Oakland A’s To Buy Soccer Team?
by Ken Arneson
2005-12-16 17:51

I felt an earthquake this morning. Perhaps it was a omen, a precursor to a much bigger shakeup.

Yesterday, the San Jose Earthquakes announced that they are moving to Houston for the upcoming Major League Soccer season. MLS said they intend to expand back into San Jose as soon as 2007. The city of San Jose then immediately offered to spend $80 million on a new stadium, subject to voter approval.

This afternoon, the A’s put out a press release announcing that they want to buy the expansion Major League Soccer franchise in San Jose, should MLS decide to do so.

What the heck could all of this possibly mean? My head is spinning.

OK, I can see that maybe Lew Wolff discovered he likes owning sports teams, and he wants to own another one. Fine. The thing I don’t get is this: why put out a press release?

There’s something more going on here. There’s an intended audience for this press release. There’s somebody the A’s want to tell that they are officially intending to buy the new Earthquakes.

Could this be a prelude to the A’s moving to San Jose? When asked this morning in the San Jose Mercury News, Wolff replied:

“The answer is, I’m going to comply with Major League Baseball rules,” Wolff said, after noting that San Jose officially remains the Giants’ territory.

Note: Wolff did not say “The A’s won’t move to San Jose.” He said, “We will comply with the rules.”

Perhaps, then, this whole Earthquakes escapade is a giant loophole? That there is some way, if the A’s own a stadium in San Jose for soccer, they can move to San Jose without legally violating the territorial rights of the Giants?

Or perhaps, more benevolently, the rights to develop the Diridon South property with a soccer stadium can provide the necessary revenue stream needed to build a baseball stadium in Oakland?

Hard to tell. One thing is sure: I will be monitoring the situation.

Comments: 13
1.   Bob Timmermann
2005-12-16 19:03

1.  I would think a new MLS franchise would want a soccer only stadium like they have in Columbus, L.A. (Carson), and Dallas (Frisco). Those only hold about 20-30,000 and definitely can't be used for baseball.

2.   Ken Arneson
2005-12-16 19:14

2.  The area could house both a soccer stadium and a baseball park. Check out the Diridon South link in the entry.

But then again, if the A's own the MLS club, they can probably build whatever they want to build.

But even if they want to share the stadium, Lew Wolff only wants a 32-35,000 seat baseball stadium anyway. It wouldn't be extravagantly oversized for soccer.

The shape would be a problem, but maybe a clever architect might be able to get around the issue.

Perhaps the key here is to get voter approval for the soccer stadium--and then they wouldn't have to get approval for the baseball stadium.

I don't know. I'm still scratching my head about this.

3.   Bob Timmermann
2005-12-17 09:49

3.  I'm no architect, but I would think that it's easier and cheaper to buy a baseball-only stadium and soccer-only stadium than trying to make one stadium that satisfies both.

The A's would just be moving into a smaller version of the Coliseum then.

4.   Ken Arneson
2005-12-17 11:38

4.  You're probably right. Although, if that's the loophole that lets them legally move to San Jose (that the A's get the soccer stadium first, and then move into a building they already own), I think they'd be willing to live with the architectural compromises necessary to make that work.

5.   Murray
2005-12-17 12:47

5.  If they can do it at the Sapporo Dome, then can the A's find a way to do it, too?

6.   joejoejoe
2005-12-17 16:34

6.  Someone please challenge the anti-trust exemption so I don't have to hear about baseball's arbitrary "rules" regarding territority. Domino's doesn't get to tell Papa John's where they can and can't open a pizza delivery franchise. Why should the A's care what the Giants think of their business plan?

Rep. Duke Cunningham got bought for about $2.5 million in perks. If the Royals or Marlins moved to Brooklyn tomorrow their franchise value would leap $200 million dollars overnight. Spend 1% of that money lobbying Congress to overturn the ridiculous antitrust exemption and you've got $198 million to spend on hookers, donuts, and the next Kevin Brown.

7.   Bob Timmermann
2005-12-18 00:01

7.  5
Just what the Bay Area needs, an enclosed stadium! Because you know, it rains so much there and the weather is unbearable.

The Sapporo Dome must have cost a lot. And it hosts a mediocre baseball team and a second division soccer club.

8.   Kenny
2005-12-18 13:28

8.  joejoejoe,

MLB teams are "franchises" meaning that an authority higher than the team, in this case MLB, can dictate territorial rights. The Giants may be a totally different with different owners but it's just another franchise.

Your analogy of Dominos vs Papa John's is not correct. It's more like There's two locations of Domino's Pizza, one owner wants to move his location but the other doesn't want that to happen because it would invade his "territory" and affect his business.

MLB has an anti-trust examption because technically, anybody can start their own major league, even though the costs would be prohibitive.

9.   Ken Arneson
2005-12-18 16:58

9.  It really rained a lot today here in the East Bay; the weather was just unbearable.

No, actually, we don't need a dome in the Bay Area. But a soccer field that you could just roll in over the baseball field...now that would be wicked cool.

10.   joejoejoe
2005-12-19 08:21

10.  Kenny,

The NFL has franchises as well and the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts, Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Raiders, and Los Angeles Rams all moved at the discretion of their owners and the league was powerless to stop them. MLB would have the same freedom of movement if the anti-trust exemption was dropped.

11.   kylepetterson
2005-12-19 10:28

11.  No offense to anyone, but soccer is kinda lame. It's like hockey, only boring.

Anyways, the answer is simple. Just build a park that works great as a baseball field and mediocre at best as a soccer field. Then, when the A's move in, just make the soccer players leave. If they don't like it, they can go kick rocks for all I care. Jerks.

12.   Kenny
2005-12-19 14:41

12.  joejoejoe,

The NFL ain't the MLB and the MLB ain't the NFL. If the NFL is like the MLB then why don't football players get guaranteed contracts?

13.   joejoejoe
2005-12-19 19:21

13.  Kenny - You are comparing the the players unions above, not ownership. I don't know why the NFL doesn't have guaranteed contracts but I don't see how it applies to our discussion of franchise movement.

Franchises move all the times in other sports and the league accepts it more or less because they have no choice. Only in baseball do franchise moves require the consent of other franchises. And the rules and restictions placed on movement would be subject to antitrust laws, if MLB did not have an exemption. Strong franchises like Starbucks locate based on viability, not territory. If the A's can make more money in San Jose they should force the issue and try and legislate an end to the antitrust exemption. But what usually happens when any individual owner hints at legally challenging the exemption that owner gets bought off and shut up (see John Henry and Jeff Luria).

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