As the 2014 World Series heads back to Kansas City with the Giants ahead 3-2, Major League Baseball’s Fall Classic this year is seemingly as much a contrast as were the scores of the Series’ first two games. The first, a San Francisco Giants 7-1 blowout. The second, a Kansas City Royals 7-2 blowout. But culturally, viscerally, and economically, it goes much deeper than that.
It’s the City by the Bay vs. the City by the Hay.
San Francisco is an international tourist destination, renowned for its stunning scenery, world class cuisine, politicultural history, and cutting-edge technology. Kansas City is known for its stockyards and BBQ. The Giants play in $357 million AT&T Park, its bayside locale making it one of the most beautiful spots to take in a sporting event ever. The Royals play in Kauffman Stadium, which has the audacity to carry the name of the franchise’s founding owner rather than a mega corporation.
The Giants’ fan base includes Journey frontman Steve Perry and on occasion, the surviving members of the Grateful Dead. The Royals’ most famous fan is nice guy actor Paul Rudd.
Despite their marked differences, from a baseball business standpoint, the two franchises are remarkably alike – they’re far from the mega-payrolls of the Dodgers and Yankees, have veteran staffs that are fanatical about sticking to the process, adhering to the long term plan, and loyal fan bases that may not always show up in droves to every single game but are there when the teams need them most.
With that in mind, here’s a random look at this series through an economic lens, from internal strengths to outside forces.
In small market Kansas City, it has taken owner David Glass, the former Wal-Mart CEO, over 20 years since his ownership tenure began in 1993 to fulfill his promise of bringing a World Series berth back to a franchise that hadn’t seen one since 1985. “Our goal,” Glass told the Kansas City Star, “has never been to make money on this franchise: It’s to keep the franchise in Kansas City, to win pennants and to try to break even.” Glass has exhibited patience with General Manager Dayton Moore, on the job for nine years, giving Moore time to implement a long-term vision that has included “a new minor-league team, exponential increases in executive and scout staffing, and new training facilities in Latin America and beyond. Building the team with key international draftees, savvy trades, and free agent signings has been the core of the plan, which looks to have come to fruition this year.
The Royals’ slow build is now paying off for other stakeholders as well. On Fanatics.com, Royals apparel has been the online merchandiser’s top selling MLB gear since the beginning of October, and regional sporting goods stores throughout Kansas and Missouri are reporting flash Royals gear sales that equal or top a normal days’ worth of all sales, period. The Kansas City Star printed twice as many copies for street sales as usual and still couldn’t keep up with the demand. And the city itself is garnering hundreds of hours of free international advertising.
Bob Marcusse, CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council, told the Kansas City Business Journal all the exposure and widespread support for the underdog Royals is “fantastic.”
“There’s nobody that could afford to buy the kind of exposure that Kansas City is getting,” Marcusse said. “We often hear that people are not aware that Kansas City is as large a region as it is. When you see the shots of the stadium and other shots of the region, it becomes obvious this is in every way a major league city.”
On the left coast, the Giants are dancing to a whole different vibe – but not to Lorde’s hit song “Royals,” which was pulled by local radio stations for the duration of the World Series.
The Giants are gunning for their third World Series title in five years, and General Manager Brian Sabean, hired 18 years ago (and currently baseball’s longest-tenured GM), has led his franchise to seven postseason berths, four National League pennants, and two World Series crowns. Bobby Evans, the Giants’ assistant GM, has been in the organization since 1994, as has head of player personnel Dick Tidrow. And while the Giants are “not one of the industry’s darlings in scouting and player development, their entire infield is home grown,” notes the Los Angeles Times. Since “no player received” more than $20 million in salary this season, the Giants “had the organization and financial depth to survive the postseason absence of four of the seven highest-paid players on their opening-day roster.”
Among players, the Giants’ current reputation within MLB “is huge,” added MLB Network’s Darryl Hamilton. “I think every player who is borderline, ‘Should I stay another year or two or call it a career?’ – they’re looking at the Giants,” Hamilton said. “The fan base is huge, it’s a great ballpark, awesome city and you got a chance to win. What better place to go and finish your career if you’ve got something left?”
If you want to go to the World Series now—if you’re a fan, that is—it’s going to cost you. Tickets to World Series Games 1 and 2 at Kauffman Stadium skyrocketed to record prices, with the average seat going for more than $1,400 and standing-room-only tickets listed for around $600, according SeatGeek.
At AT&T Park, secondary market ticket prices have escalated in the last three days, reaching an average list price of $1,233 per ticket for Games 3-5, according to ticket aggregator TiqIQ. Standing-room tickets have particularly jumped in price in recent days, rising 15% to an average of $651.
If the Series extends to 6 or 7 games, the average price for Game 6 is $1,168 and Game 7 is $1,272.
For avid fans, though, that’s a small price to pay for the Bay and the Hay.
Follow Rick Horrow (@RickHorrow) and Karla Swatek (@kswak) on Twitter.
Photo : Randy Chiu