The Giants mark their territory

Back when I was in private practice, I represented a park district that wanted to turn some old railroad lines in the middle of nowhere into a bike trail. They built about 85% of the trail, but the last little stretch was held up by this group of Mennonite farmers who lived next to the right-of-way and claimed the land where the tracks used to be was theirs. “How could that be,” I wondered? The railroad had tracks on that property since the 19th century, and they gave the tracks directly to my client. The Mennonites, however, had all manner of questionable and ancient legal documents which they claimed their great great great something or other had reserved the rights if the railroad ever left, yadda, yadda, yadda. I read these things, quickly figured out that, while it could be a pain, we could get that land for the bike trail if we were determined enough to do it.

Right before I filed my lawsuit to quiet title, the Mennonites parked a mobile home on the right of way and claimed they were home schooling a bunch of Mennonite farmer kids there, which immediately turned us into the bad guys and complicated my little lawsuit. Five years later, and I think the Mennonites have moved on to consulting with the San Francisco Giants:

Amid a threat to their territorial rights in Santa Clara County, the Giants are moving to fortify their baseball outpost in the region.

The major league club has reached agreement to purchase a 25 percent stake in their Single-A minor league affiliate in San Jose, club and industry officials told the Mercury News.

The club will hold a news conference at Municipal Stadium on Thursday to announce the transaction, which includes an option to gain a controlling interest in 2010 by purchasing an additional 30 percent.

“The South Bay is a major part of our operation and this reinforces that,” San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer said. “We have fans, sponsors and baseball history there that runs deep. It was a logical extension of who we are and what we do.”

According to baseball officials, the purchase will not enhance or alter the legality of the San Francisco Giants’ territorial rights to Santa Clara County; the A’s are known to be eyeing the region in their longstanding efforts to build a new stadium.

Lots of great reporting in this one, including the mayor of San Jose snubbing the Giants’ little news conference tomorrow and some choice quotes from a San Jose city councilman (a) noting how curious it is that the Giants care about San Jose all of a sudden; and (b) why, if the Giants truly had planned on making this investment for years as they claim, they allowed the city to pony up for renovations to San Jose’s stadium before buying into the team. Are the Giants calculating or are they cheap? Maybe both!

My guess: the Giants are doing whatever they can to bolster their claim to the territory in advance of the report from Bud’s Magic Oakland Committee. Maybe not with an eye towards ultimately blocking the A’s from moving to San Jose — I can’t exactly see how they legally and/or practically could do that — but to maximize the payoff they’ll get from Selig and the A’s when they ultimately drop their opposition.

Will it work? Well, in my case we got the Mennonite “school” off the property and there’s a bike trail there now. But I gotta tell ya: it was a hell of a lot more protracted and expensive an experience than anyone thought it would be.

(thanks to reader Ed T. for the heads up)


Print This Post
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
kendynamo
Guest
kendynamo

mennonites surely are our nation’s most terrifying scourge of society.

GBS
Guest
GBS

kendynamo – I thought it was “wanking” bloggers.

Just kidding, Craig.

Sim
Guest
Sim
Craig,  As a South Bay native, I just want to point out a couple of hitches to this whole A’s-to-San Jose narrative that the baseball blogging world seems to love: 1.  Beyond the Territorial Rights, the reality on the ground is that Santa Clara County fans have always favored the Giants (and the 49ers) over the Oakland teams.  It isn’t a close contest, and it never has been. 2.  The momentum to bring the A’s to San Jose comes from Chamber of Commerce types in the city of San Jose itself (not the surrounding area).  If the city does strike… Read more »
Chris Simonds
Guest
Chris Simonds
I enjoy my trips to AT&T;park when I visit SF but the Giants organization is pathetic. What is this territorial rights crap? The Cubs and the White Sox are in the same county, and though you hear some whining about how the Cubs get all the love, the two franchises basically do what businesses are supposed to do, they compete for the available market share. As do the Yankees and Mets. If we extend this “rights” idea for a sports franchise, are the Giants going to try and stop the NFL from lengthening its season? Oh wait, that would imply… Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
Guest
Craig Calcaterra
Sim—make no mistake: to the extent I’m in favor of the A’s in San Jose, it’s a 50,000 foot “hmm, that makes more sense based on economics and population than keeping them in Oakland or moving them elsewhere does” kind of thing.  I’m certain there are real practical problems that will reveal themselves as time goes on.  It may end up being a terrible idea for those practical reasons. As for your specific points:  I wonder how much of the Giants’ fandom in Santa Clara county is a function of simply identifying (or wanting to identify) more with glamourous San… Read more »
Jim Casey
Guest
Jim Casey

