The way to San Jose

Neyer’s off-the-cuff comment about the A’s heading to Portland has spurred an interesting conversation over at BTF this morning mostly challenging Portland as a viable market. And I’ll admit: my personal preference for the A’s moving to Portland has nothing to do with a reasoned economic analysis of the situation and everything to do with aesthetics and other mushy considerations. I simply think it would be neat to have a team in Portland. I know a handful of baseball nuts who live there who would really appreciate it! If I flew there for a weekend, they could get me tickets!

But back on planet Earth, one has to think about the coporate base for a team, the size of the media market, whether the fans would actually support it, and all of that jazz. Enter San Jose, which Mark Purdy of the Merc thinks is owed serious consideration:

Well, after Tuesday, no more straddling is allowed. Fremont is dead. Do the MLB owners now want to give San Jose a fair shot? Or not? Earlier this month, Wolff met with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed to discuss the soccer stadium that Wolff wants to build for the San Jose Earthquakes. At that meeting, Wolff also briefed Reed on the A’s situation. Reed simply listened.

Tuesday, the mayor said he would eagerly meet with Wolff about a ballpark proposal whenever and wherever. Yet the first place for MLB to begin, in fairness to the Giants, is with an independent and impartial study by economists and marketing experts. The study would determine precisely what an A’s move to San Jose would mean to the attendance, sponsorship and corporate support of both franchises.

My strong hunch is that such a study would prove that the Giants’ fears of losing fan loyalty to the San Jose A’s are largely groundless. But the sports policy wonks can scientifically back me up.

And then the negotiations could proceed. In his talks with Fremont, Wolff was not asking the city to pay a dime toward building the ballpark. His talks with San Jose need to start with that premise, as well. Would local residents go for a ballpark deal? Depends on the deal. But they deserve the chance to consider a deal instead of being treated as baseball non-persons.

Because let me pound the drum once more: The people of San Jose, not the Giants, should decide whether the A’s can move to San Jose. It is way past time for Major League Baseball and Selig to acknowledge that basic principle.

Purdy’s best point is that the tail has been wagging the dog too long here. The issue of the Giants’ territorial rights — which has long been cited as an obstacle to the A’s going to Santa Clara County — is not some inherent liberty interest for the Giants to assert or for the A’s to work around. It’s a fiction created by Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball has the complete power to deal with it, and Major League Baseball should do so swiftly and decisively if it truly wishes to maintain two viable franchises in the Bay Area.

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  1. Aarcraft said...

    I have to say, I really don’t get this. Oakland is significantly closer to San Francisco than San Jose is, isn’t it? Maybe my geography is off. How will moving a team farther away, but in the same region, affect the fan base of either franchise? The Giants might lose fans in San Jose, but won’t they gain fans in Oakland?  Am I missing something here?

  2. lar said...

    I had the same thought, Aarcraft, and, being from Central California originally, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the geography involved. I just asked my buddy about it (from the same town, but he’s a huge Giants fan), and he told me this: “All the rich people form San Jose go to San Francisco and spend their money there since no one wants to go to Oakland and get shot. So that’s kinda what I think about it.  If SJ has the A’s, all those rich people will just stay in town and spend their dollars there. Now is it fair? No. But the lines were drawn (territorial lines) and the Giants don’t want to give em up…”

    it makes sense, from a club’s point of view. Personally, it seems to me that San Jose is such an obvious answer (further away, bigger city, still on the major transportation routes) than Fremont, it’s ridiculous that anything is keeping them from looking in that direction.

    But, with the way MLB caved in to Angelos for DC’s “territorial rights”, I can understand a poorer franchise being afraid of that

  3. MooseinOhio said...

    Aarcraft:  I don’t believe your assumptions or questions are wrong at all but what you may be missing is the little shell game MLB plays with both locations and ownership groups.  The highest bidder does not always get the franchise rights and I suspect that the best location may not always be chosen as it does not fit into the greater schemes of the owners, or a powerful sub-group of owners, that control the game. 

    Rid baseball of the anti-trust agreement and maybe things make more sense but given the current conditions trying to make sense of things may be harmful to you mental health as common logic does not always apply when the good ole boys network is driving the decision making process.

  4. John in Fremont said...

    A bit of history: When the lines were originally drawn the A’s were given Santa Clara county (San Jose). When the Giants were planning on moving to San Jose in the early 90s then A’s owner Walter Haas gave the Giants Santa Clara county rights. The Giants obviously didn’t move, but the A’s never got the rights back.

  5. APBA Guy said...

    That’s interesting about the source of Santa Clara rights to the Giants.

    But I think Moose is right, logic will play very little part in this. Angelos’ “hold up” of the Nats was based alomst entirely on his Friend of Bud status, and his 10 year payoff is a major handicap to the Nats, in addition to their self-imposed handicaps.

    The economy is so bad in the Bay Area right now that it’s no surprise Fisher and Wolff pulled the plug on the Fremont deal. The RoI must have gone from bad to complete science fiction, and the localities are uniformly not going to fund any new stadium.

    Likely that Wolff will do as some writers suggest, work behind the scenes to position a deal for a time when the economy improves. There is an interesting thread of speculation out here that John Fisher, who actually owns the major portion of the A’s, may want to sell his stake.

    No question San Jose can support the A’s. Also no question there could be several beautiful sites for a stadium in San Jose. But the cost, due to necessary road improvements, could in fact be much higher than some other locations in the Bay Area.

  6. Brandon Isleib said...

    The historical attendance figures in Oakland were completely awful until the ‘80s, when they got good (or at least acceptable) and the Giants went to rot.  It wasn’t a smart move to go to Oakland, and I wouldn’t blame them for getting out.  As the Nationals should probably say, never move into somebody else’s market.

  7. Jim Casey said...

    The only logical place for the A’s to move is Vegas. Recession-proof, the casinos will all buy skyboxes, tourists will go to games, it can be part of turning Vegas into a family vacation destination. Forget Portland, too close to Seattle. Forget San Jose, any kind of tax initiative to help pay for a stadium will fail as they always did, even in prosperous times.

  8. Pete Toms said...

    APBA – I’ve read the same speculation about Fisher.

    I’ve also been reading speculation that post Fremont, the A’s might attempt to get a new ballpark built on the current NMcAfee site.  The Raiders want a new stadium also.  The speculation is that the current site has a lot going for it in terms of accessibility – BART and a freeway – and size.  The speculation has it that there will be the requisite “multi use” development there along with a couple new stadiums.  The future of the Raiders and 49ers stadia will play a role in this.

  9. Jimmy P said...

    The only logical place for the A’s to move is Vegas. Recession-proof, the casinos will all buy skyboxes, tourists will go to games, it can be part of turning Vegas into a family vacation destination

    Really?  Because Vegas has been one of the harder hit cities in this recession.  Housing values have fallen, tourism is way down. 

    Plus, you don’t go to Vegas to see a baseball game.  You go to Vegas to go to casinos.

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