Giants revisionist history

One thing that I don’t think can be argued is that over the last 15 years or so, at least since Peter Magowan took control of the Giants franchise, the Giants have had a better PR machine going than the A’s. When the A’s hired former Giants PR head Bob Rose, it was a tacit acknowledgement of that superior effort. The Giants’ needling of the A’s in their Wednesday press release was a great example of their skill.

Except they missed a few facts.

Here’s a chunk of the release:

The Giants territorial rights were not granted “subject to” moving to Santa Clara County. Indeed, the A’s fail to mention that MLB’s 1990 territorial rights designation has been explicitly re-affirmed by Major League Baseball on four separate occasions.

If you read that quickly, you might think it’s a simple, cut-and-dried scenario. In reality, the two sentences aren’t related at all. The Giants actually argued that Santa Clara County was not granted “subject to” a move. It wasn’t? Why was it granted, then? The Giants didn’t go into any explanation for what occurred (bullet points would’ve been helpful). The facts are these:

Bob Lurie asked Wally Haas for permission to take Santa Clara County in 1990. If the Giants feel that’s a myth and desire to dispel that myth, they should explain how they got Santa Clara County in 1990. As far as everyone knows, this is how it happened (via the Chronicle’s John Shea):

As Wally Haas [III] tells the story, the A’s were approached by Giants exec Corey Busch requesting exclusive rights to the area before the Giants’ proposed ballparks in Santa Clara and San Jose.

The A’s said OK, and the transfer became official when baseball owners granted approval.

That was it.

“We shared the territorial rights up to that point, the Giants and the A’s,” Haas said on the set of “Chronicle Live” on Thursday. “They asked if we would cede those rights to them so they could go through the referendum, and we felt that was fine.”

It takes some temerity to deny long-held history and not even provide an alternative. Quick chronology:

  • 1987 – San Francisco Proposition W fails at the ballot box. Bob Lurie throws the door open to building outside of San Francisco.
  • 1989 – Lurie works with San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos and Spectacor on a ballpark at China Basin (Proposition P). That effort fizzled in the wake of Loma Prieta.
  • 1990 – Lurie looks south to Santa Clara, where a ballpark could be built north of Great America. He asks Haas for permission and is granted county. The Santa Clara County (unincorporated)/San Jose/Mountain View/Los Altos/Milpitas/Santa Clara (city) utility tax goes down to defeat.
  • 1992 - Lurie turns his attention to San Jose, where Mayor Susan Hammer worked on a ballpark plan at 237/Zanker. The San Jose-only utility tax lost, and with it the hopes of having the Giants in the South Bay.
  • 1992 – Lurie comes to an agreement to sell the Giants to an investment group in St. Petersburg, where a domed stadium was built on spec.
  • 1993 – Walter Shorenstein and Larry Baer rally SF civic leaders in an effort to rescue the Giants. Peter Magowan, the head of Safeway, is brought in to be the managing partner. The price of the franchise is $95 or $100 million, depending on who you ask. The price is considered a discount in exchange for keeping the team in the Bay Area, as the Tampa Bay bid was higher. Magowan would go on to sign free agent Barry Bonds, and resign his Safeway post to focus full time on the Giants.
  • 1995 – Magowan and Baer craft another China Basin ballpark plan, partnering with Mayor Frank Jordan and later his successor, Willie Brown. In the meantime, Haas sells the A’s to Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann for $85 million, with some $10-15 million of incurred debt discounting the price as well as another “hometown discount” to keep the team local.
  • 1996 – Proposition B, the Giants’ privately financed stadium plan, wins by a landslide.

This goes back to a question I posed when the Bill Madden article came out last weekend. Read it carefully, look back at the chronology, and think about it.

If Bob Lurie had not gone after the South Bay, he wouldn’t have been granted the rights by Wally Haas. After Lurie struck out in SF for the last time and threatened to move to Tampa Bay, Magowan/Shorenstein swooped in to save the Giants. Would Magowan have asked for rights to the South Bay in 1993-96 in order to finance AT&T Park, knowing that he wasn’t actually going to build there but rather in downtown SF?

