Slow steady wins the race

If I were a man who frequently donned a tinfoil hat and blurted out unintelligible nonsense in public on a regular basis, I might be led to believe that the Rangers and Giants getting into the World Series was all some elaborate plan to buttress the two teams financially. After all, the Greenberg-Ryan group paid $100 million more than they expected for the Rangers, and a World Series appearance or win for the Giants could certainly salve any wounds related to having to relinquish the South Bay. (Note: Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux jokingly agrees with some of this.)

Thankfully, I am not such a conspiracy theorist. Thing is, it’s that kind of thinking that is only slightly less crazy than “OMG! If the Giants do well the A’s will loose the South Bay forever!!!!!” talk I’ve been hearing.

Calm down. Relax. As eternal douchebag Jeff Kent once said, “Enjoy the game more!”

The Giants are going on an all-out marketing push in the South Bay. Part of it surely has to do with strengthening ties to the area, but it mostly has to do with trying to capitalize on the Giants’ on-field exploits. Going into this season, the Giants’ season ticket roll stood at 21,000, down from the 25,000 peak of the Bonds era. According to Matier and Ross, the team has already sold 3,500 new season tickets, thanks to the Giants’ recent success. Sales of full plans have cascading effects on the team’s business model, such as:

  • Better positioning for higher-priced sponsorships, because more people are guaranteed to be in the park
  • Higher baseline prices for dynamically-priced seats due to lower inventory
  • The upfront cash and ability to project a higher payroll for the 2011 season

There’s always a need to strike while the iron’s hot, and if we’re being honest, I wouldn’t do anything different from what the Giants are doing this year business-wise. While the Giants may feel that they are fundamentally entitled to T-rights to San Jose, the best way to give a team higher revenues is to ensure that the team is competitive, which the Giants haven’t done the previous seven years.

Of course, it’s hard enough to get to the playoffs, let alone get to and win the World Series. Success is often painfully fleeting. That’s why the Giants’ run and the accompanying media hype can’t be construed as more than a blip. Maybe the blip last for several years, but it’s still a blip. On a related note, that’s what the Bash Brothers era was for the A’s: another memorable blip.

MLB can’t be run on blips, not for a single team at least. It’s run on a collection of blips over time, with the hope that each team can get its blip to germinate into serious baseball culture, or maintain what already exists. Over time, the league gets better national TV deals, better ballparks, greater merchandise sales – all things to create a rising tide to lift all boats. At the local level, who knows? Tim Lincecum may become the next Sandy Koufax. Then again, he may bolt for Seattle or New York, or like Koufax, retire early because of health issues. MLB can’t really afford to determine long-term planning and strategy on blips. It has to go on whatever the team’s financial fundamentals are. It puts mechanisms in place to help teams that help themselves, such as the stadium expenses deduction. It provides examples of teams diversifying to supplement income. Beyond that, you’re getting into the area of playing favorites. While Bud Selig can be criticized for many, many things, playing favorites is not one of them. Witness the low-revenue WS matchup (ratings down 25% from 2009). Or the lack of playoff appearances by his beloved Brewers. Or Lew Wolff’s continued frustration that his frat buddy has been stalling on a decision to allow him to move the team.

So to suddenly undo 19 months of “study” just because the Giants are doing well would most certainly be playing favorites. And it would run counter to how business is done within MLB, which is a slothlike, conservative structure to say the least. The Giants can and will certainly make a claim that the South Bay is valuable because of what happens when the team is good, but that only means that in bottom line terms the Giants have a lot of bandwagon fans, and a lot of them live in the South Bay. And the East Bay. And the North Bay. Sure, the Giants could get greater compensation in the end, it may even be likely. If you’re expecting some life-altering, earth-shattering, 180-degree change, you don’t really know MLB that well.

45 thoughts on “Slow steady wins the race

  1. Well said. The Giants’ on-the-field success in 2010 is what it is. Individually and together, politics and business can move at glacial speeds.

