Contraction Alternative

Neyer today shoots down the contraction whispers re: the A’s and Marlins. His basis: lack of necessity and politics:

What’s more, even if both franchises were utter wrecks they still wouldn’t be serious candidates for contraction. No franchise would be. It was, what, eight years ago when this spectre was first raised, regarding the Twins and the Expos? I said then that it would never happen; that Congress (among others) wouldn’t allow it, and that the owners were simply floating the notion as leverage in their negotiations with the union.

I wish I were so right about something just once or twice every year.

Well, I think he’s right again here. But even if those obstacles were hurdled, wouldn’t it make more sense for the owners to sit around a table and figure out how to help ailing franchises rather than kill them? My assumption is that the Marlins’ and A’s owners would demand something akin to the market price + hassle charge in order to give up their franchises. I’m also assuming that, since Bud has cultivated a very chummy ownership group, they’d get at least that much. So we’re talking in the hundreds of millions here.

Here’s an idea: if the owners were seriously considering pooling hundreds of millions to throw at Oakland or Miami, wouldn’t it make much more sense for them to throw it at HOK and a general contractor to build stadiums or make improvements that the their home cities don’t want to do? Rather than a public black eye and a baseball black hole, such a move would result in a nice little revenue-generator for both the home team and the rest of the league, wouldn’t it?

Or is that crazy talk?

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  1. Mark Armour said...

    Crazy talk.  Although this makes sense in a vacuum, the owners are also thinking about the precedent this would cause.  When the next team goes looking for a stadium, MLB does not want the municipalities to know that this option might be available if the cities down pony up.

    Crazy talk, but also sensible talk.  MLB should have a stadium fund to help avoid this problem.  But think about it: this last wave of stadiums (20 in 20 years) was pretty successful for MLB—nearly all the money came from taxpayers, and there are only two remaining teams in line.  Not bad.

  2. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Good points, Mark.  I’ll grant that I’ve been fighting the last war when it comes to stadiums and public dollars for some time now.  If only there were blogs in the late 80s. And it only, you know, I wasn’t a teenager at the time.

  3. Mark Armour said...

    I am on your side in this fight, and I have argued (against my own interests) against building a stadium in Portland.  Ccntraction was a used by the owners to get stadiums build 8 years ago, and I am not sure it did not work somewhat in Minneapolis.  The normal wedge (moving the franchise) no one is really believing anymore—there is no place to go really.

  4. APBA Guy said...

    The thing is, the A’s are making momey. Before Fisher/Wolff took over, the previous owners used to let their daughters fly the company plane to and from their universities, acknowledged paying themselves $3M apiece per year, and profiting up to $ 20M annually through revenue sharing left unspent on players, staff, etc..

    So while the A’s can’t run up a huge payroll, they are doing ok, and eventually they’ll be able to sell the team to bigger fish in the pond at a handsome gain, provided they continue to manage the franchise well.

    Obviously they are looking for some kind of leverage with respect to the stadium situation. There’s a lot of empty dirt South of San Jose and East of Oakland, just not so many roads, trains, etc and people there.

    And where you have people here, well, they each have their own opinion about the desirability of a big stadium and lots more cars descending on them. Personally I’m for a new stadium between SF and SJ as long as I’m not paying for it, but even that opinion is far from a universal. 

    It does make a lot more sense for MLB collectively to weigh in on these localities with assistance, especially here with the ridiculous “Giants territorial rights” situation compounding the A’s bad Al Davis stadium arrangement in Oakland. The A’s are boxed in, but MLB could go a long way in generating a potential solution by restoring the territory demarcation to the pre-Haas status.

  5. Pete Toms said...

    The NFL funded stadium construction via its “G3” program.  Likely partly due to the increased difficulty in getting public $$$ for football stadiums.  It is more difficult for football stadium proponents to make the case for the economic benefits due to the relatively few number of games….

    C, I agree, could be a case of six of one….you either subsidize via rev sharing or build new digs

  6. obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

    Re: A’s situation:  I’ve considered this just a dance the A’s have been choreographing since Wolff took over.  Wolff has long been associated with San Jose and the South Bay and their efforts to attract professional teams to that area. 

    So it would be my opinion that that has been his underlying motive, which, of course, he cannot admit to publicly.  He has to play by the rules and cross the t’s and dot the i’s and not give any image that he’s purposefully doing things to move the A’s to the South Bay.

    For his first step, it was easy to eliminate Oakland given how poorly Schott negotiated with that city on this deal, all Wolff had to do was toe the line on that and Oakland is dead as a option. 

    Then he went straight to the line of the gray area by trying to put together a stadium in Fremont, right on the border of Santa Clara County, probably full knowing that Fremont, as a relative small community, though 4th largest in the SF Bay Area at a little over 200,000, would eventually fail to generate enough political and financial will to create a ballpark there.  The bad economy just sealed that grave site and put up the headstone.

    So now what is he to do?  I’m sure he will tell Selig that.  He tried in Oakland, he tried in Fremont, he needs a new stadium… 

    Say, San Jose is still open.  Sure Oakland is a big city, but San Jose is twice their size.  And there is a lot of money down there, and a lot of political will. 

    I know SF has claimed the area, but SF is just as big as San Jose, and yet they claim the two largest cities in the Bay Area as their territory?  Together they total nearly 1.8 million, whereas the next 8 biggest cities (including Oakland) total only 1.3 million, and two cities of which is in Giants territory.

    With a population of similar size to SF, the A’s should be able to thrive down in San Jose.  I’m sure they will probably also pull up some demographics regarding the A’s fan base also being significant down here too, that it is not just the Giants down there.  I see just as much A’s stuff for sale down here as Giants.

    The local newspaper has also been very supportive of the A’s relative to the Giants.  While the Giants get ragged on a lot by the San Jose Mercury, it is like the A’s could do no wrong.  Most teams would totally get ragged on for letting go of their best players and trading them off for prospects, and these A’s get praised.  The Giants get ragged on for not having a very good farm system in recent years, and yet the A’s had an even worse system, don’t get called on the carpet on that similar to the Giants, and, as noted, get praised for being forced to trade off their best players in order to replenish their sorry farm system.

    And this is not by their great Giants writer, Andy Baggarly, just to be clear, he’s one of the best on writing on the Giants, but rather by their columnists who write opinion pieces and by their headline writers who decide the titling and by whomever handling the placement of news stories on the front page.  I feel that the newspaper is generally kissing up to the A’s while taking shots at the Giants.

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