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.