At the end of the 2014 season the current player development contract (PDC) between the Oakland Athletics and Sacramento River Cats will end. This is not news. Major League baseball clubs contract their affiliates and at some point that contract needs to be renewed.
Speculation has arisen this weekend that the River Cats are looking to bring in the San Francisco Giants as their affiliate. The Giants’s current AAA affiliate is the Fresno Grizzlies. The Grizzlies and Giants have had a partnership since the team moved to Fresno in 1998. The PDC between San Francisco and Fresno is also up this year. It is speculated that the River Cats might prefer to have the Giants as their affiliate since they are more popular in terms of Major League attendance and Bay Area TV ratings than the Athletics.
All of this talk prompted a response on Sunday from the River Cats.
Basically a typical statement to tell the Athletics and their fans that “we like you, but we are keeping our options open.” Is all of this innuendo, just a hardball tactic to get the Athletics to really invest into the River Cats? Possibly, but we do know one thing for sure. This will not be resolved until after the end of the season.
Why would the River Cats seek an affiliate change? The PDC between the Giants and Grizzlies and the Athletics and River Cats both end this year. The Giants may seem like a “sexier” option than the Athletics. If you look at the Major League level the Giants far out pace the Athletics in attendance and they seem to be more popular because you seen more merchandise in stores. However, those are not good reasons to switch affiliates.
Since the River Cats came into existence in 2000 they have been an Oakland Athletics affiliate. During that time the River Cats have gone on to win 7 Pacific Coast League Championships and they have led the minors in attendance in 8 seasons. Since 1998 the Frenso Grizzlies have won only 1 PCL title and that was in their first year. This says a lot about what the Athletics have to offer the River Cats.
Here is a look at the average attendance between the 2 affiliates in 2013 (data gathered from Ballpark Digest):
Sacramento River Cats
607,329 total attendance
72 games per year
8,435 average attendance per game in 2013
8,140 average attendance per game in 2012
+0.04% attendance difference
487,536 total attendance
72 games per year
6,771 average attendance per game in 2013
6,551 average attendance per game in 2012
+0.03% attendance difference
Looking at these numbers and the past history of each AAA Club, switching to the San Francisco Giants as an affiliate does not make sense for the Sacramento River Cats. If they are in fact trying to provide their fans with “the best experience possible at Raley Field” the choice is clear: remain the Oakland Athletics AAA affiliate.