Finally, the inevitable has been confirmed – last Thursday (16 November), MLB announced that its owners have voted unanimously in favour of the Oakland A’s relocation to Las Vegas.
I would say that this brings to a close an issue that has rumbled on for years, with my very first article for Bat Flips & Nerds addressing the issue, among others.
However, so much is still to be resolved, and I’ve no doubt there will be further twists and turns in the tale before the matter is over and we finally see the A’s (or whatever name they will go by) playing in Sin City.
I have admittedly not written as much or as often on this issue as I should for Bat Flips & Nerds. Partly, this is because I want to be able to write as positively about the A’s as possible, and there was not a lot of positive things to be said about the prospect of the A’s relocating in my eyes. Frankly though, it is also because I quickly became tired of what I viewed as the foregone conclusion of the A’s leaving Oakland for Las Vegas and wanted the matter to be done so we could all move on to discussing other things.
As such, the statement put out by the A’s organisation on Thursday said nothing real in my opinion, as it was full of the kind of cliched, bland platitudes that I strive to avoid in my day job working in public relations.
What I will say though is that I do not believe for one second that John Fisher and his team in the front office “made sincere efforts to keep [the] team in Oakland“. As I highlighted at the start of this article, I spoke about the A’s possibly moving to Las Vegas in my first article for this website, and that was in December 2021. The A’s organisation has actively been courting sites in Vegas since at least 2021, and it’s insulting that Fisher, Dave Kaval et al think that they can pull the wool over fans’ eyes and make us believe they made any real attempt to keep the team in the East Bay these past few years. Particularly when the Mayor of Oakland, Sheng Thao, and her team have shared numerous documents publicly, detailing the mayor’s office’s efforts to make the case for the A’s staying in Oakland to Rob Manfred and also come to a finance deal with the A’s organisation that would have got the proposed new stadium on the Oakland waterfront at Howard Terminal built.
That being said, the statement does highlight a very valid point; the Athletics are a franchise that have a history of relocating in search of supposed greener pastures, having previously left its original home in Philadelphia for Kansas City in 1955 before moving to the East Bay in 1968.
As I have said in previous articles on this subject, I can see the argument for the A’s moving to Las Vegas too, as it is a very popular destination for both tourists and business travellers, and so, there is no doubt that a major league baseball team would be able to attract a segment of that revolving door of visitors to games alongside a base of local residents.
However, there is also a lot of validity to the arguments against the move. Firstly, the team will face increased competition for spectators with both the other sports teams in the city and the myriad of other entertainment options the city has. In addition, it is also looking increasingly likely that Las Vegas will get expansion teams from both MLS and the NBA in coming years. An MLS team, in particular, would provide direct competition given that MLS is also a summer league. Meanwhile, in Oakland, the A’s were the sole major league sports team in the city following the Raiders’ departure, also to Las Vegas, and the Warriors’ move to a new arena in San Francisco.
Secondly, Las Vegas already has a professional baseball team – the A’s own Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas Aviators. Nothing has been announced regarding that team’s future yet, but surely MLB would object to the direct competition a minor league team, that charges less for game tickets, would provide to a major league team?
Finally, while other downsides do exist, the A’s will also be swapping the 10th largest media market in America – San Francisco, the East Bay and San Jose – for the 40th. Therefore, both viewing figures and the value of the broadcast deals the team can negotiate with local media outlets would also dwindle.
In short, the arguments for relocation don’t add up then.
With the decision made though, the more pressing issue now will be where the A’s are going to play in the period between the lease on the Oakland Coliseum expiring at the end of the 2024 season and the new stadium in Las Vegas being ready, most likely by the start of the 2028 season.
It is not a given that the organisation will simply extend its lease on the Coliseum, as there is no guarantee that Oakland City Council will allow thus to happen and there are also those in the Bay Area who are calling for the council to banish the A’s once the lease is up in 2024. ‘If the A’s don’t want to be here, we don’t want them here’, the argument goes, and it’s an entirely understandable position to take.
The suggestion that the A’s simply move across The Bay and ground-share with the Giants at Oracle Park has also been made, although the last time that suggestion was made in 2013, there was uproar on both sides.
There is also the option of the A’s moving to Las Vegas once the 2024 season is over and playing its games at the home of the Las Vegas Aviators until the proposed stadium on the site of The Tropicana is built. However, the Aviators’ home only holds 8,400 people and is an open-air stadium. In Las Vegas – a city built in the middle of the desert. And they’d be playing major league baseball games there in the summer months. Having visited Las Vegas in the month of October, and thought I was going to melt because it was so swelteringly hot, that is certainly not something I’d want to do.
Sadly then, this issue will continue to rumble on until that uncertainty has been resolved.
I’ve stated before that I don’t know if I can continue to be an A’s fan once they are no longer #RootedInOakland, and possibly also playing under a new name with new team colours in a different city.
Until that uncertainly is resolved then, I’m going to continue to support the Oakland A’s in their green and gold at the Oakland Coliseum while I still can.
Featured image – Author’s own.
Brett Walker is the Oakland Athletics contributor for Bat Flips & Nerds, and can be found on Twitter @BrettChatsSport.