The A’s have been waiting about three years for Major League Baseball to clear their way to San Jose. At this point I’m wondering if it will ever happen. But even if it does, Neil deMause explains that San Jose is no pot of gold for the Athletics.
That’s because (a) the A’s would probably have to pay the Giants some $7-15$ million a year in territorial rights payoff money; and (b) because there are limits to how much more revenue a private ballpark in San Jose — on which Lew Wolff would have to pay a mortgage — could bring them:
According to Forbes, the Giants pulled in $230 million in revenue last year compared to the A’s $160 million. Let’s say that the San Jose market is strong enough that the A’s are able to turn themselves into Giants Lite, giving them $210 million a year. That $50 million-a-year bump would be enough to pay off Wolff’s $35 million in annual mortgage payments and checks to the Giants and give him $15 million to spare.
$15 million extra a year ain’t gonna pay for big free agents, which means that the A’s aren’t going to suddenly be a mega-competitive franchise the way some assume the will be simply by virtue of having a new stadium.
So what to do? deMause thinks what I’ve been thinking for some time: New York is the only answer:
New York City is a television market that’s triple the size of the Bay Area, and there are millions more households a short drive away in New Jersey and Connecticut. The New York metro area is the one market where a team owner could build a stadium with all the trimmings and end up with plenty of profit left over, thanks to the inevitable cable riches that would await.
Of course it isn’t happening because of the territorial rights thing. The Yankees and Mets would never allow it.
But the fact is, the territorial rights thing reflects a vastly different baseball economy — and a vastly different United States — than that which currently exist. Unlike in the mid-20th century, there are a not a ton of new cities growing like mad and demanding new teams like Los Angeles, Atlanta and Houston once did. The pattern of growth has been existing cities — existing markets — growing ever larger.
The Yankees and Mets play in a city that is way better equipped to handle three teams than some markets are to handle one. Same goes for Chicago and Los Angeles, each of which have huge suburbs sprawling out their sides able to handle more baseball.
Except they’re not allowed to due to anachronistic territorial rights.