Moving to New York Would Be Good for the Oakland A’s, and Good for Baseball

The stadium scene.
April 4 2012 7:30 AM

Moneyball Takes Manhattan

Why moving to New York would be good for the Oakland A’s, and good for baseball.

(Continued from Page 1)

Look across the country, though, and there is one metropolitan area that could boost a team's revenue, potentially into the baseball stratosphere. New York City is a television market that’s triple the size of the Bay Area, and there are millions more households a short drive away in New Jersey and Connecticut. The New York metro area is the one market where a team owner could build a stadium with all the trimmings and end up with plenty of profit left over, thanks to the inevitable cable riches that would await.

Moreover, moving the A's to New Jersey or Long Island or Brooklyn would solve another of baseball’s thorniest problems. The Yankees, by virtue of being in a media market vastly larger than anyone else's, can bid up player salaries into the stratosphere with the assurance that it will get that money back with TV revenue. (The Mets should get the same benefit of the NYC media market, but have been held back by a factor that's hard to legislate: incompetence.) It's this reality that has created the Rube Goldberg devices of revenue sharing and luxury taxes. The Yankees don’t just have more money than anyone else: Because so many more fannies in the seats and eyeballs on flatscreens are at stake, players are worth more to the Yankees than anyone else.

Splitting the New York market among three teams instead of two would dilute that advantage and help make for a more level playing field league-wide. This, of course, is why neither the Steinbrenners nor the Wilpons would allow the A’s to move to New York. (Unlike the Bay Area, which MLB has split into discrete A's and Giants territories, the Mets and Yankees both have veto power over other teams moving into the New York metro area.) The Mets’ owners, ever protective of their territory, even rejected a much-needed payoff that would’ve allowed the Yankees' top minor-league club to play in Newark for a year, leaving the team wandering homeless this season as the Empire State Yankees.

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But that’s no reason that Selig and the other 28 owners couldn't overrule them for the good of baseball, just as Wolff wants the league office to overrule the Giants. It's reasonable, in fact, to assume that MLB isn't forcing the Giants to let the A's move to San Jose because the Mets and Yankees fear they'll be next in line. Once you've conceded that territorial privileges aren’t a sacred right, there's no re-closing that door.

Losing the A's to the East Coast would undeniably suck for the remaining A's fans. These loyal supporters have devoted the last 20 years to following a cash-strapped team that has won four division titles but no championships, all the while forcing its fans to shell out for jerseys with the names of another round of future Arizona Diamondbacks. But if that's our main worry, moving the team to San Jose—which would constitute an epic drive for most East Bay fans, especially on a weeknight—isn't a great deal for A’s fans, either. If MLB is concerned about giving the team’s fans the shortest possible commute, they should leave the A’s in Oakland. If they’re concerned about what's best for the sport, damn the Steinbrenners—full speed ahead to NYC.

Neil deMause is co-author of the book Field of Schemesand runs the stadium-news site fieldofschemes.com.