Consider this filed under, “What Bill Madden hath wrought”…
When the tenured NY Daily News writer published, MLB likely to uphold San Francisco Giants' territorial rights in San Jose, leaving the A's stuck in Oakland on Saturday, many assumed that the odds of the A’s finally getting into the South Bay had about as much chance as Billy Beane coming out of player retirement and suiting up in yellow and green. Madden, you see, has gotten a reputation as being a conduit for Commissioner Selig at times.
He’s not always been right (ahem, “radical realignment”), but given that there had been word at the end of the last year that this year, the A’s would finally get into San Jose, Madden’s timing had writers saying, “The A’s are stuck.”
It’s a foolish thing to say that. As noted in our article yesterday, the situation is still undetermined with a host of options on the table. Sadly, if San Jose drops off the “options” list, none really bode well for fans of the Athletics.
So today, the A’s said, “Enough is enough,” and issued the following statement:
“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.”
Let’s make this simple. Here’s how the matter is playing out:
The Selig is probably in the A’s corner on this one. No, not all because he has a personal relationship with Lew Wolff but because in the overall, having a club languishing is costing all the owners money in terms of subsidizing the club via revenue-sharing. Add in the fact that a new ballpark brings in missing revenues, and it floats everyone’s boat. Don’t believe me? Watch how league revenues increase this year largely in part by the Marlins being revenue makers as opposed to revenue-sharing takers (for once).
The problem is votes. They aren’t there (or, they weren’t at the last owners meetings). If Selig thought 75 percent of the owners backed the relocation, the A’s would be in San Jose yesterday. As we pointed out in the article yesterday, it’s a matter of self-preservation for some of the owners. The mindset being, “If they can force the A’s on the Giants territory, what’s to say they won’t do the same to me and my club one day?” This especially holds true of the Mets and Yankees. If the A’s get to relo to San Jose, what’s to say that the Rays don’t wind up in Northern New Jersey, next?
So, when’s the next time we could get a feel for this? The next quarterly owners meetings are set for May 16-17 in New York. Between now and then, the A’s will (continue) to lobby, and Selig will burn up the phone lines trying to build consensus. It’s not the #1 priority for the league right now (that belongs to getting the sale of the Dodgers completed by April 1, and hoping that the Mets don’t fall into bankruptcy in-between), but the A’s situation, through coverage in the media, has moved it off the back pages and into the headlines.
It’s too soon to say anything. Madden, who has covered game outside the lines as much as anyone, should know that the landscape for such matters is a constantly case of shifting sand. One day, an issue could be one way, the next an owner or two pulls back from their position and the whole matter retreats from a position.
For the A’s, they will or won’t be moving to San Jose until a vote is taken. I don’t care if 80 percent of the owners are leaning one way or the other the morning before a vote, by the time it’s time for the group to submit their votes, everything could change. If you don’t believe me, Google “Miles Prentice Kansas City Royals”. The lesson is, don’t count chickens (or relocations) before they’ve hatched…. one way or the other.
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. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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