Monday, November 21, 2011

Money Paves the Way to San Jose

Sorry, no links, but the news is that Selig is suddenly moving forward with the A's desire to move to San Jose, and will meet with the Giants about this.

I guess the other news is that San Jose has sold an option to Wolff to purchase the parcel of land that they are hoping to build the stadium on. Sold for $50,000, the city spent something over $25M to buy those pieces but has agreed to sell it to Wolff for just under $7M. Hope that is contingent on a stadium deal, else he just made a lot of money off the backs of San Jose citizens.

The catch there is that the city has not finished buying all the parcels of land, that is why they are selling him those parcels, in hopes that he can finish up that process, as the city is tapped dry apparently by the fiscal crisis that has hit most state and local governments since the Great Recession.
Giants Thoughts

I think the only way this is resolved is through a lot of money being paid by the A's to the Giants. That, historically, is the right thing to happen (I've written on this before, latest post is here).

I see A's fans and newspaper columnists moaning about how the Giants don't really own the South Bay rights, that it was given to them only because of a proposed move by the Giants to Santa Clara, and thus owe the Giants nothing and should just move to the South Bay unhindered.  Some magnanimously will give back the Oakland/East Bay region back to the Giants.

Baloney.

The Giants owned the rights to the region the moment they landed in San Francisco in 1958. The A's should have paid them a lot of money to enter the region in the first place, the evidence is clear with the huge drop in attendence and support in the decade after the A's came into the region and siphoned off a lot of fans.   Giving the South Bay rights to the Giants was only the MLB correcting the wrong that was done when the A's moved into the region without compensating the Giants for that move.

Or more simply and bottom line, as Giantsrainman noted in my post I linked to (I also have a label on the San Jose Relocation topic), when the current Giants owners bought this team, that purchase included the value of the rights to the South Bay whlie when the current A's owners bought their team, that purchase did not include the rights to the South Bay.  If they want the rights today, they need to pay for it.



There is also the real danger that by allowing the move to San Jose by the A's, the MLB might damage the Giants.  The A's have royally screwed up their fan base in the East Bay and Oakland.  Who is to say that they don't do the same in the South Bay too?  The Giants depend on the South Bay for a large percentage of their fan base.  The rhetoric by the supporters is that those fans will still support the Giants, as well as the new San Jose A's.

Baloney.

Economic logic suggests that this is a zero sum game, fans won't suddenly open up their pockets more to support both teams, they will made a decision on where to split their current spending between the two teams.  Then, should the A's screw up the South Bay fan base, then these fans just simply stop spending money on MLB baseball, whether A's or Giants, much like most of the Oakland A's fan base no longer support the Giants and, as lovely as the offer to give Oakland back to the Giants is, they are not likely to suddenly become Giants fans again.  Remember, these are the same fans who pined for their Raiders while they were off in LA, travelling 1,000 miles round trip to see them, when the 49ers were just across the Bay.  They should pay for this as well.

Pay Like Other Teams and How For Rainy Day

So if the A's want to relocate to the South Bay, they should pay the Giants a lot of money.  Historical precedence supports this.  The Washington Nat's paid someething like $60-75M to the Baltimore Orioles to compensate them for moving into their territory.  And that was almost a decade ago now, 2003-2004, something like that, so with how team values have rocketed in the years since, the A's should be looking at paying the Giants at least $100M in order to move down there.

That would help cover the roughly $150-200M left in mortgage payments that the Giants still owe.  That would also help with the economic damage the A's would create by moving into the South Bay and siphoning off a portion of the Giants fanbase.  And this could easily be financed, the A's, according to Forbes, has sucked out $132M in EBITDA since Wolff bought the team, so they should have a huge cash balance (unless they drain it dry every year) sitting around somewhere which they can spend on paying the Giants.  And I would note that Forbes reports that their owners are worth $1.4B (and it might just be Fisher, I'm not absolutely sure), so they have a lot of net worth that they can tap into to pay off the Giants. 

FYI, the team value of $307M does not include any of the cash in the business that they have accrued, that is, none of the $132M in EBITDA that they have earned out of the business since taking over (prior to that, the former A's owners only had EBITDA in the $5-10M range approximately, for comparison) is included in the valuation of the team.

