29 September 2005

Understanding the markets

Most of you should be pretty familiar with the following map:

This is basically how we in the nine-county Bay Area view ourselves. There are some who consider parts of Marin County essentially an extension of San Francisco, and there are those who consider parts of San Mateo and Alameda Counties to be part of Silicon Valley, making them an extension of the South Bay. Many commuters come from cities like Tracy and Hollister, which are outside these county boundaries. This is the population breakdown by area, based on 2004 estimates:
  • SF/Peninsula (red): 1,443,446
  • North Bay (gray): 1,259,804
  • East Bay (green): 2,464,379
  • South Bay (blue): 1,685,188
  • Total Bay Area Population: 6,852,817
The 6.85 million total puts the Bay Area at #4 in the country among metropolitan areas. For some reason the US Census has chosen to break the Bay Area into two regions, one including only Santa Clara county, and the other including everything else except for Sonoma, Napa, and Solano Counties. If you look at the Bay Area based on that division, the population of the larger area (called SF-Oakland-Fremont) is 5,167,629, while the separate South Bay stays as is. With the split, the SF-Oakland-Fremont area is #12 in the nation, while the South Bay is #28.

If you think that lacks uniformity, take a look at this map showing how MLB has divided the Bay Area with respect to stadium building:

The five orange counties represent Giants territory, while the two green areas represent A's territory. Not shown is Monterey County, which was up until recently part of the Giants' territory. Lew Wolff mentioned during his August press conference that Monterey County may be part of the A's territory, though it's likely he misspoke - not that anyone's going to build a ballpark in Carmel or Salinas. The three gray North Bay counties are unassigned. Based on this form of gerrymandering, here are how the individual territories compare to the other California teams' defined territories in terms of metro population:
  • Giants - 4,039,941
  • A's - 2,464,379
  • Padres - 2,931,714
  • Dodgers/Angels - 13,723,029 (the two teams share LA, Ventura, and Orange counties)
The A's territory, while not a result of an equitable split, still compares favorably to Pittsburgh (#20), Tampa-St. Petersburg (#21), and Denver (#22). Yet by limiting the A's territory to Alameda and Contra Costa counties, it gives the appearance that the East Bay by itself is a small market. But is it?

The problem with this definition of territories is that it makes it appear that residents of one territory do not travel outside their counties to work, shop, or enjoy entertainment such as a baseball game. This is obviously not the case in the Bay Area, where residents are used to driving a half-hour to get to an event, whether it's held in San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose. San Jose and Oakland television stations all try to broadcast from towers near San Francisco because Mt. San Bruno's central location allows them to capture more of the Bay Area. The Giants and A's draw from all over the Bay Area, though both have entrenched fanbases in their respective communities. Only one conclusion can be made from this analysis:

The Oakland Athletics are not a small market team.

If the A's aren't a small market team, what is responsible for the attendance problem? Can it only be blamed on the ballpark?

Next up: A comparison of attendance prior to and following: A) a World Series win, and B) the opening of a new stadium.

Chavez chimes in on ballpark

By now, many of you have already seen yesterday's article by Joe Roderick in the Merc about third baseman Eric Chavez's continued puzzlement with the lackluster attendance at the Coliseum. The important thing to note is that Chavez doesn't blame the fans, he blames the venue.

Chavez has been both praised and criticized for his candor and at times too-honest demeanor, so this should come as no surprise. Consider, for a moment, Chavez's history. He's a born-and-bred San Diegan, going far enough to name his newborn son Diego (though the inspiration could have come from Diego Rivera or Maradona instead, I suppose). His ties to the San Diego area are still strong despite the fact that he and his family live in Scottsdale in the offseason. San Diego opened Petco Park last year, leaving Oakland as the only multipurpose facility to host a MLB team in California.

Since the A's are the only team left in this predicament, it's almost guaranteed to finish last among the five California teams in attendance every year until a new ballpark is built. Here's how we can expect them to finish this season based on current totals and per-game averages:
  1. LA Dodgers (#2 in MLB, 3.6 million projected)
  2. LA Angels (#3 in MLB, 3.4 million total - season completed)
  3. SF Giants (#5 in MLB, 3.18 million projected)
  4. SD Padres (#6 in MLB, 2.88 million projected)
  5. Oakland A's (#19 in MLB, 2.12 million projected)
When the numbers are presented in this manner, the difference between the A's and the other four teams is stark. I'll go into this further in the next post.