31 August 2006

San Jose: Wolff throws in the towel

When I posted a few weeks ago on Lew Wolff's SJ Chamber talk, I discussed the possibility that he may once and for all eliminate Downtown San Jose from all future discussions. On Wednesday, Wolff finally made it official. Rumors of this were present as early as six months ago, but I wanted to see something official first.

Barry Witt's article in the Merc sheds light on a few new items that fill in the gaps quite a bit:
  • Wolff tried to broker deals to get the rights to Santa Clara County, but Giants ownership was unwilling to give them up.
  • He tried even before he had become managing partner.

This is certainly different from Wolff's "We're focusing on Oakland" stance of April 2005, when he took control of the team. Then again, it's consistent with his statements that he wouldn't challenge the Giants' rights. It's possible that discussions over territorial rights date back to when Wolff was given the VP of Venue Development title.

Chris De Benedetti's wrap-up of the event has a more East Bay-tinged flavor and includes quotes from Fremont City Manager Fred Diaz, Oakland City Council member Larry Reid, and Mike Healy, spokesman for Oakland mayor-elect Ron Dellums.

There have been clues that pointed to this. Chief among them is #1 San Jose backer Mark Purdy's change from Fremont as a negotiating ploy to Fremont as the best alternative given the circumstances. This didn't happen overnight. Purdy's newest article sounds like a sales pitch to the many Baseball San Jose supporters who need to be convinced to support the Fremont ballpark - it won't work financially unless their corporate dollars buy those suites, ads, and club seats.

Purdy dives further into the rumor mill with the following:

"There are plenty of murmurs in Silicon Valley circles that Cisco is smitten with the idea of a partnership with the A's, on many levels -- including naming rights to the ballpark. There are rumblings out of Cisco's offices that concepts for a 'ballpark of the future' have already been brainstormed and game-planned. The project allegedly has support from the highest levels, including CEO John Chambers."

Even though I'm a nerd who works in high tech, I hope "ballpark of the future" doesn't lend itself to dehumanizing the game. All I want is for AM radio reception to work in the ballpark.

I was supposed to attend the event this morning but had to attend to some personal matters. Jay Hipps from Soccer Silicon Valley has audio from the event if you're interested. There is some news from the soccer/Quakes front as well.


Georob said...

As I've said, if Lew Wolff wanted to go to San Jose from the start, he should have started with getting rid of the boundaries.

Well, that's exactly what he tried to do. And he discovered what the SJ supporters refuse to believe, and that the Giants' rights are a VERY REAL OBSTACLE.

Knowing that, Wolff goes back to square one, Oakland. But if(as the conspiracy theorists say) Wolff NEVER wanted to build in Oakland, then why didn't he immediately go to Fremont next? The land was there then as it is now, and Cisco's asking price would have undoubtedly been cheaper had Wolff not wasted a year on Coliseum North.

The only thing I'll concede to the OAFC crowd is that by insisting on a "ballpark village", Wolff pretty much knocked out most urban sites simply because the land would be harder to find. I also don't understand why the Coliseum parking lot was taken off the table so quickly. It would seem to me that if Wolff wanted to negotiate with 100 landowners at Coliseum North, then he could have negotiated with Al Davis.

Again, San Jose's problem is that too much of what they consider "their" market overlaps with San Francisco's. And the million plus citizens that make up the "tenth largest city in the United States" is not enough to merit a MLB team by itself.

San Jose may well have the last laugh if Wolff names his Fremont team the "SJ A's". I still predict that won't happen until the team has been in Fremont for several years. Until then, they'll remain the "Oakland" Athletics.

Anthony Dominguez (Tony D.) said...

A very, very sad day indeed for this long-time San Jose supporter/native. At least Mr. Wolff was trying (in the background) to solve the territorial issue. But the A$$ holes that are Magowan, MLB, and his creditors wouldn't budge on "their territory." So the dream of Major League Baseball in Downtown San Jose is over (RIP Baseball San Jose). You're right's time for all San Jose supporters to jump on the Fremont bandwagon and support the ballpark at Pacific Commons. If our Mission can be located in Fremont (Mission De San Jose off of 680), why not our ballpark/baseball team! And Rob, like myself finally giving up on baseball in San Jose, I think it's time for you to give up on baseball in Oakland. Lastly R.M., when can we expect an "NBA to San Jose" web site to be fired up? I'm ready for the next cause! Viva San Jose!

Anonymous said...

As Bush came in and divided our country, Wolff has come in here and divided the A's Nation. I hate to see Oakland A's fans and San Jose A's fans fighting with eachother. I personally am a life long Oakland resident so of course I would like the team to stay here, but I'm not going to fight over something like the location of the ballpark. I think Fremont is a nice compromise for both sides here. The only confusing part is the team name. How about Oak Jose A's?? You can't use Fremont...who in the hell outside of the greater bay area knows where Fremont is?!? I'd suggest Golden State but us Warrior fans know how cursed that name is.