Given that huge amount of money that he has collected, one could speculate that the A's had forseen this day coming where they would have to pay the Giants a lot of money.  Perhaps they even asked Selig to officially stall on any decision so that the A's could pick up more coin, while officially wondering why Selig is taking so long.  In fact, it was four seasons ago that the A's ramped up the money they were making, going from mid-teens to lower-middle 20's (average $23.8M in 2008-2010 timeperiod) plus whatever they make in 2011, the numbers above does not include any cash flow he made in 2011, which I would guess is in the $20-25M range again.  During the time that Selig has stalled on a decision, the A's have probably made $70-75M in profits that went straight to their cash balance.  It could be that they have been saving for a rainy day like paying off the Giants all along. 

Revenue Sharing

And based on revenue sharing figures I could locate (from early-2000's), basically what the Giants paid into the revenue-sharing pot, the A's got roughly the same amount (2001-2003, Giants paid $28.9M, while A's got $31.5M). 

Also, I would note that Forbes in their latest valuation, noted this about the Giants:
One area of concern for the Giants beginning in 2011 is revenue-sharing. Because the team decided to amortize its stadium costs over 10 years in calculating its local revenue for the league sharing pool, the Giants contribution to lower-revenue teams is going to increase significantly in 2011.
So the Giants should be paying even more into the pot, which further hampers their ability to spend the money that many fans thinks they are getting but are not because these fans were not aware of the impact this is having on the Giants finances.  And making their need for a big settlement with the A's paramount.

Private Business Negotiations

The Giants, however you want to describe it, has been doing exactly, at least publicly, what they should do in a business negotiation.  If everyone played "fair" and just say what they are willing to do, then there would be no need for negotiations.  But neither side is going to budge off their positions of the A's not wanting to pay anything (naturally) and the Giants not willing to give up their rights to the South Bay (naturally).  That will force the mediator (which will be Selig at some point, like it was in the Oriole's-Nat's case) to work between those two points and find a medium point.  If either side started with a "fair" amount, then the negotations would have started between the fair point and the extreme point, resulting in an "unfair" (at least with respect to the side the provided the "fair" position) decision for the team that went first with a public position.

That is why most teams do not let their position be known in the press, you don't want to be negotiating in the press or via the press.  Some agents like to do that because then it might entice another team to join the bidding war.  When when it is team vs. team as in this case, you gain nothing by being soft in public.  You take the hardline approach and only once you all are behind closed doors do you start moving away from the extremes to a compromise agreement somewhere in the middle.

Hopefully, the Giants will stand their ground and get paid for their rights to the area.  The A's have cost the Giants much over the years by, first, not paying anything for the Oakland rights, and second, taking away a lot of paying customers.   The A's appear to be either saying for a rainy day or pocketing a lot of money for something or perhaps both, as it will cost a lot to build their own stadium in San Jose as well as pay off the Giants.  They have profited enough in the three years since Selig has been stalling to pay the Giants off for their rights to the South Bay. 

Perhaps they realized that the Giants were not going to give in on their rights nor that they would get enough votes to bypass the Giants and have the teams vote for taking away the Giants rights without fair payment.   So by Selig's stalling, the A's have profited enough to pay off the Giants for their rights now, hence why the sudden decision by Selig to finally do something about the South Bay, else why would they seemingly been twiddling their thumbs for three years and then suddenly start moving on the decision now? 

Did Recession Cause Delay?  Or Final Negotiations?

I guess that brings me to the decision of San Jose to sell the option to Wolff.  Maybe the MLB was worried about San Jose following up on their side of the bargain and been waiting for San Jose to buy up all the parcels, because until that is done, the Giants could give up their rights and still nothing would happen.  Perhaps the option was sold to Wolff to get the MLB to start moving again.

Since the recession hit basically three years ago, one of the parties in the decision, whether A's or MLB, could have decided that there should not be any movement on this until the land situation is finalized as any movement was useless until that happened.  With most local governments in crisis due to the recession, the odds of the city buying up all the parcels anytime soon was slim to none, but if they sell the land to Wolff so that he can buy the final parcels of land (perhaps the discounted price accounts for how much money Wolff estimated it would cost him to personally buy the remaining parcels to complete ownership of all the land necessary to build the park). 

