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SBD/June 19, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The city of San Jose sued MLB yesterday "in an effort to move" the A's to the South Bay, and the lawsuit "challenges the Giants' claim to the region and MLB's monopoly over the business of professional baseball," according to a front-page piece by Tucker & Shea of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The San Jose City Council unanimously voted to file the suit, which claims that MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig have "violated state and federal laws regarding unfair business practices and anticompetitive conduct." It also "challenges the exemption to antitrust laws that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld for Major League Baseball in 1922." The A's "are not plaintiffs in the lawsuit." As one of the 30 teams that make up the league, the A's are "technically defendants in the case, but the lawsuit specifically does not seek any monetary damages from the club." A's Owner Lew Wolff said that he did not know if the suit "would help or hinder his pursuit of a ballpark in San Jose." Tucker & Shea note the A's "suffered a public-relations black eye over the weekend when raw sewage flooded locker rooms" at O.co Coliseum. The team and San Jose have proposed building a ballpark downtown, but the Giants are citing their "territorial rights to that area" in fighting the plan. San Jose officials claim that they have "lost millions of dollars because of Selig's actions, including $3.5 million annually in property tax revenue as well as hundreds of jobs." The lawsuit claimed that a new ballpark would "generate an estimated $130 million in extra spending in the city each year." Oakland city officials said that they have "offered two sites to build a new stadium, one on the waterfront and one at the Coliseum complex, and that the lawsuit wouldn't stop their efforts to keep the team" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/19).
CHANGE OF STRATEGY: In San Jose, John Woolfolk in a front-page piece reports the legal action marks an "abrupt change in strategy for city leaders who have mostly avoided confrontation since Major League Baseball began a protracted study of the A's stadium options in 2009." It "reflects a growing sense that San Jose, once confident it would soon be a major league city, has little left to lose -- and that similar suits by other cities have succeeded in the past." City officials have "talked about suing for months," as they have become frustrated by Selig "repeatedly rebuffing" San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's efforts to forward it (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 6/19). Reed said, "We've been at this for over four years. We have turned over every rock, we have looked everywhere, we have done everything Major League Baseball has asked us to do, and we still don't have an answer. So I concluded that it was necessary to protect the rights of the people of San Jose by killing this territorial restriction that's obviously preventing the A's from coming to San Jose." He said that he "sent Selig a letter six weeks ago requesting a meeting and was denied, getting directed instead to speak with the committee." MLB responded to the suit with a statement from Exec VP/Economics & League Affairs Rob Manfred, who said, "The lawsuit is an unfounded attack on the fundamental structures of a professional sports league. It is regrettable that the city has resorted to litigation that has no basis in law or in fact" (USA TODAY, 6/19).
COULD THIS FORCE A DECISION? In S.F., Al Saracevic writes regardless of the lawsuit's results, the move by San Jose "should force baseball to finally make a decision on the A's or risk defending its much-maligned antitrust exemption in court." After four years, "no one has heard from the blue-ribbon gang" appointed by the league to settle the matter, and the A's "continue to play great baseball while languishing in the Oakland Coliseum." Observers can "only speculate whether the court case filed Tuesday in San Jose will reach the nation's highest court and again threaten baseball's antitrust exemption." The "more likely outcome will be a settlement of some sort, as MLB will surely try to avoid another legal interpretation of its long-standing free pass to conduct business outside the jurisdiction of federal antitrust law" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/19). In San Jose, Mark Purdywrites suing MLB was a "thoughtfully audacious move" by the city. It is "designed to wrest the issue away" from Selig and "move it into a courthouse -- where the issues can be debated out in the open, rather than behind closed doors by Selig's executive committee of owners." The lawsuit if nothing else "might goad Selig and the other owners into action" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 6/19). In L.A., Bill Shaikin notes the issue "is not whether a jury would bypass" Selig and allow the A's to move to San Jose. Instead, it is "whether the case gets thrown out right away." The courts "generally have held that matters of league governance" are covered by the antitrust exemption, so it is "likely that MLB will ask that the San Jose lawsuit be thrown out." If a judge "decides there is enough evidence for San Jose to at least make its case to a jury, then the power shifts to the city" (L.A. TIMES, 6/19).
EDITORIAL ROUNDUP: A SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS editorial states, "For San Jose's decision to sue Major League Baseball for blocking the Oakland A's from moving south, we're pulling out our pom-poms." Selig has been "cowed in part by the San Francisco Giants' threat of litigation if they lose San Jose as part of their arbitrarily-designated territory." Editorial: "Now Selig's got an actual lawsuit to fret over. ... We hope the strategy succeeds. But even if it doesn't, the lawsuit will force a decision one way or the other" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 6/19). A S.F. CHRONICLE editorial states, "Selig's foot-dragging over four years of study on the Oakland Athletics' wish to move to San Jose has been a disservice to almost everyone involved." The "only beneficiary of this absurd delay has been" the Giants. What Selig has "done to Oakland and San Jose with his indisposition has been beyond frustrating." It has "been costly and cruel to both cities." Selig "needs to make the call so that Wolff can either move to San Jose or sell the A's to a group willing to give Oakland one more try" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/19).
PLAYERS SEE BOTH SIDES: In S.F., Susan Slusser reports A's players yesterday "voiced strong support for a new stadium," but many also "expressed concern for their current Oakland fan base." A's P Ryan Cook said, "A new stadium would be sweet, but at what cost and what gain? ... I know some fans would make the drive to San Jose for games, which is great, but I know others couldn't or wouldn't, and that's not great." A's P A.J. Griffin said that he would have "liked to see the A's get approval for downtown Oakland." But A's 1B Brandon Moss "does not believe the issue will be resolved soon enough for him to play in a new stadium." Moss with a laugh said, "I don't think most of us will be around. Obviously, it will take a few years" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/19). ESPN.com's David Schoenfield wrote, "Whether a move to San Jose would improve attendance and TV ratings is only speculation, but as this weekend's embarrassing sewage incident showed, the A's can't exist much longer in their current ballpark" (ESPN.com, 6/18).
ROOT OF THE PROBLEM: In S.F., Matier & Ross cite O.co Coliseum management as saying that the sewage problem "was not the result of poor plumbing in an aging stadium," but rather "someone stuffing something down a pipe." AEG Facilities Manager Chris Wright, who is the ballpark's GM, "takes issue" with statements by the A's front office that the "raw-sewage backup that forced ballplayers from their locker rooms was only the latest instance of a common problem." He said, "There have been prior plumbing issues, but this was the first time there was a backup of the sewage" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/19).
Sabres Owner Terry Pegula yesterday made rare public comments about the state of the franchise, in which he supported GM Darcy Regier, talked about Buffalo as a destination and his spending on players. Appearing on Buffalo-based WGR-AM, Pegula said of Regier, "When you look at the history, even with the Sabres, what's he done wrong? ... One of the things that I like about what I see is there's a very capable person there, a lot of knowledge under Al Arbour, very knowledgeable person. I built a pretty good company for my life, and one of my main areas in life is you start with a good person, good people, and you work from there. Darcy is in that category." Pegula said of failed contract negotiations and Buffalo as a free-agent destination, "When the Buffalo Sabres go after a free agent, I get a kick out of some comments, 'Why didn't they get this guy? Why didn't they get that guy?' Does anyone ever think that maybe that other person has a say in the decision? And maybe he didn't or doesn't want to come to Buffalo. You can't force people to do things." He continued, "I can tell you that every free agent, major, some of the minor ones that have come down the pipe the last couple of years, we've been heavily involved with them. ... As far as I know we set the standard and won the war, but they made the decision and I think last year's market was a pretty good example of that." Pegula also hinted that his arrival as owner in February '11 "hasn't been universally accepted." He said, "If you probably talk to other owners around the league, they might think that I may spend too much money. ... You might talk to some of the other owners around the league, and they'll tell you, 'Who's this new owner? What is he, crazy? Why did you give this guy money or that guy? Hey, it's my decision. It was something I wanted to do" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 6/18).