Georob said...

Oakland fans care about the location. San Jose fans just want the name.

Both will be disappointed

Marine Layer said...

Getting the Coliseum (not North or South) proposal going was going to be more complicated than merely negotiating with Al Davis. In Oakland's city code, the bulk of the Hegenberger Gateway/Corridor area is meant for commercial development only. Changing that over to residential would have been a major task. Then when it came down to refurbishing the existing Coliseum for the Raiders, exactly how would that be done? If the bulk of the land surrounding the stadium were given to the A's, little ancillary development for the Raiders would be possible. The Warriors and arena management might not have as many problems with development as their requirements are smaller, but they would be impacted as well.

San Jose is stuck through no fault of its own. The economics are good, the site is good, the support is good and the owner obviously tried to move in that direction. The problem with the territorial rights lies within one argument: the commish and the big-market owners do not want to set a precedent. Once a specific price is set on a territory, then all other territories become commodities. By not placing a dollar or cash value on SC Co., MLB has avoided ever having to answer the question, and the mystery surrounding territorial rights remains intact. The argument about the banking arrangement remains, but if those bonds were to be refinanced in a few years when interest rates are better, don't think for a second that such a clause will remain intact, especially if the A's have already effectively encroached on SC Co.

I doubt Cisco's land price has changed much at all in a year. Remember that they have no ability to influence the zoning change - only the A's proposal going through the city of Fremont does. The only thing that's changed for Cisco is their intentions for the land, since they've rebounded nicely since the bust period. The company has had to let go of one of its major expansion projects over the past decade: Coyote Valley. Pacific Commons could be next. What would/should replace it?

Tony - I'm not doing a "NBA to San Jose" website. I've never felt the area could support 2 NBA teams. Or better put - 3 winter sports teams (2 NBA, 1 NHL). The market simply isn't there, especially with 2 NFL teams and 2 MLB teams overlapping the winter and spring schedules.

Georob said...

Rhamesis, isn't one of the big arguments against changing territories that Peter Magowan was able to get private financing for Pac Bell park based partly on the fact that no other team could move to Santa Clara County?

Fellow owners can't sue MLB, but a P.O'd investor might be tempted to sue the Giants.


Marine Layer said...

It's a great argument to hide behind. As I said before - should the bonds get refinanced it won't matter one bit since it'll be out of their hands, especially if the A's are already encroaching by being in Fremont. Even if the bonds aren't refinanced, since the Giants haven't been compelled to produce such an agreement, they can continue to hide behind it.

The threat of lawsuit is there, but changes in market realities will probably make such a lawsuit moot.

jrbh said...

The NBA-to-San Jose thing is a joke, and should be taken as a sign of *very* bad faith by any NBA owner who mentions it.

Well, except Cohan, of course, who's still have one of the largest markets in the country to himself if he moved the Warriors there.

On second thought, everything Cohan says/does is an expression of bad faith, so I'm back to my original point.

And speaking of bad faith: Lew Wolff.

He's been lying. By his own accounts, he's been spending all his time and energy on San Jose and Fremont. He's never taken Oakland seriously. Any of his several public comments to the contrary were deceitful.

It's time for A's fan to organize to demand that Wolff sell the team, and it's time for him to be booed and the subject of derision when he appears in public.

I wonder if it's also time to begin pressuring Cisco and the City of Fremont -- building a ballpark absent public transportation, in the LA style, is not a friendly thing to do in the Bay Area -- to consider the consequences of being associated with Wolff and his plans.

(On the subject of the LA-ification of the Bay Area: a front page link on talks about that very thing today, Thurs., 8.31.)

murf said...

Well, I guess we all suspected that this was coming. While Diridon South was the best potential location for a new urban ballpark, perhaps Lew didn't do as much negotiating as he leads us to believe. After all, locating the team to Fremont would give him access to both the SJ and OAK markets.

And the team name? Who knows, but my guess is that it will be something regional - Silicon Valley or Bay Area. San Jose A's would piss off east bay fans, Fremont A's would be like naming the Cowboys for Arlington, and Oakland A's would not excite the new fan base at all.

So, were looking at the Silicon Valley South-East Bay Area A's of the greater Oakland-San Jose-Fremont-Napa-Gilroy region at 5:00 on the clock face of the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California.

Might as well embrace it.

anthony dominguez said...

I though we'd all one day celebrate together the groundbreaking for "CISCO FIELD at DIRIDON/ARENA." Oh well, maybe San Jose can pursue a team in 100 years when both AT&T Park and Pac Commons are both obsolete (we should also be the nations 5th largest city by then Rob). Anyhow, if anyone want's to read a stupid quote, go over to"There's no way MLB was just going to take Silicon Valley away from the Giants." Yeah, like the T Rights ban all residents/businesses in SCCo from going 3 miles into Alameda Co/Fremont. ROT IN FINANCIAL HELL MAGOWAN!