    In the end of the day, it’s just business.

  2. As they would say on the radio “first time, long time”.

    You’re doing a great job with everything, and your site is one of the first pages I check when I do my usual internet routine. Keep up the fantastic work!

    I just want to note that, while I am a lifelong A’s fan, I can’t help but be bothered by the overwhelming support the Giants have found this year. Sure, their on-field success has a lot to do with it (every team has its bandwagon fans). But even in the past few years, the Giants seem to draw so much publicity and support.

    It makes me think: if the A’s were in the position the Giants were in (in the World Series), would they have the same? I, as a realist, like to think not. It’s hard to admit, but it’s true. Oakland will always be the neglected little brother to the city on the peninsula.

    Of course, as a resident in the East Bay (through the Caldecott), I can only hope the A’s find a new home in Oakland. Having a new home in the South Bay will be fantastic, but for my own personal selfishness, I wouldn’t want to drive so far.

    For now, I’ll keep my fingers crossed, and I’ll continue to read your blog daily.

  3. RM,
    I think you said it best a few threads back in that the Giants winning or loosing doesn’t change the fact that the A’s need a new ballpark, and that SJ offers the best chance of making it happen.
    I will disagree with you slightly; I think the Giants are making an all out marketing push throughout the entire Bay Area, not just the South Bay.
    Lastly, if somehow the Bay were a shared territory and not unfairly gerrymandered, you’d have the same exact people cheering on the Giants/A’s and the same exact marketing from both clubs across county lines (more so from the G’s right now because of the WS).
    Hence, again, the stupidity of the Giants territorial rights to SJ/SCCo.
    OT: if the Giants do win the WS, here’s a good marketing slogan for the A’s next season,
    “4>1” or how about “89>10”

  4. If the Giants win the World Series, we’re in unchartered waters since this has never happened before. I remember when the 49’ers won their first Super Bowl and they pretty much “owned” the Bay Area for the next several years. I fear the same will happen with the Giants and render whatever the A’s do on the field as worthless.

    The Giants want the Bay Area to themselves and I think they’re about to get it. The question now is how. If the economy stays in the dumps for the forseeable future, I still think contraction may come back to the table. (I know you disagree RM), but even if it doesn’t I think Wolff and Fisher are ready to move on if there’s no future for the A’s in the Bay Area.

    Talk all you want about the “economic powerhouse” known as the South Bay. The Giants are fully aware of it and that’s why they want to keep it. The San Jose Cheerleading has backfired.

  5. White Sox fans feel that way about the Cubs, the city just isn’t as excited by their team, but actually the Cubs’ remarkable attendance is good for the Sox business since Cubs’ tickets aren’t affordable for many fans. That could be the Giants and A’s going forward too if the A’s solve their stadium situation.

  6. Personally feel the gints success benefits the A’s move to SJ–bottom line whatever fans are jumping on their bandwagon are allowing them to establish their brand in advance of a shared territory resolution. MLB can argue that there will be no stronger pull for fans/advertising/corporate sponsors than winning a world series and timing has allowed the gints to firmly establish themselves in advance of the A’s moving to the south bay. But—the area is large enough and economically attractive and there is still plenty of opportunity for the A’s to grow their prescense. Message to both teams…winning and having an good venue to watch is ulitmately what defines the level of interest in fans/sponsorships…and let’s be realistic–todays events will only be a faint memory in 2015 when the proposed ballpark opens in SJ.

  7. The high tide raises all ships. There isn’t a finite number of baseball fans in the bay area that the Giants are gobbling up as they advance closer to winning the World Series. Rather, there are endless numbers of casual fans whose attention they’re grabbing. They’re getting 40-something women to wear Buster Posey shirts and the obnoxious B&T crowd to swarm strip malls decked out in Giants paraphernalia.

