"There was no question about whose territory it was. [The Giants] had to get permission from the A's. They didn't pay for those territorial rights, by the way. Now, in the meantime, they built a stadium closer to Oakland than they were before. And now, if we talk about another stadium down in that area, they go berserk. It's like my four-year-old granddaughter says sometimes, ‘Crybaby, crybaby.' They like to cry a lot about it. They get nervous about it, you know." – Former Oakland A’s owner Steve Schott in 2004
Six years ago, just after the Montreal Expos were officially announced as relocating to Washington, D.C., I wrote a piece on how Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles were indemnified over television territorial rights, and went on to talk about how relocation or expansion in MLB was going to forever be a matter of placating whose ever territory – television or operating – was being encroached upon.
The easy target was the Oakland A’s and their attempts at relocating to San Jose (see Expos Relocation: No A's to San Jose).
After all these years, the battle remains the same.
Let’s start with this: The Giants are saying that they don’t wish to give up what wasn’t theirs to begin with. As Schott noted back in 2004, the A’s granted Santa Clara Co. to the Giants, at no cost. Why, when the China Basin Project, now called AT&T Park was built in San Fransico proper? Ask Bob Lurie.
From the 2004 story:
When Bob Lurie was looking to get out of Candlestick Park in the late 80’s, baseball expanded the Giants territory to include Santa Clara County where there were efforts to pass funding to build a new ballpark in San Jose. The voters in Santa Clara County rejected tax hikes to fund the stadium in both 1990 and 1992, yet baseball reaffirmed those rights when Peter Magowan purchased the team in 1995 and built PacBell Park.
The players have changed (Schott replaced by Lew Wolff, and Magowan replaced by Bill Neukom), but the principle argument remains: The Giants don’t want to relinquish what they now see as theirs, and the A's desperatly need a new stadium.
Bud Selig has been trying to work this delicate matter for years. But, I’m sure Bud would tell me that it’s surely not as easy as telling the Giants to give back what was once not theirs.
No, the issue is having other owners worry about league territories. Look at pages 14-16 of MLB Constitution and you’ll find each of the operating territories for the 30 clubs. One read, and it’s clear that they are arbitrary in nature. Still, those areas are sacred ground, and encroachment is fought tooth and nail. The logic is simple: “If it can happen to the Giants, it could happen to us.”
What’s occurring is trying to see if there are ways to indemnify the Giants . You could use the model that came out of the Expos relocation with the Orioles, and say, “Make a regional sports network” (for those that don’t know, that’s how MASN was created). But, it may not be that simple.
Santa Clara Co. has a rich well of season ticket holders for the Giants. It also is where Silicon Valley is located and the likes of high tech companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, HP, Intel, Cisco, eBay, Adobe, Agilent, Oracle, Yahoo, Netflix, and EA are located, all prime sponsors. Move the A’s into San Jose and suddenly, those companies would become key targets of the A’s.
And, one could speculate that the Giants might just rather see the A’s choked off completely from the Bay Area. At what point does the organization give up on San Jose, or for that matter Oakland, and start to possibly consider Sacramento? It’s a distant scenario, and while the A’s don’t count Sacramento Co. as within their territory, at least it isn’t anyone else’s (at least in terms of operating territory… Broadcasting is different. See MLB’s TV territories map).
As mentioned, that’s remote. The battle will be over the inches given and taken with San Jose, and in a larger sense, Santa Clara Co. Maybe… Just maybe, the way to get around the matter is not say all of Santa Clara Co. goes back to the A’s, but a part of it. After all, look at the convoluted manner in which the Yankees have their operating territory defined in the MLB Constitution:
City of New York; Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland and Westchester Counties in New York; Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Union Counties in New Jersey; and that portion of Fairfield County in Connecticut located south of Interstate 84 and west of Route 58; provided, however, that this territory shall be shared with the New York Mets franchise in the National League;
Maybe Neukom and the rest of the Giants ownership can look at giving back part of what was never theirs in the first place. Somehow, I don’t think it will come that easy.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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