Protracted negotiations and court battles have delayed any decision on the Oakland A’s coming down to San Jose. But one local columnist says that not only will the team never come to San Jose, it hardly ever stood a chance in the first place.
“The A’s dream of moving to San Jose is all but barricaded, at least for the foreseeable future,” Mercury News scribe Tim Kawakami wrote in his column Monday. Kawakami cited several unnamed league sources. “The votes aren’t there. The lawsuit filed by the city of San Jose against Major League Baseball [MLB] has gotten no traction and in fact has only inflamed the other owners against the idea.”
For five years, A’s owner Lew Wolff has eyed San Jose as a new home, having suffered through sluggish ticket sales and dilapidated facilities made worse by sharing the Coliseum with the Oakland Raiders. But for five years, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has refused to let the A’s move, citing the San Francisco Giants’ claim to territorial rights, which were gifted by late A’s owner Walter Haas in the early ’90s.
Meanwhile, San Jose’s land option for property across from the SAP Center expires in November. A lawsuit filed a year ago by the city challenging MLB’s antitrust exemption and claims of economic damages is currently in the appeal process.
The lawsuit’s core argument centers on the league’s antitrust exemption, which dates back to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1922. No other business in the nation enjoys such immunity. San Jose’s lawsuit also challenged MLB’s meddling in the contract between the city and Wolff, who shelled out a $50,000 deposit on the proposed ballpark site.
But U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte ruled back in October that, despite the antitrust exemption being illogical, it would take legislation—not litigation—to annul it. In January, the city challenged that ruling in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Wolff told downtown Councilman Sam Liccardo last summer that he never wanted the city to sue his colleagues—other team owners—in the first place. Kawakami suggested that Wolff has set his sights back on the old stadium once again.
“The move to San Jose—as it stands now and probably for at least as long as [co-owner John] Fisher and Wolff own the A’s—is not happening,” Kawakami wrote. “Which means that Wolff and Fisher are now seeking a lease extension with the Coliseum through 2025 and offering to sink many millions into stadium improvements.”
A blog dedicated to covering the Oakland-to-San Jose A’s move finds the notion of the A’s staying in Oakland problematic. On NewBallPark.org, the writer notes that if the team privately finances a $500 million stadium, they’ll be liable for $30 million a year in debt for three decades sans revenue sharing to stopgap any shortfalls.
“Plus they won’t have nearly the kind of corporate revenue to cover a large percentage of the loans the same way a ballpark in San Jose or San Francisco would,” the blog continues. “Is the Lodge ready to approve such a deal? Or would they rather extend revenue sharing to provide a cushion for the A’s? If they do, the M.O. would belie those previous criticisms. Yet it would be the easy way out. Just treat the A’s like a small market team forever, and let the sleeping dog entrenched interests lie. Yep, that sounds a lot like MLB, especially under Bud Selig.”