Monday, December 9, 2013

The A's Were Given Permission to Move to San Jose...and Didn't Do It

In the ongoing saga of the A's quest for a new stadium, the general public has been left with precious few actual facts. Therefore, the revelation that MLB had formally denied the A's request to move to San Jose on June 16 was a significant development. If the key to the Watergate Scandal, as depicted in All the President's Men, was to "Follow the money," than the corollary here is "Follow the timeline."

This blog's previous post (admittedly from a shamefully long time ago) explored this issue. Now that we know there was definitive action on June 16th, let's add some perspective to the issues and do some speculation. (After all, that is all really anyone outside of Bud Selig's inner-circle really has.)

June 16, 2013
A's denied request to relocate to San Jose.
Veracity: FACT

June 16, 2013
Sewer backup occurs at Coliseum. Later blamed on a sweater that had been flushed down the toilet.
Veracity: FACT

June 18, 2013
USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that MLB had previous given the A's a set of conditions that needed to be met for a move to San Jose. From the article:

Baseball's blue-ribbon task force, formed four years ago, earlier this year presented Wolff with guidelines that could possibly make it work.

*Apologies that I erroneously tweeted last night that Nightengale reported this information the day of MLB's denial as opposed to two days later. 

June 18, 2013
San Jose sues MLB over its antitrust exemption, claiming the league is impeding the A's move to the city.
Veracity: FACT

Let's now assume that Nightengale has an inside source and that he has been giving out accurate information. Such a leap of faith makes his tweet from 2011 very interesting:

All signs and top #MLB sources say that the #Athletics will be granted permission by Feb to move to San Jose.

However, nothing came of this news, at least publicly. Enter Bill Madden of the New York Post, who on March 3, 2012 reports that the A's will be denied by MLB.

This was followed by the dueling territorial rights press releases from the Giants and the A's on Mark 7-8 of that year.

A year later, San Jose starts to break its lockstep messaging discipline with Wolff and the A's. City councilman Sam Liccardo on March 4 is quoted as saying that he wants San Jose to file an antitrust lawsuit.

To be clear, no one knows the exact connection of all these items, but the timing seems more than a coincidence. Something happened in early 2012.

MLB's formal denial letter this past June was likely precipitated by both Liccardo's threat and any number of communiques from San Jose (such as mayor Chuck Reed's public request for a meeting). Issuing it before the filing was smart business.

What May Have Happened

It seems highly likely that MLB in early 2012 presented the A's with a list of conditions for a move to San Jose, and the A's failed to satisfy them.

The A's have been explicit about saying that litigation was not the way to San Jose. However, if faced with no tenable options (e.g. crippling revenue guarantees to the Giants or an overwhelming up-front payment) a lawsuit is the last best option in the arsenal as it holds the possibility of: a) an outright win and a possible reduction of costs in the term sheet; or b) forcing MLB to settle as the discovery process would prove too damning (e.g. revealing all the league's financial secrets).

Going Nuclear

To be clear, suing MLB is not a move to be taken lightly. San Jose has crossed Commissioner Bud Selig and the league. Unless the lawsuit's appeal is successful, it would seem that the city's chances have actually diminished.

Perhaps the greatest irony of all, however, is nestled within the aforementioned court filing revealing MLB's denial letter:

Defendants (MLB) assert that this Court should take action based on a June 17, 2013 letter from Defendant Bud Selig. Defendants have failed to provide this letter to Plaintiffs (San Jose) or to this Court.

Even in litigation, MLB continues to keep the truth locked away, and force all of us to trade purely in speculation.

No comments:

Post a Comment