It’s official: the Oakland Raiders will die in San Francisco. Right after the end of The Big Game, Raj Mathai broke the news that the Giants will now be the only Major League Baseball team to share its home field with an NFL team, an honor once held by the Oakland A’s. No more, as the Oakland Raiders, unceremoniously punted out of Oakland, have landed on their cleats at Oracle Park for the 2019 season.
EDITED ADD 11:10PM TO ADD: Not QUITE official. Per the Associated Press:
A person with knowledge of the negotiations said Sunday night the two sides are in discussions, but no deal has been reached. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because nothing has been finalized.
Terms of the deal were unknown at the time of the Chronicle’s post, but for the past few years, the Raiders had been paying the Oakland Coliseum Authority $3.5 million. Presumably, the Giants had a lot of leverage here, since Oakland didn’t want the Raiders, the Raiders probably didn’t want to relocate to a local University field, and Oracle Park has been a fixture both on the college football bowl circuit and was briefly home to that other pro football league back in 2001.
It is a tremendous “get” for the Giants, which presumably managed to lower the cost of the big scoreboard installed in the outfield and perhaps cover some of the losses the team is about to experience from declining attendance. The loss of the annual debt service has emboldened the franchise to invest in many more off the field endeavors. Recent national TV deals, streaming deals, and real estate deals have established profit pipelines directly into San Francisco Baseball Associates LLC’s veins to the point that there’s nothing to be gained by spending more money on the major league product.
We learned on Friday at a season ticket holder’s event that Farhan Zaidi “believes” the team still has a championship core that is best served by being added to on the margins. No more big long-term contracts to free agents for a team that won three world championships with only home grown players and no long-term contracts (don’t bother to look that up — it’s the new party line). Here’s footage from the event:
A few highlights from the @SFGiantsSTM evening with #SFGiants President & CEO Larry Baer, "a guy who reports to Larry," and @FlemmingDave. pic.twitter.com/gQW17nmana— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) February 2, 2019
So, the Raiders are going to pay the Giants for the right to tear up the stadium for the last two months of the season — which is fine for the Giants since they won’t be playing for anything at that point — and all Giants fans will get out of it is watching next year’s Forbes article show the Giants as the 2nd or 3rd-most valuable franchise in baseball.
If this reads as overly mean, cynical, grumpy, or just angry, it’s because those are the only feelings I can muster. The Giants aren’t scrappy underdogs. They did it “the right way” by financing their own stadium, and now they’re developing China Basin. The team’s majority shareholder was bad PR for the team and the most money they’ve spent on a single baseball transaction this offseason will have been on a scoreboard. And now they’ve given the Raiders a PR lifeline?
It’s fine that the Giants invited the genuinely awful Raiders to play at Oracle Park for a single season, because, why not? It’s tough to say that the team isn’t acting cynically here though, too. They’ve done a cost-benefit analysis. Whatever PR hit there may be — it’s fair to say the Raiders have created a lot of enemies in the Bay Area since their return from Los Angeles and now mad dash to get to Las Vegas — will be made up in the lease deal and whatever cut of the gate, parking, or concessions they’ve arranged with the interlopers; and any field damage doesn’t matter since the team doesn’t seem interested in being good in 2019.
Could the Giants leverage this opportunity to, I don’t know, get Bryce Harper to sign with the team? Could see some potential branding crossover appeal there. Then again, Bryce Harper is a free agent, and free agents don’t want to come to San Francisco — or, if they do, it’ll be because the Giants offered twice what anyone else offered.
I recognize times have changed and there’s very likely a small but growing contingent of baseball fans (and sports fans in general) who are rooting for the smart business school moves over what happens on the field, but I think baseball is better when teams are trying to compete and the wealthy owners view these teams as an extension of their egos versus their portfolios.
Alas, it doesn’t make business sense to leave money on the table, and the Giants had the opportunity to make more money.