Los Gatos Weekly Times
San Jose should be careful with its wish for MLB expansion team
In 1990, Oakland A's owner Walter Haas gave permission for the San Francisco Giants to obtain territorial rights to Santa Clara County for the express purpose of building a South Bay stadium to house the Giants.
It was a generous act in the best interests of baseball, a gentlemanly display among owners that was as rare as a triple play or perfect game.
Of course, when South Bay voters — twice — rejected a proposal for a Giants stadium, the rights should have reverted back to the original status. That didn't happen.
Now, as Oakland seems destined to lose the A's to Las Vegas and San Jose seeks an expansion team, the latter city is deluding itself if it expects the current Giants owner, billionaire Charles Johnson, to give up those territorial rights to Santa Clara County without a fight. Baseball's 29 other owners will almost certainly side with Johnson, wanting to protect their own territorial
rights in the process.
How far is Major League Baseball willing to go to protect those rights? In 2013, MLB opposed
San Jose's effort to build a new stadium for the A's over the issue. The ensuing lawsuit made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against San Jose.
Last month, the current and four former San Jose mayors sent MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred a letter asking the league to suspend those territorial rights and consider San Jose for an expansion team. It's a reasonable request, especially given Manfred's blessing for an A's move to Las Vegas.
Keeping a second MLB team in the Bay Area makes sense. The South Bay, a lucrative television
market, is the home to Google, Apple and Adobe. Other major metropolitan areas — New York, Chicago and Los Angeles — successfully support two teams. And Oakland's fan base filled the Coliseum
for years until the current cheapskate owner, John Fisher, decimated the team's roster by trading its best players.
But baseball is a cutthroat business with billions of dollars at stake. In 1992, after the Giants' stadium deals fell through, Bob Lurie sold the San Francisco team for $100 million. Now the
estimated value is $3.7 billion. And Santa Clara County, with its population of 1.9 million people, represents a substantial portion of the Giants' fan base and future opportunities for growth.
If San Jose wants an expansion baseball team, it will probably need to identify a team of wealthy billionaires willing to pay
the Giants a substantial sum to give up their territorial rights to the South Bay. And those billionaires need to be willing to build a stadium with private dollars, modeled after the Giants' effort that built what is now Oracle Park.
The San Jose City Council has enough financial problems on its
hands without having to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds to help finance a stadium, much less try to manage it. The Santa Clara City Council's experiences dealing with the 49ers and Levi's Stadium and Oakland and Alameda County's challenges managing the Coliseum demonstrate why
that should be a nonstarter.
It's easy to see why the five San Jose mayors are interested in bringing Major League Baseball to downtown San Jose. World-class communities have world-class attractions. But any serious move in that direction should be made with eyes wide open to the chal