SAN JOSE -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has brushed back San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's formal request last week for a personal meeting to resolve issues holding up the Oakland A's desired move to his city.
And Selig in his April 4 response added that Reed's reference in an April 2 letter to "additional litigation" over the proposed A's move "is neither productive nor consistent with process that the Athletics have initiated under our rules."
Selig wrote that the committee he appointed more than four years ago to study the A's plan for a downtown San Jose ballpark has been in "frequent contact" with the city.
"If you believe there is additional information that Major League Baseball should consider in completing its assessment," Selig wrote, "the best way to proceed at this time continues to be for you to contact Robert Starkey or other members of the committee."
Reed said Wednesday that he would follow the commissioner's suggestion to set up a meeting with Starkey, a sports consultant and former accountant who had worked with Selig on stadium issues for the Minnesota Twins. Reed called it encouraging to get a response from the commissioner.
"It's movement, it's a little something," Reed said. "I'd just like to have that conversation. What are the problems?"
The major holdup has been that baseball had granted the San Francisco Giants, the reigning World Series champions, territorial rights to Santa Clara County back in the 1990s, when the team was considering a new San Jose-area ballpark to replace the frigid, windy Candlestick Park. The Giants claim they relied on the promise of controlling the Silicon Valley market to build their self-financed AT&T Park on the San Francisco waterfront, now in its 13th season.
The Athletics dispute that claim, arguing the Giants' territorial rights to Santa Clara County were only intended to support the team's failed efforts in the early 1990s to build a San Jose-area ballpark. The two teams previously had shared the Bay Area market. A's co-owner Lew Wolff said he turned to San Jose after exhausting options within the team's territory in Oakland and Fremont.
The Giants' minor-league affiliate in San Jose has led a 2011 lawsuit challenging San Jose's environmental studies of the proposed downtown ballpark near HP Pavilion and Diridon rail station.
But San Jose officials have been loudly suggesting lately that if the impasse continues, San Jose also could sue over the Giants' interference with the city's economic development rights and challenge Major League Baseball's long-standing but unusual antitrust exemption. Councilman Sam Liccardo, who represents downtown, said lawyers have offered to handle such a case at no city cost, but city officials have held off, citing Wolff's desire to work with the process laid out by the commissioner, his former fraternity brother.
But San Jose officials note that antitrust litigation helped the Tampa Bay region eventually acquire a team in the 1990s -- the Rays -- after league officials blocked a proposed move by the Giants to the area.
A host of issues other than the Giants' territory also complicate the proposed A's move to San Jose. Neither San Jose nor the A's fully control the proposed ballpark site. Much of the land is privately owned by unwilling sellers, and Gov. Jerry Brown's elimination of redevelopment agencies has further complicated the city's effort to sell the rest to the A's. San Jose requires a public vote to approve a stadium involving public money. And Oakland continues to propose alternatives to keep the team, whose fan base has been invigorated by the A's 2012 American League West title.
The MLB committee's other members are Corey Busch, a sports consultant and former San Francisco Giants executive who had worked on the team's Santa Clara County ballpark efforts, and Irwin Raij, a lawyer who handled ballpark deals for the Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins.
Selig concluded his response to Reed by stating that "whatever decision is ultimately made will take into consideration all of the information that we have received and will be in the best interest of baseball."
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.
Key dates in the Oakland A's relocation efforts: