Thursday, March 22, 2012

Larry Baer's Twisted Logic

Giants CEO and president Larry Baer today at the 2012 World Conference of Sport reiterated the team's firm stance on keeping the A's out of San Jose. The article recapping his remarks indicates that Baer believes the "territorial grant" gives the team the right to "market" to Santa Clara County. Either this is simply a misinterpretation of Baer's remarks or he does not understand what MLB territorial rights actually are.

With respect to marketing, the A's are free to erect billboards and advertise throughout the Bay Area, not just in their assigned territory of Alameda and Contra Costa counties. (For instance, a recent promotion involved the A's mascot Stomper riding from Embarcadero to Civic Center on BART in San Francisco.) Baer needs to look no further than his team's Giants Dugout store in Walnut Creek -- smack dab in the middle of the A's territory.

The only thing that territorial rights determine is who has the right to play "home" games within an area. Per the MLB constitution:

Sec. 8. Operating Territories. The Major League Clubs shall have assigned operating territories within which they have the right and obligation to play baseball games as the home Club.

Baer is quoted in the piece referenced above as saying:

For our franchise, every year we wake up and it’s a big risk,” he said. “We have to draw over 3 million fans to break even. We’ve got to squeeze everything out of our territory. We can be destabilized just by a small decrease in attendance and revenue.

He claims in it that 35-45 percent of the team's revenue comes from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties -- areas he feels the A's would siphon fans away from with a downtown San Jose park. These numbers do not seem to be such a stretch considering that the team's own demographic research show 32.2 percent of fans coming from these counties.

What is a stretch here is Baer's zero-sum mentality. In Baer's mind, there is a finite pool of baseball fans in the Bay Area. If the A's gain, the Giants lose and become unprofitable. History offers a counterpoint to Baer, however, in that the late 80s saw robust attendance for both teams. Two competitive teams in attractive, fan-friendly ballparks are sure to grow the baseball fan pie throughout the region.

The Giants want the A's out, and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded.

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