John said...

Wolffe himself said "It's not a matter of money with the Giants." If Selig didn't even want Wolffe to negotiate a price for the territorial rights, I'm sure that would have been made clear from the start. Then again, I suppose it could have been but Wolffe was hoping to get a deal done with the Giants to present to the commish in hopes of changing his mind.

anthony dominguez said...

I realize that the Orioles never had official territorial rights to Washington DC (TV rights yes) prior to the Expos move. But they were still able to get compensation for the Expos/Nationals moving WITHIN 36 miles of Camden Yards. I will never understand why such an arrangement couldn't be made for the Giants (for San Jose). And if breaking the Giants T Rights would have made all territories commodities, where exactly would a A's/Giants scenario been replicated? Would the Yankees then give up territory to, say, the Marlins for cash? Don't think so! Oh well, here's to Fremont!

Marine Layer said...

First of all - I'm not going to tolerate personal attacks. I can either set the comments section up so that either members or registered users are allowed to make comments. I hope I don't have to do that.


Tony, the answer to your question is Northern New Jersey. It's jointly shared by the Yankees and Mets. While it's not certain how many people from that area would follow a relocated NJ-based team, the market value there is enormous. True, there are few examples of this kind of potential problem, but it does exist. The last thing MLB wants is yet another internal issue to squabble over heading into CBA talks. I honestly don't think Selig cares that much about any particular city. But he does care about pissing off existing owners.

Some say that the TV rights given to the O's as compensation were exhorbitant. Considering the actual (non-existent) claim the O's had, that argument may have some merit. Personally, I didn't think it was that bad because cash didn't change hands, thereby not tapping the general fund or other owners, or more importantly, not setting a precedent in terms of cash. How would that have mapped over to a team that HAD territorial rights? Where do you begin?

Jeff said...

Lew's comments leave little doubt that SJ was the goal after all. But then again, viewed from a purley marketing angle, there should never have been any serious doubt that this was the case. I don't blame him. Anyone can see that SJ is a market ripe for the plucking....on it's own merits. It does not require the rest of the Bay to generate corportate support or fan support. I think Wolfe was serious when he extended his offer to Oakland, but he was aware that his terms were unlikely to be met. Given Oakland's political climate, no financial support would be forthcomeing. If that was his view, then he has been exonerated. Oakland indeed never presented a plan with adequate finance mechanisms in place. Not because the didn't want to, but because the task was impossible.
My own point of view was that SJ was the taget all along. I believe that view has been vindicated. Fremont is the next best option. And it will work. Wolfe has begun the preliminary "reaching out" to the SJ community. He let them know in no uncertain terms that it was the Giants who thwarted their dreams of their own team. I wonder how they are (fans) are going to react to that in the long term? I imagine that support for the Giants is going to undergoe long term erosion in the near future. Mcgowan may yet regret his decision. What good are the TR's if next to no one in the territory supports your team? Indeed, it may prove that declining Wolfe's offer was a tremendous mistake. His rights may soon be worth next to nothing. Wonder what his investors will think of that particular development? I disagree with Rob about the naming rights. Cisco will most likely insist on some input. I see the A's jumping right into the fray on the side of SJ. They are going to adopt the SJ name with pride and point out that they wanted to be there all along. In other words, don't blame us...blame the geriatric squad up north who inflicted their will upon you against your wishes. I for one would love to see just that sort of backlash against the Giants. My bet....coming soon, the San Jose A's. Period.

Georob said...

Here's another reason I think Lew Wolff will not immediately name the team "San Jose": While there's nothing to stop the A's from calling themselves such, the fact remains that by doing so they will be representing a city that is NOT IN THEIR TERRITORY.

Bud Selig is quite cognizant of this, and may very well try to persuade Wolff to back off. After all, the A's will BE in the South Bay, and have the ability to attract fans and corporate support in the region. Frankly, given those circumstances the A's shouldn't need to put the "SJ" on their uniforms to be successful.

If after five or ten years the team's corporate and fan base is clearly grounded in the South Bay AND the East Bay fans severely reduced by attrition, the A's have a much stronger case to make for a name change with far less attention.

But if you put the "San Jose" label on now, there WILL be many East Bay fans upset, and not just the ones who live in Oakland. Despite what the OAFC says, the A's will want to avoid as much negative press as they can.

If they're destined to be the "San Jose Athletics", it will eventually happen. "All in good time, my pretty!"

Bartleby66 said...

Any suggestion that South Bay residents don't care about the location of the team is absurd. Large numbers of us passionately want to see the team in downtown SJ, which would benefit the team, the city, and MLB. However, we're realists. If downtown is not to be, 3 miles from the city limits and the team name is a pretty good consolation prize.

Wolff won't wait three years to change the team name to SJ. That's just ripping the band-aid off S-L-O-W-L-Y, and it won't make East Bay fans feel any better about the change. He'll want to capitalize on the buzz of a new stadium right away to build up the new South Bay fanbase.

