I guess it’s something of progress that the news of the Oakland A’s doing the ol’ “starting to look around” thing to get their partner to pay more attention to them was met with a basic shrug by most everyone. Because it’s so familiar, so predictable, all part of the cycle. Whenever a team is looking for a new stadium, and more importantly to not have to pay for it, they’ll always let slip that they’re talking to other cities who might give them the freebies they seek. It’s all part of the choreography.
Still, it’s another thing when MLB is so clear and loud about “giving permission” to the A’s to begin talking to other cities to house the A’s. I wouldn’t ever expect Rob Manfred to read a room, because he’s always assumed he is the room. But at the end of a pandemic, with most places facing huge problems like unemployment, housing issues, and y’know, death, asking any municipality to hand out a handout to a billionaire so he can profit off his personal plaything takes a special level of audacity.
Not that there was any confusion about who Manfred works for. The fans of any team or of the sport in general aren’t even on his list. And the timing certainly is curious for another reason. Manfred has clearly stated that MLB won’t chase expansion, with it’s billions in fees that is free money for the other owners, until the stadium situations in Oakland and Tampa are settled. They need all the possible expansion locations for leverage, after all. But this is also a league that is going through a second season of reduced attendance, that has been crying poor for over a year, and who knows when they can sell every ticket again. Think there are a few owners itching to get to that expansion money? Better clear these two spots up quickly then.
We can expect to hear some rumblings out of Tampa any minute now.
If you’re a fan of the principled, then Oakland mayor Libby Schaff is probably for you. She already told the Raiders to fuck right off when they came with their palms out for a new place, and they toddled off to Vegas where Sheldon Adelson put out a publicly funded runway for them. That could be where the A’s head as well if things with Oakland can’t be worked out.
It’s been too long of a saga between the A’s and the city of Oakland for most to follow. If you need a resource, here it is. Newballpark.org has everything you need.
If you sift through it, what becomes clear is that if this were just about a ballpark, the deal would have been done long ago. But A’s owner John Fisher is after more than that. He wants the “ballpark neighborhood,” with the businesses, hotels, and condos and other developments around the park that all pay into his pockets. That’s why you hear these things labeled a “development.” He wants what the other guys got, and this is one of the things rotting the game from the inside.
What other teams have with this river of cash flowing from the area just outside the park is what robs them of any incentive to put out a competitive team. It’s why the Cubs have Eric Sogard coming off their bench or no relievers to speak of before Craig Kimbrel. It’s why the Braves can let Freddie Freeman walk this winter. It’s why the Dodgers are always fixing the parking lots around Chavez Ravine. The Rangers leaving a park that was barely 20-years-old.
That’s what the A’s and MLB are after. They don’t just want a place for the A’s to play. It’s got to have more now, and the city of Oakland has to pick up a huge part of the tab. Billions, in fact. Billions for a city that had huge housing crisis problems before the pandemic.
The A’s will probably get it somewhere. They’ll find some crooked, likely Republican, mayor who they can grease with rich friends to limbo and sashay around any public forum where residents might raise a question or two. Vegas, Montreal, Nashville, whatever.
These days I start to wonder if teams moving is as big of a deal as it used to be. If you are a Raiders fan, you can still watch every game with Sunday Ticket. You can even take a trip once a year to see them live if your heart desires. You can easily follow their coverage online.
It’s probably different with baseball, where getting to a game is much easier and that experience binds a fan closer to the team. But is that much different? You can still watch every game. Maybe take a couple trips a year to see them live. Still follow the coverage. Maybe that helps dull the emotion to convince city reps to bankrupt a city to pay for these swindles. You’re not losing everything. You’re not in Brooklyn in 1957 when the Dodgers were essentially moving to another planet.
It’s all sordid business. It has to end sometime. At least Manfred is happy to show what a scumbag he is and given up trying to shroud it at all.