You didn’t ask for it. You likely don’t care. It isn’t significant to any issue of daily importance and it won’t even affect the outcome of the topic at hand. Still, I am writing to say why I, as a denizen of California’s Bay Area, will not be cheering for the Giants in the 2012 World Series.
The short answer is just two words: territorial rights.
The longer answer takes some context. I am an Oakland A’s fan, but the A’s-Giants rivalry has never been all that heated. The first baseball game I took my son to was an interleague game this summer between the A’s and Giants. We rode BART, sat near Giants fans, and everyone acted civilly toward one another. During this year’s playoffs, it was not uncommon to see fans cheering on both teams with the hope of another Bay Bridge World Series. No bad blood between the fan bases exists as far as I can tell. In 1989, the one time the teams did face each other in the World Series, hats such as these were produced.
I know many A’s fans who would say if the A’s don’t win the championship, they hope the Giants win — and I find a mutual feeling among Giants fans. One does not see this type of camaraderie in other metropolitan areas with two baseball teams. For example, there is no love between Cubs and White Sox fans or between Yankees and Mets fans. Though I do not fault Bay Area fans appreciating both teams, I prefer people choose one team and one team only for the sake of healthy and passionate rivalries. Pulling for two teams has always seemed to be more like adultery or hedging one’s bet than real love for both teams.
All this is to say that Giants fans are not the reason I refuse to support the Giants. I have not been a Giants detractor. For most of my life as a baseball fan — beginning when the teams’ first basemen were Mark McGwire and Will Clark — the Giants sparked little more than indifference in me. I wanted to see the A’s defeat the Giants in 1989 and I hated Barry Bonds breaking records while taking performance enhancing drugs, but given the juicers that played for the A’s through the years, I was not one to throw stones.
The reason I won’t get behind the Giants has to do with the business side of baseball and the Giants’ current ownership. For years the Giants wanted to move out of Candlestick Park, their old stadium at Hunter’s Point. With the city of San Francisco refusing to build a new stadium, the Giants looked to move to another city in the Bay Area. In the early 1990’s Major League Baseball began divvying up territorial rights, meaning certain teams had claims to specific geographical regions, those regions’ fans, and those fans’ money. Neither Bay team had stated rights to Santa Clara County and Walter Haas, then owner of the A’s, was willing to grant the Giants rights to the South Bay if they could build a stadium in San Jose. Haas did this for no compensation, but because he believed two teams in the Bay Area was good for baseball. San Jose voters rejected the stadium plan in 1992. The Giants were about to move to Tampa Bay, but the National League owners refused the move. Finally, in 1993, San Francisco agreed to build a new stadium in China Basin. Pac Bell Park (now AT&T Park) opened in 2000 and has become one of the stand-out stadiums in baseball, reinvigorating local passion for the Giants, drawing millions of fans whose ticket and merchandise purchases have helped fund the Giants recent on-field successes. AT&T Park exemplifies the financial boon that new stadiums bring teams and cities. But a new park does not guarantee championships. One has to have wise management of the money and the Giants’ have spent the income well to build teams that can compete for league pennants.
Fast forward to today. The Giants have their new stadium with its increased revenues in San Francisco. As the Giants’ fortunes have improved, the A’s have consistently been one of the lowest-earning teams in baseball. They have seen success born out of general manager Billy Beane’s creativity (see the book and film Moneyball for evidence), but they have not been able to keep up with the spending of the majority of teams in baseball. In 2012 they ranked second to last in team payroll. I am of the opinion that a newer, smaller, baseball-only stadium would greatly help the A’s and their financial problems.
The Giants never gave back the territorial rights for Santa Clara County to the A’s, however, despite the fact that they were unable to build that stadium in San Jose. The A’s currently play in one of the oldest and worst baseball stadiums in the country. They have tried to work with the city of Oakland several times on new stadiums, they tried to move to Fremont, but none of those efforts have worked. Recently the A’s reached an agreement with San Jose to move there. San Jose wants them. San Jose wants to build a new stadium. The Giants, however, want to retain sole rights to Santa Clara County. They claim that their territory consists of Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Marin Counties while Alameda and Contra Costa Counties comprise the A’s territory. The Giants are not willing to give up Santa Clara County without compensation so large that it would nullify a great deal of the financial gains the A’s would see with a new stadium.
For all their harping about respecting territorial rights agreements, the Giants have tried to expand their influence throughout the Bay Area. Most notably, they opened an official team Dugout Store in Walnut Creek, smack dab in the middle of Contra Costa County, the territory they claim belongs to the A’s.
These are shrewd business decisions and make sense economically. But to claim the A’s cannot move to another city because of the Giants’ territorial rights and then invade the A’s territory is nothing short of hypocritical. The Giants have encroached on the A’s territory so much that they are even making team merchandise using the A’s colors.
This is not to say the A’s are merely victims in the stadium ordeal. The A’s ownership has made some serious errors. As a fan, I would much prefer the A’s to build a new stadium within Oakland at the Jack London Square site proposed years ago. I understand that the city of Oakland has far greater problems to tackle than spending tax-payer monies on a building for a privately-owned company that makes millions of dollars a year. I would like to see the A’s secure private funding with the help of MLB, just as the Giants and numerous other teams have done in recent years. I am also aware that given the mess Oakland has been in, it may be difficult to attract developers. That is why I begrudgingly support the A’s moving to San Jose where they could reap the benefit of a new stadium, even though it would be extremely inconvenient for me — my commute to see the A’s now consists of an easy BART ride.
While the current ownership of the A’s have made serious errors, the Giants have not shown them the same respect and deference that Walter Haas showed the Giants twenty years ago. The moves and refusals of Giants ownership reveals they care more for the success of their brand than for baseball in the Bay Area. So no, I will not cheer for a franchise that received a generous benefit from the team I love only to use that benefit to hamstring and prevent the A’s from achieving their own financial success. I’m no Tigers fan, but for the 2012 World Series, I’m saying, Go Detroit.
Click here for a more detailed account of the territorial rights fight.