08 September 2005

Recap of Selig speech

Bud Selig's speech and subsequent Q&A session was about an hour long total. The speech was a brief history of Selig's time as an owner, then as the commissioner. Not naturally the most charismatic of speakers, Selig's sporadic eye contact with the audience made the delivery fairly dull, and the speech an exercise in self-aggrandizement. As expected, Selig didn't say anything to encourage San Jose supporters. In fact, his statements should provide some hope for Oakland supporters, though no one should be proclaiming Selig as the savior of baseball in Oakland just yet.

Notes: The audio stream of the event will be played on KQED-FM on Friday night at 8 p.m. An AP article focused largely on steroids is now available on the Chronicle's SF Gate site. Daniel Brown from the Merc also wrote an article more geared towards territorial rights. Channels 5, 7, and 11 were present getting video.

Selig was initially flanked by former Commonwealth Club president Joe Epstein and somewhat surprisingly, County Assessor Larry Stone, better known as an irritant for East Bay supporters. Stone emceed the event, and before he finished his introduction of Selig, he plugged the MLB-to-San Jose effort, almost on cue.

Notes from the speech portion:
  • MLB will surpass last season's league attendance record by the end of the current season.
  • He talked up the significant rise in the value of the Dodgers franchise when it changed hands from the O'Malleys to Fox and finally to Frank McCourt. He did not let slip an estimate of the Expos' eventual selling price.
  • Moneyball was mentioned as a subject that is "theological in nature."
  • Revenue sharing, payroll taxing (luxury taxes), and the debt service rule are the base of the current financial structure. He sees little need to change the structure in the near future.
  • The speech was littered with quotes from Mark Twain, Thomas Wolfe, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
  • Steroids is cheating. The only other substance mentioned was andro, and only as a historical reference. No mention of HGH.
  • He noted that in the midst of all of the media's criticism of how MLB handled steroids during the 90's, he looked up articles written during the era and saw only "11 articles that mentioned steroids."
The Q&A was done via responses to selected questions the audience submitted on comment cards. Only 10 questions were answered, one of which was a throwaway question about the commish's relationship with George Steinbrenner. Here's the skinny on the question segment:

1. What happened to the Reggie Jackson group's bid to buy the A's?
  • Selig claims it was Schott/Hofmann that decided to not entertain Jackson. He acknowledged that this contradicts Schott's initial statements on the matter, but insisted that it was the ownership group that made the decision, noting that the commissioner's office doesn't have to time interfere with these things. MLB will only step in when it's time to evaluate a group's financial worthiness.
2. Any thoughts on the idea of limits to the number intentional walks a batter can receive (Bonds rule)?
  • Not happening. No way baseball will change rules for a single individual.
3. Is a salary cap in the future?
  • "I'm comfortable where we are," Selig said.
4. What's being done about tight-fisted owners who pocket revenue sharing money instead of spending it on players?
  • "That phenomenon is a myth that somehow keeps getting perpetuated," said Selig. According to Selig, the league shares the books with the owners, and the payers (big market "have" teams) wouldn't stand for any prolonged effort by other owners to stash the money. Again, he reinforced the notion that the baseball's economic model is good.
5. What about the influence of international players?
  • This gave Selig the chance to tout the World Baseball Classic. He did this during the speech as well.
6. Is the DH rule going to change anytime soon?
  • The DH was one of the few things on which he agreed with former A's owner Charlie Finley (Yes for the AL). He's happy with the way it stands since the teams in the two leagues are happy with the existing rules. (A good follow-up would've been to ask for his take on using the DH in NL-hosted games and the hitting pitcher in AL-hosted games, but there was no opportunity for follow-ups.)
  • The only change he might see happening is a geographical redistribution of teams, but he didn't get specific.
7. What is the league doing about steroids and its impact on records?
  • Without outright saying it, Selig indicated that he's leaving the records alone and will keep them asterisk-free. We'll see if that holds up if any other high-profile sluggers are shown to have used.
8. What about the exclusivity of territorial rights?
  • Repeating a statement he made weeks ago, Selig said, "You couldn't run the sport without internal rules and you can't make exceptions."
  • The Giants' territorial rights were affirmed when they made the huge private investment in SBC Park.
  • His feelings on relocation are heavily shaped by the Braves' move to Atlanta. Besides the territorial rights issue, he appears to be stridently anti-move, though his previous statements about the situation in Miami raise questions about that.
  • Regarding San Jose, he said that "San Jose is a great location, but that's not the issue. We have to protect the status quo. We're clearly not going to expand."
9. Epstein posed a follow-up: "Is there a process by which a vote could be taken by the owners to overturn these rights?"
  • "No. It's not a question of overturning rights," replied Selig. I'm not certain if the response meant that he would not allow it to come to vote, or whether he was rendering his opinion on the outcome of a vote. Surely the owners would not vote for anything that could potentially threaten their own financial well-being.
  • He trumpeted the party line about "staying focused on Oakland." The question of what would happen if the Oakland deal didn't succeed was not asked.

