Nevius: A’s should just skip Oakland charade, head for Vegas
You probably saw the story last week. The Oakland A’s have put in a bid for a stadium site on the Las Vegas Strip.
They ought to just do it — move to Las Vegas. Let’s get this sad, pointless Oakland saga over and done with.
Enough dithering over an enormous downtown ballpark project that is not close to getting off the ground. Seriously, does anyone really believe that this imaginary waterfront palace is going to happen?
Members of the Oakland City Council have shown so little enthusiasm that some of them have said they are “holding my nose” to vote for the project. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred publicly demanded that they stop stalling and get on with it.
He even announced that the A’s have been given permission to move to another city. Surely that threat would get them going.
Nope. Back in July, the council passed a “nonbinding resolution.” That’s it.
In the same amount of time the team and the council have been fiddling around, the Giants have built a 12-story superstructure and erected five floors of an adjoining building on Lot A. That’s how you build something.
The delays have added up to the last thing anybody wants — more time in the Oakland Mausoleum, the decaying concrete football stadium where the A’s play.
It is, by any measure, awful. Finding something positive to say about is nearly impossible. The best attempt were T-shirts featuring the stadium and the words “Baseball’s Last Dive Bar.”
Again, that’s the positive spin.
While we’re at it, if the team leaves, can we forget the mournful stories of thousands of heartbroken fans?
If there were thousands of heartbroken fans, there would be a reason to stay. Instead, the Athletics spend every year at the bottom of the MLB attendance lists. (Last year they were 29th out of 30.)
Which isn’t to fault the fans. A’s owner John Fisher has systematically drummed (right field bleachers reference) the enthusiasm out of the fan base.
The tightfisted Fisher won’t spend on players or facilities. He can’t be bothered to appear or speak in public. We’re on a need-to-know basis and Fisher doesn’t think we need to know.
So, to review, the A’s play in a horrible, un-fan-friendly ballpark, there is little investment in the team — players or facilities — and we are struggling with a pandemic.
What’s the logical thing to do?
Exactly. Raise ticket prices.
In September, the team announced that season ticket packages were going up. Way up. Some fans reported their bill nearly doubled. You will not be surprised that they were not happy.
The real miracle is there are devoted fans who have actually stuck with the team.
A case can be made. Baseball’s still a great game, and even if they play in a lousy facility, these are still the finest players in the world, up close and personal.
There are plenty of good seats available. There are worse ways to spend a sunny afternoon in Oakland.
But the team even undermines that. Following the A’s and getting attached to players is only an invitation to heartbreak.
The team doesn’t even pretend it isn’t happening. That’s right, they say, we hold on to players when they are stuck in their low-paying rookie contracts, but when they turn out to be good, and are ready to get paid, we ship them out for draft choices and more cheap labor.
Every A’s loyalist probably has his or her own personal disappointment. You see them wearing the player’s jersey in the stands, long after they’re gone.
Take Marcus Semien, two years ago. An East Bay original, he went to high school in Berkeley, played at Cal and was a team leader for the A’s at shortstop. The team said it couldn’t work out a deal, so he went to Toronto, where he set a Major League record for home runs by a second baseman. He just signed a $175 million deal with the Rangers.
You probably know the others. Remember pitcher Sonny Gray and fan fave Yoenis Cespedes? There’s Josh Donaldson, who was traded to Toronto in 2014 and was the American League MVP in 2015.
Now they are ready to do it again. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal has the gloomy prediction that the team is likely to trade “any player with value.”
That could be the last straw. Matt Chapman and Matt Olson are elite Big League players, and seeing them walk out the door would be a gut punch.
But for me, the final indignity is the departure of manager Bob Melvin.
Melvin has been the adult in the room for 10 years, calmly making the right moves, mentoring young players and reaching the playoffs with a tiny, $80 million budget.
He had Day on the Green posters in his Coliseum office, reminders of concerts he attended there when he was in high school in Menlo Park and at college in Cal. He’s a guy rooted in the Bay Area.
And now he’s in San Diego, where he will manage the Padres next year. It’s a dramatic and disappointing move, but Melvin has told people that unfortunately, “Ownership made it easy.”
And, by the way, those who have been saying Las Vegas is too small a market to support a Major League Baseball team should look to the Raiders.
Oakland’s favorite football team has been drawing well in Sin City, partly because fans from other cities think Las Vegas is a great road trip. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine Chicago Cubs fans, for instance, flying in for a four-game stand of baseball, and then gambling, dining and going to shows.
At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be overlooked that this is a sad story for Oakland. The waterfront project could be a shot in the arm for a city that badly needs a vaccination of civic enthusiasm.
Instead, they’re likely to be standing on the roadside, waving bye-bye to Oakland’s last big league team.
Meanwhile, the word from the Athletics?
Viva Las Vegas.
Contact C.W. Nevius at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @cwnevius