There is much anger and grief right now, and like all feelings they are justified and yours to have. Today I offer my own point of view on the news that the A’s have entered a binding agreement to buy a plot of land in Las Vegas for the purpose of building a stadium.
I have a very different perspective than most all the ones I have seen on AN these past couple of days, and so I offer it as nothing more than one man’s views, with perhaps some points you have thought of — and perhaps some your anger or grief blocked you from seeing or considering. Ultimately, though, they are just my thoughts and feelings on a complex issue.
On “The A’s Are Moving To Las Vegas”
My very first vivid memory as a baseball fan is not of any particular game. Back when I was 11, I remember I burst into tears the morning a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle announced, with an economy of piercing words, “A’s Sold To Denver”.
That was that for the Oakland A’s except that it wasn’t. That “deal in place” turned out to be as real as the deal Joe Lacob had in place to buy the A’s in 2005. If the Denver A’s are known for anything it should be their dominance in the season series against the St. Petersburg Giants from the time Bob Lurie moved the team there except wait that never actually came to pass.
Don’t get me wrong, Thursday’s announcement is not to be taken lightly but it is just as premature to follow the media’s trap of acting like anything is finalized. No newspaper or social media platform ever exploded from an announcement that “The A’s could be leaving Oakland for Las Vegas maybe if a bunch of other things happen” and so it’s more stunning to just say “A’s Moving To Las Vegas”. Sensation sells better than truth.
But just as Howard Terminal faced many hurdles this “apparent move” faces several steps before a shovel would be put into the ground for a stadium guaranteed to house the A’s, meaning that Thursday’s news isn’t about the A’s leaving Oakland so much as it’s about Las Vegas going from an underdog to a favorite. Just as Laney College went from a favorite to yesterday’s news and how Howard Terminal went from an underdog to a favorite and now is back to being an underdog.
One hurdle that I wonder about is the need for 75% of the MLB owners to sign off on a relocation. If the A’s relocate to Las Vegas, owners lose their share of the roughly $1 billion in relocation fees that have been waived. They also lose their share of the $2.2 billion fee an expansion team would pay to call Las Vegas home.
So the owners want to let the A’s relocate to Las Vegas for free instead of an expansion team paying $2.2 billion to set up shop there? It wouldn’t be better for them to pony up the $250M funding gap for Howard Terminal in order to get $2.2 billion in expansion fees from a 31st team?
You can’t count on MLB owners always to be smart or ever to be compassionate or community minded, but you can usually count on them to be greedy. Something smells rotten in Denmark (or is it Denver?) when owners are, on the face of it, trading shares of $1 billion or $2.2 billion for the chance to let the A’s take a 31st market away for free.
And maybe my tin foil hat is on too tight, but all the A’s have committed to is putting in money to purchase land for the purpose of building a stadium. Couldn’t they turn around and sell their interest to an expansion team coming in to play in that stadium?
Also not yet resolved is Nevada’s politicians facing taxpayers with a “Just kidding! When we said ‘no taxpayer money’ we meant $500 million.” This is no small difference and as a result represents a legitimate hurdle to a stadium being built for anyone’s use.
This is all a preamble to my thoughts about how I would handle the Las Vegas Athletics and why. All I’m saying is that “responsible journalism” is an oxymoron, especially on the internet, and while A’s fans have every right to be concerned I’m not sure we need to be grieving a corpse that is still warm with a pulse no matter what sensationalist outlets might have you believe.
Now onto the feelings part of “What if they moved?” Why am I not more shaken at the thought or renouncing my fandom if it happens?
Not As Different As It Seems
When you get past the betrayal, city pride, and all the other highly legitimate reasons to want your team in the town where it belongs, one mantra I am using to sustain my mental health is that in real time, an A’s team playing its home games in Las Vegas is not all that different from the status quo in terms of how it impacts my daily life.
Simple attendance figures prove that very few of you attend more than a handful of games each year at the Coliseum. In fact many or most of you reside outside of the east bay. For me, I have access to attending A’s games but in recent years have gone to about 5-7 each year.
My routine and passion is to plop myself down in front of the TV at first pitch, sync the telecast to the radio broadcast, and lose myself for 3 hours (now 2.5) in the world of A’s baseball. I did it last night for a game in Arlington and had it been in Las Vegas it would have been the same experience for my eyes and ears.
Basically if the A’s were to move to Las Vegas it would be like each road trip was followed by another road trip instead of a homestand. I don’t especially want my team to play 162 away games, but I’m not going to give up the joy of A’s baseball over it.
Always The Oakland A’s
Right now the Oakland A’s play 81 games at the Oakland Coliseum and 81 away games. If they move their “home games” to Las Vegas then as far as I am concerned the Oakland A’s will play 81 away games in Las Vegas and 81 away games at various other venues.
They will always be the Oakland A’s, and I can tell you this right now: On AN I will always refer to them only as the Oakland A’s. It may be confusing to some to hear about how “Oakland needs to add depth in the rotation” but I can assure you that the only way I will ever refer to this team is as the Oakland A’s because that’s who they are and who they always will be.
