14 October 2006

Okay, I'll bite on the name

Update: Two editorials were published this week on the A's possible move to Fremont. Both the San Jose Mercury News and the Fremont Argus support the efforts, pointing out the inability of the A's and the City of Oakland to work out a deal. The Argus thinks the team name could be "Oakland A's of Fremont," while the Merc doesn't rule out a "San Jose A's" sobriquet.

Folks, I shake my head at how half of the comment threads seem to get hijacked by the "city name" debate. There are all sorts of legitimate reasons for why one city may be included over another, but we simply don't know the true criteria that are being used. However, I think that if one of the main reasons for relocating the team (pursuit of Silicon Valley money) is the same as what's being used to name the team, it makes sense to use a designator befitting all of this new support:

Silicon Valley A's

Cringe all you want, but the political/economic forces at work are every bit as powerful as those from a municipality. One of those forces is the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (formerly the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group), whose latest media foray was a widely quoted study from a month ago that cited Silicon Valley as both the best and worst technology hub in the US (VC money for the former, cost of doing business for the latter). One of the main tenets of SVLG's core policy is the addition of housing, especially affordable housing in the Valley. Guess what the A's-Pacific Commons project would do? That's right, it would add housing in the Valley.

The speech that Lew Wolff made in August was sponsored by the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. Why both names? It's pretty obvious that Silicon Valley has far surpassed San Jose as the real catch-all descriptor of the area. Take Google's purchase of YouTube. Neither company is described as being near San Jose or San Francisco. Both are considered Valley companies, even though YouTube's San Bruno location is arguably outside the generally accepted definition of Silicon Valley.

While I was in Australia, I had several people ask me where my company's headquarters were. I explained they were in Fremont, which was often met with blank stares. Once I amended "Silicon Valley" or "San Francisco" to my response everyone knew what I was talking about. "San Jose" required a qualifier most of the time. San Jose's struggle with its own identity is typified by its motto, "The Capital of Silicon Valley". Most everyone that lives and works here knows such a tagline is a fallacy. That's partly due to how quickly things change here, but it also has much to do with the sprawling, homogeneous nature of the region. Downtown San Jose has a single major corporate headquarters, Adobe, and it's begging for nVidia to move to an empty building downtown. Meanwhile, Google is creating a mega-campus in Mountain View/Moffett Field, Yahoo is entrenched in Sunnyvale but is looking to make its own mega-campus in Santa Clara, not far from Great America. Apple's always been a Cupertino company. HP has always been a Palo Alto firm. Intel belongs in Santa Clara. Cisco in north San Jose. Sand Hill Road is in Menlo Park.

Not every Valley firm will be gung-ho about being lumped in with a particular city, especially if it's not their home. But they can all identify with being Valley companies. If the A's want something that makes sense to all of these new corporate sponsors, a proper nod to the Valley is in order.

Will the owners and the commish go for it? And what about Oakland?