Yes, the A's need a new park, but don't bet that it will be in San Jose.
Commissioner Bud Selig supposedly got a report in February from the committee he appointed four years ago to study the A's. He's been in no hurry to get it because, no matter what it recommends, he knows the Giants' territorial rights will be difficult to overcome. Perhaps, impossible.
Forget the urban legend about the agreement between Bob Lurie and the late Walter Haas Jr. and territorial rights. Neither team had any rights beyond their own cities in 1990. Haas was a wonderful human being and would gladly have given Lurie the go-ahead to pursue possible parks in the San Jose area — two attempts at San Jose and Santa Clara were rebuffed by voters — but you can't give away something you don't have.
The Giants' rights were negotiated by the ownership when the team was purchased from Lurie in December of 1992. Major League Baseball demanded that the Giants get a new park to replace Candlestick within 10 years. In return, the Giants got territorial rights to the counties down the Peninsula and San Jose. The money from Silicon Valley, both in sponsorships and purchase of “charter seats,” was vitally important to the building of the park and to the current operating budget of the Giants.
Theoretically, A's owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher could get permission to move to San Jose with a three-quarters vote of the owners. But if the Giants don't agree, they would sue Major League Baseball. Inevitably, that would bring baseball's anti-trust exemption — which it alone enjoys among American professional sports — into play. This is based on a 1922 Supreme Court decision, when Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that baseball was not interstate commerce.
Anybody care to argue that today?
If their anti-trust exemption is taken away, MLB would not have as much freedom to move independently as it does now. Selig certainly doesn't want that, so he would work to get an agreement for the A's to pay damages to the Giants. Those damages would probably exceed $100 million.
Who's going to pay that? Given the parsimonious approach of the Wolff-Fisher ownership, it seems unlikely the A's would. Could Selig pass the hat among owners? The AL owners might be willing, but why would NL owners go along with that, knowing the Giants' gate — and the visitors share — would be reduced?
A new park in Oakland? Years ago, when Jerry Brown was mayor, then-city manager Robert Bobb presented him with a plan that would have built a new park in the area near the Fox Theater. Then-A's owners Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann were willing to contribute to the costs, and urban renewal would have taken care of the rest. But Brown was adamantly opposed to the ballpark and even forced Bobb to leave.
Wolff proposed building a new park on the other side of 66th Avenue, but his plan depended on businesses selling at below-market prices and BART putting in a new station. The plan was quickly scuttled.
So, here we are with a decaying stadium and no good solution. Get used to the sewage smell.