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New York Times, Facebook map instinctively seems wrong

a's giants imageThe New York Times and Facebook – old media and new media.

They combined forces the other day when the Times printed an interactive map of baseball fandom across the country based on preferences listed by Facebook users and provided to the paper by the social media giant.

You can find a link to it here: http://nyti.ms/RSSHuv. You should check it out, play with it and see where Yankees fans give way to Mets fans and where a tiny enclave of White Sox fans is surrounded on all sides by Cubs zealots. You can see where the Padres are pinned in by the Mexican border to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Angels and Dodgers to the north and the desert to the east.

But at least the Mets, the White Sox and Padres have an area where they are the dominant force. The A’s don’t have that. Or at least that’s what the data seems to show.

My question is this:  What does it mean when the interactive map, which can be broken down to zip codes, doesn’t list a single zip code in the East Bay where the Oakland A’s are more popular than the San Francisco Giants?

I’m no specialist in social media. I’m on Facebook, to be sure, but I’m not on Facebook to the point where you’ll find pictures of vacations, to-do lists for the week or what’s happening Saturday. I’m not Mark Zuckerberg’s ideal online presence.

I say this to underscore that my guesses on what’s going on here are just that – guesses, and not necessarily good ones.

But if the interactive map is supposed to say that the Giants are more popular than the A’s across the hills and valleys of the East Bay, it’s clear to me that something is amiss.

Save for a spell spent in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve lived all of my adult life in the East Bay, all of if within a 15 minute drive of the Coliseum, to be exact. And, yes, there are Giants fans there.

But if you are telling me that all my old abodes in Berkeley, Hayward, Oakland and San Leandro are populated by two or three times as many Giants fans as A’s fans, which is what the interactive map is saying, well it seems instinctively wrong to me. That’s never been my experience living here.

What I do think is that it’s possible that the Giants are more popular among people who live online and have Facebook as their link to the world. Is it so? I don’t know, but I’m willing to concede it’s at least possible, even likely.

And I’m more than willing to concede that the Giants have a beautiful stadium to call home that draws fans in. The Coliseum is a half century old and every time the drains back up and spill out, it becomes a laughingstock that engenders no love.

I’m not willing to concede that the interactive map is telling a complete story. A’s fans are concentrated in the East Bay, and I believe that concentration isn’t reflected in that map, either because the fans aren’t on Facebook or because there is something in the way the Facebook metrics are put together that doesn’t translate to reality.

And part of the backdrop of this may be that the A’s management hasn’t done a good job of making sure the East Bay feels comfortable with the team in green and gold. There are hundreds of fans I’ve heard from in the last couple of years since my return to the Bay Area to cover the A’s who tell me they love the A’s but don’t love an A’s management team seen bent on moving the team to San Jose.

The A’s have won back-to-back American League West titles on the field, but the A’s management has lost ground with many fans because there is no sense that the team is in Oakland and/or the East Bay for the long term.

Does that play into the interactive map showing the Giants’ fans dominating A’s boosters by 2-to-1 or more in the East Bay?

I don’t know for certain. But if I had to guess, I’d say it absolutely does.

John Hickey

Returning to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.