ORINDA, Calif. – For years, the Oakland A’s have wanted to move to San Jose, where they could build a new, state-of-the-art ball park and have a larger population base to draw on. For their part, San Jose would love to have both a major league team to draw tourists and a major source of revenue. While the San Francisco Giants have fought to block such a move all these years, according to a bizjournals.com article, it seems they have now enlisted an ally, at least covertly.
The battle goes back years because the Giants argue that San Jose is their “exclusive territory” and central to their fan base, which has been consistently affirmed by Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig. The Giants contend that “The health and competitiveness of the organization depends on these territorial rights,” and hinted at legal action if the move was approved. Did the Giants give Selig $26 dollars worth of beads for the territory? Frankly, most people in the Bay Area are like those in Chicago: you are either a Giants fan or an A’s fan, and the only time you go to the other baseball park is because of inter-league play.
San Jose’s mayor, Chuck Reed, has accused the Giants of interfering with his city’s pursuit of a big-league club. “I certainly think that the San Francisco Giants are being inconsiderate at best,” Mr. Reed said. “And a little bit rude.”
Ironically, the center of the 14-acre site proposed for the A’s new ballpark in San Jose happens to be occupied by a $12 million-plus AT&T field operations center. AT&T insists that the property on which the center sits is “not for sale”. AT&T California spokesman Ryan Rauzon claims the center, which employs about 100 people and serves as a maintenance and storage yard for a fleet of vehicles, is vital “to making sure we take care of our customers.”
Frankly, I think enough financial inducement could help AT&T find another suitable site for their corp yard. Some officials in San Jose suggest they refuse because the City Council blocked the company from developing housing on property it owns a couple of miles to the west. Others might wonder if it’s because, as SFGate noted, AT&T has a $50 million naming rights contract with the Giants for their ballpark over a 24 year period, and worry that losing a few customers from San Jose might cost them revenue, or perhaps prestige. Count me in with the cynical ones.
City Councilman Sam Liccardo, whose downtown district includes the ballpark site near Diridon Station, says it’s troubling that a company “that depends so heavily on public good will” would attempt to “rake taxpayers over the coals”. As one of their customers, I can vouch that AT&T has decades of experience in raking customers over the coals, so why change now?
In AT&T’s defense, Rauzon noted that nobody has authorized the A’s to move to the South Bay. “We have zero intention of meddling in the affairs of Major League Baseball”, he added piously.
While Mayor Reed had planned to bring the ballpark proposal to a citywide vote in November, he dropped the idea after Selig called the move “premature”. The league has been studying for more than 16 months where the A’s new park should go, looking at sites in Oakland and Fremont as well as in San Jose. Selig the Slug may be hoping that time indeed makes most problems just go away.
I presume that San Jose City attorneys are looking into the possibility of exercising eminent domain in this case. After all, baseball is only politics as usual.