That’s because the A’s are rooted in Oakland, even if some a-holes who control all the money don’t know “rooted” from a $5 bill. Your identity is not defined by where you throw out the first pitch, it’s defined by your identity.
Burn my Oakland A’s gear? If anything, a confirmed move to Las Vegas would cause me to buy a couple extra hoodies and caps so that when my current ones wore out I would still be able to proudly wear my Oakland A’s swag. It’s important to remind those walking down the street who your team really is.
I’m an Oakland A’s fan for life and they will be the Oakland A’s for life. Play your games where you want and just tell me when first pitch is so I can turn on the TV and the radio.
Fisher and Kaval
Don’t get too caught up in hating John Fisher and Dave Kaval or trying to punish them by withholding your money or your fandom. That is cutting off your nose to spite your face and letting them take your fandom away from you.
I will say this bluntly. John Fisher and Dave Kaval are terrible people who do terrible things to good people and do it without conscience in order to make a dollar they don’t need. And they do it by acquiring things good people want or need and then exploiting that want or need for profit.
So does Jeff Bezos and most of you order from Amazon. Most of you have accounts with Verizon or AT&T or T-Mobile and keep money in a bank that isn’t nearly as friendly or caring as their commercials imply. It’s just the way things work in a capitalist society and a world in which the rich always triumph over the poor simply because they are rich and they can and they don’t know how to love or care.
They are not worth your hate, they are not worth your anger, and they are not worth your consideration as you make decisions about who to love and how to spend your time. And that is because they are not the Oakland A’s. They are not Oakland. And they are not the A’s. And they are truly unworthy of you.
If you are thinking about “not giving them a dime” then first get out of bed with Amazon, your phone and insurance companies, your gas and electric supplier, your bank and a dozen other equally evil and corrupt entities, so that you are not accused of being a hypocrite.
And then just enjoy the Oakland A’s in a way that Fisher and Kaval are unable to do. Do you think Fisher knew or cared that Jordan Diaz hit a game winning HR in the 9th inning last night? We have that. Do you think Kaval follows the minor league box scores and gets genuinely excited about the potential of Tyler Soderstrom or Lawrence Butler? We know that feeling and he will never know it.
I don’t know these men personally, but I will bet you none of them has ever known love, passion, fierce loyalty, or joy in the way you have. I feel all of those for the Oakland A’s. At the end of the day those two guys, along with Rob Manfred and a bunch of other fools, sure they have impact on the team we love but the Oakland A’s are so much bigger than they are that despite their best efforts they can’t touch the magic that is being an Oakland A’s fan and rooting for the Oakland A’s. Not unless you let them, so please don’t.
One Door Closes, Another Opens
Change is intrinsically challenging and scary, but it is not always all bad. I was hired by a small school of 325 middle school students that sat next to a small school of 350 students which was forced, by a bunch of corporate suits who never visit a classroom, to combine into one big school of now close to 800.
It’s hard when a small school that doesn’t want to become a big school, and another small school that doesn’t want to become a big school, are smushed together by people who don’t understand schools and don’t have to endure the consequences.
Fast forward 3 years and I love my school. And the change, for all its hiccups and downsides, has brought with it benefits, resources, opportunities, and friendships that I could not have envisioned at the time of the unwanted move.
I see a move to Las Vegas in the same way. It’s not what I want and I can easily see the downsides, but there are two upsides one also should remember.
One is that a new stadium, wherever it is built, would allow the A’s to increase payroll to the $100+M that makes it feasible to keep a young talented player longer, to sign free agents that are more desirable. And just as you might be naive to think payroll would suddenly jump to Giants levels it is just as naive to think it would stay at the bottom of the league. Hand in hand with a higher payroll is a stadium and attendance that is attractive to free agents as a landing point, or to a homegrown player as a long-term destination.
The other upside is that it would be a move from an unsustainable “status quo”. Arguably nothing is worse than the current environment in which 3,000 fans scatter around a large, mostly empty, dilapidated stadium that gets no care just like its product gets no care, with a shoestring payroll and a team that is playing .200 ball.
Granted, most of what I describe is the direct result of intentional and gross negligence and didn’t have to be this way. But if that’s what baseball in Oakland would look like for the next 10 years because we can’t control who runs it and how it’s run, well...Maybe having 81 home games that no one goes to isn’t the best priority.
Anyway, I’ve rambled for over 2,000 words and I will leave you with this. The team this site is devoted to will always be the Oakland A’s and for as long as I live I will be a die-hard fan of the Oakland A’s. I love the AN community and I hope many of you, once you work through the anger and grief that has been wrongly foisted upon you, will remain a part of this vibrant, resilient and unparalleled community — and I say that not because I give a rat’s ass about page views or traffic but because I treasure the community, the camaraderie, the shared absurd levels of passion and pride for the Oakland A’s.
But I can only speak for myself: however this saga ultimately plays out I will be here, excited about the team this is or will be, and the only true certainty, in my mind, is that they will always be the Oakland A’s no matter where they play 81 of their games — and I will always be rooting for them and celebrating their ups, while commiserating their downs, with whoever shares my passion.
I have but one wish for you: when you find joy, don’t let anyone take it away from you. Because they can’t do it without your complicity.