    By 2011, baseball is going to be as popular as its been in years around the Bay Area. This is where the A’s need to catch the tiger by its tail and use the lingering baseball buzz to their advantage.

  8. @marinelayer. Re your comment “MLB can’t be run on blips.” That’s true, but history has a lot of cases of blips changing the world — World War I a famous example. More relevant, a blip called the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies Whiz Kids coincided with a blip called television and caused the Phillies, not the A’s with a far greater history, to be the surviving team in that town.

  9. @baycommuter

    Came dangerously close to breaking Godwin’s Law there.

  10. @Briggs That’s easier said than done. I live on the peninsula, so it may be difficult for me to judge the level of Giants mania in the south and east bay, but I definitely can tell you it’s out of control over here. The Giants are harvesting casual fans by the boatload, and it will be very difficult, if not impossible to convince these fans to buy green and gold.
    Even if the A’s were granted access to SCC, they will be in the fight for their lives. The Giants have a good core of young players and they play in a great ballpark. Add to that a front office that knows how to run and market a team, and you have a formidable challenge.
    First order of business, secure access to SJ. Second, retain a top notch PR and marketing firm to map out a business plan for the next 3 years (the time it will take to get a ballpark built) and beyond. This firm should also be involved in getting the ballpark approved in the March special election. Third, make a serious commitment to improving your contact with the fans. This starts with clearing up the radio situation, then the hiring of better quality broadcasters. It’s obvious the giants know the importance of this, with the likes of Kruk, Kuip, Miller and Flemming. I like Korach, but everyone else can go.
    All of this will take money, tons of it. But we’re in a battle for market share, and right now the Giants are eatting our lunch.

  11. Rob,
    You show up here every now and then, once providing respectable opinions, and now (sadly) you’ve resorted to meaningless baiting.
    No need to counter your anti-SJ rant, but why don’t you finally come clean after all these years: why are you so bias/negative towards San Jose?

  12. @Dan I believe Banjo Man has been a fan of both teams for some time. I’ve also seen him at 49er games, but never at the Raiders. Kinda makes is hard to reconcile his oft-uttered phrase “WE”RE #1!!!”

  13. @fc

    Absolutely. Marketing to the South Bay and fostering a strong relationship with their current and future fans should definitely be a priority.


    Where I think you’re going off-track is seeing the Giants current success as long lasting. The Giants are absolutely the most popular team currently, I’m not disputing that. However, fandom for the casual fan is a fleeting thing. When I first moved to the Bay Area, the A’s were the team capturing the most casual fans.


    I think of it like iPods. They sell millions quarterly. Just because you bought one last year doesn’t mean you’re not going to buy this year’s model– even if your old one still works. iPads are great sellers. That doesn’t mean the Android platform won’t take a chunk of the market next year– and possibly even over take iPad within 3-4 years. The same goes for casual baseball fans. If Diridon Cisco Field offers people a fun place to see a game, it’s gonna lure in the casual fan who might not want to drive 40-50 miles to SF. I bet even hardcore Giants’ faithful will check out a game here and there just out of curiosity. I got to about a dozen Giants games a season. These casual fans are buying merchandise and possibly splitting season tickets. They’re not buying lifetime memberships, so I think the A’s will be just fine despite the Giants’ current success.


    Will the A’s ever be more popular than the Giants? I don’t know. I’m guessing not. But that doesn’t matter. The whole point of the new ballpark is to make the A’s a sustainable franchise, not out-do the Giants. If things work out in San Jose, the biggest issue most of us will have in 2016 is how annoying all these new casual A’s fans are. I can live with that.

  14. @ML: Do we know if a shared territory solution, as the SVLG urged, is on the table? How likely do you think that is than keeping the BA divvied up?

  15. I think that the Giants’ success can only help the A’s to SJ effort. It limits Nukem’s ability to cry poor and that As would be killing him financially if they move to SJ. And it shows that there are a lot of potential baseball fans out there that can be tapped.

