The A’s’ time in Oakland is dwindling. We don’t know when they’ll be gone. We just know that it’s going to happen. If team president Dave Kaval’s cryptic tweets talking about the energy from sports fans in Las Vegas last year weren’t proof enough, MLB has all but confirmed our suspicions with their latest announcement.
The A’s were supposed to be charged a relocation fee as high as $1 billion in order to relocate. This fee is not only meant to dissuade teams from making unnecessary moves, but also to discourage teams from skipping town to potentially more profitable markets by forcing them to work with less money. However, MLB seems to want Oakland to move so bad it’s willing to eliminate that fee altogether to expedite the Athletics’ move to Vegas.
To put this decision in perspective, the last MLB team to relocate was the Expos. In 2004, The Expos left Montreal for Washington, D.C. and became the Nationals. While there was no relocation fee assessed at the time, that was only the case because the Expos were owned by MLB, so why would they fine themselves for moving? Other leagues have relocation fees as well. When the Raiders moved from Oakland to Las Vegas in 2020, the team was charged $378 million to do so. That’s a football team, which tends to make far more money than MLB teams, being charged a little more than a third of the fine the A’s would’ve allegedly been handed. That’s how massive a weight has been lifted off the A’s shoulders. That billion dollars was a massive deterrent that has suddenly disappeared. POOF!
Much of the A’s’ desire to move has stemmed from the miserable shape their ballpark is in. Now called RingCentral Coliseum, the A’s home is dilapidated beyond fixing. While the team has tried (and failed) to build a new ballpark in the Bay Area in the past, it seems that the only course of action left to rid themselves of that feral cat-infested cesspool they call home, is to move across state lines.
It certainly doesn’t help that the A’s are last in MLB in attendance this year and currently hold the worst record in the league at 25-50. Traction for the A’s’ departure from Oakland picked up last year, despite the team finishing ten games over .500. It was only accelerated after the A’s decided to trade away almost all of their big stars during the offseason, including first baseman Matt Olson, third baseman Matt Chapman and lefty starter Sean Manaea.
Personally, I’d love to see the A’s stay in Oakland. The first baseball game I ever went to was in Oakland, back when it was called McAfee Coliseum. But my nostalgia aside, a move to a new ballpark is long overdue. It’s a shame the city of Oakland has never approved the A’s’ design plans for a new ballpark, but if MLB was willing to waive the team’s relocation fee so quickly, perhaps this move has been in the works for some time behind closed doors. That said, reports indicate that despite MLB’s willingness to move the team, the A’s are still pursuing their $12 billion renovation project to stay in the Bay Area. I don’t think that’s why the plans for a new ballpark in Oakland never got approved, but I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that this happened a little more than a year after the A’s gave the city of Oakland an ultimatum to approve their ballpark or they’d leave. I feel like they knew they had Vegas in their back pockets and were willing to use that as leverage