The Giants maintain that because territorial rights were confirmed with subsequent CBA/Constitution ratifications, Santa Clara County should remain theirs in perpetuity. The problem with that argument is that until recently, no other team has formally pushed for a move to Santa Clara County. Sure, Schott had talks with Santa Clara in 2001, but those went nowhere fast and no serious prep work (EIR, feasibility study) was done. What is there to defend if no one is asking? Now the A’s are challenging those rights, and both teams are getting a little hot under the collar.

Finally, the Giants argue that because of the way the Bay Area was gerrymandered, the Wolff/Fisher 2005 purchase price of $172 or $180 million (depending on who you ask) is not reflective of the A’s having control over Santa Clara County. There is no comparable recent Giants sale price to compare it to, so we have nothing to go on there. The Giants’ 2011 franchise value, $563 million, has multiple components including the value of their ballpark and media empire, neither of which the A’s have. That makes it difficult to isolate what the true value of Santa Clara County is, at least when it comes to locating a stadium there. The Giants have also added and swapped partners in the intervening years more than 70′s Marin County couples at a key party, which makes it even more difficult to understand the value of any specific component or any particular stake.

One comparison you can make is the purchase prices of the two teams when Magowan and Schott entered the fray. To reiterate, Magowan’s bid for the Giants was $100 million in 1993. Schott’s bid for the A’s was $85 million in 1995. If we adjust the 1993 figure for inflation and ignore the downturn caused by the 1994 strike, a 1995 valuation is $105 million, a $20 million difference between the Giants and A’s. That’s probably the best comparison to make because it’s pre-AT&T Park and pre-media empire. Adjust that $20 million gap for inflation and the result is $30 million, which is what Roger Noll has argued territorial rights to the South Bay are worth. To some that may seem low and not reflective of baseball’s impressive post-strike growth. At 5% compound interest, the 2012 value is $45 million. At 10% it’s $101 million.

In any case, there is a value associated with an A’s move to the South Bay. It’s been the Selig panel’s charge to determine that value and the feasibility of the move. Maybe the Giants would be irreparably harmed if the A’s went to San Jose. I don’t believe they would, but I don’t have the information available to appraise the situation properly. The teams are busy spitting out press releases and statements. What I want is real figures. I want the presentation that the panel made to the MLB Executive Committee two months ago. Without that, we’re left with an incomplete picture and a lot of spin. Knowing that’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever see that presentation, I realize that my request is futile. I’m still putting it out there, hoping that at some point, we’ll all be better educated about all of this.

.

P.S. – I’ve also written about the price of T-rights in these posts: The Payoff, The Neukom Doctrine, A Territorial Rights Primer

111 Responses to Giants revisionist history

  1. Ted says:

    Bartleby, both the Giants and A’s were courted by Toronto which is why I said that one team OR the other could have ended up there.
    I see your point on the anti trust exemption but I don’t think it causes any harm. Perhaps TR and movement could be controlled via the MLBC. The TR are part of the MLBC because because the owners want them there.
    The afternoon commute traffic south on 880 between Fremont and SJ is worse than the traffic heading North but that isn’t really the point. We are talking about the impact on San Jose residents. Isn’t the goal of the A’s to more than double weekday attendance? We aren’t talking about 10-15k fans headed to the coliseum on a weekday and don’t you think most A’s fans come from the East Bay rather than the South Bay? I am a big believer in baseball stadiums being serviced primarily by public transit. If the A’s come down here I would like to see the move contingent on a transportation management plan and implementation of the recommendations. Ideally there should be no need for more than 5,000 dedicated parking spaces for A’s games. This is the model that was used in SF for Pac bell.

