Oakland isn’t going to just let the A’s extend their lease

Watch as the A’s try to extract something they need from a city they’ve been openly and unfairly criticizing for months and months.

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If you’ve been following along with the Athletics’ search for a stadium to play baseball in during the years where the (supposed, hypothetical) Las Vegas stadium is being built, then you already know that it is not going well. As I wrote for Baseball Prospectus earlier this month, John Fisher’s A’s no longer have a lease with the city of Oakland after the 2024 season, and then, playing outside the Bay Area until 2028, when the (supposed, hypothetical) Vegas stadium is finished and ready for baseball will cost them their regional television contract, which pays them $67 million per year.

The easiest solution, at least in theory, is for the A’s to agree with the city of Oakland on a lease extension that allows them to stick around until it’s actually time to leave. The “in theory” part is because Fisher and team president Dave Kaval nuked that bridge from orbit with commissioner Rob Manfred’s help over the summer, blaming Oakland for not actually trying to keep the A’s in town, for not seriously negotiating, for the fact the team had to leave in the first place: all of that despite the fact we already know that fans would have shown up and the A’s would have made (even more) money over the years if they had just been run to, you know. Win some baseball games on purpose instead of as an occasional surprise side-effect of playing a lot of them.

The city of Oakland’s position on the A’s needs, as presented by mayor Sheng Thao’s chief of staff, Leigh Hanson, is, to paraphrase, “lmao.” A reminder:

“To my great shock, the A’s have once again failed to provide anyone in Oakland clarity on their genius business plans,” Hanson said Monday via email. “To date they have not contacted or requested an extension to their lease from the Mayor, Alameda County, the (joint powers agency) that oversees the Coliseum complex and perhaps, most importantly, from the fans.”

“Luckily we make more money with one exhibition soccer game at the Coliseum than we do throughout the entire A’s season,” Hanson said. “So they won’t be missed.”

On Thursday, Oakland officials met with A’s officials to try to hash things out. And the good news is that the city of Oakland isn’t just rolling over and letting the A’s have their way here. In fact, it sounds like the city is going to keep demanding a lot more than just the money they’d make from a lease agreement in order to work something out with the team on an extended stay. From Tim Keown’s story on the meeting at ESPN:

Thao has made it clear the city will expect assurances from Major League Baseball that a lease extension be coupled with an assurance that an MLB team — whether the A’s or an expansion team — makes its home in Oakland.

“Whether it’s the A’s under the current ownership, the A’s under a new owner or the A’s brand in expansion, Oakland A’s fans are voters in the City of Oakland, and they want a major-league team,” Hanson said. “It’s our obligation to negotiate on their behalf. This is a major-league city, and if we extend the lease three years without a significant long-term commitment, we will have failed at our task. [The lease extension] is much more in the A’s interest than ours at this point.”

The two sides agreed to meet again soon, although no firm date was set. Hanson said the city and county’s demands for a major league team will eventually require future negotiations to include commissioner Rob Manfred and other MLB owners.

The A’s need this sorted out like, now. They’ve already blown practically every other deadline for every other aspect of relocating, and they can’t really hide that this is happening — plus, each bit of mess all of this makes will only serve to make the relocation that much less popular, which could have negative ramifications for Vegas’ already tepid reception of the team. And now they have to deal with a city that is making demands of MLB for baseball to return to the city of Oakland. Manfred’s first reaction to this — indirect, sure, but still a reaction — was to say that, “First of all, we do have a major-league team in the Bay Area… It’s not like there is not an available option. The Giants obviously still play there.” He is, uh. He’s not going to beat those allegations that he doesn’t like or understand baseball anytime soon, is he? Like a million Twitter accounts have already said — some of them even real people and not bots — asking A’s fans to just root for the Giants is like ripping the Mets out of New York and telling the fans that at least they’ve still got the Yankees, or telling Chicago’s south siders that hey, the Cubs are right there in the north side of town, get over it.

Every time John Fisher opens his mouth about the state of the relocation, the situation shows itself to be less resolved than it needs to be. Every time Manfred opens his mouth, he’s rightly ridiculed for his defenses of the move. There is so much work left to be done to make it actually happen, and it’s unclear if any of the people who need to do that work are capable enough to manage it.

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