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The annual MLB owners meetings begin in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday, November 13, and will run for three days. Assuming no gastrointestinal virus rips through them like happened with the canceled GM meetings, anyway. Among the many points under discussion is the Oakland Athletics, and whether they should become the Las Vegas A’s, or whatever it is they’d change their name to if forced.
The city of Oakland hasn’t fully given up on the A’s yet, with the current mayor, Sheng Thao, submitting a letter to 15 of MLB’s owners, asking them to vote no on the relocation of the club. Not all 15 would need to be convinced in order to halt the relocation, either: this kind of move requires 23 of the 30 owners to vote yes. If it does get the required number of votes, you can be sure a revote would be cast to make it seem as if it’s a unanimous decision, but before that false front is presented to the public, earning those 23 yays is the goal.
ESPN obtained a copy of the letter, and has some details:
Thao’s letter, obtained by ESPN, reiterates many points the mayor has been making since April, when the A’s stunned the city by announcing plans to move to Las Vegas and build a stadium on a nine-acre site currently occupied by the Tropicana Las Vegas Casino Resort. The letter is part of the city’s ongoing effort to counter the A’s contention that Oakland did not act with sufficient urgency in obtaining clearances and securing funding for a $12 billion, 55-acre residential/retail waterfront development that would include a 35,000-seat stadium.
Thao wrote that Oakland has procured $428 million in public funding for off-site infrastructure, a figure that is in addition to approximately $500 million in on-site infrastructure the city and county will contribute through “tax increment funding.”
“The proposed funding assistance for a new stadium development,” Thao wrote, “is thus nearly triple the $380M the A’s have reportedly secured in Las Vegas, for a much smaller stadium project. … There is a clear path to build a state-of-the-art new ballpark here in Oakland, and to do so just as expeditiously (if not more so) than in Las Vegas.”
Part of what Thao is doing, as pointed out by Tim Keown at ESPN, is providing evidence that the city of Oakland was putting in the work to keep the A’s in town, despite the claims made by owner John Fisher and backed up by his employee, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, in public since the Vegas deal was agreed to. There is of course the desire for the A’s to be forced to stay in Oakland, but the chances of that happening aren’t particularly high. Thao is doing the right thing, though, just in case.
Though, this is all a bit of a no-win situation from where I sit. Either Las Vegas gets a team and hands over hundreds of millions of dollars to Fisher — money that should go to a Nevada school system that’s near the worst in the nation in far too many areas — or the A’s stay in Oakland and… get even more public funds to build a brand new stadium. For the sake of precedent, not having a team successfully rip itself out of an established region that they themselves caused their problems in would be a positive, but… yeah. The end result here is still an MLB team getting a series of massive checks of other people’s money to build a stadium.
Now, if Fisher decides to sell because he can’t move the team, we’d still end up with the public being squeezed for all that money, but we would also be minus one John Fisher in the league, and as far as silver linings go, that one gleams. This is all just wishcasting, though. Fisher is probably going to get his votes, unless the owners furious at him about pocketing revenue-sharing funds have decided to finally do something with that anger besides anonymously whine to the press. If the A’s go to Vegas, he would have created a situation in which he always receives revenue-sharing checks, by placing himself into the smallest media market in the league on purpose. John Henry and Hal Steinbrenner, who are among the owners that received Thao’s letter, might be team players. But maybe they’re also very petty men, and in a way that could benefit someone besides themselves for a change.
Thao and Oakland need eight nays to be hardline about it, and there might not be eight votes, especially since the small-market teams might be salivating over, at the least, being able to use the threat of relocation to get what they want out of the public coffers going forward. It’s certainly the story to watch from the meetings, even if it’s also the story that’s likely going to over and done with in a hurry, without a satisfying ending coming from it.
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