Let the A’s move to San Jose

Baseball was better when the A's didn't have to send their best players away every year.

This week, the Oakland A’s made a trade, sending their best starting pitcher, Gio Gonzalez, to the Washington Nationals for four prospects. A couple of days later, they sent their All-Star closer, Andrew Bailey, along with outfielder Ryan Sweeney to the Boston Red Sox for Josh Reddick and two more young players.

Gonzalez and Bailey, you see, were arbitration eligible and in line to get big raises. But the A’s don’t do big raises. They can’t with their payroll essentially maxed-out at $66 million. That dollar figure is expected to drop, and keep dropping unless the A’s can increase revenue streams.

They play in a stadium unsuited for baseball, in a relatively poor part of California’s Bay Area. But that could change if they’re allowed to move and build a new park in San Jose.

And if it weren’t for the Giants, claiming territory rights on San Jose, a region 50 miles from the San Francisco park, the A’s might have been able to do it by now.

It’s not hard to see the Giants’ position on this. Their claim to San Jose is based on their own perception of their Bay Area stance — if San Jose is theirs, so is the advertising money from San Jose businesses, so are television and radio rights, so are the fans’ dollars.

But the A’s are a franchise that dates back to the beginnings of the American League, and they’ve historically been a successful team since moving to Oakland in 1968. They’ve had championship teams, colorful characters and a diehard, working class following on the less glamorous side of the bridge. More importantly, for more than four decades, they’ve been able to share a fan base with the Giants.

Where they’ve missed out is in stadium money. While I don’t, and never will, agree that taxpayer money should ever fund a Major League ballpark, it’s no secret that newer parks generate more money than old, multipurpose stadiums. With the Marlins’ move into their own Miami park this year, the A’s are the last team sharing a facility with a football team. Moreover, that football team rendered that park useless for baseball when Mount Davis was constructed in centerfield, killing the view from home plate and turning fans off from seeing a game there.

Setting how the finances are secured aside, they seem to have found a natural landing spot in San Jose. It’s about 45 minutes down I-880 to the bottom of the bay, accessible from San Francisco and Oakland by the BART, and home to a bigger population, one loaded with businesses, including those in Silicon Valley with money to spend on tickets.

San Jose has supported the NHL’s Sharks for 20 years now, and there’s no reason to think the A’s couldn’t thrive in that setting.

But the A’s can’t move. The San Francisco Giants were 5th in revenue in 2011, and the A’s were 29th. The Giants have thrived since moving into their downtown park in 2000, and the A’s have floundered. If competition is really an American ideal, the Giants’ refusal to engage A’s is something out of a first-year screenwriter’s villain trope.

The biggest fault of the A’s this past decade? They were too successful. Billy Beane’s method of finding wins among undervalued players — players with high on-base percentages and pitchers with high strikeout-to-walk ratios — was mimicked by the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees, to the point that those players are no longer undervalued.

With their current payroll structure, Beane is left to find the best among young players who aren’t arbitration eligible, role players in free agency and aging players looking to hang on. In a division with the Texas Rangers, two-time defending pennant winners, and the Los Anaheim Angels, who just splurged on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in free agency, the A’s can’t expect to contend year-in and year-out. Even the Mariners, with a great park and young stars like Felix Hernandez, could keep Oakland in the cellar.

Baseball is better when teams aren’t constant doormats. The A’s have a winning tradition that has been undercut by modern economics. The fact that they haven’t been a complete trainwreck for the past 15 years is a testament to their leadership’s ability to draft and maintain a strong farm system and find diamonds in the rough of the free market.

Barring them from San Jose, against the perceived potential losses for San Francisco, would be to openly wage class warfare within the ranks of baseball.

Let the A’s move to San Jose. They deserve a chance to succeed, and baseball will be better for it.

2 responses to “Let the A’s move to San Jose

  1. Fantastic article.

    What needs to happen in the Bay Area is a “market correction”.

    The Giants own 3/4 of it while the A’s own 1/4. The other three 2-team markets are shared (NY, LA, CHI) and why is that?

    Example: If the Yankees own Manhattan and the Mets did not. The market value of the Mets would go down. By sharing the market 100% between the two teams each is on equal footing market value wise.

    Of course, that is based on geography alone. Efforts in TV, marketing, etc…will of course enhance market value.

    I am from SJ and a life-long Giants fan who used to freeze in Candlestick in the 90s.

    What the Giants have done to the A’s is wrong. The market should have been shared when the leagues merged in 1993. But they took Wally Haas’ generosity and try to play by back room rules with their BS T-rights argument.

    If I want to open a gas station across the street from another gas station. Who can stop me? The fact Giants are blocking the A’s from San Jose is wrong based on this principle of free trade that makes America great.

    Granted, MLB has a Anti-Trust exemption but it can be challenged.

    San Jose would support the team like they do the Sharks.

    San Jose has a downtown site, low crime, affluent fans, population base, and corporations to support the team. These are things Oakland cannot offer 35 miles north that are vital to an MLB team to survive.

    SF and Oakland are too far to watch games consistently. The Giants only get 7k of season ticket holders from the San Jose area out of 34k total. Those fans are “hardcore” and will not change their ways.

    Most people who live in San Jose do not want to drive an hour to Oakland or San Francisco consistently to watch baseball, especially during the weekdays….CalTrain from SJ to SF only gets 3500 riders a game. That is not a whole lot of people out of 42,000 at each game.

    With the A’s in downtown San Jose, people will be all over it out there. Even Giants fans like myself would get 20-30 games a year because now I can go home in 20 min after the game.

    The Giants will lose this battle and get $$ for nothing more than a act of kindness from Haas years ago.

    The Giants value would go down some, but the A’s value would skyrocket. To the point where both teams would be on equal footing and now the Bay Area being 2 teams would be justified.

    It is about the well being of MLB as a whole not just the Giants. But the Giants hated it when the A’s dominated them for years before Pac Bell in 2000.

    They know full well the A’s could turn big market in San Jose with a higher payroll then themselves, newer ballpark, and being in Silicon Valley’s background a source of revenue for years to come.

    If the A’s plan it right, 2015 will be the dawn of a new era for baseball in the Bay Area.

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