Features & Columns

bud selig SIGN ON S. 1ST ST: The group Baseball San Jose has been pitching for the A's relocation to San Jose since the beginning. Photograph by Michael Gant

So, Bud,
seriously: When will the A's be moving to San Jose?

If it's never, hey, fine. We just want an answer. The city has held some of its best downtown real estate hostage—roughly $25 million worth of land—in the hope that you might do your job and get Major League Baseball owners together to vote on whether the A's can move. Instead, you've kept the process a secret, while a front group called Stand for San Jose—funded by the San Francisco Giants, who oppose the A's relocation to the South Bay with disingenuous territorial claims—has an ongoing lawsuit against the city of San Jose.

You've pleaded for people to respect the process; an impossible request, especially when you have the cajones to tell Mayor Reed to kick rocks like you did in a letter last week.

"I will not address any of the specifics in your letter," you wrote, "other than to note that your vague reference to 'additional litigation' is neither productive nor consistent with process that the Athletics have initiated under our rules."

That litigation mention must have sent a small shiver up your feeble spine. People around these parts, and by people, I mean San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo and a host of attorneys hungry to make a name for themselves, have been floating the idea of suing over MLB's antitrust exemption, which prevents individual teams from trying to take control of their own fortunes, such as moving to a more lucrative market. No other professional sports league in America has such a unique stranglehold on its members. Thankfully, the city of San Jose has no such restrictions.

The truth is, I think you're scared. Baseball's antitrust exemption, granted back in the 1920s, is a sham. The only reason it was granted in the first place is because professional baseball was considered a game first and business second, otherwise MLB would be in the same boat as Standard Oil and every other monopoly of that era.

But back in the early '90s, a group led by Vincent Piazza wanted to move the San Francisco Giants—of all teams—to Tampa, Florida. MLB said "no," so Piazza and his group took MLB to court.

This was not long after the Giants failed to move to San Jose but were gifted permanent territorial rights to the South Bay—a dowry the Giants never deserved to keep considering they stayed in San Francisco.

Piazza's lawsuit went all the way to Florida's Supreme Court before MLB lawyers smacked you awake in time to settle. The compromise: $16 million in cash and an expansion organization named after Steve Irwin's killer. Your anti-trust exemption might help keep teams in line and prevent the A's from suing, but San Jose has nothing to stop it from taking you back to court.

Most people will remember you as the commissioner who sat idly by as steroids destroyed the game's records—which came to a head this spring when baseball writers couldn't bring themselves to elect a single player from the last 20 years into the Hall of Fame, because everyone was dirty—but you've also managed to make your owners rich as plantation owners by bullying cities into funding baseball-only facilities. At the same time, you oversaw the destruction of competitive balance by favoring revenue sharing over a salary cap.

The A's turned to Moneyball, which has worked sparingly ever since Michael Lewis hightailed it out of town, and now the team needs a new stadium that attracts fans and doesn't remind them of Al Davis' corpse.

Just a decade ago, you admitted that the A's moving to Oakland back in 1968 was a "horrible mistake." Opportunity awaits. The club has overwhelming corporate support in the South Bay that will hardly infringe on the Giants' future revenue stream.

The A's are so insistent on getting out of Oakland that they're even offering to pay almost the entire cost of a new stadium in San Jose.

What's most astounding about this extended charade, however, is that the A's play 10 miles away from AT&T Park and want to move nearly an hour south—and somehow this would threaten a Giants club coming off two World Series championships in the last three years?

A's owner Lew Wolff, your old college fraternity buddy from Wisconsin, has played it cool—almost too cool, as it could be argued that your relationship with him has hurt the process. Any other owner would have called you out on the carpet. Instead, you and Wolff pet each other on the heads like kittens.

Of course, there are those rare occasions when we see you're not completely apathetic, such as when a reporter asked where the process stood last year and you replied, "You aren't going to get a fucking answer."

Fuck. That.

When will the A's be moving to San Jose?

"You can rest assured that whatever decision is ultimately made will take into consideration all of the information that we have received and will be in the best interest of Baseball." That's how you ended your letter to Reed. But this isn't about what's good for baseball. It never has been.

This process has been protracted so you can lead every party along, put MLB on a pedestal and line your pockets at every turn. If this was really about what's best for baseball, the A's would already be in San Jose.

Very Truly Yours,


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