Notes: Oakland bargaining with A’s name, Red Sox own Pirates TV now

The A’s won’t be the A’s anymore if Oakland has anything to say about it, and Fenway Sports Group owns the Pirates’ TV station now.

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The Athletics are leaving Oakland, we know this much to be true. Or, at least, we’re pretty sure we know this to be true, but until John Fisher gets a bank to agree to pay for the portion of stadium costs that Nevada isn’t taking care of, well. Chaos isn’t out of the question just yet, is all. Anyway! It’s going to take time for all of that to go down, so extending the lease with Oakland is a possibility, even if the eventual outcome is still the A’s heading a little bit east for Vegas.

Extending the lease isn’t going to come free, though, and I don’t mean that the A’s are going to have to pay for it, either. In addition to the usual fees for stadium usage, the mayor of Oakland, Sheng Thao, has said that the A’s need to relinquish their team name to the city as part of a deal to continue to play in the Coliseum while they wait for their home in Vegas to be built. That’s according to Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle, who reported as much earlier this week:

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has already informed MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred there is a price for a lease extension, her chief of staff, Leigh Hanson, told the Chronicle. Hanson said those demands could include a provision that the A’s leave their name rooted in Oakland when they go. Or, even bigger, the city could extract a guarantee of being awarded a new team when baseball expands, as it expects to do fairly soon.

Fisher and the A’s are not a reliable business partner. The A’s announced on April 20 that they had an agreement for a land deal in Vegas and intend to move there. The A’s are required to submit an application for relocation, and Manfred said, “One of the things that you have to include is what’s going to happen during the interim period.”

In other words, where do the A’s plan to play in the three (or four, or five) seasons before they move into a new ballpark? Fisher & Co. have had a couple of years to ponder that question, including four months since their announced move. They now have submitted their formal application, which presumably addressed that issue.

Yet, as of Friday, neither the A’s nor MLB had approached the city and county to even discuss a possible extension. Thao’s office said there has been no contact on that topic.

This basically boils down to the city saying that simply paying to use the stadium after all the team has put them through isn’t going to work for Oakland any longer. It might still just cost the same basic rate it has for years for the A’s to play in Oakland until it’s time to head to Las Vegas as far as dollars go ($1.2 million of them annually), but if Oakland is going to have to give up their team, the Athletics are going to have to give something up, too. I imagine securing a guaranteed spot as an expansion site isn’t going to fly at all — the league would be sure to get the A’s settled across the bay in San Francisco, or play in Las Vegas in a Triple-A stadium, before they ever give up a chance to let cities compete against each other for the right to host an MLB club — but there might be something to this demand over a name.

For one, MLB could actually benefit a bit from it in a couple ways. Severing this iteration of the A’s from their name could be good for the franchise going forward, since it’s currently associated with a rich asshole’s personal whims and decades of not trying when they could. Vegas would be a fresh start, from that angle, and even if/when Fisher acts exactly the same and comes up with new excuses for the the team isn’t spending or trying or what have you, at least it’ll all feel a little newer instead of more of the same. To some, anyway, not like you or I will forget.

And the other thing is that having access to the A’s name might keep Oakland a little more invested in the idea of MLB and staying a fan of the sport, which could be useful come time for expansion teams to exist, if they’re ever actually going to. MLB might get more out of temporarily giving up the name than keeping it for the current A’s, basically.

Of course, MLB doesn’t have to negotiate on these points, even if they do have to eventually tell Oakland what the plan is and whether it involves them or not. So maybe they’ll keep the A’s name because they believe everything belongs to them and them alone, and only their desires and wants are what matter. It’d be a good way to try to start healing the wounds they’re leaving behind in Oakland, though, to agree to leave the name behind in the city it’s most associated with at this point.


Over at Baseball Prospectus earlier this week, I wrote about the fact that the Red Sox now own the regional sports network that Pirates games are broadcasted on, and isn’t that kind of weird? It’s not exactly the Red Sox, since it’s actually Fenway Sports Group that made the purchase, but Fenway Sports Group owns the Red Sox, and even if the books don’t say so, all that money goes to the same place. John Henry runs the Red Sox, and John Henry runs Fenway Sports Group. If there’s some extra money in the bank because Henry now owns two RSNs (New England Sports Network/NESN and now AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh), and some of that extra money comes by way of making money off of Pirates games, and it goes towards improving the Red Sox… that’s weird!

It also might not work that way in practice or in the long run, since the Pirates could try to find a new television partner, or ask MLB to do to them what they’ve already done to the Diamondbacks and Padres, which is to say, control their broadcast rights once more. Or owner Bob Nutting could throw a fit and try to wrest control of the Pirates-specific portion of the RSN away from Henry in another business deal, with MLB’s backing: such a motion would surely get support from other so-called “small-market” owners who wouldn’t want to be in a similar situation where someone like Boston is profiting off of them even a little bit. But as of now, this is where things stand, and where they stand is kind of weird.


Also at Baseball Prospectus this week was Patrick Dubuque looking at the Angels placing a whole bunch of their players on waivers, and you should just read that. It’s excellent stuff on loopholes and rules and the league needing to push back on this moment.

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