    The bandwagon fans in the South Bay that are riding for now with the Giants will jump on the A’s train if they become the local team.

    The situation would be much harder if the Giants were in trouble financially.

  16. The Giants were to lose 5-7 mill if they didn’t make the playoffs. So this is a once in every 5-6 year thing for them. If Cisco is a reality, with 10k less seats than Pacbell, good luck on increasing the payroll much more than the A’s do now. I don’t think Wolff will want to take losses like the Haas family did those last 4 years in Oakland. He’s making more money running the team in the ground in Oakland. What a guy.

    • @jk-usa – You actually believe the Giants’ line about losing money? Maybe I’ve overestimated you all along.

      @Pacifico – There are two motivations at work. One is the local angle, which only affects the A’s and Giants. The other is the league-wide angle, in which the owners will be looking for a precedent. A shared territory sort of addresses #2 (because it already exists elsewhere) but not necessarily #1 unless compensation is addressed.

  17. Correction: it’s a once in every 10-15 year thing to get past the first round for them.

  18. @Dan @gojohn10 I have met Stacy Samuels aka Banjo man once at an A’s game and we had a chance to talk for during an A’s blow out of the Bosox in 2008. He told me he has not cheered for the Giants ever since they tried to trade Willie Mays to the Dodgers. I do not know how long he’s been an A’s fan but it is a bit awkward seeing him cheer for the Giants.

  19. Daveinsm, that’s exactly what I thought. He’s been an A’s and Niners fixture for 25 years. The fact that he would turn traitor and start rooting for the Giants shows you how bad it’s become for the A’s fanbase. When a guy who is for all intents and purposes a superfan who did not turn on the A’s in 89 or 02 would suddenly start rooting for the halloween brigade just because they’re doing well, you know things have gotten REALLY bad. As I said on another message board, I feel like a piece of my childhood just kicked me in the balls and then spit on me as I was writhing in pain on the floor.

    On top of that whether the A’s move to SJ is approved or denied this off season I’ve got a sinking feeling that attendance is not going up next season no matter how well the A’s do. They’re in a death spiral right now the likes of which haven’t been seen since 2001-04 in Montreal, only we’ve got the Giants both directly and indirectly helping it along. Banjo Man is just a small example of it.

    • On top of that whether the A’s move to SJ is approved or denied this off season I’ve got a sinking feeling that attendance is not going up next season no matter how well the A’s do. They’re in a death spiral right now the likes of which haven’t been seen since 2001-04 in Montreal, only we’ve got the Giants both directly and indirectly helping it along. Banjo Man is just a small example of it.

      You’re right. Attendance will be BAD next year. I think we’ll get around 1.2 million. You also have to take into account the weak schedule. This year we got the Red Sox and Yankees both twice. Next year we’ll get each only once.

  20. a’s attendance in oakland will continue to be bad even as long as they remain at the coliseum. even when the news arrives that they’ll move to sj, you think the coliseum is gonna be any better than it has since the tarp arrived?

    gotta even wonder if the day comes when the a’s play their last game at the coliseum/in oakland, whether or not fans will show up even if the team is doing well 3 or so years from now if 2014 if the last season here.

    • a’s attendance in oakland will continue to be bad even as long as they remain at the coliseum.even when the news arrives that they’ll move to sj, you think the coliseum is gonna be any better than it has since the tarp arrived?gotta even wonder if the day comes when the a’s play their last game at the coliseum/in oakland, whether or not fans will show up even if the team is doing well 3 or so years from now if 2014 if the last season here.

      Well it’s like what Dan said, attendance will be Montreal bad.

  21. In 1995, the Giants drew 1.2 million. Savemart offered two free Upper Reserved tickets with any purchase over $20. There was also the “Buy 1, Get 2 Free” deal. By 1999, the Giants drew 2 million to Candlestick.

