San Francisco Giants ownership made one thing abundantly clear at this week’s MLB owners meetings: they have no intention of ever giving up their territorial rights to Silicon Valley.
The background: Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff wants to build a new downtown San Jose ballpark but is being blocked by the Giants ownership, who retain territorial rights to the region. The issue was pressed by Wolff at this week’s quarterly owners meetings in New York City, as he made a direct appeal to his fellow owners to make changes in the Bay Area territorial split.
No action was taken, and none was expected: MLB owners take territorial issues very seriously, and taking away any territory already controlled by a team simply isn’t done. With no consensus on the issue, the status quo remains in place. Wolff made his appeal on pragmatic grounds — a move to San Jose would decrease the team’s reliance on revenue sharing, thus putting some money back into the pockets of big-market owners. The Giants framed their argument differently: if Bud Selig allows the A’s to move into an existing territory, there’s no reason he wouldn’t allow another team to move into another existing territory — and there’s no doubt big markets like New York/New Jersey, Boston or Philadelphia could support another MLB team.
For the Giants ownership, retaining the area is key to both the team’s financial future and the long-term value of the franchise. The Giants have more debt than the average team after paying for AT&T Park on their own dime, and if plans to develop land across the way from the ballpark come to fruition, they’ll need more cash for investment purposes.
How important is Silicon Valley to the team’s fortunes? Some reports peg more than 35 percent of Giants game-day attendees hailing from Silicon Valley. A large chunk of the team’s major sponsors have ties to Silicon Valley. And being Silicon Valley’s team enhances the value of the team’s cable-TV deal, with advertisers obviously eager to tap into the desirable demographics in San Jose and the rest of the region.
So the stakes in this fight are very, very high for the Giants ownership. Some San Jose writers, such as the increasing rabid Mark Purdy, have declared that the Giants could easily end the dispute with the A’s by just rolling over and renouncing their territorial rights. Yeah, that’s one way to end it, but the Giants don’t really seem too enamored of the Neville Chamberlain appeasement approach. After this week, it’s pretty clear that the battle will continue — with the Giants holding an advantage and the A’s ownership painted into a corner.
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