87 NLCS and both takes on Game Three of the ‘89 Series. I was there for the last season at the ‘Stick and the beginning of a new era at the Cove. 

Prior to the 2010 season, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and became a Season Ticket Holder. I was rewarded with the most glorious season of my life.

Earlier that year, the citizens of San José were treated to a poll, ostensibly funded by the San Jose Giants, your minor league affiliate. Residents were asked if they would support a new Downtown baseball stadium if it meant directing resources away from core city services like cops and firefighters.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, but that’s the idea behind a “push” poll. You know the answer you’re looking for, and you push the respondent there. It’s a common piece of political chicanery. Only this time, for me, it was personal.

That’s because the poll was actually funded by you and your golfing buddies. The same guys who 20 years ago saved my favorite team from leaving the Bay Area alone to the A’s were now spending oodles of dollars and miles of print to force the A’s out of the very same market. My hometown was caught in the crossfire.

Two years later, you’re still beating the same dead horse, touting your “territorial rights” over Santa Clara County as if we’ve been colonized by millionaire San Francisco lawyers in tailored suits.

What’s it gonna take to call off the siege, Larry? A few more dollars in your bank account? Your own island somewhere in the South Pacific? As Bud Fox famously asked Gordon Gekko: “How much is enough?”

I wish I could help you out, but I just cut a check to reserve my seat at AT&T for the 2012 season, so I’m a little short right now. It makes me wonder how many of those hard-earned dollars you’re going to spend in your quest to prevent San Jose from becoming a Major League City. And it makes me question why I keep contributing to the cause.


Peter Allen originally posted this letter on San Jose Inside and gave Baseball San Jose permission to post it on our blog.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The A's Respond to Recent Rumors

A few days ago, Bay Area baseball fans were thrown into a tizzy after Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reported that MLB was unlikely to grant an A's move to San Jose due to the precendant it would set for other teams. That report has since been denied by both the Athletics and MLB head offices. Still, the A's felt the issue needed further clarification; they issued the following statement this morning

Statement by Oakland A's ownership regarding A's and Giants sharing Bay Area territory:

"Recent articles claiming that Major League Baseball has decided that the A's cannot share the two-team Bay Area market were denied by baseball Commissioner Bud Selig last weekend.

Currently the Giants and A's share the two-team Bay Area market in terms of television, radio, sponsors and fans. Last year, the Giants opened a specialty store in the middle of the A's market (Walnut Creek). At the time, Lew Wolff commented that he was 'fine with the Giants store and wished there was an A's store in San Francisco.'

Of the four two-team markets in MLB, only the Giants and A's do not share the exact same geographic boundaries. MLB-recorded minutes clearly indicate that the Giants were granted Santa Clara, subject to relocating to the city of Santa Clara. The granting of Santa Clara to the Giants was by agreement with the A’s late owner Walter Haas, who approved the request without compensation. The Giants were unable to obtain a vote to move and the return of Santa Clara to its original status was not formally accomplished.

We are not seeking a move that seeks to alter or in any manner disturb MLB territorial rights. We simply seek an approval to create a new venue that our organization and MLB fully recognizes is needed to eliminate our dependence on revenue sharing, to offer our fans and players a modern ballpark, to move over 35 miles further away from the Giants' great venue and to establish an exciting competition between the Giants and A's.

We are hopeful that the Commissioner, the committee appointed by the Commissioner, and a vote of the MLB ownership, will enable us to join the fine array of modern and fun baseball parks that are now commonplace in Major League Baseball."

You're up to bat, San Jose!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Help Support the Quakes' New Stadium

The A's sister team, the San Jose Earthquakes, have a crucial appeal hearing for their proposed stadium tomorrow night at San Jose City Hall. The Planning Commission is considering an 11th hour appeal to the proposal and our friends at the Quakes are asking for fans to come out and publicly support the new stadium. The meeting is at 6:30 PM in the Council Chambers on Wednesday the 22nd.

This is a chance for all San Jose pro sports fans to stand up to NIMBYism in our city. Hope to see you there.

Get on the pitch, San Jose!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pulling the Plug

Tonight, the Tribune's Angela Woodall reports on the shocking development that, due to the governor dismantling the state's redevelopment agencies, Oakland has abandoned its plans for Victory Court, a new estuaryfront stadium for the A's: "We are no longer advocating for Victory Court," said Gregory Hunter, head of the soon to be dissolved Oakland Redevelopment Agency said Monday during a meeting of the Alameda County Supervisors. 

Instead, Oakland plans on putting all of its imaginary eggs into the basket known as "Coliseum City." This hastily-conceived plan is even more ambitious, and expensive, in its intent to keep the A's, the Raiders, and the Warriors (who've apparently left their hearts in San Francisco) from jumping the Oakland ship.

In Oakland's defense, the city and Mayor Quan have really only had a solid year to make contingency plans. Really, what's an ineffective and unwieldy city government supposed to do? After all, San Jose only began dismantling its redevelopment agency (and creating the San Jose Diridon Development Authority) several months ago. On the bright side, maybe Oakland was actually showing some forsight by never following through on Victory Court's promised environmental impact report. Maybe?

So, rest in peace, Victory Court. We hardly knew ya.

You're up to bat, San Jose!