  2. bartleby says:

    @Briggs “The New York teams operate in New York County.”
    .
    Neither New York team operates in New York County, which is Manhattan. The Yankees are in Bronx County and the Mets are in Queens County. I’m not totally clear on how this supports the point you were trying to make anyway, but the example you gave does not support it.
    .
    “The burden of proof lies with those making the claims against conventional wisdom. Isn’t that the A’s in this instance?”
    .
    I would say no. The “conventional wisdom” (and also the law) is that free and open competition is the American way, and if you want to impose territorial restrictions you need to have a defensible justification. The fact that all other two team markets are shared shows that even in the twisted, AE-protected world of MLB the “six-counties-to-two, sodomize one of your franchises” model of allocating territories is not the “conventional wisdom.”
    .
    I would not equate “status quo” with “conventional wisdom.” There are lots of ridiculous laws on the books that are there for stupid and/or historic reasons, and when they come before the courts, they get struck down.
    .
    Anyway, the A’s arguments why the territory should be shared are very easy: (1) It will help grow the sport in the Bay Area, and increase MLB revenues overall; (2) it will relieve other teams of revenue sharing burden; (3) the Giants have done nothing to deserve their current special treatment, and have paid no consideration for it; (4) although there was no follow-through, there is apparently evidence it was always intended that the Giants would get SC County only if they moved there.
    .
    I really don’t see ANY persuasive arguments that go the Giants way.

  3. Ted says:

    Bartleby, that BART new is great. A light rail connection would be sweet but a bus could work. They really need to make sure less than half the fans are driving to games.

  4. bartleby says:

    @Ted “both the Giants and A’s were courted by Toronto which is why I said that one team OR the other could have ended up there.”
    .
    OK, the Giants were courted in the mid-70s, before the Blue Jays even existed. So far as I can tell, territorial rights had nothing to do with the fact they didn’t move. Anyway, now that Toronto has a team, I doubt another MLB team would try to move there whether they were barred by T-rights or not.
    .
    As far as the A’s moving to Toronto, I can’t even find a reference to that happening on Google.
    .
    “I see your point on the anti trust exemption but I don’t think it causes any harm. Perhaps TR and movement could be controlled via the MLBC.”
    .
    No harm? It is the ONLY thing keeping the A’s out of San Jose. Without it, the Giants T-rights to Santa Clara County would not be enforceable, MLB Constitution or not. It would be the same situation as when the Raiders moved to LA. The NFL voted down the move, but Davis sued and won on antitrust grounds.
    .
    The Giants have no moral or legal high ground here. They are just opportunists trying to take advantage of an anticompetitive windfall.
    .
    “The TR are part of the MLBC because because the owners want them there.”
    .
    And they are only enforceable because of the AE. Without it, Lew could just thumb his nose at Larry Baer and start the bulldozers.
    .
    “The afternoon commute traffic south on 880 between Fremont and SJ is worse than the traffic heading North but that isn’t really the point.”
    .
    I flat out disagree on this. I have driven northbound 880 to weeknight A’s, Warriors and Raider games for decades, and I commuted to the East Bay for three months last year. Northbound has been improved quite a bit in some areas, but I believe is still clearly worse. ML, any statistics on this?
    .
    “We are talking about the impact on San Jose residents.”
    .
    We’re not only talking about SJ residents, but whatever. As I’ve said before, the ballpark will have certain negative impacts on SJ residents but will also alleviate certain negative impacts of the current situation.
    .
    “don’t you think most A’s fans come from the East Bay rather than the South Bay?”
    .
    Currently they do, in San Jose they won’t. Like every other MLB stadium, they’ll primarily draw from fans in a twenty mile radius. This move isn’t about long-term, die hard fans, it’s about corporate fans and casual fans. It’s hard for the die-hard fans to hear, but from a business perspective they are the least important group.
    .
    “I am a big believer in baseball stadiums being serviced primarily by public transit. If the A’s come down here I would like to see the move contingent on a transportation management plan and implementation of the recommendations. Ideally there should be no need for more than 5,000 dedicated parking spaces for A’s games. This is the model that was used in SF for Pac bell.”
    .
    I firmly believe this will be the case. As I said before, most fans will come from the South Bay. Diridon is already served by Caltrain and VTA, which are the only systems relevant to these fans. East Bay fans will be served by BART to Berryessa then express shuttle, and also maybe Amtrak and/or ACE to some degree. Further down the road, there will be a direct BART station. If HSR somehow comes to fruition, Cisco Field may end up the best-served-by-transit ballpark in all of MLB.

