It’s almost official. With a major legislative hurdle cleared in Nevada last week, the Oakland A’s are moving to Las Vegas.
The development caps a months-long drama over the future of the team. Fans are both broken-hearted and angry. They feel abandoned and disrespected by A’s owner John Fisher and Major League Baseball.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred added insult to injury last Thursday after Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo signed a bill to fund a new A’s stadium.
“I feel sorry for the fans in Oakland. I do not like this outcome. I understand why they feel the way they do. I think the real question is, what is it Oakland was prepared to do? There is no Oakland offer. OK? They never got to a point where they had a plan to build a stadium at any site. And it’s not just John Fisher. The community has to provide support. At some point you come to the realization it’s just not going to happen,” said Manfred.
The comments were revisionist history, and Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao wasted no time in saying so.
"This is just totally false. There was a very concrete proposal under discussion and Oakland had gone above and beyond to clear hurdles, including securing funding for infrastructure, providing an environmental review and working with other agencies to finalize approvals,” Thao said in a statement. “The reality is the A’s ownership had insisted on a multibillion-dollar, 55-acre project that included a ballpark, residential, commercial and retail space. In Las Vegas, for whatever reason, they seem satisfied with a 9-acre leased ballpark on leased land. If they had proposed a similar project in Oakland, we feel confident a new ballpark would already be under construction.”
In fact, in the middle of discussions with the city, word leaked that the team was trying to move. Thao suspects Fisher used the negotiations with Oakland as leverage to get a better deal in Vegas.
Manfred’s remarks about a lack of community support were also insulting, given that the A’s have the worst record in baseball. When asked about a highly successful reverse boycott that brought 28,000 people to the stands this month, Mannheim scoffed, calling it “almost an average Major League Baseball crowd in the facility for one night.”
And so, after 55 years, Oakland is losing the A’s. Melissa Lockard, senior editor and writer for The Athletic, summed up the deeper significance.
“I’ve always been struck by how many Oakland A’s fans identified with the team and the city because of its underdog status,” she wrote. “This move hurts on so many levels but perhaps the biggest is just yet another defeat for the little guy in a world that is seemingly stacked up against them.”