If you’ve been wondering what the heck is up with that three-man commission that Bud Selig commissioned to work on a report on the future of the Oakland A’s, Selig gave official word yesterday: They’re not done yet. The A’s stadium report, said Selig, “will be coming in the near future. I don’t have any comment until that’s done.”
While the report, whenever the task force is done typing, will no doubt include an evaluation of the three main contenders to be the future home of the A’s — San Jose, A’s owner Lew Wolff’s preferred new home; Fremont, which has a conveniently empty auto plant site to pitch; and Oakland, which upped its ante by proposing several new potential stadium sites over the winter — what everyone is waiting for is what it says about the Giants‘ territorial rights to San Jose, which the team acquired as part of its own abortive efforts to move to the South Bay 20 years ago, and haven’t given up ever since. (Note to any readers tempted to compare this with the Nats-Orioles territorial dustup of a few years back: That was only over cable rights, not territorial rights, which are a whole different kettle of fish under MLB bylaws.) If Selig’s boys come in with a low price for what it’d take to indemnify the Giants for loss of their territory, we’re likely to see a full-on push for an A’s stadium in San Jose; a high price, and it’s going to be a tough nut for Wolff to crack.
For non-California baseball fans, it’s worth keeping an eye on that indemnification figure for another reason as well: It would for the first time establish a price tag for incursions into existing territories, making it conceivable for Peter Gammons’ speculation about a New Jersey move for the Rays (or some other team) to come true. That, clearly, would not only dramatically affect the baseball franchise location landscape, but would accomplish what some economists have been endorsing for a while, which is to stop the New York teams’ dominance of the free-agent market by squeezing in as many teams as possible to the New York area, diluting each team’s share to that of their mere mortal competitors. That would be a long way off, but the first indication of whether it will ever progress beyond pipe dream will likely be found in the A’s report, whenever it arrives.