Let's not forget; the biggest reason SJ is the prize isn't that it's the larger population center - it's because it's the dominant EMPLOYMENT center of the Bay Area. Suites and club seats are what make professional sports go these days, and that means corporate money. Changing the name to SJ will help Wolff market to Cisco, Apple, Adobe, Intel, Sun, Oracle, and the rest of the NASDAQ. He'll do this right away to make sure there are no empty suites on opening day in the new park.

In the end, THAT's the real reason the Giants are opposed to the A's moving farther away. It's not because they're worried about losing the single-game ticket buyers willing to fight their way up 101 once in a while; these folks will be easily replaced by the North Bay and Contra Costa folks who will now be much closer to the Giants than the A's. It's because a disproportionate percentage of Giants premium season-ticket holders are South Bay corporations who are very likely to switch their support to a closer team, particularly one marketing more directly to their region.

Bartleby66 said...

Selig will not interfere with the team name. It's simply not within the scope of the Giants' "territorial rights," and Wolff is on public record about this. The A's situation vis-a-vis the Giants on this issue is exactly the same as the Angels with the Dodgers, and Selig did not interfere there.

Bartleby66 said...

I don't think Wolff is shaking in his boots about alienating the existing fan base. This is not the Cleveland Browns fans we're talking about; this is about 20,000 people per game despite consistently winning teams and some of the lowest prices in MLB. The Sharks have consistently drawn nearly as many per game for a second-tier sport despite mostly losing teams and ticket prices that are four times as high as the A's. Wolff will try to be as inclusive as possible, but if push comes to shove, logic dictates that he will favor the larger and more affluent market.

Bartleby66 said...


On the public transit issue, I notice the ACE tracks seem to go within a mile or two of the Pacific Commons site. Any possibility they might build a spur to allow gameday ACE trains to the ballpark? This could serve both Oakland and San Jose, and wouldn't seem prohibitively expensive in the grander scheme of things.

Marine Layer said...

It's possible but it could be costly. Bringing in a spur would not only use up land that could be used for other purposes, it would physically bring the train closer to housing. Since we're talking big diesel trains, it may not be a winning proposition. Regardless, it IS on the table.

anthony dominguez said...

Amen to Jeff and Bartleby66!

Rhamesis, any chance a Pacific Commons ballpark could be located CLOSER to the proposed ACE/Capitol Corridor station; say a half mile or less? Lew Wolff/Fremont could then build the ballpark village (or a portion of it) between the two, making the retail/restaurant establishments a walking destination before and after games. Parking for the ballpark could then be located in the eastern portion of the Pac Commons development, closer to 880. I read last week that the Amtrak Capitol Corridor was increasing its rounds between Diridon Station (sigh) and Oakland. Sounds like a winner to me, what do you think?

Anonymous said...

I don't think Wolff is going to name his team after a city that's not even in the same county. Why should he?

If he dosen't use the Oakland name, then surely he will give it a generic name, ie the California A's, or Golden State A's.

I realize there is one instance, New York Giants and Jets. But I don't think Wolff is going that way.

Kevin said...

I've asked this before, and I don't remember whether anyone was able to provide an answer. Assuming the ballpark is built in Fremont, would the Giants' TR prevent the A's from sponsoring events in Santa Clara county? Would they be allowed to open up retail outlets say in Valley Fair or other malls? A's billboards and banners in downtown SJ?

Jimmy Jam said...

Anon 9:29, the baseball precedent of a team being named after a city in another county is the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim). Lew Wolfe himself has alluded to going this route for naming the team, joking during an in-game interview about Artie Moreno doing all the legal work for him.

Transic said...

"I realize that the Orioles never had official territorial rights to Washington DC (TV rights yes) prior to the Expos move. But they were still able to get compensation for the Expos/Nationals moving WITHIN 36 miles of Camden Yards."

A very interesting point. Another "brilliant" job by the O-missioner. Now the capital of the nation has to share territorial rights with Charm City. The better would have been to give the District of Columbia and the northern Virginia counties of Loudoun, Fairfax and Arlington exclusively to the Nationals, share Montgomery and Prince Georges counties and leave the rest of Maryland to the wO's. I don't know why Norfolk, Richmond, Raleigh or Durham would matter to the wO's (or the Nationals for that matter). MLB territorial rules are insane, as a general rule. No one in El Paso is going to bother driving to Houston for a game, nor would a San Antonio threaten the Astros and Rangers.

So I don't know why the Giants couldn't attract new clients who would replace the ones that might abandon them for a "San Jose" A's team.

Anonymous said...

