SCOTTSDALE, AZ -- Bud Selig, minutes after agreeing to stay on as Major League Baseball commissioner through 2014, left no doubt what was at the top of his task list. It is the resolution of the A's ballpark situation and whether they will be permitted to pursue a ballpark in San Jose over the objections of the Giants, who claim Santa Clara County as their terriotry.
"It's really on the front burner," Selig said here at the owners' meetings, where he accepted an extension of his contract by two years.
Selig confirmed that the special committee he appointed to examine the A's ballpark dilemma had presented a report to the MLB executive committee and that the report was "comprehensive." But the matter never made it to the agenda of the larger meeting where all 30 owners participate. A resolution could be brought to the ownership groups, soon, however.
"I would say we're proceeding at a rather quick pace," Selig said.
So if the final dispensation of the matter were a baserunner, would he say the deal is at third base?
"Might as well use a baseball analogy," Selig agreed, shrugging.
More signficantly in terms of the mechanics needed to make a San Jose ballpark happen -- which would include a special ballot referendum that MLB has promised to partially finance -- Selig indicated that he would not allow such an election to proceed unless the Giants agree to stay out of that process in terms of supporting an anti-ballpark
"Ultimately," Selig said, "when we get to the resolution, we need to get everybody to sit and talk and get all of that settled."
The Giants' territorial rights claim to San Jose could be overturned by a 75 percent vote of MLB owners. The vote could be conducted in a conference call at any time.
But even if the 75 percent approval happens, the Giants could fight back by filing further lawsuits or backing an anti-ballpark campaign in the election. Because of baseball's federal anti-trust exemption, individual franchises are not allowed to sue MLB. But the Giants' could still create legal issues by persuading one of their sponsors to sue MLB. There is also no prohibition of a MLB team suing a city or municipality.
If the Giants were to file a lawsuit, this would set up the awkward situation of one MLB franchise spending money to defeat a project supported by another MLB franchise in an election partially paid for by MLB itself. Selig could use his commissioner's powers to persuade the Giants from doing so, though he is more likely to try to reach a consensus with all parties.
Lew Wolff, the A's owner, reacted to Selig's remarks with optimism.
"I'm delighted to hear all that," Wolff said, "and pleased that we're moving toward a decision."