The A’s need to move to Vegas. Too much political infighting over a new ballpark in Nor Cal. How many times did the voters reject money for the Giants ballpark? They surely won’t want to pay anything now for one for the A’s. And isn’t the state treasury just about broke? Vegas baby. That’s where they should go, and become the first franchise to play in 4 different cities.

Tom F
Guest
Tom F
One recent factor influencing San Jose fandom:  it’s trivial to take mass transit to a Giants game.  The Caltrain stops literally one block from AT&T;Park.  It’s a trickier affair to get to an A’s game.  There’s an Amtrak that takes you to the park, but it’s much less frequent and substantially more expensive.  Thus, if you live in San Jose and want to watch baseball, it’s marginally easier to watch Giants games. Also, it’s fun to see guys from A San Jose play in the majors.  I got to track Sandoval’s meteoric rise last season.  Seeing him in single-A, I… Read more »
El
Guest
El

For everything you want to know about the A’s eventual move to San Jose, this is the place to go:

http://newballpark.blogspot.com/

And make no mistake, the Giants’ T-Rights will not stand in the way of the MLB owners reaping the riches of Silicon Valley.

Sim
Guest
Sim
Craig, Thanks for your response to my comment.  You’re certainly right that if the A’s actually moved to San Jose there would be much broader fan support for them in the South Bay than there is now.  There are lots of complications to this thing, though.  The wealth and corporate base of the South Bay is centered chiefly on the Silicon Valley cities to the northwest of SJ, not in the city itself.  This area has always been solidly Giants (and 49er) country. This isn’t like the Washington-Baltimore situation, where most DC-area baseball fans had never been Orioles fans anyway… Read more »
GiantFan
Guest
GiantFan
If anyone remember giants were out the door moving to tampa bay in the early 90’s, their owner lurie tried to get a stadium built in SJ, but that was A’s territory, the A’s GAVE the TR’s to the giants so they could stay in the bay area. SJ voted against a tax proposition for a ballpark but it never happened. the rest is history, Giant have TR’s to 6 bay area counties, the A’s have 2. Now tell me what is fair? This is all about money and corporate sponsorships,case closed. the TR’s label is all about that. Ilove… Read more »
Sim
Guest
Sim
Yes, the Giants have a larger and wealthier territory than the A’s do.  So what?  That was built into the price of the team when the Magowan group bought it.  And the A’s smaller territory, without access to San Jose, was built into Lew Wolf’s price when he bought the team.  To transfer SC County to the A’s, or to make it a joint territory, is simply giving the A’s a windfall:  they get a lucrative new asset at no cost. Chance of MLB doing that?  Zero.  By unilaterally stripping the SC County territory from the Giants, MLB would invite… Read more »
A'sFan
Guest
A'sFan
finally…thank you GiantFan.  My biggest issue with this whole thing that nobody seems to be hitting on is that the A’s had to relinquish control of the same land in the early 90’s so that the Giants could hopefully stay in their beloved bay area instead of moving to St. Pete.  They understood that even though it would have left them with a greater fan base, potentially, that it was more important to the overall interest of the Bay Area to have that inter-area rivalry.  Now the situation comes full circle, and only a team like the Giants wouldn’t be… Read more »
Sim
Guest
Sim
GiantFan and A’s Fan:  You’re both looking at this thing as though it’s about some sort of objective standard of fairness.  From MLB’s point of view, it’s just a business deal. MLB set a precedent by paying off Peter Angelos big time when the Expos moved to Washington, even though that relocation didn’t encroach at all on Baltimore’s territorial rights.  In this case, the Giants actually do hold territorial rights as defined in the MLB Constitutions.  The value of those rights was built into the respective franchise prices when Magowan and Wolf bought their teams, so how they came about… Read more »
Ken Arneson
Guest
Ken Arneson

The rich people I know who live in the currently-defined A’s territory are mostly Giants fans, too.  I don’t see how moving to Santa Clara County really changes anything in that regard.

