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MLB Should Revisit Letting The Athletics Move To San Jose

A provision in the new CBA will make it tougher for the Athletics to make things work in Oakland.

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The new collective-bargaining agreement between owners and players includes a provision for the Oakland Athletics to stop getting revenue-sharing money over the course of the deal:

According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the A’s will be phased out of Major League Baseball’s annual revenue sharing plan over the next four years. That’s no small chunk of money being taken away — the club has been receiving in the neighborhood of a reported $30 million annually in MLB’s attempt to redistribute wealth and help out the game’s “have-not” franchises.

The reason for this, apparently, is that the A’s are now going to be considered a “big-market” franchise. This makes some sense, given that they share the nation’s sixth-largest TV market with the Giants, and that the entire San Francisco Bay area (including the San Jose area) has a population of over six million.

But the A’s, with a terrible stadium, haven’t been able to draw. Even when they were a perennial playoff contender in the early 2000s, their top attendance was 2,216,596, which ranked sixth in the American League. Last season they averaged only 18,784 per date, 29th in the major leagues, ahead of only the Rays. (There’s another stadium issue that MLB will have to eventually address.)

Lindsey Adler at Deadspin did a pretty good job of summing up the A’s issue in this article, which stated:

Sharing a stadium with the Oakland Raiders, who also want to get the hell out of the Coliseum, is indeed a complicating factor, but the team has made it clear they are waiting for Mark Davis and company to make their move first.

The team is also still bitter about their cross-market rivals, the Giants, blocking the Athletics from moving to San Jose, where team Managing Partner Lew Wolff owns the MLS’s Earthquakes. The dream of San Jose is dead, though, as it wound its way through the legal system and was turned away by the Supreme Court.

There are alternate locations in Oakland—Howard Terminal and Jack London Square—that Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf is trying to sell the team on, but those are in less public transit–friendly parts of Oakland, and the team certainly can’t afford to make things less convenient for fans right now.

So it would seem the A’s are stuck. Until the Raiders figure out what they’re doing — staying in Oakland, moving to Las Vegas, who knows? — the Athletics are in stadium limbo in their current location.

The other locations in Oakland noted above don’t seem to be really good options given the transit issues noted in the Deadspin article.

Which brings us back to San Jose, even though that “dream is dead,” according to the Deadspin article. Why does it have to be “dead”? There would seem to be enough money flying around Silicon Valley for both the Giants and A’s to have corporate partners if the A’s moved to San Jose. There are certainly enough fans to go around and the Giants, having won three of the last seven World Series, are selling out nearly every game (they drew 3,365,256 in 2016, fourth in the major leagues, about 100,000 more than the Cubs). The A’s moving to San Jose shouldn’t be a threat to them at all.

It would be an elegant solution to a problem that’s dragged on for nearly a decade. The Giants should relent and MLB should allow the A’s to explore locations in San Jose again. That would be good for everyone in baseball.