The San Jose boosters I overheard upon leaving didn't appear discouraged, least of all Larry Stone. While Selig dismissed the idea of overturning the Giants' territorial rights, that's the weakest option because it's the least realistic. Maury Brown of Business of Baseball and the Oregon Stadium Campaign and I have had this discussion in the past, and I agree with him that for the A's to move anywhere, whether it's San Jose, Portland, Vegas, or Sacramento, the bidding group needs to make an extremely compelling case - not just to a single affected owner, but to all 30 owners and MLB. Oakland, with its location and access, is hard to argue against. Any bids to move the team will have to be comprehensive, probably including packaged TV and radio deals and lists of pre-committed corporate sponsors (because those are Oakland's weak points currently). Without those requirements, I doubt any bid would be entertained.

Remember that in Wolff's press conference last month, he talked about the ability of the East Bay business market to fill the 40 luxury suites and 40 minisuites (plus club seats) that he wants to build in the new ballpark. It stands to reason that he'll compare that to other market studies, determine the costs and risk factors, and then decide - if it even gets to that point.


Genaro said...

Very awesome work here.

I would like to see which direction the whole San Jose Booster Club is going in.

I mean, it's been what, a year? I guess they come out with a plan close to the deadline Wolff made with Oakland.

In your opinion, how far do you think Baseball San Jose is willing to go? IMO, the only way to get the A's to San Jose would be to sue to strike the anti-exemption laws.

Marine Layer said...

That's a good question. I don't think the legal option is the way to go. It's not going to win San Jose any support among the owners and Selig. They could arm themselves with the legal challenge, but it's the "nuclear option" for lack of a better term. No one wants to go there. San Jose's best hope is to have an overwhelmingly winning proposal at the ready should the Oakland project not come to fruition.

Maury Brown said...

I agree, and good analogy... that's a "nuclear option", to be certain.

What hasn't been discussed much is whether Wolff and Fisher will even pull up stakes, should the new proposal fail, and options run dry in the East Bay. The Twins have been working on a new facility since '97 (and overtures regarding a baseball only facility actually occurred before that). The Marlins have been trying for years, as well.

Selig's comments, as of late, seem to be a shift: No more hammer talk. There's lot's of talk of the status quo and trying to keep things normalized. This may well be due to the wounds and scabs that remain from the relocation of the Expos. Moving a franchise into nearly any market will create a conversation on either defined territories, or broadcast territories.

It may well be that the A's stay put in Coliseum while continuing to plod along, much as the Twins and Marlins are doing, should funding for the proposal fail in Oakland.

The Cactus Leaguer said...

ML - is there any talk among the SJ boosters about trying to buy out the territorial rights from Magowan? (I'm figuring it would take a half billion or more)

Anonymous said...

One thing that isn't brought up in regards to "relocating" or "moving a fanchise into another defined territory" is the reality of the A's/Bay Area situation. San Jose is already part of the A's market, or "territory," if you will. We get A's radio via KFRC, we get A's telecasts via Channel 36 and FSN, and we have a strong A's fan base. Ever experience the traffic on 880 southbound after a game? So I ask this ML, do you really think that San Jose boosters would have to present a Radio/TV package for a team that already exists in their market? And just to clarify Maury, the A's moving 40 miles south (and further from SBC Park) is a lot different than a team relocating a thousand miles into your "territory." By the way, good speech last night from Mr. Selig.

Maury Brown said...

And just to clarify Maury, the A's moving 40 miles south (and further from SBC Park) is a lot different than a team relocating a thousand miles into your "territory."

It's not different at all.

See one, Chuck Armstrong and the Seattle Mariners.

As I mentioned, the ability to move a franchise into a market without some form of push back is nearly impossible. The main difference is that the Giants have a clearly defined territory outlined, in terms of physical distance to another franchise.

If a team relocated to Portland... San Antonio... where have you, the topic then shifts to whether a territory is being infringed upon based on television territories.

I heard nothing in Selig's statements that should give Portland any more, or less, optimism than they had the day before.

Marine Layer said...

Right. There's nothing in his statements that should give any city any real hope. But we all know that the landscape changes quickly, and depending on how the Miami situation gets handled in the offseason, we could be talking about a completely different situation come November.

