Notes: The Las Vegas A’s stadium is on track unless it isn’t, Yankees sustainability, MLB absorbs Negro League stats

The Las Vegas A’s remain more conceptual than anything, the Yankees utter a word that would have killed The Boss, and Negro League statistics are now MLB statistics.

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If you ask the people behind the Las Vegas A’s stadium push, everything is great! There’s no need to worry; everything is happening as it’s supposed to, we’re happy to take questions so long as they aren’t about where A’s owner John Fisher is going to get the additional financing needed to actually build the thing. If you ask people who know how these things work, though, who aren’t unregistered lobbyists, well. Neil deMause handled that at Field of Schemes already this week:

In an oh-so-long thread on ex-Twitter on Sunday, meanwhile, tech exec and Oakland A’s fan Bryan Cantrill laid out all the reasons to be skeptical that Fisher will do anything of the sort, which comes down to: Fisher has to either borrow the money and pay it back, or sell some of his assets, which are mostly just the A’s, the San Jose Earthquakes, and about $1 billion in Gap Inc. stock. Taking out a loan, Cantrill suggests, will be hard because lenders will look askance at the revenue projections for a team playing short-term in a minor-league stadium in Sacramento and long-term in a still-small stadium in the smallest MLB city; selling chunks of the teams will be hard because investors are unlikely to want to sink a lot of money into teams they don’t control, especially if the A’s don’t look like all that valuable an asset going forward.

Fisher’s plan to run the A’s into the ground for years so that it would make it seem as if a new stadium slash relocation were the only ways to save them has maybe backfired, because the A’s might not be worth what they need to be in order to secure financing. They might not be able to pull in the revenue needed in Sacramento to convince a lender to hand over credit, they might, as deMause notes, also be able to get it despite all of this because all it takes is one entity willing to be separated from their money, at least temporarily, for the stadium to get off the ground.

Here’s the thing, though: the A’s relocation is happening, but whether it actually ends up involving Las Vegas remains an open question. That’s been the case for some time now, yes, but questions keep on appearing that are just as difficult to answer, if not more so, than the previous ones.

My latest at Baseball Prospectus published on Tuesday, and it’s on Yankees’ owner Hal Steinbrenner explaining that it’s not “sustainable” for the Yankees to spend $300 million on their roster like they are in 2024. The first-place, $300 million Yankees, mind you, with literally Juan Soto a pending free agent, are the ones saying this right now:

It’s very funny to be discussing this while the $302 million Yankees are in first place in the American League East, leveraging their deep pockets to keep ahead of the Orioles, who are powered by a fleet of young players that won 100 games a year ago and have them just 1.5 games back of New York as of this writing. The Yankees don’t produce prospects at the rate that the Orioles do, so they have to spend to acquire talent. Which is fine: they have the money to do so. But if it takes spending to keep up, and they don’t want to do that, well. Then they won’t. Hal Steinbrenner says it himself, that the payroll is only this lofty for one year—$25 million higher than last season’s Opening Day payroll—because money didn’t come off of the books, but literally Juan Soto was available, so, they did what they had to do to get him into pinstripes. Will they do what they have to do again, when he’s a free agent? That’s more up in the air, and actually what inspired the aforementioned Athletic feature, but the fact that it’s not even June yet and the team’s owner is already talking up how spending like this isn’t sustainable isn’t exactly something to instill confidence on the issue.

We’ve talked about how the Yankees make enough just from ticket sales to cover even a massive payroll like this one, but now I’ve also brought it up at BP. Gate revenue accounts for 40 percent of what teams pull in — and that’s MLB’s figure, not mine — so, consider that less than half of what the Yankees are making each year can cover their most significant annual expense. And that’s just the revenue we know about, too: the books of MLB’s teams are nearly all closed, and the YES Network gave the Yankees a leg up on the competition even in the era of beefy regional television contracts. With the shift toward the next form of broadcasting already beginning, the Yankees are in… well, not a unique position, but an enviable one, as the owners of their own network that gives them guaranteed massive profits each summer. Now that’s what I call sustainable, but my job isn’t pretending I don’t make money in order to make more of it.

MLB is now including Negro League statistics as part of MLB’s own record books, which means that, to use the example Bob Nightengale did while announcing this at USA Today, that Josh Gibson is now MLB’s all-time leader in batting average.

I have a lot of problems with this: recognizing the accomplishments of Negro League players is excellent, of course, and MLB using their position as leader in this space to promote them and their records and performance is a good use of the air they take up within said space. However! Well, Shakeia Taylor said whatever I can say better than I can, and three years ago, when news of this first emerged. “…the blemishes of racism are often painted over with a kind of warped nostalgia. Instead of attempting to reshape history, now is the perfect opportunity to understand the Negro leagues were a response to not being included, not a request to be included.”

What it feels like, given the language of “MLB” being used instead of MLB positing themselves as part of a larger “major-league” level of talent — one which included the Negro Leagues — is that MLB is both absorbing and taking credit for the Negro Leagues here. This is some WWE buying WCW and then putting out a million documentaries framing the rivalry between the two companies exactly how they want to so that they look even more like the winner than they were level stuff! As Taylor posted on Twitter, too, in reaction to this week’s news, simply referring to Gibson et al as the “major-league record holder” rather than MLB’s would have solved a lot of problems.

And it’s a shame that those problems exist at all, because there are obviously people who worked on this project who genuinely care about it, had good intentions, etc. But I can’t help but feel like, in the end, because of how this was approached and presented, this is part of a larger whitewashing of MLB’s history, the kind that already exists in any other space in relation to segregation and Jackie Robinson and racism in the game’s past.

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