Dead-market team

If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you read USA Today baseball writer Jorge Ortiz’s team capsule of the A’s. And I mean read all of it. There are some choice quotes from Billy Beane, like this one on trading Cahill/Gio/Bailey:

“We’re not doing it to be mean,” says Beane, aware of the trades’ impact on the team and its shrinking fan base. “It’s not like I come into this office like I just jumped off the stage of Wicked with a green-painted face and go, ‘How can I trade my guys?’ We do it because we have no other choice.”

Cue someone in the RF bleachers pasting a giant, green-tinted, smiling Beane face on Elphaba. Or maybe Brad Pitt’s face? It’s hard to tell them apart these days.

Then there’s ESPN Magazine cover boy Brandon McCarthy, who may have displayed a little too much of his trademark candor when he said this about how the A’s operate:

“It makes team-building and the competitive aspect that much harder here,” says right-hander Brandon McCarthy, the A’s likely opening-day starter. “It’s not even being a small-market team. It’s being a dead-market team.”

Merde.

Later in the article, Wolff provides two crucial pieces of information that I had not known previously.

  • Moving the team to San Jose should increase revenue $80-100 million annually.
  • The TV rights deal with CSN California runs 25 years with an opt-out at 15 (2024).

In last October’s post titled “$230,000,000“, I attempted to estimate what the A’s revenue model could look like if they moved into Cisco Field in 2015. I figured it would be $64 million more than they get currently. Clearly, Lew Wolff is aiming higher, though he may be using a lower 2010-11 revenue estimate of $150 million or thereabouts to make the comparison (which would fall in line with a +80 million target). In any case, he and the rest of the business side seem to have a pretty good idea of where they’re going.

The A’s TV rights deal with Comcast, which unlike most other recently negotiated team TV deals, did not have its numbers or length revealed, is of similar length to others negotiated by the Rangers, Angels, Astros, and Mariners. I hope the deal isn’t a flat, non-escalating deal, because if it is the A’s will surely be forgoing revenue during what should be considered their competitive window from 2015 through 2020 and beyond. The flipside of that is that at least it’s comforting to know that the A’s are locked in somewhere for at least 15 years. That’s a lot of time to build brand equity, and it’s a damn sight better than the broadcast musical chairs the A’s had to deal with during the pre-cable days.

Comparison of current and future AL West TV rights contracts

I had theorized that the A’s were getting $15 million per year via their cable deal, though I’ve been too lazy to actually verify this. Based on the actual revenue the A’s report or the Forbes reported figures, I can’t see how it’d be much higher than $20 million. Either number is a pittance compared to what the division foes are getting, and will be even less competitive once the M’s negotiate a new deal in the near future. While the A’s can’t control what other teams get and appear to be locked in with CSNCA, they should at the very least have the opportunity to get the $80-100 million Wolff claims he can get via a new ballpark. Because if he can’t, Brandon McCarthy will be more correct than anyone would’ve had the temerity to suggest. For all intents and purposes, the A’s will be in a dead market. Or as he said towards the end of the article:

“It’s a major issue,” says McCarthy, who also has pitched for the Rangers and Chicago White Sox. “I think it’s one of those things that’s crippling this franchise. I’ve never seen anything like this where something like that could just become the rolling avalanche of things not being the way they should. A decision has to come.”

No fan wants to hear this type of thing, whether they’re in Oakland, San Jose, or Springfield. It belies the optimism that spring should bring. But whether you believe McCarthy is simply regurgitating the team line or he’s a blunt, independent thinker as he’s repeatedly shown, he’s right. Something needs to happen. Hopefully McCarthy will stay healthy enough to get a nice payday next year, even if it isn’t with the A’s.

P.S. – McCarthy and Dallas Braden were interviewed by The Rise Guys this morning. Good audio.

63 Responses to Dead-market team

  1. bartleby says:

    @Anon I have to stick up for eb here a little bit (not that he needs any help from me). His factual assertions on this thread are pretty hard to dispute, and nowhere does he use the words “Lew Wolff” or specifically lay blame. (I don’t doubt that he does blame Lew Wolff to a degree, but that isn’t what he’s saying here).
    .
    I tend to disagree with his comment that losing is tougher just because your team has a proud history. But I understand where he’s coming from, and it doesn’t seem a particularly inflammatory opinion.
    .
    Overall, I think it’s unfair to lump eb together with the lunatic fringe. He has his hopes, but he’s pretty consistent in distinguishing wishes from facts and acknowledging reality.

  2. Marine Layer says:

    @bartleby – Kauffman Stadium? Ahem.

  3. bartleby says:

    @ML I recall when you originally posted that. I don’t doubt it’s a great building, but these days, they almost all are. When it comes to ranking a venue against other parks, the competition is stiff.
    .
    So location is a big differentiator. For me personally, this is a HUGE factor. I have driving to sports venues, and don’t do it unless I absolutely have to. Not being in an urban area is a big negative right off the bat. Not being convenient to transit makes it even worse. At least places like Citizens Bank, Citifield, and U.S. Cellular are convenient to transit.
    .
    As I said before, I’ll reserve final judgment until I get there. But when you write something like “You want in, you gotta drive,” and when I consider the stiff competition, I still have to say it’s a longshot to crack my Top 20.
    .
    Out of curiosity, where do you rank Kauffman among MLB venues you’ve been to?

  4. bartleby says:

    That should read, “hate driving to sports venues.”

