Editorial: Sacramento region scores by luring the Giants’ Triple-A franchise

Like a kid who buys a packet of trading cards and gets a rookie Buster Posey, the Sacramento region scored big by luring the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A franchise.

The Savage family, owners of the Sacramento River Cats, has reached a deal in which the Cats will become the Triple-A affiliate of the Giants beginning in 2015.

Not that the Oakland A’s affiliation with West Sacramento and the River Cats was the equivalent of the card of a guy who never made it past rookie league. The A’s fielded exciting teams during their 15-year affiliation with West Sacramento, made the playoffs 11 times, won championships, produced great players and built a loyal following.

Fans have had the privilege of seeing exciting players on their way up. Barry Zito, Eric Chavez, Josh Donaldson and Chris Carter, the slugger who launches home runs for the Astros when he isn’t striking out, came through town. More than a few who are on their way out of the game ended here, too.

The baseball news came as wrecking crews continued dismantling the downtown Sacramento mall that will become the site of the Kings new arena, and as boisterous Republic FC fans greeted Major League Soccer executives upon their arrival in Sacramento as they contemplate placing a franchise here.

River Cats, Kings, Republic FC has a nice ring, not unlike Tinkers to Evers to Chance.

Almost inexplicably, baseball fans stay loyal to their childhood teams. But of course teams are in the business of making money. Fields of dreams turn to spreadsheets on computer screens.

The River Cats have had the highest Pacific Coast League attendance for eight of the past 10 years, thanks in no small part to the stadium built by the Savage family. But numbers had been sliding.

Certainly, some A’s fans might drift away now that Oakland’s cross-Bay rival is moving in. But the owners of the Giants and River Cats must assume the new affiliation will boost attendance.

A’s fans gloat over the four-game World Series sweep in 1989. But in the Sacramento region, the black and orange dominate.

The research firm Scarborough estimates that 173,860 people from the region have attended Giants games this year, compared to 90,400 who have gone to A’s games. Television viewership is significantly higher for Giants games, too.

On Thursday, six Triple-A baseball teams moved, as in a multiteam trade. The A’s affiliate will become the Nashville Sounds.

The Giants’ departure from Fresno will sting. The team has been a part of Fresno since 1998. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who fought to keep the Grizzlies part of the Giants’ operation, didn’t hit a home run, but she did not strike out. The Houston Astros’ Triple-A affiliate provided some joy in Fresno by agreeing to move from Oklahoma City, a trade up in our view.

The Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, meanwhile, will move from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City. We wish them all the luck in the world, though not really because they are, after all, Dodgers.

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