Why are the A’s allowed to be this way?

The A’s are moving to Sacramento temporarily, so let’s remind ourselves of why this is happening at all.

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On Thursday, it was announced by the A’s that they would be spending the 2025-2027 seasons (and possibly 2028’s) playing their home games in Sacramento, at a Triple-A stadium. Not just in terms of what team already plays there, but also in terms of its facilities, per former player Trevor Hildenberger.

The move isn’t fully official, since the Players Association still has a say in whether those facilities are going to be on par with what’s required (which might require forcing them to be improved somehow, perhaps), but that’s not the focus of today’s wonderings. Let’s unpack some social media posts from yesterday. Nothing dramatic happened, it’s just to set the scene of the question being answered.

My former supervisor at SB Nation, Brian Floyd, tweeted in response to the news that the A’s were going to Sacramento with, “I’m sure players will be flocking to play for the broke-ass team with no home, good luck with this mess you big business genius”. I then responded to that with, “It really cannot be said enough that the primary reason this move is happening is because [A’s owner] John Fisher wants to pocket revenue-sharing checks, and moving to the smallest media market in MLB means he’ll always be eligible for them.”

FanGraphs’ Michael Baumann quoted that tweet, saying, “This remains a point of confusion for me with the owners who opt out of participating meaningfully. These guys are stealing money as much from the other owners as they are from the players and public. Surely that’s got to raise a few hackles.”

I responded to Baumann’s not-quite-a-question with my own take on things, which I want to expand on here. “The supposed small-market teams have a wild amount of power and sway, and also no one wants to give away the game since it does lower prices all around when a bunch of teams just… don’t.” Owners are upset at the A’s for taking revenue-sharing checks and not doing a thing with them. We don’t even have to guess about that: some of them anonymously whined about it back when the A’s got their temporary revenue-checking status authorized by the current collective bargaining agreement.

As I wrote in 2022, other owners being angry about the A’s behavior is meaningless if nothing comes of it. And nothing is going to come of it:

When the time comes for the clubs paying into revenue-sharing to complain in a way that helps to fix the model, they’ll all get real quiet about it. They’ll fall in line, as they have done ever since former commissioner Bud Selig trained them to do so, and teams like the A’s, Rays, Pirates, and Marlins will be able to continue to do what they do best, which is whatever they feel like doing without anyone stopping them from doing it. Whining to [Jon] Heyman or whomever about it anonymously is just another form of “We tried.”

MLB supports what the A’s are doing. MLB immediately reminded the rest of the owners that they agreed to create a situation where this could happen, which is part “fall back in line” and part “this is for the good of all of us.” The owners will hear the message loud and clear, and probably won’t even complain to the media about the issue again for a while, if at all. After all, it’s just a temporary, multi-year pocketing of funds while the A’s demoralize a fan base we’re talking about here.

For the record, we haven’t heard anonymous whining about it since, not even when Fisher set himself up to permanently receive revenue-sharing checks. Owners are probably just happy that the Fisher saga is nearly at an end, and that this potentially opens up the path for them to split expansion fees once the A’s are fully settled in somewhere new in a new park, and hey, in the meantime, one fewer suitor on free agency means prices get to come down. Hell, that goes beyond free agency, even: the lack of movement by teams who could have used J.D. Davis before he ended up cut by the Giants via loophole contributed to him eventually signing for less than what he had been awarded in arbitration earlier this year. And who ended up picking him up at this reduced price, anyway? The A’s.

The other owners put up with the A’s for multiple reasons. It benefits them to do so in terms of suppressing salaries, and whining too much about ballpark fiascos isn’t a good idea, given they all want their chance for a public handout, anyway, so damaging the reputation of asking for public subsidies is an obvious no. The owners stand united against the players, as is always the way, and the A’s aren’t even the lone team pocketing these revenue-sharing checks, either. They’re just the most egregious of the bunch, which is saying something when the Marlins and Pirates and Rays are also involved.

Revenue-sharing checks are the price to pay for this unity. Some of the owners might not like this, but they at least know that it’s the game they’re playing, so they’ll play it by its rules. It’s not good for baseball, but that’s not the goal for these people, anyway.

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