Good comments. I have been a loyal season ticket holder for over 15 yeras. I live in CV and I would follow the A's to Fremont or Downtown SJ. You must be a fan of the team, not the city. It's not like they are moving back east, folks. The ownership is looking out for the future of this franchise and staying in Oakland may not be the best answer. Where are the fans? The stadium is antiquated with poor sight lines in the first deck. This was built as a football stadium! The concessions are too close to the walkways, making passage difficult when 35,000 show up. I've never understood the notion that the Raiders ruined the park. The basic bowl did not change and I am not there to watch the bart train or the hills. I feel sorry for the Giants. If Wolf puts a stadium in Fremont, they lose revenue and fans. It would be smarter to negotiate and I think the Fremont site is a challenge to them to negotiate a territory settlement. Get something now or later when the A's move to Fremont the Giants will lose many fans, sponsors and money!

anthony dominguez said...

It's good to see so many blogging the truth about the Giants T Rights, and how a move to Fremont will hurt A$$-Hole Peter just as much as a move to DSJ. Some food for thought and a question:
1) An A's ballpark at Fremont/Pac Commons should at least have a capacity of 40,000; to take in consideration the existing fanbase and many converts from San Jose/SCCo. The current "model" of 35,000 makes sense for the coliseum location, but not Fremont.
2) Rhamesis, Murf, or anyone...what happens with Diridon/Arena SJ now? The renderings of the "ballpark village" (see 1st Act) look awesome. Perhaps the area can now be coined a future "Arena Village," with proceeds from development going into enhancing/upgrading HP Pavilion. A theater complex to replace the aged Century Winchester would be nice to.

jonclaude4 said...

Thanks ML for the timely info...

Georob said...

Tony, I don't get it.

You say that South Bay Giants fans will switch to the A's because the Giants wouldn't let the A's move to San Jose.

But if the A's HAD been allowed to move to SJ, those fans probably would have switched anyway.

If you've talked to a lot of Giants fans, you know that there is either a great deal of apathy or dislike when it comes to the A's. A lot of it is simply a National League/American League thing, just like political differences between the "blue" and "red" states.

It's going to take a lot more than just anger over territorial rights to get Giants fans to switch over.

murf said...

Tony, the area has long been slated for redevelopment as high-density housing or mixed use housing/retail. It would take a re-zoning to build something like a cineplex, or ballpark for that matter, but I don't think a movie theater has quite the pull that a MLB park would have.

It could look something like Santa Row, if neighbors don't kill it through the EIR and mitigation calls for traffic, etc.

Whatever eventually goes in, though, don't expect it to be fast-tracked at this point. The high-rise condo towers going up at Pellier Heights, Central Place, 360residences, etc will soon flood the downtown market with new homes. However, once those homes become occupied, and if the downtown housing market booms as it did in San Diego a few years ago, a new downtown "high-end" shopping complex for all those new urban dwellers will look awfully juicy to developers. Lew may still have a hand in the site after all, but it's still a few years off.

One thing I certainly don't see happening at the site is a Soccer Specific Stadium. It'd be too messy for the vocal but small fan base to push through, methinks.

anthony dominguez said...

I don't think I said anything about current South Bay Giants fans switching over to A's fans (pending a move to Silicon Valley/anger over the TRights). I do feel that casual fans and suite holders from Silicon Valley may abandon AT&T Park a million miles to the north in favor of a team/ballpark in their own backyard. Like Bartleby66 mentioned earlier, the "NASDAQ" abandoning the Giants for a Silicon Valley team is what will really hurt Magowan. Future fans from the South Bay (like my 4 week old daughter) might also be more likely to be A's fans vs. Giants, with the increased A's marketing/exposure to the region (especially if they're SJ A's).

anthony dominguez said...

Thanks for the low down on Diridon/Arena. Perhaps in a few years Lew Wolff could provide San Jose with a "Time Square West" at D/A (similar to what he proposed down in LA). As much as I would have loved to see the A's in DSJ, I guess there are other ways to stimulate development Downtown. However, PLEASE MR. WOLFF! NO SOCCER!! Don't like third-tier sports and don't want it!!

The Cactus Leaguer said...

The news about Wolff throwing in the towel in SJ comes as no surprise to me. I always thought that it would take "stupid money" (i.e, pay off the AT&T Park bonds and then some) to get a toehold into SJ.

ML - I know that part of your theory as to why Magowan might be willing to part with SJ was the existence, or perhaps the threat of the existence of the Fremont site. In other words, if you're going to lose the South Bay anyway, why not get something for it? But that strategy did not work for Wolff, and to me the $64 question is, why not?

Perhaps the answer lies in what is going on with the Marlins right now. MLB is basically doing an end-around on the team by trying to make a stadium happen in downtown Miami rather than settle for suburban, car-centric Hialeah. I know the analogy is not perfect as there are no territorial issues but the fact remains that there is still very little momentum for the ballpark village concept.

MLB wants their new stadiums, and they want them downtown. Maybe Magowan knew this all along as the A's situation has unfolded.

anthony dominguez said...

