It feels like the only way to have an opinion on the A's/Giants territorial-rights scrum is to a) be an A's fan, or b) read a bunch of boring stuff. I've avoided writing about it here because I don't know a thing about it, other than the basics. What I know, dumbed down to my level:
- The former owners of the A's made a curious business decision in the '80s, acting like buddy-buddy members of a close-knit fraternity
- The current owners of the Giants made a calculated business decision since then, acting like hungry wolverines around a fresh carcass
I think it's well past black-and-white notions of right and wrong. The A's ceded territorial rights in 1988, before building a new stadium became a thing, something that just about every team in baseball would do over the next 25 years. When the Giants were looking for a new stadium, it wasn't because everyone else was and a new one would give them X number of new luxury boxes, but it was because the one they were in was an abomination. It was because people wouldn't go to a frigid toilet bowl, where they just might emerge with blue skin from the toilet-bowl cleaner and/or hypothermia.
But I doubt the situation was exactly as it's remembered now. I doubt the Haas family rode in on a chariot of clouds, mirthfully bestowing gifts on their cross-bay neighbors in the spirit of magnanimity, which led to the Giants getting twisted, dark, and weird, petting their new territorial rights as they huddled in a cave under the Misty Mountains. There was probably a pretty good reason for the Haas family to cede those rights. The A's had a vested interest in getting the Giants out of San Francisco, and into the South Bay with a new stadium. Because, hey, free San Francisco.
It was pretty inevitable that the A's were going to move to San Jose after the Fremont thing fell apart. As awesome as a waterfront stadium near Jack London Square would be, the money is in San Jose. By my Peninsula-centric count, there's only one company that exists in the East Bay -- Shasta Cola. And how many luxury suites can they really buy on their own, 15? 16? It was never going to work.
Now comes the compensation game, where the Giants will ask for millions and millions and millions of dollars. And they're right to do it. The Giants have a huge South Bay fan base. The San Jose Giants have been an affiliate since the '80s, and the new park's accessibility through CalTrain strengthened the team's hooks in the area. The current generation will keep whatever loyalties they have, but the next generation will grow up going to whatever park is closest. It will take at least a decade or two for the move to really mess with what the Giants have built, but there's no way the A's can move into the most heavily populated area of the entire Bay Area and not dig into the Giants' market share.
And in return, the Giants will get money, and that money will go straight into the rainy-day fund, as it probably should. We can argue about how they're using the profits from the World Series run, but there's no shame in earmarking any territorial-rights money for a day when the A's are an established force in a big-money area. It wouldn't make sense to spend any compensation like a seven-year-old with Christmas money. They're not going to buy a Prince Fielder-type just because of the eventual short-term windfall. They'd just end up with an Aaron Rowand anyway, the jerks.
If the money is just paid out to the owners and investors in the short-term, well, that stinks. Somehow I doubt that's what will happen, but I'm naive! Those ivory back scratchers are going to buy themselves, people. But I'd still like to think that if any of the money goes anywhere in the short term, it would be into marketing, and the Giants would make a counterstrike into the East Bay, starting a long-term grab at the area the A's will leave.
But, heck, I don't know. This is way above my head. I figure it's good for baseball, great for the Bay Area, and bad for the Giants. Bad, but not exactly close to devastating. For the next 10 or 20 years, Giants fans will stay Giants fans, and A's fans will stay A's fans, and there will always be a few dorks with those split hats. After that, a couple of decades from now, it will be more important for Brian Sabean to build a good team.
And, yes, he'll still be here. That should probably bother you more than a shiny new ballpark in San Jose. That's what should bother you more during the hyper-payroll Marlins/A's World Series battle in 2021. Until then, I'm secretly a little excited about the prospect of a new ballpark in San Jose. Sounds cool.