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March 15, 2010

One-Hoppers

Selig: No A's Relocation Report Yet

by Neil deMause

If you've been wondering what the heck is up with that three-man commission that Bud Selig commissioned to work on a report on the future of the Oakland A's, Selig gave official word yesterday: They're not done yet. The A's stadium report, said Selig, "will be coming in the near future. I don't have any comment until that's done."

While the report, whenever the task force is done typing, will no doubt include an evaluation of the three main contenders to be the future home of the A's — San Jose, A's owner Lew Wolff's preferred new home; Fremont, which has a conveniently empty auto plant site to pitch; and Oakland, which upped its ante by proposing several new potential stadium sites over the winter — what everyone is waiting for is what it says about the Giants' territorial rights to San Jose, which the team acquired as part of its own abortive efforts to move to the South Bay 20 years ago, and haven't given up ever since. (Note to any readers tempted to compare this with the Nats-Orioles territorial dustup of a few years back: That was only over cable rights, not territorial rights, which are a whole different kettle of fish under MLB bylaws.) If Selig's boys come in with a low price for what it'd take to indemnify the Giants for loss of their territory, we're likely to see a full-on push for an A's stadium in San Jose; a high price, and it's going to be a tough nut for Wolff to crack.

For non-California baseball fans, it's worth keeping an eye on that indemnification figure for another reason as well: It would for the first time establish a price tag for incursions into existing territories, making it conceivable for Peter Gammons' speculation about a New Jersey move for the Rays (or some other team) to come true. That, clearly, would not only dramatically affect the baseball franchise location landscape, but would accomplish what some economists have been endorsing for a while, which is to stop the New York teams' dominance of the free-agent market by squeezing in as many teams as possible to the New York area, diluting each team's share to that of their mere mortal competitors. That would be a long way off, but the first indication of whether it will ever progress beyond pipe dream will likely be found in the A's report, whenever it arrives.

Neil deMause is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Neil's other articles. You can contact Neil by clicking here

Related Content:  Territorial Rights

7 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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drmorris

Can the Giants and A's launch a joint local cable network, with the Giants "exchanging" their territorial rights for a bigger piece of those TV revenues?

What do you make of Sacramento as a dark horse?

Mar 15, 2010 11:22 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Neil deMause
BP staff

There are all kinds of ways to slice up the revenues, but the fact remains that adding in San Jose doesn't grow the overall pie that much. Certainly not enough to 1) get the A's out of the revenue doldrums and 2) build a stadium without significant public help, which is what Lew Wolff is promising San Jose he'll do.

Sacramento is too far north to be a consideration. When your best hope is that a few fans from Richmond and Hercules might drive to your stadium instead of BARTing to SF, you're in trouble.

Mar 15, 2010 20:28 PM
 
jsullivan03

Neil,

So you don't think there's an argument to be made that putting the A's in San Jose could serve to cultivate a new block of A's fans that didn't exist previously? San Jose certainly wasn't a hockey town before the Sharks, and they have a rabid fan base now.

I'm not saying the parallel is perfect, considering San Jose now has a pretty devoted base of hockey fans. But considering that:

1) Oakland and San Francisco are pretty miserable places to try and reach from San Jose on game nights,

2) Bay Area citizens tend to stay mostly in their geographic area (residents don't tend to freely float to different cities for entertainment options unless there's a compelling reason to),

3) Oakland's per capita income is significantly less than San Jose or San Francisco, and

4) San Jose is about double the size of Oakland by population,

doesn't it make sense to at least consider it as a viable alternative to Oakland?

Mar 15, 2010 23:22 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Neil deMause
BP staff

I think you'd definitely cultivate a new block of A's fans in San Jose. The question is whether it would be enough to offset the East Bay fans who would give up on baseball, plus pay for both a new stadium and some real players for the A's.

It's not a zero-sum game, but it is a limited-sum game. It's certainly conceivable that San Jose is now a rich enough bauble to make everybody come out happy, but I suspect if that were the case, we wouldn't need this task force.

Mar 16, 2010 07:11 AM
 
jsullivan03

That's a fair point, though I suspect the larger issue would be stadium financing rather than fan base loyalty. Between the fact that sports stadiums provide little if any economic benefit to the city and the state of local government budgets, public financing would be a tough sell in basically any California city right now.

As for their fan base, the A's only drew 1.4 million last year (and have declined every season since 2004), so it's not as if they would be leaving an impassioned fan base behind. Even in 2006 - when they won 93 games and made it to the ALCS - Oakland drew just under 2 million. I certainly don't think a new stadium with be a panacea for the team's problems, but the current arrangement doesn't appear to be working.

Mar 16, 2010 10:42 AM
rating: 0
 
Keating

If there was a 3rd Team in move into the NY Metro Area( in New Jersey), is the assumption that it would hurt both NY teams equally? I have always assumed that a team in NJ would pull more Yankees fans but not sure.

Also how quickly would we see a significant impact 5-7 years? In terms of TV attendence, Season ticket holders, etc...

Mar 15, 2010 11:37 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Neil deMause
BP staff

I suspect you're right that there are more Yankees fans in NJ than Mets, but the Mets also have a more tenuous fan base right now - the Yankees could sell out 50,000 tickets a game even if they restricted ticket sales to residents of Connecticut. So I think they both would have reason to worry.

The angle I'm interested in down the road is that I'm pretty sure (Steven, jump in and correct me if I'm wrong) that YES has way more market penetration than SNY in Jersey. And 5-7 years from now, I pretty much expect cable to be a non-entity when it comes to revenue, since most everything will be shifting to Internet streams. If that happens, suddenly the value of holding Jersey against the barbarian hordes could look much less important.

Mar 15, 2010 20:35 PM
 
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