San Jose tried but failed, short of all the parcels.  But if they basically sold the land to Wolff via the option, with the understanding that he would not execute the option until he had secured ownership of all the parcels of land, so that construction could legally start at any time once the South Bay rights issue is settled, then the MLB and/or Wolff would be in control of the situation and thus be able to finalize purchase of the entire piece of land necessary to build the stadium.  And thus substantive negotiations with the Giants could then proceed, unhindered by the relative uncertainty of obtaining ownership of the land necessary to build upon. 

Of course, with the parcels not all obtained right now, there is some uncertainty involved.  Perhaps it took Wolff all of three years to gain informal agreement with the remaining parcel owners (he did make his money in real estate), but now that he has the agreements with all the parcels, that freed the city to sell him that option since they don't have the money to finalize the deal, and allow Wolff, who does have the money to finalize the deal, to buy the remaining parcels to complete the land purchase.

That seems the most logical reason for why this has dragged on for three years with no movement, then suddenly there is a lot of movement.

14 comments:

  1. OGC,

    You obviously are much more knowledgeable about this topic than I. I react from a more emotional standpoint. I have basically never gotten over what the A's moving to Oakland did to the Giants back in the late 60's 70's. Back then, there was no Silicon Valley and a lot of the fanbase was in the East Bay suburbs. The A's siphoned all those away and attendance at Candlestick as sometimes as low as 800 even when the Giants had good teams!

    To me, it now seems like deja vu all over again. Now the fans with money are in the Silicon Valley and guess where the parasitic A's are looking to move! I don't see how any one-time payoff can compensate for the longer term erosion of the fanbase and financial base. This is bad news for the long term health of the Giants.

    The Giants still do have some advantages though. San Francisco is still the "name" city in the region. (Look for the A's to take a page out of Arte Moreno's playbook and change their name to the San Francisco A's of San Jose or something ridiculous like that.) San Francisco is a destination city while San Jose is not. The East Bay is still a large population base with easy access to AT&T Park via BART.

    I think it's still a net negative long term for the Giants though.

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  2. Very interesting post OGC. As a fellow east-bay guy who chose the Giants early on, I have some conflicting views on the A's. On one hand, they are a historic franchise that absolutely should not be contracted. On the other hand, the situation is untenable, and the fact Lew Wolff is socking away money while waiting for his frat buddy Selig to kick this into gear makes me pretty nervous.

    So the A's get to the bay 10 years after Willie Mays goes up Market street to confetti. That is the original encroachment. A lot of conflicting views about those territorial rights in 1993, my main argument would be big corporate money wasn't nearly as big a deal in 93 that it is today. Silicon Valley is very established, and its big time. I asked my season ticket buddy what the big deal is, the Giants/A's fans would always sort themselves out, we sure did (lots of Berkeley High kids were Giants fans). He was immediate - no way you give up those rights for anything.

    From Charlie Finleys wiki: The high-water mark for attendance came in 1975, when 1,075,518 came through the turnstiles. Four years later, in 1979, only 306,783 fans bothered to attend as the A's fell to 54–108, by far the worst record in the AL West.
    The A's have completely splintered off the Giants season attendance and haven't done anything good themselves, even during the Reggie Jackson years and the Bash Brother years. (I was one of those 306K in 79 - Ricky Henderson signed my glove) That is the non-tenable aspect. I don't think a shiny stadium next to Jack London or something down in SJ really takes them over the top. There just aren't enough fans to go around in the bay.

    PacBell has obviously been a great great deal for the Giants. The A's have gone into non-compete sulk mode. Trader Billy is trying to sell off his pitching staff right now. If he doesn't get his way (even though Wulff isn't investing in the club or making a good faith effort with the city of Oakland) there is a good chance he'll go and replace... Agent Ned. And then we'll really have an issue with Beane.

    If they relinquish the rights I'd hope they get 200MM at least. But that ultimately just helps the ownership group, not the fans. Hopefully Selig steps down before this gets resolved, I hate most of his money grubbing moves and the potential for conflict of interest is huge in this case.

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  3. Thanks for the comments DrB and Shankbone.

    The way I see it, it's going to happen. The money is there, and the MLB is going to do what's best for the league, not necessarily the Giants. Thus we need to get as much money out of this deal as we can get.