Miller Park ISN'T IN DOWNTOWN MILWAUKEE. The Ballpark in Arlington (did the name change?) ISN'T IN DOWNTOWN DALLAS. Angels Stadium (albeit now new but recently refurbished) ISN'T anywhere near something resembling a downtown. While MLB (and perhaps even Lew Wolff himself) would prefer downtown venues, it's not etched in stone that it's a must. However, your $64 question is a good one that may never be answered. An A's balpark in DSJ would have made tons of Cash for Wolff, MLB and (with a settlement on the territory) Magowan/The Giants. Why didn't it happen? We may never know. See you at Fremont!!

Marine Layer said...

TCL - For a publicly-financed ballpark, location is the biggest factor. For a privately-financed exception like this one, location is only one of many factors. What are we talking about?

1. Ability to finance the deal.
2. Political ease to get project done.
3. Location relative to existing fanbase.
4. Existing or planned infrastructure (freeways, public transit, parking).
5. Potential ancillary opportunities.
6. Location relative to new/emerging fanbase.

Each site will weigh differently based on the above (and other) factors. As a result, every site is a compromise of sorts.

Anonymous said...

Glad Lew finally killed San Jose.

Fremont will be next...............

The Cactus Leaguer said...

Anthony - every rule has exceptions, but all else being equal, I think we can agree that MLB prefers that teams put their stadiums downtown. And I can assure you, if the Brewers and Rangers (and Royals and Phillies and White Sox and D-Rays) could do it over again, they would build it downtown if they could.

ML - I think that the factors you mentioned come into play regardless of the funding mechanism, and I think that in either case (public v private financing), location is #1. And, let's not fool ourselves into thinking it's one extreme or another. Even AT&T Park had a public subsidy, albeit smaller than most.

And it still doesn't answer the question of why Magowan/MLB wouldn't cave on the territorial issue? I think that the whole "monetizing territorial rights" issue is the easy answer (just as you claim that the private financing for territory swap is the simple answer for Magowan), but not the complete one. Maybe (and I'm just guessing here) someone is looking at population trends and figuring that downtown SJ and China Basin are not the two best population centers for MLB in the Bay Area. Or maybe they sincerely believe that Fremont is the best spot. Heck, maybe they don't want to commit a second franchise to a 25-30 year lease in the Bay Area (an area which has yet to fill MLB coffers with publicly funded stadiums) at this time. Who knows.

Sorry if I'm coming across as a stick in the mud. I think that if there is anyone in MLB who can pull this deal off in Fremont, it's Lew Wolff. And I REALLY hope that the Fremont venture, if it is carried out, is a wildly successful one, as it will give new hope to cities and teams that are looking for stadium funding solutions.

Marine Layer said...

China Basin has exploded over the past decade, and the Mission Bay development just to the south will fill in one of the last stretches of major redevelopment in San Francisco. As a location, it's damned near perfect.

Downtown San Jose is poised to explode in a similar manner as long as the economy does its part. There are plans for several high-cost/rent residential towers in the area, and the prospects are quite good there. It makes perfect sense that Lew would look there as the demographics there are trending up.

Maybe there is something to a contractual link in the private bonds that were raised and territorial rights. We'll probably never know. As much as many of us would love for MLB to drop the arcane terrotorial rules and come into this millenium, we're talking about the stodgiest, least progressive, insular group of owners in pro sports. If I had a billion dollars I'd consider opening up a lawsuit against MLB just out of principle. But what's to stop them from having more subtle collusive behavior - such as ensuring that "maverick" potential owners never have a chance to change the system by not allowing them to join the lodge?

Georob said...

Well ML, this all goes back to the anti-trust exemption and believe you me, someday someone like a George Soros who wants to make a point and has cash to blow will challenge the system and(depending on who's commissioner) the "whole house of cards" could fall.

In my opinion, all San Jose leaders had to do to deal with territorial rights was to go to the MLB owners and make the case that putting the A's in San Jose would not have negatively impacted the Giants. They could have brought out all the demographic and economic data along with the "tenthlargestcityintheus" bravado.

But it wasn't that simple. Because the truth is that it WOULD negatively impact the Giants, at least initially. And even though the Giants would eventually pick up fans in the northern East Bay to make up for it, the owners didn't want to take that chance. Especially with many in MLB still believing that it was a mistake to bring the A's here to begin with in '68.

And Tony, if you're going to cry about Peter Magowan being an A-hole, you'd better also extend that adjective to the late "Saint" Walter A Haas. For he voted in favor of those boundaries back in 1990, figuring that having the GIANTS in San Jose would make life much easier in Oakland.

anthony dominguez said...

"Because the truth of the matter is that it (an A's move to DSJ) would negatively impact the Giants..."

SO WILL A MOVE TO FREMONT ROB!! So now were back to the same argument posed by CL...if you're going to be hurt anyway, why not just take the money. Besides, most people on this site agree that it's not really the loss of "single game" fans that the G's worry about. It's the corporate support/sponsors in San Jose/Silicon Valley that's their main concern.

