The Athletics get a step closer to San Jose

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The City of San Jose has received the results of a commission studying the economic impact of a new downtown stadium for the Athletics. Not surprisingly, the report says it would be a dandy idea:

The development of a 32,000-seat ballpark with 81 home games and three non-MLB events a year would lead to $130 million in annual spending throughout the local economy and $2.9 billion over a 30-year period.

The analysis also shows that a new stadium would create 2,100 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs in San Jose, of which 980 would be new jobs. That number does not include players but does include team personnel.>

Of course every single pre-construction study like this ever devised has said that a new ballpark would cause cash and unicorns and stuff to fall from the sky and it doesn’t really ever turn out that way, so people shouldn’t get too excited.

My view is that the A’s need a new park, that San Jose seems like the best option, and that as long as taxpayers aren’t footing the bill, go ahead and build.  The thing, though, is that city officials shouldn’t be selling it to citizens as an economic development tool, because that just never pans out the way people say it will. Rather, they should be honest and say it’s a civic pride thing, and that they’re willing to pay a bit of money around the edges for land and infrastructure improvements if it means that they’ll get a big league team. Mostly because it has the benefit of being true.

The most interesting thing in all of this comes late in the article: “San Jose must be included in the team’s name, the city insists.”  I can’t figure that the A’s would have kept the “Oakland” appelation after moving so far anyway — and it’s not like they haven’t changed things up multiple times in the past — but it will be odd to say the “San Jose A’s.”  Cool-sounding, but odd.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.