    I wouldn't mind $150-200M but that's almost the price of the A's franchise, so I don't expect that to happen. Given the Orioles situation (their owner was the only one to vote No on the Nats move to DC), I don't see how the Giants can fight the A's move to SJ (read the column in Mercury today by Purdy about recent movements forward towards the move). It's going to happen, but the Giants owners, by taking a strong stance on it, at least will maximize what they get out of it.

    I don't see a San Francisco A's of San Jose thing happening. Wolff was born and raised in the South Bay, I don't thimk he would go through all this trouble just to do that to the south bay, no, I think they will be proudly the San Jose A's (with a small possibility of a Warrior's-like "Silicon Valley A's").

    What this has been all about for me in recent years is that I want enough money from the A's so that the Giants can sign a lot of their young players long-term with the cash they get out of the deal. $100M would add about $10M per year to the payroll budget for the next 10 years. Or $20M extra over 5 years. Or spend more now and taper down over the future.

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  4. I am not sure where I come down on the "enough fans to go around" debate yet. I understand the facts around there not being enough fans up to now.

    However, a San Jose A's team with a new park will draw a whole lot of people in the South Bay who don't regularly go to baseball today. Frankly, the distance to SF or Oakland for a game is a huge deterent to attending games. Placing a team in the middle of all this population should draw a lot of looky-loos who haven't attended before and are curious. Some should be converted to regular baseball fans.

    In addition, there should be a lot of corporate buyers of seats for this new park, similar to what the Giants got in SF with AT&T, and those "fans" would be net new for attendence between the two teams.

    And, per the Giants fears that these corporate buyers would abandon them for the A's, I can see some truth to that, but what I can also see happening is that many of these corporations will see the need (once they make the decision to buy for one team) to also get seats for the other team, because there are both AL and NL fans among the people they want to treat to a game, so they would want to be able to offer either team. Plus, usually, when one team is at home, the other is on the road, so if a corporate buyer wants to ensure that there is a game when they want to offer tickets, they would have to buy from both teams.

    Whether there is enough corporate buyers for both teams is another question though. Not sure how to gauge that, but I can say for certain that while this was not certainly not true 40 years ago in the 70's, after Silicon Valley built out over the past 30 years, there are a lot of large corporations now down in the South Bay, and it is much more capable of supporting two teams than it was 40 years ago.

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  5. I don't see Billy moving to LAD if the A's are moving to SJ. Those types of events in baseball are rare, I think he would want to be part of that whole planning and getting it done, then enjoying the afterglow of all that stadium building. Then maybe he'll be ready to move on from the A's.

    Even if he were to go to the D-gers, I'm not really afraid of that, I think he's been over-hyped because of Moneyball and being one of the first publicly open sabermetric GM. If you look at his success as GM, much of it was based on players he got when the A's were losing a lot of games and getting great draft picks. Once they started winning and he got lousier picks, he hasn't been that good.

    And the trade mistakes he has made, for all the mistakes Sabean has made, when you get down to it, it was just money and reaching for the stars for the most part (except for the Vlad off-season), whereas Beane has traded away Hudson for nothing, Ethier for basically nothing, could have made a killing against AZ for Haren but then traded away Street AND CarGon to Colorado for one half season of Holliday, then flipped that twice for, heck, don't even recall the prospect's name, but I don't think he's even a BA top overall prospect right now, he really pissed away a lot of talent for nothing via trades, something that Sabean, a top talent evaluator, has NOT done.

    I think Beane made a mistake that all teams make when the glory years are ending. It is at that point - kind of the like the Bill Walsh rule of selling before you reach the decline - where you need to just sell off all your valuable baseball players and stock up your minor leagues with talent. Meanwhile, you don't spend much money on vets for your team, you just get through soul-crushing losing seasons, like Cox did with the Braves before their glory years, to get the top picks you need to quickly find those stars who will lead your next glory era. If you draft well, the losing only has to happen for 3-4 seasons (Braves took 6 horrible losing seasons to find Chipper Jones) before the next good era. It is just the lifecycle of teams that generally holds (the Braves seem to be doing a good job of transitioning without losing a lot of games, though they did have a fallow period over the past few prior seasons until Heyward came up, but I don't count him, he only fell to them because he really wanted to join their team and with two college professors as parents, was too risky for any team to waste a draft pick on him when there are others)

    Beane, however, has been futzing around with the team, selling off Haren, but then paying $10M to Sheets (for nothing) and trading for Holliday when he should have been continuing the rebuilding by keeping CarGon.