I am certain, though, that there are far more of these big-spending types in the South Bay than there are in the East Bay, and by moving closer to them, the A’s will certainly convert quite a few of them.

Alex
Guest
Alex
Sim’s last post just about summed up the reality of the situation, but I would like to address the very end of it. Selig’s incentive to me is quite clear: his personal relationship with Lew Wolff. Selig didn’t give a rat’s behind about the A’s for years until Wolff bought the club, and now all of a sudden he’s forming committees and making what seem like daily proclomations that the A’s need an improved situation so they can THRIVE in the 21st century (a century in which, by the way, the A’s have arguably “thrived” already by making the playoffs… Read more »
Sim
Guest
Sim

Alex,  Even for a frat buddy, Selig won’t put any deal before the MLB Executive Committee and full ownership unless he can credibly present it as a win for all ownership groups involved. 

More bluntly: Any viable San Jose deal has to make the A’s a lot richer, the Giants a lot richer, and the other 28 owners at least a little bit richer.  If the money for all that enrichment isn’t coming from the taxpayers of San Jose, where is it coming from?

Sim
Guest
Sim
Also, to Alex’s point about Selig’s new-found urgency over the A’s situation, the A’s are now the last piece of the puzzle that Selig has been putting together for 2 decades to get every MLB team into a money-printing facility. The Marlins just got their publicly-funded boondoggle.  That takes even the bogus threat of contraction off the table, since the A’s now would have no contraction partner.  No other MLB team is currently seeking a new stadium, and only 1 other team (the Rays) is likely to push for one in the next 10-20 years.  So for Selig, this is… Read more »
A'sFan
Guest
A'sFan
Sim, I guess I wish I was looking at this with the law background you clearly seem to have.  However, I’m not arguing the point based on “fairness”.  The fact of the matter is that the territorial rights were given (by the A’s and MLB) to open up areas that the Giants could try to find a new home so that they didn’t move to Florida.  Legally, I would think it would be just as easy for Selig to say that it was an agreement made with former ownership (two owners ago, I believe) and didn’t transfer with new ownership… Read more »
Sim
Guest
Sim
A’s Fan:  I hear where you’re coming from, and I agree that it’s good for baseball overall to have the A’s in the Bay Area.  But it would also be good for baseball to have a 3rd team in New York; yet that will never happen unless someone can come up with a billion dollars to pay off the Yankees and Mets. I’m not sure what the exact arrangements were when the Giants obtained their rights to Santa Clara (at that time, the American League and the National League were still separate legal entities).  But as a contractual matter today,… Read more »
Sim
Guest
Sim
I guess I should make clear that this seems like a classic case of San Jose being played by MLB.  MLB needs San Jose in the picture because otherwise Oakland and other East Bay jurisdictions have no incentive to step up to the plate with a new ballpark plan.  And there are simply NO other viable baseball markets left anywhere – just look a t the pathetic charade the Marlins tried to pull off with San Antonio a couple of years ago, and even that would have required paying off the Astros for TV rights.  Vegas is a complete joke… Read more »
A'sFan
Guest
A'sFan
Sim, I see what you’re saying.  Like I said, I agree with the fact that a large sum of money will probably have to change hands for this to happen…I guess I just stubbornly don’t see the point of it.  Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they put it to a vote and got the necessary 3/4 in favor.  The only reason it would be questionable to pass is because it would set a future precedent.  Though I can’t imagine there are that many other locales that would be worried about a second (or third) team wanting… Read more »
Sim
Guest
Sim
A South Bay stadium deal won’t get ANY votes, and Selig won’t even present it to the Exec. Committee, unless it’s accompanied by some kind of a deal that makes the Giants happy. And with San Jose offering no significant public money, I can’t see how that’s possible.  SJ is being played by MLB.  And the sure sign of that is MLB’s consistent “no comment” on the territorial rights question. MLB wants San Jose to believe it’s in the picture, so the pressure stays on Oakland.  Or, better yet, they’d LOVE to see San Jose offer a 100% public financed… Read more »
wpDiscuz