Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s comments last week about the A’s and their future contained nothing new, but that didn’t stop local media from exploding over it, on TV and radio and in newspapers. Everyone had an opinion.
Unfortunately, virtually all of those opinions ignored the facts. On KCBS radio, I heard somebody saying this issue had to be resolved because Major League Baseball was hemorrhaging money. Really. I guess he hadn’t heard that MLB profits are at an all-time high.
On the A’s flagship station, KGMZ (95.7 FM), an announcer proclaimed, “The A’s can’t be expected to just keep losing money.”
Indeed — and they aren’t. The Wolff-Fisher ownership has made money every year it has owned the A’s, because of big revenue-sharing checks from more successful teams. No soup lines for Lew (estimated worth, $307 million), or John (estimated worth, $1.4 billion.)
The biggest factual error, though, continues to be the assumption that Walter Haas gave the Giants territorial rights to San Jose in 1990, when the Giants made two unsuccessful attempts to get a ball park built in the South Bay. Haas was a man I admired tremendously for his great charitable works, but to do this, he would have had to be a magician. Neither team had territorial rights beyond their own cities at the time. You can’t give away something you don’t have.
As I explained in an earlier column, when the current ownership of the Giants was negotiating to buy the team from Bob Lurie, MLB demanded that they agree to get a new ballpark built. In return, the Giants insisted on having territorial rights on the Peninsula and in San Jose. That was the agreement that was struck. And the Giants have certainly lived up to their end.
When Wolff and Fisher bought the A’s, Wolff promised not to move the A’s out of the Bay Area, but that was a sham. A source close to the commissioner’s office told me years ago that a search for possible sites had produced none that were viable.
Wolff apparently thought that, because he and Selig had been fraternity brothers, Selig would be willing to break MLB’s agreement with the Giants, but Selig knows that any attempt to do that would result in a massive lawsuit by the Giants who have, in fact, been preparing one for some time. The issue has never been on the agenda at owners’ meetings, and Selig’s comments last week were a message to Wolff to forget San Jose and move on.
The Giants have said repeatedly they aren’t going to negotiate a change in their territorial rights. The money they’ve gotten from Silicon Valley people, both to build their park and to buy “chatter seats” (PSLs), is vital to their operation.
That deal has also worked to MLB’s advantage. Without it, the Giants would have moved to Tampa Bay, a sorry end for perhaps the National League’s most storied franchise.
So, Wolff should look for another real estate deal in San Jose. Or, maybe he could do more with the soccer stadium for which he got approval in 2008. Reportedly, no shovels had been put in the ground as of last week.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.