    It is all these bad deals that makes me wonder if the A's have any good talent evaluators, if they only have saber-beanie-cap wearing people doing the talent evaluation using numbers, because they clearly do not understand talent with their moves on Ethier and CarGon, those are players you do not let get away, those are the ones you build around.

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  6. I think it's inevitable too. The alternative of the A's moving to another city raises the question of "where?" and there really isn't a good answer for that. So it'll happen.

    "South Bay A's" is kinda mellifluous, though.

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  7. Really good points. The travel distance involved from Oakland or SF to SJ proper is traffic filled and long. Personally I think the Giants are more worried about "the peninsula" - the 650 area code so to speak, not necessarily SJ and lower. There maybe enough corporate sponsorship to go around, I hadn't thought of it in a hedge your bets manner from that side. I do think there are plenty of Giants fans in the east bay already, there won't be a lot of winning over for the Giants on the east bay/north bay front.

    Should have articulated Beane better. Scenario 1: Wolff gets his way, the A's move to SJ, Beane stays on and continues his overrated ways. Scenario 2: this gets shut down, Wolff throws in the towel, MLB buys the A's. In that scenario I could see Beane taking the Dodger job. While I think he's overrated and agree with your analysis of his history, I don't actively root against him, its more of a bemused "there he goes again" disapproval. If he were the Bums GM he'd have to be rooted against with special fierceness.

    Interesting point about Heyward. The notion that he was undiscovered and the Braves stole him from their backyard under the noses of other teams has somehow taken root, and its patently false. No monday morning QB on that draft, huge success for the Giants already, but can you imagine if they took Stanton instead of Jackson Williams or Culberson? Mano.

    My main problem with the Beane love and Sabean hate is when Sabean does do something silly its just more of the same pile on. Fans have lost all sense of perspective on this, and cannot seem to differentiate between ownership/Baer and Sabey Sabes. DrB had a funny one today - people are so bored they're criticizing moves Sabean hasn't even made yet, and freaking out about it.

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  8. Peninsula is the big concern. I agree. I used to live in San Mateo, and the Stick was a hop, skip, and a jump away. Naturally, I grew up a Giants' fan. My brother was an A's fan through the Bash Brothers years. Mostly, just to be different from me :). AT&T would be closer than San Jose for San Mateo, but what about Palo Alto?

    Stanford is there, and with it, a lot of companies, innovation, and commerce. Mountain View/Sunnyvale would definitely skew towards the A's, and I'm certain a lot of Palo Alto would get pulled there, as well.

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  9. One concept left out of this topic has been the financial impact of the fans who have purchased seat licenses. I paid $22,000 for 4 perpetual seat licenses at AT&T park, which I am entitled to leave in my estate, sell, give away or do with what I please. Huge numbers of other fans made similar investments in order to fund the building of the ballpark. If MLB forces the Giants to decrease the value of their asset by decreasing their territorial rights, they are also, by proxy, decreasing the value of all of our investments.

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  10. I am a life long Giants fan from San Jose and the Giants deserve "squat" for their rights to Santa Clara County.

    The other three 2-team markets all share a common media market (NY,LA,CHI) and share their counties 100%.

    Walter Haas, the Mother Teresa he was gave those rights away in the best in interests of baseball so the Giants could stay in the Bay Area.

    The A's could have kicked out the Giants years ago but they showed us compassion.

    The Giants "slyly" pocketed those rights because Haas was on the way out anyways and did not care.

    It is also against anti-trust law to forbid a competing business to relocate to any locale. San Jose would have an excellent case in court but Wolff refuses to get behind it. He loves Selig that much and trusts him.

    Now the situation is reversed and the Giants say its "non-negotiable"???

    The Giants only do business with 25% of Silicon Valley corporations. That leaves 75% untapped and Cisco has put their $$ behind the A's in San Jose already.

