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.