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No, the Oakland Athletics aren’t going to move to Las Vegas — or probably anywhere else

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Lots of sound and fury signifying nothing, in my view.

Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The Oakland Athletics play in the worst stadium in the major leagues, the last dinosaur that was built for both football and baseball and is suitable for neither. Its football tenant, the Raiders, decamped for Las Vegas two years ago, leaving the A’s to deal with the stadium’s bad sightlines, acres of unusable seats and sewage.

As a result of all that, Major League Baseball recently gave the A’s permission to look to relocate in a statement, quoted by Jeff Passan at ESPN:

“MLB is concerned with the rate of progress on the A’s new ballpark effort with local officials and other stakeholders in Oakland,” the statement said. “The A’s have worked very hard to advance a new ballpark in downtown Oakland for the last four years, investing significant resources while facing multiple roadblocks. We know they remain deeply committed to succeeding in Oakland, and with two other sports franchises recently leaving the community, their commitment to Oakland is now more important than ever.

“The Oakland Coliseum site is not a viable option for the future vision of baseball. We have instructed the Athletics to begin to explore other markets while they continue to pursue a waterfront ballpark in Oakland. The Athletics need a new ballpark to remain competitive, so it is now in our best interest to also consider other markets.”

The downtown ballpark project mentioned will be completely privately financed, as was Oracle Park in nearby San Francisco. The holdup, apparently, is $900 million worth of infrastructure improvements surrounding the new stadium, which the city of Oakland is understandably reticent to pay.

When Passan’s story was published Tuesday, immediate speculation began as to where the A’s would relocate. Even the oddsmakers got involved:

Some of those are just... well, let’s just say that IF the A’s relocate, it’s going to be somewhere in the West, because MLB isn’t going to want a realignment headache along with a relocation headache. (Try putting Montreal in the AL West and you’ll see the problem.)

The reality here, though, is that the A’s probably aren’t going anywhere and that MLB’s statement is typical of Commissioner Rob Manfred — ham-handed and designed to push Oakland into giving the A’s and MLB what they want. That’s what Dieter Kurtenbach of the San Jose Mercury-News wrote, and I agree:

On Tuesday, Major League Baseball announced that the A’s have permission to seek relocation from Oakland.

Their release was tone-deaf, misleading and altogether embarrassing for the A’s.

But little changes with this threat from the team and their New York City lawyer, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. The team is no more likely to move today than it was Monday.

The only difference between now and then is that the A’s have finally said the quiet part out loud. The omnipresent threat of relocation that has existed for decades is now officially on the record, via MLB:

“Give the A’s what they want, or else.”

Kurtenbach is right. Negotiating this quietly would have been the better way; saying it out loud isn’t going to help.

The other issue is that several of the proposed relocation cities have issues of their own. Our own Josh Timmers said it well regarding Las Vegas in yesterday’s Outside The Confines:

I’m going to say the A’s moving to Las Vegas would be a terrible move. It’s a small market with a transient population and no secondary markets that aren’t already claimed by other teams. It would also have to have a retractable roof ballpark as it is ridiculously hot in Vegas all summer long. Yes, I know the Golden Knights have done well there, but while drawing 750,000 fans a year may be solid in the NHL, that’s terrible attendance for MLB.

And yes, the Raiders are there, but the finances of the NFL are such that they could play in Glendive, MT and still turn a profit. But the A’s would be competing with both the Raiders and the Golden Knights for the money that people would spend on sports.

Josh is right. The Golden Knights draw about 18,000 per game. That’s a hockey sellout, but wouldn’t cut it for baseball. Beyond that, the real money for baseball teams is made in selling local TV rights to regional sports networks — and we have seen that the RSN model is likely broken and the bubble might burst in the next few years.

Beyond that, though, Las Vegas isn’t a good RSN market. While the Vegas metro area is the fastest-growing in the country, it still ranks as the No. 40 TV market, which would be the smallest in MLB. Further, the key word in “regional sports network” is “regional.” Vegas doesn’t have other “regions” to draw from for a potential RSN. Neighboring Arizona is Diamondbacks country, California is split between several teams, Utah is in Rockies territory and even if you go north, Idaho is claimed by the Mariners. There’s only one other TV market of any size in Nevada — Reno — and Reno ranks 104th among TV markets. It’s about the size of the Quad Cities.

This article says the A’s and Vegas have been “talking” about relocation for the last two years, but for the reasons listed above, I think that’s all it will be — talk.

If you rule Vegas out — and I would — Portland and Vancouver are other possibilities in the West, and here’s a useful article by Maury Brown explaining the issues for those markets. It should be noted that Brown lives in Portland and is well versed in the pros and cons for Major League Baseball to come to Portland, which is one of the largest TV markets (21st-ranked) to not have a MLB team.

This all could have been solved amicably years ago if then-A’s owner Walter Haas hadn’t agreed to split Bay Area territorial rights with the Giants, granting the San Francisco club the rights to Santa Clara County, where San Jose is located. The Bay Area is the only one of MLB’s two-team markets where the territory is split. Imagine, for example, if the Los Angeles Angels wanted to move back to the city of Los Angeles from Anaheim and the Dodgers having veto power over that move.

The reason the Giants wanted the rights to Santa Clara County is that they were thinking about moving to San Jose in the 1990s when they had their own stadium issues at crumbling Candlestick Park. But then the Giants got their gem of a ballpark, now named Oracle Park, built in downtown San Francisco. It opened in 2000. The Santa Clara County rights should have reverted to the A’s, or both teams, at the time but that didn’t happen. Supposedly this was because the Giants feared that all the Silicon Valley sponsorship money would go to the A’s if they moved to San Jose, which is really the best location for them to go. The A’s even went so far as to have these renderings of “Cisco Field” in San Jose drawn up about a decade ago, but nothing ever came of it. A similar “Cisco Field” proposed for Fremont, California, south of Oakland was rejected by Fremont authorities in 2009. As long ago as 2002, there was a stadium proposal for “uptown” Oakland that was also rejected.

This isn’t my line, but I’ve repeated it often and will again here: If the Giants are so adamant about San Jose being their territory, why don’t THEY move there and give the A’s their slightly used stadium in San Francisco?

That won’t happen, and neither will this: If I owned the A’s, I’d call a press conference and announce the team would be moving to San Jose and if MLB didn’t like it: “Sue us.” There’s no way MLB does that, because at that point the antitrust exemption would be brought up in court again.

But A’s ownership won’t do that, and so here we are again at an impasse. The so-called “Howard Terminal” location for a new A’s stadium in downtown Oakland is probably the best place for the team to be. There’s an entire page on the A’s own website about this proposal, and the stadium renderings are gorgeous (there are more at the link):

MLB.com

Eventually, this stadium will likely be built, though given money and other issues the A’s could still have to play at the Coliseum for several more seasons.

All the kerfuffle over MLB’s recent announcement, then? Here’s what the A’s said in an official statement from team president Dave Kaval:

I predict they’ll stay in Oakland, and most likely in that new ballpark shown in the rendering above.

Poll

In 2030, the Athletics franchise will be playing its home games in...

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Las Vegas
    (127 votes)
  • 49%
    Oakland
    (345 votes)
  • 13%
    Portland
    (92 votes)
  • 3%
    Sacramento
    (27 votes)
  • 6%
    San Jose
    (46 votes)
  • 3%
    Vancouver
    (24 votes)
  • 4%
    Somewhere else (leave in comments)
    (34 votes)
695 votes total Vote Now