  22. @ML–okay,so you don’t believe the Giant’s, but believe Wolff didn’t lie and really tried? Wow, I’ve really overestimated you.
    Big market teams do lose money. The Dodgers and Texas have for years.

    How many of you believe the Giants were losing 5-7 mill before the playoffs?

    • @jk-usa – Please, please do a search and dig up any quote from me that supports the idea that Wolff did his best in Oakland. Three years ago I said that he was going to give it a shot and then run out the clock. You have this habit of confusing me with some of the commenters here. You’ve obviously shown your inherent bias in this regard and it has clouded your thinking, so I can’t really take anything you say seriously.

      The inability for you and your ilk to see even the slightest bit of nuance here is pathetic. Forgive me if I never take the time to reply to one of your ridiculous comments ever again.

  23. @ML–ridiculous comments? Me and my ilk? Please, please don’t ever reply to my posts if they don’t meet your high standards. I take my posts very seriously and speak from the heart.

  24. @jk-usa – dude, Marine Layer, for the most part, is not a SJ Cheerleader.

    But! there are several (cheerleaders) here. They are an “ilk” that gets on my nerves … but instead of getting into a useless SJ/OAK bitch-fest i just ignore it. They write what the write to get our goat and to express excitement. You can’t fault them. In the end, my money is on Oakland.

    Lastly, i don’t know who is doing the polling, but Perata will not be the next mayor Oakland. Quan, Kaplan and Tuman, will all do better, inmho.

  25. What I’m saying is that all this San Jose cheerleading does is just make the Giants want to keep the South Bay even more. That’s hardly an anti-San Jose rant. What bothers you, I think; is that
    I don’t make “over-the top” statements like many in the Oakland crowd so you can’t dismiss me as a lunatic.
    I’m sorry Tony, but I still think the only thing you want is to see is ‘SJ” on a pro-sports” uniform.

  26. Georob, if that was all he wanted he’s already got it. The Sharks and Earthquakes already have San Jose on their jerseys.

    As for San Jose cheerleading hurting the A’s to SJ effort, your argument ignores the fact that the Giants are ultimately at the mercy of MLB. And the more MLB thinks the A’s should be in SJ the more likely it will happen, even over the Giants objections. Ultimately they’re just one vote, and it’s a vote we wouldn’t get anyway.

  27. Well all, it looks as if the Giants are on their way to their first WS title since moving out west. Talk about a team getting hot at the right time. Is this the same Rangers team that beat the Yankees?
    For the record (again), the Giants can “want” all they want regarding Silicon Valley, but at the end of the day the A’s relocation to SJ WILL BE MLB’s DECISION! That’s a fact, not BS. Anyone who thinks otherwise is closing their eyes to reality.
    Lastly Rob, Oakland didn’t do crap for the A’s, so a green and gold “SJ” cap with “San Jose” across the jersey…WHY NOT!

  28. david… what is your point exactly? Now Silicon Valley is full of poor people who can’t afford sports tickets?

  29. just pointing out the fact that SV has some (economic) problems. 60 Minutes is a big deal. Important people watch it.

  30. And… Oakland doesn’t? I don’t get it… Hell, everywhere doesn’t?

  31. My thoughts exactly Jeffrey. What the hell was that all about David?
    The irony here is that you support Oakland mayoral candidates over DP just because they spoke in favor of building a ballpark in Oakland; the hell with cops being layed off, crime, schools, the economy.
    For the record, there are still tons of people working and making a good wage in Silicon Valley. Cisco and Apple are hiring! And what did Clorox do lately in “The O”?