However, the fact that Stone and Gonzales were able to get some of Selig's time is a major coup. I doubt that the substance of their private conversations was anything similar to the public statements Selig made in the speech and Q&A. Since Wolff isn't working directly with San Jose because it would risk the Oakland deal, Selig can work as a proxy. If that's what's happening, it's a pretty well-designed front.

Marine Layer said...

Also, TCL, I don't think the San Jose people are talking hard money. Most people are talking about county swaps - the East Bay for the South Bay. Whether that is feasible depends on Magowan's willingness to play ball, and San Jose's ability to make that compelling case. The irony is that in making the case, San Jose may be arguing against itself.

The Cactus Leaguer said...

Do the SJ boosters honestly think that they can buy off Magowan with a territorial "swap"???

Marine Layer said...

No, the "swap" would just be a part of the deal. It calls for some very creative methods of indemnification. Let's just say that I wouldn't be too quick to rule them out just because of the rights issue.

Maury Brown said...

It's an interesting premise.... swapping. But, this comes back to how that deal would be viewed by the other owners. There's no advantage in this scenario for the Tribune Co., or as mentioned prior, Wilpon, Steinbrenner, or for that matter, Moreno or McCourt. It's undoing a structure based on an individual case that has no overall benefit to the other owners.

The Expos situation was based on a collective ownership looking to recoup loses. Even with that in place, there was rumblings and issues as an Executive Committee vote was never taken to ratify the selection of DC and the relocation of the Expos. Why? Ellis, Magowan, and Wilpon sided with Angelos.

When you look at those individuals, and the franchises they represent, and what interest they had in terms of possible relocation, it's a clear indicator of the issues surrounding territories and the possible movement of franchises.

Bud's talking "status quo" at a time when they don't need to recoup money (if anything, they're going to all laugh to the bank on the Nationals deal), and they're still dealing with the fallout of the relocation.

As I said in Sept. of last year... MLB's got a bit of a hangover, still.

Anonymous said...

Let me add some common sense to this discussion. As an A's fan residing in San Jose, I know many a Giants fan that support MLB in our great city. A quote from a co-worker of mine, "My love will always be for the Giants, but it would be great if San Jose could have a team." Did I hear someone correctly at Mr. Selig's speech...Larry Stone (leader of SJ's baseball efforts) is a Giants season tickets holder? The point is is that the Giants territorial rights to San Jose are not only wrong, but they're totally unnecessary. A team in San Jose won't cut into Magowans fan base. And those living in the Bay Area know that there is enough corporate support for two franchises. ML, any chance that at the end of day common sense would prevail in the territorial rights discussion? Go A's!!

Anonymous said...

I thought you said you were going to add some common sense into the discussion.

Marine Layer said...

Just to clarify, I believe Stone has season tickets for both the Giants and A's.

Maury Brown said...

The point is is that the Giants territorial rights to San Jose are not only wrong, but they're totally unnecessary. A team in San Jose won't cut into Magowan’s fan base. And those living in the Bay Area know that there is enough corporate support for two franchises.

I'm sure that this is cold comfort to Magowan thinking of losing Silicon Valley as a part of his corporate base.

Having "enough" corporate base may not be the issue. But, who winds up with the corporate entities, is.

This comes back to that "let's do slicing up the Bay Area from a Giants/A's perspective" conversation. That's, in my opinion, why many are not grasping where MLB is coming from.

You have to view how decisions that are made effect the structure of how MLB does business in all markets.

If San Jose can make a case that Kevin McClatchy, Jeffery Loria, or David Glass can see as beneficial to them, then you may have a case where Bud would consider a vote.

I don't see how you connect the dots in that manner.

Marine Layer said...

I think the counter to your argument, Maury, is that the relationship of San Jose to the Bay Area is uniquely different to any other market situation that exists now or even in the next 20 years. In fact, the only one I can think of that's even remotely similar would be that of Orlando and the Tampa-St. Pete area, but even that's more akin to the relationship of Sacramento to SF-Oakland than San Jose. The Baltimore/DC situation was pretty much rammed through, so it's now moot.

If you look at the lists of corporate sponsors and suite buyers, it's pretty obvious that both teams are already encroaching on each other's territory, and there are plenty of companies that have investments in both teams (Chevron, SBC, Comcast to name three). The best argument, the one that may have the least resistance from the other two-team markets, is that despite the physical separation via city/county lines and a body of water, the Bay Area is still one big market, and as such should be treated as LA, NY, and Chicago are in terms of territorial rights. Once the A's get a new stadium in the Bay Area, the threat of moving will become a non-issue anyway. It doesn't solve indemnification for the Giants, but it maintains the league's status quo while bringing the Bay Area in compliance with the other two-team markets. Heck, once the DC Ballpark opens, territorial rights there will be rendered moot as well. The TV market will have shaken out, and both teams will be locked into long-term leases.