  5. bartleby says:

    @Ted “They really need to make sure less than half the fans are driving to games.”
    .
    I’m a big fan of transit, and I think that’s a worthy goal. Still, it’s aggressive. I think that’s about what the Giants get, but SF is unusually dense for a U.S. city and they are an outlier. In a sprawling city like San Jose, I’m not sure you get quite to 50% even at the point where there are better/more transit options to Cisco Field than to AT&T Park (which could quite easily happen). This is particularly true because in relative terms, SJ traffic is not that bad. (I can sail right into downtown on 280 south, even during rush hour). But I think SJ can do quite a bit better than the 15% that currently ride transit to A’s games.

  6. Marine Layer says:

    @Ted – This op-ed in Friday’s Merc explains what’s happening with BART.

    @bartleby – Haven’t looked up Fremont traffic figures in three years. Not going to start again anytime soon.

  7. Ted says:

    TR are currently hurting one teams plan to go into one specific area while it is protecting 29 other teams.
    The Giants moral and legal high ground is based on what they bought and paid for when they bought the teams. They did buy the rights to SCC and they did base their plans for their franchise based on the knowledge that they had those rights secured.
    I am basing my assessment of traffic between San Jose and Fremont based the commute I have made 100s of times. It does currently take 45 minutes to an hour to get from Decoto road and 880 to 880 and 280. The Nimitz is a mess.
    I was talking about the impact on San Jose residents because that is what I am and San Jose is the city that will be most impacted by the A’s move.
    I have a hard time seeing Cisco field matching AT&T which is served by busses from multiple counties, three seprate rail agencies and multiple ferry companies and lines. It would be great if Cisco Field could match that but with the poos state of public transit in Santa Clara County I have my doubts.

  8. Ted says:

    ML, thanks for the link. 2024? We’ll see like the article poijnts out they have been talking about BART in San Jose since the 50s. Although I think BART is overpriced (outrageous per foot price to build and it uses non-standard gage rail), outdated and inferior to an electrified Caltrain I will be happy if it ever makes it to downtown. I certainly have contributed a lot of tax dollars to make it happen.

  9. Anon says:

    @ Ted – Your original assertion was traffic would absolutely be terrible with the A’s in the area. You live in the vicinity of Hamilton/Bascom area and i stated the commute from downtown to there is not that bad. You go on a tangent about East Bay commuters coming south to SJ. That’s good, because they are making a similar trek that us SB A’s fans have been doing for quite a while and it’s not that bad (takes me about 45min to 1 hr). I conveyed the fact that some EB fans will undoubtedly not follow the team (many Oaklanders on this board have stated as such), while others that have been on the fence will undoubtedly turn to be Gnats fan. I’m not being unsympathetic to them, its just reality that Oakland and the East Bay are much closer to the Phone Booth Park then the San Jose itself. And as I noted previously, the Gnats obviously think they have a fan base in the east bay otherwise they wouldn’t have built a Giants store in Walnut Creek. And while I agree that 880 in general has a ton of traffic, that should not detract from many fans going anyways, especially if they carpool down. As far as impact to SJ residents, you’ll be happy to know that the EIR addresses these traffic concerns. Furthermore, the frequently backed up 280/880 section is slated for makeover by Caltrans by 2015 if i remember correctly. There’s too much traffic there as result of Stevens Creek turnoff on both freeways. Now as far as the Gnats, do you have public record to show that the McGowan ownership group specifically noted SC as part of their territory when they bought the team? I’m not talking about charter records, but rather actual contracts or the like or a specific quote stating as such? There has been recent anecdotal evidence to suggest that belief was in fact falsely presumed by all (see previous posting here).

