Size matters

To keep things light, here’s a classic fauxmercial from the late 80’s era of SNL, featuring the dearly departed Phil Hartman.

Colon Blow from Gary Bray on Vimeo.

Okay, let’s dive right in.

I read this morning that some folks over at OAFC are complaining that San Jose partisans keep touting the city’s size, while claiming that Oakland’s population density is as important if not moreso. There’s only one problem with that argument: the fanbase as whole can’t be judged on the population density of a town that represents 10% of fans.

While Oakland is undoubtedly more dense than San Jose, when you start to look at Oakland in combination with adjacent and nearby cities and towns, the density gap shrinks significantly. For Oakland to match San Jose in population, it would have to annex or include every nearby city north to Berkeley and south to Hayward. The net effect of doing this not only approaches San Jose in terms of population, it also approaches San Jose’s area.


So for a comparably sized population and area, the difference in density is less than 300 persons per square mile – or 1 person for every 2 acres. It makes the East Bay look much more suburban than is often claimed – and really, there’s nothing wrong with that. The only truly metropolitan city in the region is San Francisco, with a whopping 17,323 persons per square mile. The other two major cities are just pretending.

If the regions are comparable in terms of area and population, then why does either matter? Politics, that’s why. As I’ve mentioned before, Oakland has not built any major sports facility without the help of Alameda County. I don’t see any evidence that it can. The Coliseum Authority is a joint powers body, and the recent 19-acre acquisition of the Coliseum-adjacent HomeBase site was done with the idea that any new stadium deal would have to be done within the auspices of the JPA. Now that sites at JLS have been proposed, Oakland’s pols have to make a very tough decision: either go it alone or introduce the Coliseum Authority (or some other new JPA) into the process. While a JPA (and Alameda County by extension) could have expanded bonding capacity, any deal involving a JPA will take longer and will be more politically difficult due to complexity.

Even though a new ballpark is expected to be privately financed, it’s expected that land and infrastructure improvements will be required. That means new on/off-ramps, additional parking – things that, so far, Oakland partisans have either neglected to mention or dismissed casually. This is crucial stuff, folks! You can’t dismiss it or wish it away, because like it or not, you’re in a competitive situation. You have to put your best foot forward. That doesn’t mean selling your soul or acquiring a bunch of land via eminent domain. It means giving more than the occasional press conference or sound byte to a sympathetic columnist. It means doing more than symbolic acts.

That’s why San Jose, despite the territorial rights issue, has a competitive advantage. It doesn’t have to go through making that tough choice. It has already built a sports facility on its own, and can point to it as a success story, not hide from it as a political liability. It has the resources and the tax base to support big projects.

It has done due diligence. It has been patient. It hasn’t complained or lashed out (at least during the Reed administration) throughout the process. It has studied sites formally for four years. It has been executing its strategy to acquire land, and identified funding sources for it. These aren’t trivial steps. These are fundamental, crucial, expensive steps. It has reached out to the community to talk though issues. And most importantly, it hasn’t buckled at the first sign of resistance. Whatever the MLB panel’s criteria, surely near the top of the list has to be political climate. No amount of talk can substitute for real action in that regard. Look at it this way: I expect Chuck Reed to be reelected this year. I don’t expect Ron Dellums, who still hasn’t officially declared if he’s running again, to be reelected. In Fremont, Bob Wasserman survived his reelection campaign and if Fremont is the choice, at least he’ll be able to see the process through. Any project of this magnitude needs a champion, needs someone to carry the water and take the bullets when they come. At least in two cities, we know who’s going to do that. Who’s going to do that in Oakland?