Anonymous said...

And don't all other two-team markets share their territories? Do you think Steinbrener would care if the Mets moved to Brooklyn? The fact is that the situation with Bay Area territories is completely unique among two-team markets. Since Selig introduced the word "fair" Wed night, what would truly be fair to both the Giants and A's would be to reach the standard that already exists in other two-team markets.

Anonymous said...

ML or Maury,
Could MLB allow an A's move into "Giants territory," if Magowan AGREED to a territorial swap and some sort of compensation $$? Also, wouldn't the other MLB owners benefit financially if the A's became a revenue contributor rather than a "welfare recipient" of revenue sharing? Could revenue sharing funds be used towards "guaranteed revenues" for SBC debt payment? Lots of questions...great posts!

Marine Layer said...

The key word, as you pointed out, is "agreed." Magowan has so far been unwilling to even name a price for Santa Clara County, for fear of getting negotiations started. He has all of the cards in this deal. He also has a better TV/radio deal than the A's. He does not have to come to the table if he doesn't want to. If he does nothing and the Oakland development fails to get going, he could just stand his ground until the A's moved out of the area. For any kind of San Jose move to take place, someone will have to convince Magowan to play ball - Selig, other owners, etc.

As far as the indemnification goes, Magowan has said he won't accept some lump sum payment. My guess is he'd want something like the Orioles deal, including the guaranteed franchise sale value that Angelos didn't get. He's thinking about his other investors in this respect.

Anonymous said...

Magowan has a better TV/Radio deal than the A's, SBC is sold out on a regular basis (even without Bonds and a sub-par season), he has the corporate sponsorship, he has East Bay fans who abondoned the A's when SBC was a region of almost 7 million people, why is Magowan so intent on claiming Santa Clara County/San Jose as his own? Can you explain ML?

Marine Layer said...

It's all about perceived competitive advantage. Even though both teams market to the entire Bay Area, territorial rights, as intangible as they are, have a value. As long as he has them per the Major League Agreement, he has every right to protect them as he sees fit. It doesn't really matter that the argument is outdated or not reflective of the Bay Area's economic structure. He has the rights, and that's that. For now.

Anonymous said...

I think what we need to realize here is that Magowen doesn't want Alameda-Contra Costa counties as his territory. Even though the fore mentioned territories are physically closer to SF than Santa Clara county, Ala-C.C. doesn't have the coperate support or $$$ that Santa Clara and the silicon valley does. So I don't see much changing as far a the territory rights go.

Marine Layer said...

Or to put it more succinctly, he doesn't need rights to Alameda and Contra Costa when the Giants already market there effectively. Just look at the BART trains that come from the East Bay before Giants games. And look at the list of companies that sponsor the Giants from the East Bay:

Safeway (Pleasanton)
Chevron (San Ramon/Richmond)
SBC (San Ramon)
Emerald/Diamond Nuts (Pleasanton when they signed with the Giants, now Stockton)
Lexar Media (Fremont)

The surprise is that the Giants have more name sponsors in the East Bay than in the South Bay. What they're trying to protect is suite and club seat revenue.

Maury Brown said...

What they're trying to protect is suite and club seat revenue.

Yes, and yes...

I'm still trying see how allowing the A's to move into San Jose benefits the other 29 owners. If someone can make a case for that, I'm all ears.

Anonymous said...

Would Gorge $teinbrenner really care if an honest deal was worked out to relocate the A's to San Jose? And don't give me this nonsense that an A's move into "Giants territory" would invite a team to move across the street from Yankee Stadium. This twisted logic assumes that we're all stupid. I think Magowan used this argument to defend his so called "rights" to San Jose. How would a possible A's move help the other owners and Major League making the team a revenue contributor rather than a welfare recipient of revenue sharing. It's all about the money, right!? The more money for MLB, the better! Someone earlier made an excellent point that I would like to expand on...would the other MLB owners really care if the Mets moved further away from Yankee Stadium to Brooklyn?

Maury Brown said...

Would Gorge $teinbrenner really care if an honest deal was worked out to relocate the A's to San Jose? And don't give me this nonsense that an A's move into "Giants territory" would invite a team to move across the street from Yankee Stadium.