Just to let you know Rob, living in working in the South Bay, I have a lot of family members and co-workers who are EXCITED about the A's moving closer to San Jose. Many have even vowed to buy season tickets to a Fremont ballpark. I imagine you can multiply this sentiment many times over down here. Sadly, this would have been the same if the A's had moved to DSJ proper.

Rob, if you were a native/citizen of San Jose and wanted MLB in your city, you'de be "crying" to. Peace!

James said...

Cactus and Anthony,

It sounds like you both are making two huge assumptions here. First, that Lew even (seriously) approached the Giants with respect to the territorial issue and, second, that Lew seriously entertained San Jose proper as being his location of choice. Both assumptions, I believe, are incorrect.

I believe Lew may have "felt out" the giants with respect to the bringing the A's into San Jose. But that doesn't mean that he didn't see San Jose from the beginning as having insurmountable issues blocking a ballpark.

Let's be clear, a publicly-subsidized San Jose park ain't happening! We know that already.

So how could Lew privately fund the stadium? The answer is simple, a ballpark village with shops, housing, a hotel and possibly office buildings. Where in San Jose are you going to come up with an spare hundred acres, and at the same time, avoid the issues that Oakland has.

Honestly, I don't think he ever seriously saw the A's in Santa Clara County. What probably happened on his travels between San Jose and Oakland is that he saw large swaths of land in Southern Fremont and began envisioning the village there. I think Fremont has been Plan A for well over a year! And for good reason. Fremont affords Lew everything he wants. It's the only city within silicon valley but outside the territorial-affected border, it has sufficient land, and it has city leaders who want to work with him.

Georob said...

Moving to Fremont may negatively impact the Giants, so will winning a World Series in '06.

The difference here is Lew Wolff doesn't need anyone's permission to do either of those things. HE DOES, however need it with a move to San Jose.

Again, if San Jose is that great, untapped, lucrative market Tony speaks of; then its civic and business leaders should have been able to make the case that a baseball team downtown would have been been good for the A's, good for MLB, and NOT HURT THE GIANTS.

So why didn't they do it Tony? Instead of asking us, why don't you ask THEM!

jeff said...


My two cents on the points you raised have to do with Selig and his style of managment. I recommend reading,"Juicing the Game" for insights into Selig's management style. It's very enlightening. The point is that Selig entered into the commisioner's job in a very turbulent period. The owners were at each others throats as well as those of the players union. There was very little consensus. Selig has since smoothed over relations amongst the ownership group and is very careful in selecting people who will be allowed into the group. He wants no more factions which compromise relationships within the group. This is why he spends so much time building consensus among the owners before a vote is ever taken. He wants the vote to be unanimous. He will bend over backward to avoid strife within the owner ranks. Mcgowan has vowed to keep his rights, and the fight that would ensue if he moved to take them are just not worth the effort. Especially if he were viewed as favoring his friend and newly minted owner, Lew Wolfe. That sort of dissention could reek havoc and destroy the unified front he has spent years building.

As for territorial rights, the city of SJ should have taken MLB to task themselves. I have said before and I will say it again, it's not likely a Federal judge would allow MLB to disenfranchise a municipality the size of SJ or allow them to interfere in their development aspirations. SJ is the ONLY city in the US forbidden by MLB to ever have a franchise. That type of discrimination would be knocked flat in short order. Especially when the entity engaging in such behavior has an anti-trust exemption. But never mind all that, because the other owners would have collectively come to the conclusion that it was in their best interests to throw Mcgowan under the bus in order to prevent the exemption from being challenged in Federal court. And SJ would have certainly challenged it. Who knows, maybe Selig was counting on SJ to take the next step....and they never did. One thing is for sure....we will never know.

anthony dominguez said...

Call me insane, in denial..perhaps I've taken a few to many online jabs from Rob. BUT I DON'T THINK SAN JOSE IS DEAD QUITE YET! Why do I say this, after Lew Wolff put my city's Big League dreams in front of a firing squad? Hear me out:
1) It was only 4-5 months ago the the Merc's Mark Purdy stated "people (SJ Baseball supporters) want things to happen in five minutes. They won't, this could take YEARS." Why a definite "decision" regarding San Jose only a few months later?
2) An recent quote by Ray Ratto ("What's missing at the Coliseum isn't covered by tarp," SFC 8/13). "The knowledge that San Jose is YEARS (and a scandal in the mayors office) away from having somthing ready for Fisher and Wolff keeps down any impending sense of local dread." Again, why "kill" San Jose's aspirations so quickly? (Notice the key word in the above is YEARS, not MONTHS.)

Was Lew Wolff really going to announce a deal for San Jose with Ron Gonzales still in office? I think not. How about those land acquisitions at Diridon South? Perhaps the land owners were asking for to much cash, knowing a "ballpark" was going in at their site (now the City of SJ can say they simply want their land for housing). The DiNapoli's, co-owners with Wolff and SJ's most powerful family...are they really going to allow the dream to die so quickly? Let my just end my insane outburst with this...I won't give up on MLB in Downtown SJ until dirt is finally turned over at Pac Commons. Alright Rob, let me have it...
Happy Labor Day all!