  10. Jeffrey says:

    TR’s aren’t protecting 29 other teams. Market forces are protecting all but 4, and they actually protect those 4 as well, though it is debatable. There is no way any MLB market but LA and NY could even think about adding another team. Those markets already have deep ties for the existing can add and third team in either would be an abysmal failure.

  11. bartleby says:

    @Ted “TR are currently hurting one teams plan to go into one specific area while it is protecting 29 other teams.”
    .
    As Jeffrey said, market forces are protecting the other teams. And if you want to frame it this way, 29 other teams do NOT have TR protection against intramarket moves. Why is the Giants need any greater than the Yankees need to prevent the Mets from going to Manhattan or the Dodgers need to prevent the Angels from moving to downtown LA? (The latter of which could conceivably happen, by the way).
    .
    “The Giants moral and legal high ground is based on what they bought and paid for when they bought the teams. They did buy the rights to SCC and they did base their plans for their franchise based on the knowledge that they had those rights secured.”
    .
    This is a completely disingenous argument. I know because, in my practice, I’m on both the giving and receiving end of analogous arguments on a daily basis.
    .
    I can virtually guarantee this: The Giants cannot produce documentary evidence that T-rights to San Jose directly factored into their purchase price for the team.
    .
    For one thing, they, like the A’s owners got a “hometown discount” for keeping the team in the Bay. They didn’t pay a premium because of these super duper, extra special rights they have that no othe team has.
    .
    For another thing, they do not possess a crystal ball. You actually believe, based on the situation as it existed in 1992, they developed the following business plan: “Well first, there’s going to be a HUGE technology boom that will triple the value of Santa Clara County as a territory. Then, even though SC County will be the “heart” of our territory, we’ll build a privately financed ballpark in San Francisco because, what the hell, we don’t want to make it too convenient for our customers. By then, the A’s will have completely run out of options to build an new park in the East Bay, but what the hell, we know we can rely on these bogus T-rights to basically drive them out of business.”
    .
    Because that’s basically the only scenario where the T-rights have any relevance at all. If the Giants had actually had any foresight into the above occurrences, the would have built AT&T Park in downtown SJ themselves.
    .
    “I am basing my assessment of traffic between San Jose and Fremont based the commute I have made 100s of times. It does currently take 45 minutes to an hour to get from Decoto road and 880 to 880 and 280. The Nimitz is a mess.”
    .
    I did this for three months last year, and believe you are exaggerating. 880 south gets a little slow as you approach downtown, but if you cut over on Mission Boulevard and take 680 to 280 you can avoid this. Anyway, there may be some traffic on 880 south, but 880 north is worse.
    .
    “I was talking about the impact on San Jose residents because that is what I am and San Jose is the city that will be most impacted by the A’s move.”
    .
    You personally may be adversely impacted, time will tell. For this reason, you may never be convinced. But the bulk of commuters are going north, not south at the relevant times, so more people will be better off.
    .
    “I have a hard time seeing Cisco field matching AT&T which is served by busses from multiple counties, three seprate rail agencies and multiple ferry companies and lines. It would be great if Cisco Field could match that but with the poos state of public transit in Santa Clara County I have my doubts.”
    .
    Cisco Field will be served by buses, and more can be added. It will start off served by Caltrain, Lightrail, ACE, Amtrak, and an express bus connection to BART. (I must point out, BART does not directly serve AT&T Park, either). Later it will have its own BART station, and possibly HSR. It may or may not ever completely match AT&T Park for transit, but AT&T Park is unique in this respect, and is not a reasonable benchmark. Name one other MLB park that is as transit friendly as AT&T Park.

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