Today in Silicon Valley's MercuryNews.com, Mark Purdy suggests that the recent change at the top of the Giants' organization might leave an opening for Athletics owner Lew Wolff to mount a challenge to the Giants' claim of territorial rights ... a claim that has, for some years now, sidetracked Wolff's effort to relocate the A's to San Jose.
The nature of this opening?
Under Major League Baseball rules, any ownership change that involves a transfer of control -- in this case, from Neukom to presumptive new CEO Larry Baer -- must be approved by a 75 percent vote of the 30 owners.
If that number sounds familiar, it should. It would take a 75 percent vote of owners for the A's to move, a fact the Giants use as a hammer every time the territorial rights issue comes up. The Giants know all they need is seven other owners to side with them. With seven votes, plus their own, the Giants can make 75 percent impossible for the A's.
But now, suddenly, the leverage is flipped. Wolff could lobby seven other owners to side with him on the issue of Giants ownership. With seven votes, plus their own, the A's can make 75 percent impossible for the Giants.
Okay, but where is Wolff going to find those seven other owners? If it were just a matter of making a bunch of friends, you'd think Wolff would already have put this wonderful skill to work.
Here's the basic problem.
Wolff will convince owners to take his side if he can convince them it's in their best interest to take his side. It's got nothing to do with right and wrong. Baseball owners don't give a tinker's damn about right and wrong, at least not when it concerns their business/sporting interests.
The mayor of San Jose says, "Mr. Neukom was a big obstacle to resolving the territorial rights issue. At the very least, I hope there are new discussions about Major League Baseball saving $30 million annually on the revenue sharing money it now gives the A's. Why shouldn't the Giants get out of the way if it could help all the other teams?"
But if that $30 million doesn't go to the A's, won't it merely go somewhere else? (By asking that question, I am tacitly admitting that I don't have the foggiest idea how revenue-sharing works, except that the Yankees have to give money to the Royals every year, which is definitely a good thing, if not the best of all things, ever.)
More to the point, $30 million might seem like a pittance to the owners, relative to setting a precedent that might threaten their territorial rights.
We don't hear much about owners or ownership, since most owners take relatively low profiles. They do this because they're immensely wealthy, and most immensely wealthy people are secretly afraid that if we pay too much attention to them, we might get angry and storm their mansions bearing torches, pitchforks and (maybe) all those assault weapons we mere plebeians have been stockpiling (thank you, National Rifle Association and U.S. Supreme Court!).
You think I'm joking. I am. Sort of.
But I digress. Behind the scenes, owners are constantly fighting battles like these with each other, because they have so many divergent interests. They fight them without a great deal of animosity, because they also have some powerfully convergent interests. They are fighting, though. And there's little reason to think that Lew Wolff is good enough at fighting them to take advantage of this recent opening, however large or small.