Though owners pledge not to sue Major League Baseball when they purchase a team, that’s not stopping plenty of lawyers from closely observing the battle between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s over San Jose.
The spectre of a lawsuit from either party has surely been a concern to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig as he maneuvers MLB through some pretty nasty hurdles. On the one hand, the Giants generate a quarter of their revenue from Silicon Valley businesses and fans, so you can see why ownership would be hesitant about allowing an A’s move there. On the other hand, A’s owner Lew Wolff knows San Jose well and rightly sees it as the answer to his team’s financial needs. But Wolff put Selig in a bad situation by announcing his intent to build a San Jose ballpark before seeking a consensus on the issue from MLB owners, and he’s paid the price — as Selig and his committee have patiently waited for the storm to pass.
But it hasn’t. So now we’re in a situation that could get even uglier, with lawyers potentially ready to pounce no matter what Selig does, according to Steve Henson at Yahoo News. It is a problem that simply won’t go away. Selig has been pretty consistent about his guiding principles regarding franchise movement — if an existing city can show it’s serious about a ballpark solution, the team won’t be moved.
In any case, we don’t see 75 percent of MLB owners agreeing to a move of the A’s — if the numbers were there, Selig would have probably already called a vote. Do the math: if the commissioner is allowed to disregard territorial rights here, what’s to stop him from allowing the Tampa Bay Rays to move to New Jersey or Connecticut? Or stop the Cleveland Indians from moving to Boston or Philadelphia? Or stop the next A’s owner from moving the team to downtown Los Angeles? Every big-market team relies on MLB territorial rules to maintain local monopolies. The current territorial setup has worked well for Major League Baseball, and you can bet that no one in the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox or Phillies front offices want to see it go.
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