  5. Mark (the other one) says:

    Making a actual list (rather than off the top of my head), of the stadiums I’ve been to, I would rather see a game at the new Kaufman Stadium than at:

    Angel Stadium
    US Cellular Field
    Citi Field
    Rogers Center
    Turner Field
    O.CO Coliseum
    Dolphins Stadium
    Minute Maid Park
    Chase Field
    Great American Ballpark

    I have not been to Tropicana Field, but I could safely put it on that list. Obviously, Dolphins (whatever name it’s using this week) will be retired soon.

    Not to say that all of those 10 are bad by any stretch, but that the new Kaufman is really good–suburban location or not. I’d put Kauffman in a group with Yankee, Nationals, Progressive, Dodger, Citizen’s Bank, Miller Park–nice places but short of my top 10.

    Still haven’t been to Rangers, Comerica or Target (going there in June.)

  6. Marine Layer says:

    @bartleby – Not accounting for the two new NY parks and the Marlins ballpark, Kauffman is in my top ten.

  7. ACV says:

    @the other mark. ive heard nothing but great things about kauffman stadium. whenever the A’s play there ray fosse and kuiper always gush about it and say how its one of their favorite ballparks.

  8. bartleby says:

    @Mark TOO I mostly get where you’re coming from; Your bottom 10 list looks similar to mine, although I quite like Citi Field (more than Yankee Stadium actually, in spite of the giant sea of parking around it).
    .
    From the fact you put Chase and Minute Maid on there, it looks like you may also share my ambivalence about retractable roof stadiums. I find them kind of barn-like, and not really equivalent to a true open air ballpark. Though I would probably rate Chase and Minute Maid higher than Milwaukee (again, largely on location).
    .
    Again, I have to reserve final judgment until I actually get to Kauffman. But no matter how nice a park it is, I am skeptical it would beat Great American, Chase, Minute Maid or Turner on my personal list just because of the location issue.

  9. bartleby says:

    @ML Are those the only three you haven’t been to yet? And what would be the rest of your top 10?

  10. Mark (the other one) says:

    @bartleby I’m not completely against retractable roof stadiums, I really liked Safeco. It’s just Chase Field seems too big and warehouse like, and Minute Maid is contrived and goofy. Skydome is old Busch Stadium with blue seats, a roof, and a hotel in the outfield. But given the weather in those first two markets, it’s a necessary evil. Maybe they’ll grow on me after a few visits, like Petco Park did.

    I can’t downgrade Milwaukee just based on location–they’ve been playing baseball on that site for over 40 years; it works, and on-site tailgating is a vital part of the Milwaukee experience. It’s a town with a limited mass transit, if they had put the ballpark downtown, you’d still drive to it.

    By 2013 I’ll have hit all 30, and half again that many defunct ones.

  11. Briggs says:

    I really enjoyed Safeco Field. The roof was open during my visit and I didn’t have a problem with shadows or agoraphobia. My visit of Chase wasn’t during a game, so the empty seats really added to the air hanger sensation. I know it’s unlikely anyone on the 360 Architecture crew that designed Safeco is still on for Cisco Field, but it’s reassuring that 360 Architecture has a stellar ballpark to their name.

  12. bartleby says:

    @Mark TOO If I lived in Phoenix or Houston, I’d definitely want a retractable roof park. I’m a bit less sold on the necessity for Seattle or Milwaukee.
    .
    I actually like all four of those parks, but with the possible exception of Safeco, they probably all fall in my middle third of ballparks. All other factors being equal, for me an open air ballpark is going to beat a retractable roof ballpark just as a downtown ballpark beats a suburban ballpark.
    .
    As far as Milwaukee goes, I just can’t agree on the location. For me, football is about tailgating; baseball is about going to bars and restaurants in a vibrant nearby neighborhood (which MIller Park does not have). Plus, I’m fairly unlikely to tailgate on a road trip to another city.
    .
    Maybe the locals are stuck driving either way, but if they had put the ballpark in downtown Milwaukee I would definitely not drive to it. When I take a baseball trip or go to a new city for the weekend, I stay downtown and won’t even rent a car unless I really need it for whatever I’m planning to do.
    .
    I really, really hate driving to giant sports or entertainment venues (or malls, for that matter), and do it only when I absolutely have no choice. I loathe inching around giant parking lots trying to park, and despise sitting and waiting to get out of them after a game. Plus, it becomes an issue if you want to have a beer or two at the game.
    .
    Location is a big differentiator for me between ballparks. AT&T is a nice but relatively ordinary ballpark in other respecs, but cracks my top five because it has unparalleled views and is walkable both to SOMA nightlife and transit. Conversely, Miller Park was one of the few times I’ve been forced to drive on one of my baseball weekend trips, and it really detracted from the experience for me in a big way.

  13. Mark (the other one) says:

    If you go to Miller Park and don’t tailgate, you’re doing it wrong. Period. Been that way since before I first went in 1973. But if you have to do the bar scene first…it’s not Wrigleyville, but there are nearby bars within walking distance and a couple bars inside the park.

    The ballpark wasn’t built for the once every five to ten year visitor who might fly in and go carless, it’s for the locals and those who might drive in for a weekend series. If Milwaukee had even a St. Louis type light rail system, downtown and car-free might make sense. But they don’t. So you drive or use the express busses (that link to the park-and-ride that you drove to anyway . )

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