Lowell Cohn: Finally, A's free ride coming to an end

This Feb. 5, 2016 photo shows the Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics will be phased out of revenue sharing in the coming years as part of baseball's new labor deal, and that puts even more urgency on the small-budget franchise's plan to find the right spot soon to build a new, privately funded ballpark. The run-down Coliseum, shared with the Oakland Raiders and the last venue with both Major League Baseball and football, had multiple sewage problems in 2013 that caused damage during games. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)


The freeloader Oakland A’s just took one in the chops. Got what they deserved, finally.

In case you missed this news item, Major League Baseball is phasing out revenue sharing over the next four years, a blow to the A’s who always are hat in hand, accepting money from the rich clubs, depending on the rich clubs for their income. For their profit.

The crafty, skinflint A’s always make a profit even though they put a crummy team on the field year after year, even though they trade their stars for youngsters or draft picks, even though they routinely spit in the faces of their fans who want to follow a player — see Josh Donaldson, see any number of players — only to see them reach stardom in another uniform.

The A’s earn about $30 million a year in revenue sharing. Although you hardly could call that earning. It’s taking. Flat-out taking. And it’s disgusting. They earn money but have among the lowest payrolls in baseball.

The A’s advertise themselves as a small-market team. That’s one of the biggest frauds in American sports. It’s a form of grand larceny.

Small market. Are you kidding me? The San Francisco- Oakland-San Jose area is the sixth-largest media market in America. We are not talking Davenport, Iowa, or Fresno here. How the A’s got away with this small-market lie is a miracle. It’s the smartest thing they ever did.

The Giants, of course, are a large-market team. The Giants actually pay the A’s to play baseball right across the bay. Giants president Larry Baer should just drive across the Bay Bridge once a season and present the A’s a check from the Giants.

This small-market lie gives the A’s an excuse not to produce, not to field a major-league roster, not to keep good players, not to care about their fans, and most of all, not to compete. The A’s are the most shameful bunch I ever have covered.

And please don’t tell me the Giants wouldn’t give the A’s rights to San Jose or wherever. Nothing prevented the A’s from competing exactly where they are.

And nothing prevented the A’s from seeking a new ballpark in the East Bay. Oakland has any number of viable sites.

The A’s principal owner, John Fisher, is a billionaire — all that Gap money. Are you a billionaire? He has the resources to build wherever he wants within reason, has the resources to compete like a genuine sportsman instead of the parasite he is.

Quick story and then back to the parasite A’s. The year after the A’s parted ways with manager Ken Macha, he dropped by Phoenix Municipal Stadium when the A’s still played there in spring training.

Macha and I were in a private box — I was interviewing him. Some guy walked in, guy wearing Bermuda shorts and sneakers. I don’t think he had shaved. A credential dangled from his neck to a region near his navel. Looked like a fan. He interrupted me. Started talking to Macha. I wanted to say, “Excuse me, buddy.” But Macha seemed to know him so I kept quiet.

When the nonentity left, Macha looked at me and smiled. “You have no idea who that is,” he said. I admitted I had no idea who that was. “That’s the A’s owner,” Macha announced.

Really, that was the A’s owner? I never had met him before. Or since. He’s gone stealth on all of us.

Revenue sharing was a crummy idea from the start. It encouraged phony outfits like the A’s to game the system for profit. For greed.

The idea may have been good at first. It certainly was goodhearted. The rich teams would help the poor teams. Can’t we all be friends?

But something fundamental stunk about the system. American sports are the most capitalist enterprise going. Teams compete for wins, for players. Teams charge for tickets. Teams earn money from television and radio. Teams sell their jerseys. Teams rake in the dough.

I applaud the capitalist nature of baseball. We live in a capitalist society. Somehow Major League Baseball grafted a welfare state onto the capitalist state of baseball. The rich teams would coddle the poor teams.

Understand we are not talking about poor people who need society’s help to eat or find a place to live. We are talking about very rich team owners who are not as rich as other team owners, or chose to act like they’re not as rich. They are the ones who demand coddling. And the A’s Fisher is one of the richest owners in baseball.

What I just said about welfare is wrong, anyway. What baseball came up with wasn’t welfare. It was full-on socialism. The rich would support the poor even if they didn’t want to. The rich capitalists were forced to become socialists.

This is not the place to debate capitalism vs. socialism. But baseball is sure not the place to impose socialism on a capitalist system. Do that and you end up with the sponger A’s. With the A’s who have no right to money from teams that really try.

Loss of revenue sharing has led to changes on the A’s. Good. Lew Wolff, who never accomplished anything, is gone. The A’s have a new president, whatever his name is. Let him earn name recognition by getting a new ballpark, by fielding a legitimate team. He says he will get serious about the team and the ballpark. Remains to be seen.

Baseball has no obligation to support the weak. Or the teams that pretend to be weak. The A’s have to start competing right now. Start acting like a big-league club. You can’t do that, then sell. You can’t do that, just get out.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at