Notes: A’s and Vegas, Nashville, and front office unionization

More on the A’s and Las Vegas, the next step in expansion, and a look at the why and what of front office unionization.

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The A’s are likely going to play baseball in Las Vegas as soon as their lease with the city of Oakland is up following the 2024 season, but then again, maybe they won’t. All of that is pretty unsettled at the moment, with all kinds of negotiations for public subsidies and tax dollars still occurring, which will happen for at least another month until Vegas’ current legislative session ends. “The A’s move to Las Vegas” is probably the most-likely scenario, but there’s also “the A’s stay in Oakland, sell, and current owner John Fisher takes over an expansion team that will go to Vegas instead” as well as “the A’s and Las Vegas don’t agree on anything in time but Oakland won’t renew the lease, leaving the A’s to play their games in a Triple-A stadium while they argue over public funding for years, again.”

I got into all of the unanswered questions at Baseball Prospectus on Monday, which also includes the mayor of Las Vegas stating her preference for a franchise that wants to be part of the community instead of just taking their money to build a stadium. Thank you to Craig Goldstein for the headline, “The A’s Only Want One Thing and It’s Disgusting,” which I wish I could take credit for myself.

And while we’re on the subject of the A’s and Las Vegas, be sure to read the interview with economist J.C. Bradbury over at The Athletic. You’ll have a far better understanding of why everything teams tell cities about taxpayers footing the bill for new stadiums is some bullshit if you do.

As Neil deMause pointed out at Field of Schemes already, this article from The Tennessean doesn’t actually deliver on what its headline promises — “Rob Manfred reveals what it will take for Nashville to get Major League Baseball team” — but that’s whatever for our purposes. All I care about right now is that Manfred is saying expansion is… well, it’s not a go, not officially, but with the A’s looking like they’re getting out of Oakland, the league is at least ready to look at that next step.

“I think Nashville you have to think about as an expansion candidate,” Manfred said. “I think that we’ve talked about the situation in Oakland, if you follow the press in Tampa I think (Rays principal shareholder) Mr. (Stuart) Sternberg much more positive about being able to get something done in Tampa − which I think is the right answer for baseball − that puts Nashville in the expansion category.

As I’ve written multiple times in the past, there wasn’t going to be any expansion, no matter how much the league might want those expansion fees and the revenue that comes from having more teams, until the Rays and A’s were sorted out in their stadium searches. Neither is done, not by any means, but the Rays don’t seem like they’re going anywhere, even recently having won the bid to redevelop the area around Tropicana Field, and the A’s are… well, this opened with the A’s, you know the score there. And it’s not just me saying this, either: Manfred himself has said the same thing, about what the starting point of expansion was.

I think for us to expand we need to be resolved in Tampa and Oakland in terms of their stadium situations. As much as I hope that both Oakland and Tampa will get stadiums, I think it would be difficult to convince the owners to go forward with an expansion until those situations are resolved.

Once they’re done, I think we have some great candidates. I know the mayor of Montreal has been very vocal about bringing baseball back to Montreal. It was not great when the Expos left. The fact of the matter was baseball was successful in Montreal for a very long time. Charlotte is a possibility. And I would like to think that Mexico City or some place in Mexico would be another possibility.

Nashville is now on the list along with those other cities, is the thing to glean from this most recent conversion of the commissioner’s. It’ll still be some time before expansion actually happens — the A’s have this season and one more in Oakland, and nothing is set in stone for an actual Vegas stadium yet, while the Rays’ lease goes through 2027. I guess we’re also pretty close to adding Oakland to the list of expansion cities, since it’s not as if they were saying no to the A’s about giving them an enormous pile of money from taxpayers. The pile just wasn’t as big as the one Vegas insinuated was possible. Which should tell you much about the viability of these other cities, too: MLB is going to want the most desperate ones, like when Amazon says they want to open a new warehouse and waits for one of the candidate cities to offer to pay for everything and include tax exemptions, too.

Over at CBS Sports, R.J. Anderson wrote about how the next unionization effort in Major League Baseball could come from the front offices:

Amateur scouts, long portrayed as the sport’s backbone, best exemplify the struggles of the contemporary front-office worker. Despite giving their lives to the industry, their jobs are forever teetering on the brink of extinction. A scouting official explained to CBS Sports that workloads and payouts vary based on an amateur scout’s team, experience level, and “area”– the geographical range the scout is in charge of exploring for talent. A scout based in a hotbed, say the Tampa Bay region, can be on the road and attending games, practices, and workouts up to six days a week. Those individuals grind from January until late November, at times compiling 12-hour days or longer.

The workload is not accompanied by proportional pay. The scouting official estimated that first-time scouts make around $50,000. (That figure used to be lower, at times substantively so, before the Obama administration passed a law expanding overtime eligibility.) More practiced scouts can make $85,000 or more, but meaningful job security is hard to obtain. Almost everyone below the executive level works on an at-will or one-year arrangement. Multi-year contracts, said to be rare by several sources, are often one-year deals with club options tacked on, thereby creating only the illusion of surety.

Scouts are hardly the only ones in baseball who grind. A former high-ranking business executive described a typical day: arrive before 9 a.m. and leave after 10 p.m. on home game days. When they exited the industry because of the time demands, their colleagues expressed jealousy. A career in a baseball front office is taxing enough on the individuals, let alone their families. “It makes you really wonder why you went into the sports industry in the first place, and specifically baseball,” the former business executive said.

It’s a long but worthwhile read, with Anderson really digging into the issues and the need for union protections in MLB’s front offices. Back in college, I was lucky enough to speak with a couple of front office folks about the possibility of trying to get a job in that arena, and the reason I was “lucky” is because the working conditions described to me scared me off from any such attempt. You might think a front office gig is glamorous, but you’re in the office all day with no protections; your life is that job. High-ranking executives might be paid well to make things that way, but you can bet the people under them are not, and with the positions as limited as they are, no one is in a position to complain too much about any of that. Here’s hoping they figure out a way to unionize before too long.

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