OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics said Wednesday that their attempt to relocate some 40 miles away to San Jose is not “a move that seeks to alter or in any manner disturb MLB territorial rights.”
The San Francisco Giants clearly see it the other way. They cherish their hold on technology-rich Silicon Valley, with Santa Clara County making up 43 percent of the club’s territory and generating a significant number of fans, corporate sponsors and other supporters.
The A’s released a statement Wednesday saying they hope commissioner Bud Selig, his special committee appointed to evaluate the Bay Area issue and a vote of baseball’s owners will allow the club to leave its current venue in the aging Oakland Coliseum and build a new ballpark in San Jose.
Oakland team officials insist that could help the low-budget club become a big spender that wouldn’t have to be so heavily reliant on the rest of the major league organizations.
“We simply seek an approval to create a new venue that our organization and MLB fully recognizes is needed to eliminate our dependence on revenue sharing, to offer our fans and players a modern ballpark, to move over 35 miles further away from the Giants’ great venue and to establish an exciting competition between the Giants and A’s,” Oakland’s release said, adding it would, “enable us to join the fine array of modern and fun baseball parks that are now commonplace in Major League Baseball.”
At the January owners meetings, Selig said the situation was on the “front burner.” He appointed a committee in March 2009 to study the issues facing the teams, but there is no indication a ruling is imminent.
“The committee is still at work,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said Wednesday night. “No decisions have been made.”
Selig, who was a fraternity brother with Oakland managing partner Lew Wolff at Wisconsin, has repeatedly said the A’s can’t survive in their current ballpark.
The City of Oakland still believes it has several suitable locations to build a new ballpark for the A’s. Yet Wolff has his sights on San Jose and has repeatedly said his franchise has exhausted its options in Oakland after years of trying.
Giants CEO and president Larry Baer indicated at spring training Feb. 25 there might not be a swift resolution to the situation.
While Selig has asked the two franchises not to publicly debate the issue, the Giants on Wednesday refuted the statement by the A’s earlier in the day with the intent of “setting the record straight on the history of territorial rights.”
Late Oakland owner Walter Haas gave the Giants the OK to assume rights to San Jose in a favor of sorts to former San Francisco owner Bob Lurie when his team was considering moving to Florida. The deal basically happened with a handshake — and “without compensation,” the A’s wrote — and then was approved by baseball’s owners.
The A’s said that “MLB-recorded minutes clearly indicate that the Giants were granted Santa Clara, subject to relocating to the city of Santa Clara.”
Said the Giants: “The Giants’ territorial rights were not granted ‘subject to’ moving to Santa Clara County.”
The territorial rights have been “explicitly reaffirmed by Major League Baseball on four separate occasions,” according to the Giants, beginning when former Giants managing partner Peter Magowan bought the team before the 1993 season.
“Upon purchasing the team 20 years ago, our plan to revive the franchise relied heavily on targeting and solidifying our fan base in the largest and fastest growing county within our territory,” the Giants said. “Based on these Constitutionally-recognized territorial rights, the Giants invested hundreds of millions of dollars to save and stabilize the team for the Bay Area, built AT&T Park privately and has operated the franchise so that it can compete at the highest levels.”
The Giants have faced their own tough financial times. They lost $115 million from 1993-99 at Candlestick Park after Magowan’s group bought the team for $100 million and took over before moving into AT&T Park — and drawing Oakland-like crowds of about 9,000 fans a night when things were especially dire.
Baer said San Francisco, the 2010 World Series champion, has a chance to sell out every game again in 2012 like it did last year.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
Athletics, Giants at odds over territorial rights
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