Perhaps one of the most underrated modern sports rivalries exists in the Bay Area, between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants.
The two Major League teams played in the infamous 1989 “Bay Bridge” World Series, with the Athletics’ victory marred by a devastating earthquake. Since then tensions between the two franchises have escalated off the field.
There has been a well-documented struggle between the A’s and Giants regarding Oakland’s desire to move to San Jose. Giants CEO Larry Baer and his group insist that Oakland would infringe San Francisco’s territorial rights, while A’s owner Lew Wolff is making every effort to leave what is universally recognized as one of the worst professional sporting venues in America.
The plot seems to have thickened, however, with the fight being taken down to the minor league level.
Reports have surfaced that the Sacramento River Cats, the A’s Triple-A affiliate, are considering changing affiliation from the Oakland organization to the San Francisco organization at the end of the season when the A’s and River Cats current deal is set to expire.
Changing affiliations is not uncommon. Minor league franchises are usually independently owned (the Rivercats are owned by the family of the deceased Art Savage, a close friend of Wolff), and sign Player Development Contracts with major league organizations. Upon completion of those contracts, minor league squads are free to re-sign or strike a deal with a different organization.
However, this could become a huge issue for the A’s. Wolff appears to be exploring every possible scenario for a move, and losing the Rivercats would presumably cut Sacramento out as a possible landing spot for the franchise.
Moreover, if the Giants were to take on the Rivercats as an affiliate (and keep them in Sacramento as opposed to moving them to Fresno as some have hypothesized), the Giants would have a strong presence in San Francisco, San Jose (home of the Class-A affiliate San Jose Giants) and now Sacramento. Meanwhile, the A’s would be left with Oakland and Stockton (home of the Class-A affiliate Stockton Ports).
The A’s have been successful on the field, yet the franchise struggles to find fans even in Oakland. The River Cats assessment is that being affiliated with the Giants, who missed the playoffs entirely last year, is still preferable to the A’s. It’s the latest example of how general manager Billy Beane and the Moneyball A’s win on the field, but can’t translate the success into new fans in the Bay Area.