The Cactus Leaguer said...

ML - I agree that China Basin is nearly a perfect location. I go to a game there every summer and I am amazed how much it changes every year.

What I meant was the second stadium. Obviously DSJ is a great spot in terms of wealth and corporate base. I was thinking more in the context of population growth trends and the corridor from Oakland to Sacramento. You're looking at at least four million people who have to travel a loong way to see a game if their only choices are China Basin and DSJ.

This is not a deep conviction or strong argument on my part, I just wanted to clarify my point, lest you think I'm even more of an idiot. ;)

Georob said...

Tony, you didn't answer my question.

If San Jose is so big, so lucrative, so rich, so cutting edge, so "with it" in every way shape and form......

....then why didn't SJ civic and business leaders just appeal to MLB themselves?

(crickets chirping)

I'm waiting, Tony......

Morgan James said...

So I've been a huge A's fan my whole life and I have a hard time imagining myself not loving the team no matter if they end up in Fremont or San Jose. But the real problem I see is that for all of us that live in the actual city of Oakland or anywhere on the 24 (Orinda, Laffayette, Walnut Creek....) then a move to even South Fremont as proposed would mean the GIANTS become the closest team to watch a game at, and odds are the seats will be cheaper there because SF will be the older ballpark. Now I hate the Giants and you will never see me over there, but how can the A's ownership keep the "Oakland" name if they are that far away from the city? And what would stop the casual fans in the East Bay from going over to SF? I'm sure a large number of casual Giants fans in the South Bay will switch to the A's but this move is really shutting out the "Oakland" fans. Personally, I look at the attendence success that the Warriors and Sharks draw year after year and it makes me think this entire "Bay Area" market is really a one team market no matter what the sport. But what do I know? =)

Bartleby66 said...

Why didn't SJ leaders appeal directly to MLB? The answer is, they were in the process of doing so. This appeal was going to take the form of offering up a viable, city-owned downtown site ready for the A's to start building on. Until this happens, there really isn't anything for MLB to consider.

A downtown SJ site would clearly be best for the A's and for MLB overall, and MLB owners know this. It would also hurt the Giants by eroding their corporate base. If push came to shove, whose interests would MLB owners favor, their own or the Giants? The question answers itself.

However, there's no reason for MLB to go stirring the pot and ticking off the Giants based on speculative proposals. Stadium deals are difficult to put together in California, and SJ has tried (and failed) to put one together in the past.

If SJ somehow gets it together and creates a viable package before the train has left the station on the Fremont site, I fully expect MLB to twist Macgowan's arm to accept some form of compensation in exchange for the so-called TR (or risk getting nothing). Unfortunately, SJ's failure to get this issue on the ballot this year reduces the chance of this happening.

From Wolff's perspective, there's no downside to moving forward with Fremont. Maybe it lights a fire under SJ and causes something to happen there. Maybe the reality of a Silicon Valley-based ballpark will cause the Giants to reconsider and negotiate a settlement for SJ. If not, Fremont is a viable fallback position.

Bartleby66 said...

A Federal judge could not interfere in this situation. While he or she might feel sympathetic to a major municipality with development aspirations, the basis for bringing claims of this type is the antitrust laws. MLB, alone among professional sports, is exempt from the antitrust laws. End of story.

anthony dominguez said...

Thanks Bartleby66,
Just to add Rob, if you go over to the now-silent BBSJ website, there was a drive to pressure MLB to free San Jose from the territorial rights; "Declaration of Independence" forms for supporters to fill out and send to the Comissioners office (I and many others filled them out). The SJ City council also made a unanimous motion to request MLB to free SJ from the Giants TRights. There are documents on the BBSJ website providing excellent reasons why MLB should consider SJ for relocation. SJ and BBSJ leaders met with Bud Selig prior to his Commonwealth speech last year to present such documentation. As we all know by now, all the effort was pretty much in vain. Minus a lawsuit that R.M. states would take a lot of cash, what more Rob could SJ/BBSJ do?

Marine Layer said...

Come on, people. This isn't that difficult. San Jose leaders were given a script - which they followed. They were told to "keep doing what they were doing" though they didn't receive any promises. That's it. Y'all can guess who wrote the script.

The speech at Adobe was effectively a change in the script.

Again, if I have to belabor this point I will. No ones wins favors from MLB by picking fights with them. Getting a franchise is not some inalienable right. It's in essence a favor.

Earthshaker said...

As much as Anthony Dominguez doesn't like it, there will be pro soccer in Santa Clara County well before MLB ever makes it there. Lew will manage to get a soccer specific stadium built without the need for voter approval, but how was he ever going to get a baseball park financed in San Jose?