SOCIAL STUDIES: In Buffalo, John Vogl writes the Sabres hiring new Social Media Manager Craig Kanalley is a "coup" for the team. He generated a "substantial following as the founder of Breaking Tweets, a blog that focused on how breaking news was analyzed on Twitter." Kanalley "parlayed that into a job with the Huffington Post, which has more than 3 million Twitter followers." He said, "It was really like a no-brainer to be honest with you. I think everything kind of prepared me for this step, so I'm excited." Vogl notes Kanalley "isn't planning immediate, sweeping changes to a Twitter feed that includes everything from game updates to plugs for singers on owner Terry Pegula's record label." He promises to "listen to a vocal fan base that can be extremely critical" (BUFFALO NEWS, 6/19).
Devils Owner Jeff Vanderbeek is "closing in on bringing in at least one minority partner to ease the team’s financial burden," according to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen RECORD. BHP Markets co-CEO and Palos Merchant Bank Managing Dir Marc Wade is "among those who have had lengthy discussions with Vanderbeek." BHP is "a leading liquidity provider in the capital markets and alternative asset management." Along with Wade, as many as "three other investors could be involved," but Vanderbeek "would maintain a controlling interest." Despite setting Prudential Center records for average attendance and sellouts this season, the Devils "would be boosted by additional capital" following the lockout and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly "refuted recent speculation that the league is worried about the team’s financial stability in New Jersey." Daly: “Despite recent reports to the contrary, which are inaccurate, we are not concerned about the Devils’ future, or the franchise’s ability to achieve long-term success in Newark." Gulitti cited sources as saying that, contrary to a published report, former Lightning co-Owner Oren Koules and former GM Brian Lawton are "not involved in any discussions with the team, its lenders or the NHL about taking on any kind of ownership stake in the Devils" (NORTHJERSEY.com, 6/18).
A presentation last night by prospective Coyotes owner Renaissance Sports & Entertainment to keep the team in Glendale generated a "mostly lackluster response" from the Glendale City Council, according to Paul Giblin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. One council member that left the briefing early said that RSE was getting "preferential treatment by her colleagues." Some council members after the meeting said that additional negotiations "will be needed before the council will be ready to vote on the matter." A delay could "complicate matters." NHL execs said that they had "hoped the council members would vote, or at least give a strong indication of their preference, before a scheduled" NHL BOG meeting on June 27. But a decision by the council "before that date seemed remote" yesterday. The issue before the council "focuses on a management agreement for Jobing.com Arena." Council member Gary Sherwood "declined to discuss specific points, but said he’s optimistic that a deal can be reached." He said that there is one "major sticking component to the proposal, but it probably can be addressed." The seven council members were "expected to consider competitive management offers from two non-hockey companies" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/19).
CITY DON'T SLEEP: Former NHLer Jeremy Roenick has been linked to a front-office position with the Coyotes should the team move to Seattle, and in Tacoma, John McGrath called it a "curious" possibility. Roenick has long "championed the NHL’s viability in the sunniest of sun-belt markets." McGrath: "Outspoken, edgy, candid, insightful, Roenick’s personality, even in retirement, inspires enough adjectives to fill a thesaurus. ... Fasten your seatbelts, folks. We might be in for the ride of a lifetime" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 6/17). But in Seattle, Jerry Brewer writes the city is back to being "leverage" for a pro sports league. Brewer: "We’re the threat of all threats, a city with the juice to get the attention of any struggling franchise in any indifferent city. If this keeps up, our new nickname will be Leverage City." It is "important to realize that ... Seattle has made an impression that eventually should result in luring the NBA and NHL" (SEATTLE TIMES, 6/19).
TRES MAGNIFIQUE: Hockey HOFer Wayne Gretzky said he thinks it just is a "matter of time before Quebec City is going to get a franchise." Gretzky: "We all agree it's a good city and it can support an NHL team, especially now with the salary cap rules and the parity we have in the game of hockey. ... It's going to be a strong, solid franchise just like Winnipeg is now and it will be as successful as they are" (CP, 6/18).