Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Giants, The Athletics & BIG-Money-Ball

Much to the consternation of Bay Area Baseball fans, be they fans of the Giants or Athletics, the issue of the Athletics and their stadium woes remains unresolved. Bug Selig, after forming his "Blue Ribbon Committee" in 2009 has accomplished nothing other than to prop up the Blue Ribbon manufacturing industry. At issue now, as it always has been, is the matter of territorial rights to the Silicon Valley. The Giants have them, the Athletics want them. How the Giants came to be in their possession is no longer particularly relevant. This is big-boy business not a Co-Op and the Giants aren't about to give them up.

Today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports posted a report (Read It Here) that restates what I asserted above and what we already knew;
The Giants owners have shown no willingness to this point to sell at any price their territorial right to the Silicon Valley area, which includes San Jose.....

...and I can't imagine that the Athletics are going to get much sympathy from other owners, particularly not those who aren't among the "FOB" (friends of Bud). I'm certainly not privy to the inner workings of those, or any other, organization but I can't help but imagine it as a "There but for the grace of God go I." sort of situation. If the ownership of the Giants is forced to give up their territorial rights to a region, what is to stop the league from doing the same to another club? Not a precedent, that I imagine, any of them would like to set.

I don't particularly care one way or the other. I live in Silicon Valley and I'm a Giants fan. As much as I am often frustrated and disappointed by the organization I will remain a Giants fan. The number of games I attend is based solely on the product the Giants put on the field not on proximity to the park or to that of a competing franchise. If the Athletics were allowed to move to San Jose I would certainly attend more of their games, though that bar is not particularly high as I haven't been to one since 1989 but I would attend because I like baseball. I'm just not willing to go to Oakland to see it. I go to San Jose Giants games and stop and watch little league games while walking the dog too. None of it impacts my patronizing of the Giants.

Despite the Giants continued assertion that, "...ceding that region would cut our fan base..." the fan base is not what is at stake. The Giants know that their fans are their fans and little to nothing other than on-field performance is going to have an appreciable impact on fan interest, ticket, concession, merchandise sales. Even before AT&T park the Giants had reasonable attendance at Candlestick finishing in the top-10 in attendance nine times in their last 20 years, much of which in the era of multi-use mega-parks. This despite the fact that the park was an ice-cold miserable dump and even in years when the Athletics were better or at least more entertaining. The primary factor being the quality of the team on the field.

There is a widely held assertion that one of the factors behind the increased profitability of MLB teams is smaller ballparks compared to 10-20 years ago. The thinking being that smaller parks create an artificial scarcity of available tickets. On any given night during baseball season there are over 83,000 available tickets between AT&T park and whatever the Athletics are calling their place these days. If the Athletics were allowed to build the smaller, more intimate Silicon Valley facility they desire that number would shrink by a not insignificant number thus increasing the "scarcity" of supply allowing higher prices and making ticket sales more profitable for the that can't be it now can it?

I think many fans fail to realize that this isn't about "us". It's bigger than sales of individual tickets and panda hats. It's about ready access to major corporations and the synergies between them and the Giants. If the Giants give up Silicon Valley, they don't give up "fans", they give up Cisco, Google, Intel, Apple, Applied Materials and a raft of other corporations. They aren't about to do that and if the roles were reversed, neither would the Athletics. 

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