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Last month, due to the A’s moving to Las Vegas, I was introduced to the “journalism” of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s the largest newspaper in Nevada, and used to actually put out the kind of work you’d expect from a newspaper. Ownership changed hands in 2015, though, with the paper ending up in the hands of Sheldon Adelson, who has been referred to as a “kingmaker” for his sizable financial support of right-wing political candidates. Not like the newspaper landscape in America is run by a bunch of left-leaning folks or anything that would make Adelson an exception, but he’s not who you want running a paper even among the kind of people who tend to do that sort of thing.
Anyway, from people who are more knowledgeable about where the paper has been and is, I’ve learned that its mission statement these days is basically to let rich people do what they want without questioning them. Which is why any figure of any kind of authority who sides with the wealthy won’t be questioned even a little bit about, say, whether the A’s are going to spend all of the public money they’ve been approved to spend by Nevada or not, or how lawyer who is partner at a firm that puts together cases for clients looking for stadium financing isn’t exactly an unbiased expert source for your story on whether the A’s are going to be good for Vegas or not. And why A’s owner John Fisher got a chance to say whatever he wanted unchallenged in an interview with the Review-Journal’s Mick Akers, who was also responsible for the aforementioned pieces.
Within, Fisher claims the A’s will lose $40 million this season, and it’s numbers like that which are no small part of why the team needed to move into a brand new ballpark in another city and state. An absurd claim on its face even if you aren’t in the know on such things — lose money on what, exactly, when the team’s payroll is as low as it is — but if you do have even a little bit of an understanding of MLB’s finances, well. You don’t work for the Las Vegas Review-Journal covering the comings and goings of baseball teams, let’s just say that.
Over at Forbes, Maury Brown already tackled this one in-depth, so let’s start with a quote:
The A’s Opening Day player payroll was $56.9 million. Their regional sports network media rights fees average $53 million annually. So, before any tickets are sold, the A’s are around $7 million from a breakeven point. There are additional expenses. There is the cost of the front office, coaching and manager staff. There is travel. There is the cost of the A’s minor league system and the $1.25 million lease payment for the Oakland Coliseum. So, regardless that Forbes shows that the A’s had $212 million in revenues for 2022, of which $30 million was gate receipts, and showed an operating income – a form of profit – at $29 million, maybe Fisher and the A’s have procured additional costs I don’t know of.
But let’s make the leap and say Fisher is right. The A’s will lose $40 million. What he didn’t say is there are league subsidies that will erase all that. It’s here that Fisher is disingenuous with the accounting trick.
Brown goes on to explain all the various ways the A’s make money simply by existing as one of Major League Baseball’s 30 clubs. Pooled and redistributed merch revenue, the various national television deals, the streaming deals like the one with Apple, and, of course, the revenue-sharing for the clubs in smaller media markets. While the A’s aren’t in a small market, being in Oakland and all, they did get the revenue-sharing hose turned back on in the current collective bargaining agreement as they tried to figure out their stadium situation. Now that they have a stadium deal in place, they won’t lose revenue-sharing access after 2023, and when they move to Vegas, it’ll be permanent, given that Vegas becomes the smallest media market in the league the second an MLB game is played there.
Even if you take Fisher’s statement at face value — and you shouldn’t, but given this piece exists at all, at least one person is — and accept that the A’s start out their offseason accounting $40 million in the red, they’re back in the black, and comfortably so, once MLB sends them their checks for various forms of passive income. Now, consider that Fisher is probably full of shit about the A’s losing money in the first place, and realize that they’re probably ahead of the game even before they get all that additional money from the league for broadcasts, merch, and revenue-sharing… well, it’s not great that the largest newspaper in Nevada isn’t in a position to challenge Fisher on his lies, is all, considering that those lies will now belong to Nevada instead of Oakland. And if you think he’s actually going to stop telling them, or that the A’s will shift gears and try to win by spending once they leave Oakland, then let me just say the words “stadium debt service” right now so we can all refer back to this in a few years when the A’s trot out Dave Kaval to whine that they should have received even more public money from Nevada so that they didn’t have to pay back a loan for stadium financing for so long, maybe then they’d have money for a better roster.
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