Across the street from Yankee Stadium? No. Into Northern New Jersey? There has been considerable talk of that scenario, as early as a point in 2004 during the course of the Expos derby:

The rights of the Yankees and Mets would complicate a move to New Jersey. The Meadowlands are about 10 miles from Yankee Stadium.

``The commissioner's office has advised us that the Montreal Expos will not be going into the Meadowlands, and we will vigorously object and exercise all our rights if any attempts are made to put any major league team there,'' Yankees president Randy Levine said.

The Yankees maintain that New Jersey was within their territorial rights.

Regarding this comment:

How would a possible A's move help the other owners and Major League making the team a revenue contributor rather than a welfare recipient of revenue sharing.

Not that this isn't possible, but this isn't a guarantee, either.

On this comment:

Someone earlier made an excellent point that I would like to expand on...would the other MLB owners really care if the Mets moved further away from Yankee Stadium to Brooklyn?

Depends on if "further away" wound up being within the Yankees' territory.

Maury Brown said...

Oh, on my comment regarding "across the street from Yankee Stadium? No."... The context was in terms of what has actually transpired (no one has thought of doing as much, while Northern NJ has been). You could bet the bank the Yankees would flip over the proposition of a team across the street at this stage in history.

Anonymous said...

"The rights of the Yankees and Mets would complicate a move to New Jersey."

Clearly, a third team moving into a current two-team market is much different than one existing team relocating within the market. There's no way a third team would occupy San Jose if the A's stay in Oakland, nor could anyone make a strong case that it should. Apples and Oranges.

Maury Brown said...

Three teams could be supported in the region (and last time I checked, the Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees did at one point), but the issue is about territorial rights as a whole.

Too many are getting wrapped up in just San Jose on this matter. There are much larger implications.

Marine Layer said...

I have a feeling that the way this plays out, there won't be a single overriding factor. Territorial rights for the two immediately affected teams and the cascading impact on the other 28 will be a major part. So will any impact a deal has on revenue sharing, especially the next CBA/MLA. Whatever transpires for Florida and Minnesota will could have some effect as well. What I don't expect is for Selig to maintain his nice guy, "everything is going well" routine when the next round of CBA negotiations happens in 2006. (Yes, I expect him to stick around at least through those negotiations.)

Genaro said...

It's not going to win San Jose any support among the owners and Selig.

If San Jose was to get the exemption, the owners wouldn't matter. Wolff could move the team without the league's consent. Sure he would make alot of enemies, but if he's making money, who cares?

The only way it would screw the A's is if the league then decided to contract them. But at that point you have a case regarding motive to contract.

So long as the A's stay in the area, it's good with me. But there needs to be more effort, imo, from the San Jose side to make an alternate.

Maury Brown said...

If San Jose was to get the exemption, the owners wouldn't matter. Wolff could move the team without the league's consent. Sure he would make alot of enemies, but if he's making money, who cares?

Can you clarify this? What is an "exemption"? Moving a franchise cannot be done without approval from 3/4 of the owners.

Marine Layer said...

The exemption comes from MLB and the owners via the vote. There's no way around it. San Jose could sue, but they'd be going up against the most organized, heavily funded lobby in pro sports. They'd have a good case, but it would drag out. Probably for years.

Frankly, at this point the San Jose boosters have gotten everything they could want short of the territorial rights being rescinded, which right now is unrealistic. They got a face-to-face with Selig early in the process. They have the land deal in the works. They have the knowledge that Oakland has a very tight deadline on their hands, and the clock is ticking. They know that Wolff has all of their phone numbers and e-mail addresses. The mayor, despite his scandals, has kept baseball on the radar screen. And San Jose has done other things unrelated to baseball to show they're serious (the Grand Prix, the new convention center tent expansion, the very impressive new City Hall) about doing something.

Maury Brown said...

Bit of history in terms of territories and relocation… consider this useless history, in some senses…

The Expos were very nearly forced to move less than a month after being awarded to Montreal. Gerry Snyder and the minority owners were unable to get the initial good-faith payment together, and the League threatened to pull the franchise. Who was the leading candidate for to move to? Dallas. Who killed that notion off due to proximity to another franchise? Roy Hofheinz and the newly awarded Houston Colt .45s/Astros. The threats by Hofheinz pushed MLB to shift from Dallas, a far better relocation candidate, to Buffalo, NY. In the end, a new lease agreement was made for Jarry Park, and the Expos, of course, stayed in Montreal.

Anonymous said...

Fast forward to the present...Dallas now has the Texas Rangers (albeit in the suburb of Arlington), and the Expos were allowed to relocate a thousand miles to within 35 of Camden Yards. I guess the moral to your history is that THINGS I right?!

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