SAN JOSE -- Bud Selig has told San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed to go sit in the corner and meet with the guidance counselors about his bad attitude. If anyone is astonished by this development, raise your hand.

Thought so.

Mayor Reed tried to do the right thing this month. He sent a letter to the commissioner of baseball asking for a face-to-face meeting. Reed wanted to discuss why, four years after Selig appointed a special panel to rectify the A's ballpark situation, the only thing that has been rectified is Selig's inability to rectify.

Selig, in response, declined Reed's offer and instead asked the mayor to sit down with ... that's right, the special panel that for 48 months has been unable to rectify anything. Please pardon the mayor if he's feeling dizzy from being led around in circles.

Charles Johnson, chairman of Franklin Templeton Investments, is also the principal owner of the San Francisco Giants.
Charles Johnson, chairman of Franklin Templeton Investments, is also the principal owner of the San Francisco Giants. (Franklin Templeton Investments)

My conclusion? Reed requested a meeting with the wrong guy.

Here's the person he needs to contact: Charles Johnson.

Recognize the name? Johnson is the principal owner of the San Francisco Giants, who claim territorial rights to San Jose and have been blocking the A's pursuit of a ballpark there.

Johnson, the patriarch of Franklin-Templeton mutual funds, is worth $5.7 billion according to Forbes Magazine. But he prefers to keep a low profile with all of his investments, including the Giants, who are worth $786 million according to the publication. Johnson cedes all public duties regarding the baseball team to Larry Baer, the president and chief executive officer. Which is fine. Mayor Reed can ask Baer to sit in on the meeting, too. But it is Johnson, with the money and the clout, who really matters. Apparently, he is the de facto commissioner of baseball on this one issue. Selig seems more fearful of the Giants' anger (or possible litigation by the team's surrogates) than he is of doing the right and proper thing for baseball. That makes Johnson the control switch.


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Look, Selig plainly wants the A's to end up in San Jose. The commissioner has had four years to declare that Oakland and Alameda County are the only places the team can ever play. He has had four years to tell San Jose that the city should forget about the A's and move on.

The commissioner has not done so, however. Selig has chosen to string out the process in the hope that the Giants will reach a settlement with A's owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff. Such an agreement would cause the Giants to drop their San Jose objections and pave the way for two prosperous Bay Area baseball franchises. The Giants' stance is that they want the A's to have a beautiful new ballpark but only if it's located in Oakland or the East Bay. Well, guess what? Oakland has had four years to come up with a viable and concrete stadium plan -- anything that a desperate Selig could tout as the answer -- but Oakland has failed.

This is why Fisher and Wolff have pursued San Jose. It is why city council member Sam Liccardo has made rumblings about a potential lawsuit against the Giants for restraint of trade on antitrust grounds. It is why Reed wanted to talk with Selig personally about the situation but was rebuffed.

So what's left for the mayor? A meeting with Johnson, obviously. The Giants are the only thing that's standing in the way of a positive development for all of baseball. Johnson surely understands that. And he surely would not have earned his $5.7 billion without being a fine negotiator and sociable fellow.

Let us assume that Johnson is nice enough to accept Reed's diplomatic offer. The mayor could then provide the salient discussion points:

  • What is Johnson so afraid of happening if the A's move to San Jose? Do the Giants believe that the team's South Bay fans are zombies who will be mystically zapped into becoming A's fans if a downtown ballpark is built near HP Pavilion? Do the Giants think that if the A's move to San Jose, the city will forbid all travel to AT&T Park? If so, the mayor can assure Johnson that San Jose does not believe in zombies or transit restrictions.

  • Do the major league Giants, who are the majority owners of the San Jose Giants, really expect the city to keep subsidizing the minor league team under the current situation?

  • If the South Bay is Giants territory, then why don't Johnson and Baer propose to do what Fisher and Wolff want to do -- build a privately financed ballpark for their franchise in San Jose?

  • Acknowledging that Johnson and Baer are correct in noting that the San Francisco Giants still have mortgage payments left on AT&T Park, what happens when the mortgage is paid off in a few years? At that juncture, if the principal owner is worth $5.7 billion and the team is worth $786 million, how truly concerned are you that the franchise would be financially destroyed by an A's move to San Jose?

  • Conceding that the City of San Jose prefers not to file a lawsuit against Major League Baseball or the Giants for restraint of trade but is willing to do so, what suggestions does Johnson have to make certain that such a lawsuit doesn't occur?

    There. But it's just a start on what could be a very productive summit conference. If Mayor Reed and Mr. Johnson need a reporter to sit in and transcribe the dialogue, they know whom to call.

    Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com.