Going back to the size issue, consider this: the A’s need less than 1% of San Jose’s population to become season ticket holders to become a success. Less than 1% equals 9,000 new season ticket holders, which rivals the A’s existing roll. Having “San Jose” on the front of the jersey is going to be major motivation on its own. Throw in even more wealthy communities to the west and existing A’s fans in southern Alameda County, and it’s not hard to see A’s conservatively pull in 15,000 season ticket holders, maybe even 20,000 in really good years. (The Twins have hit 24,000 prior to the inaugural season at Target Field.) 15,000 full season tickets equals 1.2 million advance tickets sold, not including partial packages, family packs, and other types of sales. Even San Jose’s share equals 729,000 tickets, or one-third of a 2.1 million attendance season.

Does size matter? You bet it does. Size means political weight. Size means massive sales potential. Size means huge civic pride just waiting to be unleashed. If you don’t have the size, you don’t have the clout. You have to scramble, you have to hustle. And the fact that Oakland will have to do that puts them at a disadvantage. It’s unfortunate, especially because Oakland has had a chance to put themselves in a better, more ready position. If Oakland loses the A’s, it won’t be entirely the city’s fault. They won’t have had the benefit of a fully willing and eager partner in A’s ownership. In the end, history will be written by the winners. Everything else will be a footnote.

28 thoughts on “Size matters

  1. I’m a San Francisco resident but I’ll be purchasing season tickets for the possible San Jose Athletics as soon as they go on sale. MLB surely has to recognize that any Bay Area team will have a significant number of fans outside the team’s city or county. Even when I lived in Santa Cruz, there would be A’s fans proudly showing their loyalty. It’ll be interesting to see the A’s marketing approach during the seasons leading up to the potential move to Fremont or San Jose. In either case, they need to identify themselves as a team of the Bay Area.

  2. The best thing I’ve read at OAFC lately was “you keep repeating a lie long enough, you and others will believe it” followed by “the South Bay is a Giants’ bastion.” Heh, I’m sure the irony is over their heads, though.

    • Hopefully San Jose and the Athletics can learn from the Giants failed stadium initiative from 1991/1992. The same city that nearly caused the Giants to move to St. Petes is the same city the Giants are touting as belonging to them.

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  4. Personally, I stopped reading the OAFC crap long ago. It’s a bunch of illogical, unreasonable people who confuse spin for truth and truth for spin. It’s a complete waste of time.

    • Though, I admire their conviction, OAFC needs to outgrow their self righteous angle. An Athletics relocation would mean much more than having to travel X number of miles to watch the A’s play. BART, Caltrain, Santa Clara VTA, etc. center of gravity will be shifted; maybe slightly, maybe significantly. The same goes for city zoning. If it were for the eminent launching of BART, who knows how the Coliseum project would’ve played out in the early 60’s. The South Bay we’ll know in 40 years would be influenced for better or worse by this potential ballpark. Regardless, the cinergy of city planning, transit expansion and revenue infrastructure is the perfect storm for civic action.

    • I hate to say it but there’s a lot of people on this page that do some of the same things, but in a pro-San Jose manner. You take the Yin with the Yang. OAFC has a pro-Oakland slant, while this page has a pro-San Jose slant. The key is to look at both sides of the issue and make rational conclusions from them. Easier said than done.

      • Pointing out the weaknesses in an argument does not make someone pro-SJ—

      • I’m certainly not pro-SJ. I’m actually an outsider to the whole situation (I don’t live in the bay area), and really I think this site is rather balanced. It just happens that everything is working out better for SJ than for Oakland at the moment.

      • If this site can be considered “pro San Jose” it’s merely a reflection of that communities political leadership having their marbles in a single bag. They’ve shown themselves capable of dealing with the issue in a thoughtful, proactive manner. Unlike the participants at OAFC, the posters on this site appear to be more A’s fans than they are Oakland fans.

      • I read both sites regularly, but I do feel like there’s more pro-San Jose fans on this site and that number has grown. Over the years I have learned to acknowledge that ML and Jefferey (editor at large) are both pro Bay Area and NOT Oakland haters and I really appreciate that. You guys probably know that I am definitely pro-Oakland for obvious reasons, but I try to keep my comments casual and to the point. I may not comment too often, but when I do I never say anything negative about San Jose or the South Bay. I just like to point out the positives about my city and some things that some of you may not be aware of.
        The suspense has been killing me and like everyone else I just want to hear the results from the BRC and BS already!!