    The Giants are overstating their claim on the South Bay. They get 7,000 season ticket holders out of 34,000 from the South Bay...Why? Because it is too far to go to games consistently.

    Those fans are "hardcore" and will not all of a sudden go to A's games.

    I am a Giants fan first always but I do like the A's. This is not like the 49ers/Raiders where both fan bases hate each other.

    A lot of A's fans rooted for the Giants last year and I have seen Giants fans do the same for the A's when the teams are not playing each other.

    I live in San Jose and would buy 20 games on the 3rd base line at Cisco Field because I can go home easily afterwords. San Francisco is too far as is Oakland.

    The Giants have conquered the East Bay and the A's need to start fresh. The South Bay is too far and has been ignored by MLB despite having wealth and population.

    Moving to San Jose would allow for both teams to be revenue sharing winners. Right now the Giants subsidize the A's pretty much.

    Selig has dreaded the day upcoming with the Giants. He is going to give them a final offer before putting the T-rights to a vote amongst the owners.

    The Tampa Bay owner stated the A's situation will get resolved by "hook and crook" very soon...translation? "By any means necessary".

    That signals Selig has the votes of the other owners...Not 75% but 95%+. If the vote is not 28-1, he won't put it up...That is the way he is.

    The Giants would be wise to take the compensation MLB will provide them.

    The A's will not compensate the Giants...MLB will for this flaw in the system. The Bay Area should have been shared when the leagues combined in 1993.

    There is no where else to move them. If Oakland was viable, MLB would force Wolff to build there to avoid this T-rights issue.

    If a free ballpark lied somewhere in another city MLB would move the A's there instead of a privately financed one in San Jose.

    Selig said he would not make any decisions unless "all options were exhausted"....They have been.

    San Jose will finally get their own team...Should have happened years ago.

    The Giants have lost.....it is only a matter of time.

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  11. Anon,

    I agree the "rights" issue is silly. I'm more concerned about what practical impact this may have on the Giants, and less so on the A's. If, as you say, the impact on the Giants is minimal, then I have no problem with it. If it is going to substantially hurt the Giants ability to put a competitive team on the field, then it makes no sense for MLB to convert the Bay Area from 1 healthy team and 1 moribund team to 2 struggling teams. If a privately financed stadium can be built in San Jose, it can be built in Portland, OR or Sacramento too.

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  12. OGC -

    I assume you saw the Baggs article on Sabean/Bochy hiring press conference. Lots of tea leaves in there to read, hope you throw something down. My gut: bigger chance of a 2nd trade than I initially thought, and they really are holding the line at 2 years for contracts.

    Also, really enjoyed the history chats on DrB. Its nice to discuss without people getting angry about past injustices, real and perceived.

    Shank

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  13. Thanks Shankbone for the comment. Yeah, I'll probably post something celebratory - I'm unlike you, I get a tad angry about past injustices, so I'll probably post something happy on MCC. :^) I did it there every time he got an extension.

    Unless the Giants are trading a reliever (Ramirez? Casilla even?), I don't see how we can get another starter in trade, and I can't think of where we would play the guy, unless it is a lead-off type who plays CF.

    Yes! I really enjoy the chats on DrB as well. It is just nice to chat in a collegial way, not too serious, not too flippant, without some a-hole coming in and doing that. It is like it was when MCC was starting, I went there because the old place (gosh, can't even remember the name back then, but it is now Scout.com) had become what MCC is now, lots of people attacking me because I have the temerity to suggest that they were wrong.

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  14. Well you've been at it for a lot of years, so I can understand. Balls of brass, my man!

    I was actually thinking more along the lines of injustices to the Giants themselves, a lot of angst is wrapped up in very few actual moves. Lefty Malo has a great post up.

    Giants fans have a very hard time separating Sabean's moves from ownerships moves. That is one thing that I have really come around to from discussing things with you.

    Maybe one of these catchers, maybe a reliever, it may be a weird lateral move, but I just have a sense a trade is there. Maybe it'll be the big grab for Carlos Quentin. I like the bunker mentality though, not much good comes from chasing free agents. If Ortiz signs with Boston that will dramatically increase the chance of us getting Beltran on a lowball. Like we said before, its going to be an interesting offseason.

    ReplyDelete

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