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

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