When I read NSJ's piece on contraction, it got me to thinking. I admit, this is almost never a good thing. As you may know, my brain rarely stays on a single track and there were a lot of rabbit holes to dive into. Most of them were about why contraction is a horrible, horrible idea for the league in general. But sticking with just our Green and Gold (and potentially never Black) heroes, here are a few reasons why this specific team will never be contracted and most likely will never leave the Bay Area.
Exhibit A (Our Attitude)
I was born in Oakland. Not that it has anything to do with anything.
I have lived everywhere in Northern California. Hyperbolic as that statement is, I have resided at one point or another in Lemoore, Hanford, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, San Leandro, San Francisco, Sacramento, Elk Grove, Pleasanton, San Jose, Santa Rosa and... Ah, who cares? All of this is to say that if there is one thing that binds all of us from this crazy little patch of the planet together it is that we are united in the belief that "quixotic" is a compliment. That is to say, we don't believe that dreams are impossible, even when they are improbable. I have witnessed this from Bakersfield to Windsor.
I believe this is reflected in everything from 924 Gilman (Yep, I saw Operation Ivy and Green Day before you heard of them. I have long since lost the shirt that proves it) to Facebook. From Google to Freight and Salvage. From Star Wars to the Transamerica Pyramid. In the Bay Area, and Nor Cal in general, we have dreams and we make them real. If we don't like the way something is, we make something the way it should be. If someone tells us we can't, we smile and work hard to prove them wrong.
Following the A's is really no different. We have a burgeoning groundswell of DIY media to prove it. From Athletics Nation to Athletics After Dark to Newballpark.org. Each of these outlets is a testament to the fact that there is a strong core fanbase here and it has a deep and nuanced interest in the team.
Exhibit B (Our Money)
In 2009, portfolio.com did a series of articles about potential expansion by US based professional sports leagues.The study combined the personal incomes of various metro regions, the cost of running a franchise in each of the sports and the number of existing franchises in each of these markets to come up with a score for a markets potential to support an additional franchise.
The key take away (best displayed in this chart) is that MLB requires the highest personal income ($86.7B) of all sports, soccer is the cheapest ($13.9B), the NFL and NHL were in the middle ($37.3B) and the NBA was not far behind ($36.4B). The second thing that jumped out at me was that the study found that MLB has 13 teams playing in 12 over extended markets. Care to guess which two team market is over extended? With a deficit of about $20B compared to the number of franchises and expected personal income required to support them?
If you guessed "the Bay Area" give yourself a pat on the back. But there is a catch and it was a bit confusing at first. The Bay Area had a personal income of over $370B in 2009. If you add up the expected personal income for two NFL teams, two MLB teams, one NBA team, one NHL team and one MLS team there would still be enough left over ($35B) for another MLS team, and almost enough for another NBA team.
The reason for the apparent error? Portfolio.com chose to count San Francisco/Oakland as one market (-$20.5B) and San Jose as another ($56B). When one combines the entire market, there is more than enough scratch to support all of the local sports franchises. On a related note, there is enough available personal income in New York to add five MLB teams, and enough in Los Angeles, Houston, Washington DC, and Chicago to add another team to each market.
Exhibit C (Our Numbers)
Back when MLB was in expansion (and Expos relocation) mode, they had a set criteria for markets worth exploring. It was really pretty simple. For a market to be considered it must have at least 2 million people, a largish media market that wouldn't completely infringe on other team's television rights, a strong corporate base to buy tickets/sponsorship packages and preferably a limited slate of pro sports franchises to compete with MLB for tickets.
With all of that said, they chose to move the Expos to a place that broke most of those guidelines rather than contract them and the Twins.
California, even with the recent economic struggles, is still home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other state except Texas. Both of those states have 57. The Bay Area is home to more than half of California's Fortune 500 companies.
Despite recent headlines about a mass exodus of people from California, the Bay Area still grew at about a 5% clip over the past decade. That is not as impressive as the growth in places like Charlotte, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Austin, but the demise of California has been greatly exaggerated. It is still the most populous state in the Union and the Bay Area is still the sixth largest metro region in the US.
When you combine these two facts it isn't hard to see that the large population and large corporate presence make the Bay Area, even as a two team market, far superior to any other option. Especially when you add in the other important factors like media market infringement and competition from other pro sports.
Wrapping it All Up
Do the A's need a new stadium? Yes, but considering Exhibit A I am pretty sure they will get one. Is the Bay Area a stretched market? Yes, but considering Exhibits B and C it isn't stretched to the point where it makes sense for the A's to leave. Are there real places for the A's to move? Sure, but not that don't already have MLB or are more stretched than the Bay Area and there are several existing markets that have much worse situations.
Does contraction, or relocation, make sense? Nope.