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The Los Angeles Times is reporting a possible breakthrough in the bitter stalemate between the A's and Giants about which team owns the rights to Santa Clara County and whether the A's can build a ballpark in San Jose.

Then again, the Los Angeles Times may not be reporting a breakthrough.

Let's try to make sense of this.

According to the Times, Major League Baseball has provided the A's with tentative guidelines to move to San Jose. The Times could not determine what these guidelines are. Even if the A's satisfy these guidelines, no guarantee exists that commissioner Bud Selig would approve the move.

So this new development is pretty murky. Selig formed a task force four years ago to untangle this mess but the task force hasn't exactly been forceful in coming up with a judgment.

That shouldn't stop us from being forceful and examining the issues — primarily the issue of fairness. That is the big one.

One way of looking at fairness

The A's are victims of the Giants' greed, and that's not fair. No team should control an entire California county if their ballpark is in another county. It's just plain selfishness and does not speak well of the Giants' ability to work and play well with others. It's also a restraint of trade.

The Giants are already doing quite well in the attendance department. They should be good sports and allow the A's to build a baseball palace in San Jose, where they can make a ton of dough and sign good players to long-term contracts. With a new park, the A's would not have to be cheapskates anymore.

The Giants getting rights to Santa Clara County was a fluke in the first place. Walter Haas, the A's late owner, gave his friend Bob Lurie rights to Santa Clara County so the Giants could move there if they wanted to. The Giants weren't drawing well in Candlestick Park. Because the Giants never moved to Santa Clara County, it's unfair of them to put a death grip on San Jose.

That's what the A's assert, and it is a major point in the A's fairness argument. And it is a cogent point.

Except that the Giants dispute it. They say Haas did not cede Santa Clara County to the Giants contingent upon the Giants moving there. Haas simply ceded it.

The two teams can't even agree on history.

The other way of looking at fairness

The Giants are in the business of doing business. That means they want to maximize profits, and it is not their business to aid and abet a competitor that wants to cut into their fan base.

When the new ownership group bought the Giants, one key condition was control of Santa Clara County where lots of Giants fans live. If Major League Baseball abrogates that precondition of sale, it would be unfair. Serious lawsuits might result.

Looking for a sensible solution

As you can see, both teams are able to make the fairness argument. And that means we must look beyond mere fairness for a real-world, viable solution.

Let's say the A's can meet the new conditions to move, whatever those conditions are. Let's say Selig approves the move. Those are big "let's says." I'm just saying. But let's say, anyway.

The whole argument would come to a vote of major-league owners. The rich people. The powerful people. The ones who really decide.

So, here's the deal. If the Giants can get seven teams to vote with them — that would make it a mere eight teams out of 30 — the only way the A's could go to San Jose would be a trip to the Winchester Mystery House or maybe to catch the occasional Earthquakes game. The A's sure couldn't build a stadium in San Jose.

Would seven teams vote with the Giants?

Good question. Here's why seven teams might join the Giants in blocking the A's from San Jose.

The Giants are one of the powerhouse franchises, and other, perhaps lesser, franchises may not cross them.

The Giants paid for their stadium and made a big success. They should not be penalized for that.

The Giants are perceived as givers. The A's are perceived as takers. What does that mean? The Giants pay big money in revenue sharing to the poor teams. The A's take tens of millions of dollars from other teams, including the Giants.

The A's are specialists at breaking up their core team and selling off or trading away their young players. This practice has given the franchise a bad look. Even though the A's had a phenomenal 2012, they are not serious about contending. At least that's the perception. Or that was the perception until last season.

Seven teams might deem the A's unworthy of their support. But you never know.

For what it's worth, the Giants firmly believe the A's wish, their plight, never will come to an owners' vote. If enough owners wanted a vote, the Giants believe, it would have happened long ago. The Giants believe the majority of owners do not see the A's demand for San Jose as being vital or essential to Major League Baseball. So far, the Giants have been right.

But things could change. Maybe they have started to change. And if they have, well, that is very interesting.

In the end, the A's may get the rights to San Jose. And if they do, it will be fair, in a sense. But their chances are iffy. And this is for sure — the A's, who have pledged to stay in the Coliseum through 2017, won't be moving anytime soon.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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