A’s moving to Fremont, California
Two papers, the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News, reported yesterday (while I was at the polls) that the A’s will be moving to Fremont, California into a new 36,000-seat stadium they’ll build with private money for about $300m.
This gets them out of the Al Davis Reconfigurable Hole, for one thing, and it’s also a fairly amusing way to move without going to San Jose, which the Giants claim as their territory, which
a) is a dumb claim in the first place and
b) is an excellent example of how stupid and counter-productive MLB’s territorial rights system is
Fremont, if you don’t have a map handy, is southeast of Oakland, a little more than half way between Oakland and San Jose. It’s across from Redwood City/Palo Alto. ESPN’s article includes a comparison table between Oakland and Fremont that includes a racial breakdown (no, really)
What’s this mean for the Mariners?
It’s bad. This is, in the long term, possibly the worst news of the off-season. Now, Billy Beane’s record with straight free agent signings is kind of ugly. Okay, it is ugly. And there’s an argument to be made that part of the A’s success has come from the restraints on their budget (which is like the Robert Frost argument that you had to write poetry using meter).
The people in charge of the A’s are smart. They’re not moving to Fremont unless they think it’ll substantially improve their financial situation from small, profitable operation into large, more profitable operation. Some of that money is going to go to the baseball side. And the team that beats the M’s like a drum over and over is going to be far better financed.
I’ve tried to think about what the A’s would do if they didn’t have to make signability picks. Would they look at the draft and still see players of essentially the same value, and pour money into international signings? Would they drop the pretense that drafting cheap guys in the first round is a good idea and go nuts, armed with more money and better slotting? Spend even more money dumpster-diving every year?
None of these possibilities are good news.
And at the major league level, are they going to open their pocketbooks to try and field a more-expensive team as they move in? Would the A’s even spend on free agents unless the market cools a little, or are they going to sign their guys to long-term deals to buy out free agent years?
The Mariners would be playing in a division without a poor kid, where every competitor they face in unbalanced play is well-funded. Things are going to get tougher. Hopefully the M’s will get smarter and be able to compete.