      • Thanks Oa. Sometimes people get so passionate that it’s hard to see the nuance. That’s what we’re trying to provide here.

      • Yeah I hear ya ML. I guess another reason why I haven’t been commenting as much as I may have done so in the past is because I just want an answer like everyone else. I’m trying not to let myself get to crazy about this whole ordeal and would rather wait and see what they decide and what actually ends up happening first. Until then, I guess I just find everyone’s comments interesting. Even the one’s who seem a little negative towards my city of Oakland.
        And yes, I still personally believe that given all the facts about the pros that each city has to offer for a new ballpark, that Oakland (Maybe not so much Fremont because I’m still under the impression that Toyota still owns NUMMI and haven’t yet decided on what they will do with the actual site.) still has a great chance to possibly see the A’s end up at JLS. I may not know all the details involved to actually make it happen, but I can’t imagine the BRC and BS not being able to see how great that area could be with a new ballpark for the A’s and that there may possibly be the least resistance at the Victory Court site.
        Do I think that San Jose also has a good chance to land the A’s?? I’ll have to honestly admit and say Yes as well, because of all the reasons so many of the San Jose boosters also claim to discuss here on your blog and the fact that there’s still the whole LW/BS connection. Would I be saddened for the loss of my home town? Of course and I still have no idea how that will make me feel if that were to ever happen. I guess I’ll face that path if I ever end up having to cross that road.
        It’s like saying for all the San Jose partisans here…how would all of you feel if the Sharks were being sought out by an East Bay real estate developer who could care less about San Jose and decided to move the team and re-name the franchise the OAKLAND Sharks? I’m sure that idea wouldn’t sit too well with many of you as well for whatever reasons this HYPOTHETICAL situation would ever arise.
        No one who loves their city the way I do would would ever be happy about the possibility of losing one of their most favorable professional sports teams to another city…especially one that is only “down the street” as LW puts it.

      • OA… While I am not a resident of Oakland and never have been, I too will feel saddened by the loss of the franchise. I have been an A’s fan since my first Modesto A’s game where I saw Canseco and McGwire play. The need for the best stadium and location to ensure the financial health and security of the club I love, outweighs the dismay of moving the club while staying within the same region. We all need to remember why we love the team we follow. Does it really matter if the stadium is a bit farther down the road than it was when we were kids and just loved being at the ballpark with our dads and/or moms? I for one will still attend as many games I can and support the franchise I grew up with no matter where in the Bay Area the A’s end up!

      • For the record… I rank the sites on the table as such:

        1a. San Jose
        1b JLS North/West
        2 Victory Court
        3 Fremont

        I really am not excited about Fremont, though moving it closer to the future BART station is a good development. I prefer the others because I want an urban park with other stuff adjacent to the stadium. By far, Fenway Park is the coolest stadium experience I have ever had and it was primarily because of the baseball carnival atmosphere outside the stadium in the surrounding neighborhood.

        1a and 1b would both be really cool places to watch a baseball game. The Urban Design potential is off the charts in both cases. Neither has great public transportation potential for me, but I don’t really mind. I see, in both of these, a real potential for that baseball carnival atmosphere (behind Left Field in San Jose and behind Right Field in Oakland) that would blend seamlessly into the surrounding neighborhood.

        With Victory Court, I feel like you have to squint a bit harder to see the potential. Maybe it is just how I feel the park would be aligned, facing the freeway overpass with the area behind Right Field (which I see as the best spot to build a sort of Yawkey Way environment) sort of cut off from the neighborhood. But even with that said, I’d take it if it was the final selection.

        I have had the opportunity recently to walk around all three of the potential urban sites and close my eyes and feel the potential. I feel like I did when I was 8 and it was the Friday night when Christmas Vacation started… I could see all the good stuff coming but the week between me and presents felt more like a decade… Let this crap end and take a spade to dirt already.

