Whenever the Oakland A’s move to Vegas — something that feels more like “when” as opposed to “if” — it will be kind of the same story as the Montreal Expos, the last team to move. By the time it happened, the owner and commissioner will tell you it was a poisoned market where no team could flourish. But the truth will be it was made that way by a few, including that very owner and commissioner, salting their own Earth as it were.
Oh sure, there’s still hope at Howard Terminal. There was one small hurdle cleared last week. There’s another vote on the way. But even that going the A’s’ way is no guarantee, and it sure seems like owner John Fisher has been making googly eyes at whatever Vegas is prepared to throw at him that he won’t have to pay for. Oakland can, and should, only do so much. Vegas has already produced a football stadium by going around the public. What’s a second large edifice?
Yesterday, another chapter in the book of “How many people killed the Oakland A’s?” was written in the San Francisco Chronicle, as John Shea documented how Joe Lacob, current owner of the Golden State Warriors, was a mere phone call away from buying the A’s in 2005. The reason he didn’t get the team? Bud Selig wanted the team to go to his college frat buddy Lew Wolff, along with Fisher. Never forget that most of the world’s evil these days germinated in a frat house somewhere. And to all you young kids out there, never feel the need to pay for your friends and join one.
Did Bud know at the time what kind of owners Wolff and then Fisher by himself would be? It’s not something he ever probably considered. He knew Wolff, and he probably knew that he wouldn’t do much to make the other owners look bad, or swim against the tide when Selig tried to fist in all the rules that are crippling the game now that benefited only the owners. The fortunes of the actual team and their fans along with it almost assuredly were never a consideration.
We don’t know what the A’s — currently in last place in the AL West, a whopping 28 games back — would have looked like with Lacob running them, though it’s hard to see how things could be worse. They wouldn’t necessarily be the Warriors, a dynasty of their sport. Baseball and its economics are different. And Lacob didn’t have much pause in moving the Dubs out of their spiritual home in Oakland. Moving the A’s to San Francisco wouldn’t have been an option, obviously.
But first Steve Schott and then Wolff and now Fisher have done everything they can to eradicate one of MLB’s most passionate fanbases. You can only watch the stars you get attached to be shipped off year and after year when they want to make a living wage before you stop getting attached, which is where most A’s fans find themselves now. You can only watch your team do so much to compete before you know there’s a very hard glass ceiling put on yours and their ambition. That’s part of the system that both Selig and now Rob Manfred have constructed, where there’s little impetus to field an expensive and winning team. But the fact that Selig directly had a hand in turning the A’s into this will only rankle whatever fans are left even more, and all for the sake of keeping a team in the secret club.
Somewhere, at some time, Selig loved baseball, and maybe he still does. But not enough to have it cancel out all the things he did to make sure fewer and fewer people do. Clearly Fisher doesn’t, nor does he care about A’s fans, to the point where he doesn’t really care if they show up anymore. He doesn’t have to. It’s a real estate deal to him, as it now is to most of the other owners.
Baseball will occasionally ask itself why it isn’t more popular or can’t attract new fans. The call is coming from inside the house, fam.