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The A’s and Oakland have been at odds over a taxpayer-funded stadium and whether the team would stay or go for… Jesus, the entire time I’ve been writing professionally? I’ve been at this for longer than I haven’t been at this point, you know, this is like the Big Dig of stadium talks. And all of it for naught, too, as the A’s have decided to take their ball and go to a new home, this one in Las Vegas. Or, well, it was sort of decided for them, in a way. The A’s agreed to purchase land in Las Vegas with the intent of building a stadium on it, and the city of Oakland found out nearly the same way everyone else did: when they were told it was happening.
Funny story, though, is that the A’s weren’t actually finished negotiating with Oakland at this point. As Neil deMause pointed out at Field of Schemes, all the A’s actually agreed to was to purchase Las Vegas land they hoped to break ground on by next year, but there are all kinds of negotiations for tax breaks and the like to work out before anything official besides a land purchase happens. When the city of Oakland caught wind of this, they immediately cut off negotiations with the A’s. Which, oddly enough, surprised the Athletics. Yes, they had just agreed to purchase land in another city with the express purpose of leaving Oakland, but if A’s president Dave Kaval is to be believed — and really, you should never believe Dave Kaval about anything — the team had no idea this was going to be the result of entering this level of serious in their negotiations with Las Vegas.
And if that actually is the case, that the club expected talks with Oakland to continue after this land purchase, then all it means is that the A’s were planning to continue pitting Oakland and Las Vegas against each other to sweeten the potential offers. After all, surely there would be a way for the A’s to turn around and, with Vegas’ blessing, sell this land they had committed to purchasing to MLB, so the league could then turn around and sell it to whichever expansion owner takes up a residency in Vegas after the A’s had finally agreed to stay in Oakland after two decades of implied or outright threats saying otherwise. If Vegas, Nevada, whatever is desperate enough to enter into talks with the A’s for half-a-billion in tax breaks and taxpayer dollars going toward a stadium, they aren’t going to fight too hard over which team it is that they’re getting in the end.
What’s pathetic is that any of this was allowed to happen. That the league fully endorsed the plans of the A’s to strip their roster down, spend as little as possible to make up for what they expected would be falling attendance (and therefore, falling local revenues), because in the end, they’d be able to get a new stadium from somewhere. Said endorsement didn’t just come in the form of public support (and public threats) from commissioner Rob Manfred, but also in the current collective bargaining agreement agreeing to reinstate the A’s revenue-sharing eligibility, despite not being in a market that should allow them to receive any of those funds. That ticket prices went up despite the watchability and payroll of the team plummeting. That the A’s have been openly pocketing those renewed revenue-sharing dollars to the point that other owners are mad about it — not that they were ever going to do anything besides whine about it anonymously, but still, the fact any of them said anything instead of just keeping quiet says a lot about how blatantly terrible the A’s behavior has been.
And now we get to see the A’s maybe stay in Oakland for the next few years, since there won’t be a new stadium in Vegas to play in until 2027 at the earliest. Will the city of Oakland even bother to extend the current lease for two years after it expires following the 2024 season? Or will they, following next season, tell Kaval and Co. that they better grab some tools and help finish the new stadium in Vegas because the 2025 season starts in just a few months? Personally, I’m hoping for the A’s to be run out of Oakland, given that they managed to convince the city to pay for around three-quarters of a billion dollars worth of stadium and still have found their way to Vegas instead. That will cause some new problems to solve — where does the minor-league team in Vegas go and how soon, if the A’s have to play in that stadium, and how does that work given the current Professional Baseball Agreement — but at this point, it’s time for the A’s to be someone else’s problem. And since the only issues Las Vegas and the state of Nevada would be solving here are “oh no the baseball team we stole needs a place to play baseball,” it’s hard to feel bad for them like you can for, say, the immensely betrayed A’s fans. Who still had enough love for the team a week ago to be planning a “reverse boycott” where they’d show up to the stadium and pay to watch baseball to prove there were still fans in town.
Not to pour salt directly into the wounds the A’s sliced open in those people, but the “reverse boycott” was always a goofy idea, considering the circumstances. What was being proven by it, other than that there were fans still willing to give this team their money when they should not be doing that? When none of that money was going to go anywhere beside the pockets of owner John Fisher — it certainly wasn’t going to go toward making an awful team better! When there is zero reason to have any loyalty to an organization that was doing its damndest to get out of town at worst, and extract even more money from you and the taxpayers of Oakland and California at large at best? I understand people get all protective and teary-eyed about their sports teams, but it’s okay to say enough is enough, and not debase yourself to prove some kind of point about how much your life is controlled by these forces you do not need to submit to.
The A’s — any of these teams — do not care about you, and they should have to earn your love, not see it and your dollars handed over unconditionally. Hopefully, the fans of Oakland get another chance in the future to love a baseball team — after all, the inevitable expansion clubs are going to need somewhere to go, Oakland is much bigger than Nashville, and the city already agreed to give out a pretty substantial sum of taxpayer dollars to a team that didn’t want to be there and now won’t be. Much of the hard work is already done, in that sense.
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