      • I agree with almost all of what Jeffery said except I would rank Diridon 1 and JLS north 2. I would rate Howard terminal 1b if it was more realistic a site. As for Fremont, I think it has a population density a notch below San Jose and Oakland (using the same analysis method above). That worries me. Lastly, IMHO Wrigley Is better than Fenway for the same reasons Jeffery cites Fenway as being the best.

      • I should elaborate that I rank the SJ site highest because it is further from SF and has a stronger corporate base. Oakland does have history going for it, but I feel that history is significantly diminished given the past relocations from Philly and KC.

      • I’ve been reading this site for years and I feel it very balanced. In the end, I just want the Athletics to remain in the Bay Area regardless of their ballpark’s zip code.

  5. OMG Colon Blow, WOW.

  6. How many people from San Jose go to A’s games in Oakland? It doesn’t seem like San Jose people really like the A’s much if they don’t go to games in Oakland. Also, if the team moves to San Jose, they will lose a lot of my fellow A’s fans in Walnut Creek and Contra Costa and also to the North Bay and Sacramento.

  7. The reason you don’t see many (if any )”pro-san jose” posters over at OAFC is because they get banned.

    I was banned after defending my position that a new stadium in Fremon (SJ was not yet in the picture) was infinitely better than the A’s leaving the Bay Area altogether.

    I was hooted an hollered off the site, and my IP banned. Diamond Lil has expressed her view point numerous times that she would rather see the A’s leave the area to somewhere like Vegas so we “anti Oakland” traitors could feel the pain she felt when her beloved Dodgers left Brooklyn.

    My point that I felt that pain in spades when the Raiders abandoned Oakland for Los Angeles was ignored.

    Since that point, I have ignored those clowns; for the most part they are a blog populated by trolls, so at least they all congregate together there.

    • I did not know that the Ongoing Ambassadors For Christ were so supportive of the Oakland A’s…

      • In seriousness, I tried going over there and reading some posts, and it was like reading a trolled thread, except it was an entire message board, and the moderators seemed to have removed the sane people.

      • I’ve walked halls with raving lunatics locked behind bars and glass. Every time I visit that site I’m reminded of those excursions. The majority of the posters make a semblance of sense, in a distorted parallel reality sort of way. I’d say about a pint of truth mixed in with a 55 gallon drum full of delusion and paranoia.

      • It makes me wonder if they just found that they have to word their comments in such a way in order to not get banned. They can throw in 1 sentence of sanity, but then have to surround it with 5 sentences of insane argument just so they can keep posting.

  8. The rabid, irrational Oakland-only folks are hardly fans of the A’s. They are bitter folks who resent that Oakland is a medium-sized city that nobody on the East Coast knows anything about. It’s 44th in the U.S. in population. Even Long Beach is larger than Oakland. Oakland is a short drive across the bay from the overrated, yet world-famous city of San Francisco. Oakland is to S.F. as Long Beach is to L.A. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just the way it is. And it’s this realization that makes the Oakland-only fans howl at any perceived slight towards their city. It’s an inferiority complex. Thus they attach to the A’s a false sense of “community” and “identity”, conveniently ignoring the fact that MLB is big business entertainment. It’s about paying money to watch grown men (from other parts of the world) play a child’s game.

    When they say they would rather the A’s completely leave the Bay Area, it shows how acutely sensitive these people are to the perceptions of their city’s importance relative to other Bay Area cities. This kind of parochial mindset is not what MLB caters to with their product. MLB is not in the business of selling petty neighborhood rivalries. It’s in the business of selling world-class baseball. If the A’s were a college team composed of local boys, then yes, I would understand the furor over them leaving. Since they are a privately-owned professional franchise that previously played in two other cities (Oakland-only fans always leave that out, as well), I just don’t get it.

    The A’s are a huge part of my life, but the baseball part of my life. I have my own identity and community, thank you very much. Attaching any such sentiments to a private business like the A’s is just foolish.

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