San Jose has been rejected by Major League Baseball again.
Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a terse response this week to Mayor Matt Mahan and four former San Jose mayors who demanded that MLB remove the Bay South San Francisco Giants’ territorial rights to pave the way for a potential expansion team in the city.
The short answer from Manfred – it won’t happen anytime soon.
“I am pleased to hear of San Jose’s continued interest in Major League Baseball. And as you know, we are currently involved in a complex transition process with the Oakland A’s.” At least until that process is complete, we are not in a position to take any further action with respect to territories in Northern California or consider potential for expansion.”
While Mahan and former mayors Sam Liccardo, Chuck Reed, Ron Gonzalez, and Tom McEnery sent a two-page letter to Manfred on June 15 explaining why they felt San Jose should be a leading option for an expansion team and had been unfairly stifled, Manfred’s response on June 26 was all from one paragraph.
Manfred concluded the letter: “Thank you for your interest in the national pastime.”
Mercury News was first to report the response letter on Tuesday.
Mahan noted in a statement that the city will continue its efforts to bring professional baseball to San Jose.
“As someone who preaches the virtue of focus,” Mahan said, “I respect the Commissioner’s desire to focus on moving the A’s but that will remain our priority.” “San Jose and our residents deserve a Major League Baseball team, and frankly, MLB deserves to be here in our city.”
The refusal letter from Manfred is not the first time San Jose has failed to overcome a land rights issue, although this was much faster.
The Giants’ claim and defense of their rights to Santa Clara County territory ruled that the Oakland A’s could move to downtown San Jose more than a decade ago.
As part of a lengthy debate at the time, then-MLB commissioner Bud Selig appointed a committee to consider the question of whether the Giants deserved to keep the rights. Four years later, the committee has not issued any official response, much to the frustration of city leaders and “A” officials. Manfred’s response came this week just 11 days after the mayors sent him their request letter.
The A’s are now preparing to move to Las Vegas, where Nevada lawmakers have approved $380 million in public funding to help pay for a new stadium on the Strip.
The Giants were granted the rights to Santa Clara County by MLB owners in 1990, including then-owner Walter Haas, under the assumption that the team would relocate to Santa Clara or San Jose from Candlestick Park. When that didn’t happen, the Giants kept the rights, preventing other teams from moving to South Bay.
Some have argued that Santa Clara County rights should be shared. In three other markets for the two teams in MLB—Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago—the region is shared entirely by both teams.
Former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo said he wasn’t surprised MLB wanted to focus on the A’s and potentially the Milwaukee Brewers, both of whom are working on new stadiums for their teams.
“I didn’t expect all of this to happen at once,” Licardo told San Jose Spotlight. But in the long term, he believes there may be changes to come. He noted that there is growing pressure on Congress to influence MLB’s century-old antitrust exemption, a commercial freedom worth billions that also offers relative immunity from the league to decide which teams play for it.
If the exemption were revoked, Licardo said, “it could cost the owners dearly in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue for everything from apparel to television rights, to beer sponsorship.” “Based on the rumblings I hear, I expect there will be some interest among team owners in softening Major League Baseball’s positions on territorial rights and other issues related to this antitrust exemption.”
The U.S. Supreme Court granted that monopoly power to MLB in 1922. After MLB’s siege of the A’s move to San Jose, the city sued to challenge the exemption all the way to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case and handed San Jose a forfeit after a three-year legal battle. .
Even if it takes a few years, Licardo said, the city should be ready to act if the opportunity presents itself.
“We’re at the beginning of the ninth inning,” he said.
Contact Joseph Geha at (email protected) or @ josephgeha16 on Twitter.