  32. FC,
    Couldn’t read your post from way earlier because my Blackberry sucks; somehow I’m now able to read it.
    I present to you my brother: lives/works in San jose and who’s a “hardcore Giants fan” and “hardcore A’s fan.”
    When he goes with us to an A’s game he’s all decked out in A’s gear, but when he goes with his friends to a Giants game it’s all about Orange and Black.
    I can tell you right now that he’s cheering wildly over the Giants pending championship. But guess what? He’s vowed to buy A’s season tickets with the family when they move to SJ.
    SF and Oak to far to consider buying Giants or A’s season tix. There’s also the issue of “home town pride” involved in his future decision.
    Trust me FC, there are a lot of casual fans in Silicon Valley like my brother who’ll support the A’s in SJ. Coupled with many from the existing East Bay fanbase, and the A’s will do just fine in SJ.
    IMHO, I don’t think the future SJ A’s will need the Peninsula to survive.

  33. Tony, I agree, the peninsula is solidly Giants territory, and a ballpark in SJ will not change that. But we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking a new ballpark in San Jose will be the answer to all of our problems. At least I hope the A’s don’t think that.
    The Giants right now are humming on all cylinders, and quite frankly they scare me. They control the local media, they have a 50K watt propaganda machine, and they will soon have a WS ring. You can bet they will take full advantage of everything they have going for them to help build their already large fan base. Virtually every one of their moves off the field have been a success in their fans eyes. The A’s on the otherhand seem like an organization searching for answers. Judging by their attendance, fan support I’m guessing is near an all time low, while apathy and criticism is high.
    A new ballpark will definitely be nice, along with a home city that gives a damn. But understand the battle for the Bay Area market shouldn’t begin with a new ballpark in 3 or 4 years, it should begin now.

  34. Giants are trying to pull in every fan and the A’s are destroying their fan base.

    1. No FanFest
    2. Had to twist their arm to recognize 40 years in Oakland
    3. The tarp
    4. No visits to Oakland kids (the Raiders visit Oakland schools frequently)
    5. The public attitude toward the stadium and city

    Lew is going all-in for SJ. Playing A’s for suckers. Of course attendance sucks! They don’t care about attendance. Maybe, Ziegler should have complained to Lew about the half-filled stadium. Lew is cashing revenue sharing checks, laughing at A’s fans, all the way to the bank. Next seasons season-ticket base is probably going to be shameful. Why? Don’t blame fans for not coming when you don’t really want/care if they do. The Warriors have been perennial bottom-feeders in the NBA. They sale out and have a great season ticket base. Why? Because they market the team effectively. They care!

  35. @David I never understood the thinking behind not going to games because the team wants to move elsewhere. I’m a fan of the A’s and I will go to see them play regardless of whether they are in Oakland, San Jose or Pleasanton. If you love your team, then you’ll support them by going to see them play. Do you really think the A’s are going to change their plans to move out of Oakland just because attendance at the Coliseum is down? Heck, they will use that as an argument to move.
    On the subject of the Warriors, the only reason why they do so well is because they are the only NBA game in town. The Bay Area is a good basketball market and they draw fans from the entire region. I will admit that the W’s do a much better job at reaching out to the community and their season ticketholders, but they are not without their problems. A couple of years ago they saw a significant drop in their season ticketholder count. When I attended their upgrade day, there were a large number of seats available in the Courtside and Sideline Club areas. This was never the case in the years prior. The numbers have recovered since, but only because of a significant drop in season ticket prices, and the hope that a new owner would bring about much needed change.

  36. David… The Warriors are the only NBA game in town. Comparing them to the A’s is ridiculous and highlights the most nauseatingly absurd mindset that exists within the Oakland Only crowd… You just don’t get context, or are intellectually dishonest, or both. How them Raiders doing at the gate? That is a much more accurate comparison to the A’s. But even that has limitations (NFL games are one day a week and draw from many, many miles around/MLB’s aren’t/don’t as one example).
    You guys would be better served pushing your City Government (assuming you actually live in Oakland) to release an actual vision for what a stadium might look like at Victory Court. Unless you think a pdf with PNC Park cut and pasted into a spot on a gray map suffices.
    But you can keep on pushing emotional points of view rather than realistic solutions and see how a huge corporation, like MLB, responds.

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