Last week, I shared my preview of the Oakland Athletics ahead of the 2023 season.
However, I didn’t address one very important issue; hanging over the start of yet another season is the continuing uncertainty over where the Athletics will be playing post-2024; the lease on the Oakland Coliseum runs out at the end of next season, and it still hasn’t been confirmed if the A’s will be staying in Oakland or moving to Las Vegas.
As a fan, it is both disconcerting and increasingly annoying that this uncertainty continues to hang over the team – I, for one, want to be able to focus on watching the team play and willing them to win – and the same seems to be true of the team’s fanbase in and around Oakland, whose absence from games at the Oakland Coliseum last season made the team dead-last in average attendance in 2022.
While other factors undoubtedly played a part – not least the sharp increase in season ticket prices coupled with the loss of benefits season tickets used to bring, along with the continued lack of investment in the team on the field in spite of the Athletics being one of the most profitable teams in MLB last season – the uncertainly over if the team will remain in Oakland will definitely have contributed to fans staying away. Instead, we, as a fanbase, are no closer to knowing where the team will be playing in 2025 and beyond.
It is starting to look more and more likely that the team will be moving to Las Vegas though; A’s GM Dave Forst has said that the team is on a “parallel path”, exploring options in both Oakland and Las Vegas, while commissioner Rob Manfred has confirmed that his conversations with A’s owner John Fisher have shifted to the A’s relocating to Vegas.
Outside of the A’s organisation, the tide also seems to be shifting towards the Athletics making the move to Nevada, with Don Logan, the president and COO of the A’s Triple-A affiliate the Las Vegas Aviators, is publicly making the case for the A’s to move to Sin City, and Aviators fans also expressing similar sentiments. Meanwhile, Hall of Famer George Brett thinks the A’s should move to Las Vegas too.
However, there are some dissenting voices; Phillies outfielder and Las Vegas native Bryce Harper has called for his hometown to get an MLB team, but has said that relocating the A’s would not be the best option for growing a baseball fanbase in the city, instead calling for an new expansion franchise that originates and builds its story in the city, much like the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights. Meanwhile, journalist Sam Gordon also makes a similar case, citing the Golden Knights, in an article for the Las Vegas Review-Journal on why the A’s should stay in Oakland.
It should also be noted that the NBA are rumoured to be looking to put an expansion team in Las Vegas, with LeBron James saying he wants to own an NBA expansion team in Las Vegas. If the A’s were to also move to Las Vegas, this would mean there would be a team from all four major American leagues in Las Vegas alongside the NFL’s Raiders and the Golden Knights. Therefore, the competition for eyeballs in Sin City, which already has plenty of other entertainment options for both residents and visitors, would heat up even more.
What makes this issue frustrating is that I’ve been writing about the A’s potentially leaving Oakland since the very first article I wrote for Bat Flips & Nerds, and I then wrote a follow-up piece a few months later before also referencing the possible move to Vegas in last season’s mid-season report. Still, the issue rumbles on though.
From a personal perspective, and from talking to fellow A’s fans, the move to Las Vegas feels inevitable at this point, and we would all much prefer it if John Fisher, Dave Kaval and David Forst were honest and frank with us, and acknowledged that the plan is to move the team at the end of next season instead of stringing us all along with talk of parallel paths supposedly being explored in both cities.
To this point, I spoke to the reason why I am an A’s fan – my mate Ian, who is originally from the East Bay – and asked him what he thought about the A’s likely moving to Las Vegas. You can see what he said, along with my response below;
I completely understand where Ian is coming from on this; the A’s are his hometown team. The team he grew up watching. If they were to move 400 miles away to a different state, they wouldn’t be the same anymore. Similarly, as I say above, I probably would still have a soft spot for the team, because it would still feature a lot of the same players that wear the green and gold now, but a lot of what makes the A’s who they are would be lost with the move.
Further to this, I also got the opinions of Ian’s father David, who has supported the A’s since he moved to the East Bay in the 1970s. Here is a portion of what he had to say;
“For years, he [John Fisher] has wanted a new stadium, which I whole-heartily agree with; the present venue is a pit. MLB dragged its feet on making a decision on a new stadium or moving, which frustrated everyone, and Fisher didn’t help matters as an stingy owner … Fisher and his minions are true wordsmiths who never really seem to answer the questions asked, but rather stay on their script, which is usually not about anything of consequence … Human lives are involved. Thousands of jobs are involved, the basic livelihood for all but the owner and big-ticket players.”David P. Darlington
David makes a great point; many lives will be affected if and when the team moves to Las Vegas. Everyone who works in the Oakland Coliseum, such as stadium security personnel and concessions vendors, as well as many of the community groups in Oakland and the surrounding area that the A’s organisation supports, will have to find alternative employment or sources of funding should the team move to Sin City. In addition, if the Athletics leave, the city of Oakland would have no major American sports teams anymore, having previously played host to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, as well as the Raiders. Therefore, all of the revenue that the city, and businesses in and around Oakland, brought in from supporters of visiting teams would be completely lost too, no doubt having a profound effect on both the city government and local businesses’ bottom lines.
In particular, local businesses and vendors that rely upon the revenue that the A’s bring in need to be able to properly plan for the A’s eventual departure, and so, I would strongly encourage everyone involved – MLB and Rob Manfred, John Fisher and the rest of the Athletics’ front office hierarchy – to makes their plans for the A’s known as quickly as possible so that everyone who will be affected by the decision can make all the plans they need to.
In the meantime, I will focus on willing the Oakland Athletics to win while I still can.
Featured Image – Author’s own
Brett is the Oakland Athletics team contributor for Bat Flips & Nerds, and can be found on Twitter @BrettChatsSport.
Brett would also like to extend a special ‘thank you’ to both David and Ian Darlington for their contributions to this article.