Oakland Athletics relocation: Five potential landing spots, including Las Vegas and Portland, if A's move

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CBS Sports 11 May, 2021 - 05:15pm 18 views

Where are the Oakland Athletics moving to?

The Raiders moved to Las Vegas in 2020 and the Warriors relocated to San Francisco ahead of the 2019-20 season. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has been vocal that the A's and Rays need new ballparks before the league will consider expansion. CBS sports.comOakland Athletics threaten to relocate if city does not approve plans for new stadium

Are the A's leaving Oakland?

ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Tuesday that MLB has officially given the A's the go-ahead to explore leaving Oakland to find a new home for their squad. Sporting NewsWhere will the Oakland A's go? MLB gives OK for Athletics to explore relocation

The Oakland Athletics announced on Tuesday they will begin exploring relocation options after receiving the go-ahead from Major League Baseball. The A's declaration is likely designed to scare the local government into approving their plans for a new waterfront ballpark at the Howard Terminal site. While the team's proposal includes a privately financed stadium, it also requires an $855 million commitment from the city to invest in and improve infrastructure, per ESPN's Jeff Passan.

The A's threat may as well be lifted from a book called "Sports Stadium Negotiation 101." Teams who haven't found a way to sweet talk politicians into funding their playhouses will, in due time, turn to strong-arming them. Politicians go along for the ride for several reasons, including the fear of losing their next election (should a team make good on its warning) and the joy they feel at being able to point at objects they helped build. It's debatable whether the deals are ever actually good for the cities that go along with them -- and that debate exists only because it's hard to place a number on civic pride. The actual economic impact is often trifling, at best.

The Athletics, however, are at least one step closer to relocating. The A's, should they move, would become only the third MLB team in the last 50 years to relocate, joining the Texas Rangers (who moved from D.C. in the '70s) and the Washington Nationals (who moved to D.C. in 2005). Where might the A's wind up in this scenario? Here are five candidates. 

We'll start with Las Vegas because it would be poetic, albeit in an unfortunate sense, for Oakland to lose another professional sports team to Sin City. The NFL's Raiders made the move in 2020, joining the NHL's Golden Knights as the city's first major professional sports teams. Las Vegas has long hosted a minor-league affiliate, and the legalization of gambling and continued existence of other pro sports teams without a headline-grabbing incident stemming from the city's nightlife has presumably helped MLB warm up to the idea of doing business there. The Athletics would still make geographic sense for the American League West, which is a plus.

Again, moving to Portland would allow the A's (or whatever they're supposed to be called at that point) to remain in the West. It would give the Seattle Mariners a natural geographic rival, too. Both of those are secondary factors to what actually matters to MLB and the Athletics, and that's an established local effort to build a waterfront stadium

The Tampa Bay Rays have already called dibs on Montreal, to an extent, by publicizing their desire to play half their schedule in Florida and half their schedule in Canada. It's a laughably silly idea, and one that deserves an equally silly resolution -- like, say, the Athletics beating the Rays to the punch by promising to play all of their games in Montreal. 

If MLB is willing to permit the Athletics to relocate somewhere out east, thereby forcing realignment on a grander scale, then you might as well throw Nashville, Tennessee (and Charlotte, North Carolina for that matter) into the mix. There's a group pushing for Major League Baseball in Nashville. That group includes Justin Timberlake and had veteran executive Dave Dombrowski  -- until he took a job with the Phillies this winter.

We'll end with the most logical landing spot on the list: San Jose. Hey, no one ever said relocation had to entail leaving the state. The A's could sidle an hour south to San Jose, a place they've been blocked from moving to in the past by the San Francisco Giants. In this scenario, we have to pretend MLB would be motivated to convince the Giants to waiver their territorial rights. If that sounds outlandish, well, that's what you get when a team threatens to relocate. 

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Big-league bluff or real threat, A's told they can look for new home

San Francisco Chronicle 11 May, 2021 - 11:03pm

That’s the tune MLB and Commissioner Rob Manfred started playing Tuesday. They threw a high, hard one at the chin of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and the Oakland City Council.

Get the message, Oakland? Vote to approve the A’s plan and commit to kicking in $855 million for infrastructure for the A’s new ballpark and surrounding village around Howard Terminal, or kiss your lovable little baseball team goodbye.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan broke the news that MLB has suggested the A’s should start looking for a new hometown, in case their latest stadium proposal gets rejected or delayed.

Actually, the news contained two bombshells: Along with giving the A’s the greenlight to shop for a new home, MLB stated, “The Oakland Coliseum site is not a viable option for the future vision of baseball.”

Until now, neither the A’s nor MLB had rejected the Coliseum as a viable site for a new ballpark. You might think MLB’s main concern would be a new ballpark for the A’s, rather than a heavyhanded rooting interest in John Fisher’s $12 billion proposed development, wouldn’t you? Maybe MLB stands for Major League Business.

The East Oakland Stadium Alliance, which opposes the A’s plans to build in and around Howard Terminal, issued a reaction statement Tuesday: “While the Oakland A’s have claimed to be ‘Rooted in Oakland,’ we now see that was only if the city would hand out hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fund a massive real-estate development.”

It’s called power politics, folks. Please allow me to poke a few holes here and there in the heated puffery of MLB’s directive.

• Note that the original statement is from MLB, not from the A’s, although surely the plan to pressure Oakland is a joint effort. The A’s have been very careful in trying not to appear unneighborly or belligerent, even as opposition to their project intensified. They let their big brother do the dirty work for them. Now the A’s can say, “Hey, we love Oakland, but MLB told us to start looking around, what can we do?”

• “The Athletics need a new ballpark to remain competitive,” the MLB statement said.

Referring to the A’s playing in the badly outdated Coliseum and using that as an excuse to keep payroll super low, deMause said, “How does it hurt Major League Baseball? It keeps salaries down, because it’s one more team that’s not bidding up the free-agent salaries. It shows other teams that you can win, at least sometimes, with a low payroll, so that encourages other teams to follow the A’s, and the Rays’, model: ‘We’re not throwing in the towel. We’re playing Moneyball.’”

The team owners “love it, deMause said. “They’d obviously love the A’s to have a new stadium, because why not, but I don’t think they have any problem with the A’s not spending much.”

Many cities would love to have a major-league team, and many are ramping up plans to wine and dine the A’s. The list includes Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., Nashville, Vancouver, British Columbia, Charlotte, N.C., and Montreal.

The threat of moving is a common tactic used by teams seeking public money to build — or help build — a stadium.

“The Rays used that threat,” deMause said. “If they were going to move somewhere, wouldn’t you think they would have by now? It’s been so many years. With the A’s, the problem is that, even though they aren’t bringing in as much revenue as they think they should, it’s still a more valuable franchise than if they were in Portland or Nashville or someplace like that.

“The Bay Area’s such a huge TV market, and local TV still matters so much for baseball. ... Right now, the A’s are in good enough shape. They’re not Cincinnati; they’re solidly sort of a mid-level market, if not a little bit above that. There’s nowhere that’s a better option. Like, if Nashville gave the A’s a stadium completely for free, I don’t know if that would be a better deal than staying at the Coliseum.”

What if Oakland were to tell the A’s, We’ll give you $155 million, best we can do. What would Fisher do?

“So if you’re John Fisher, do you throw a hissy-fit and move to Las Vegas?” deMause asked. “Or do you say, ‘You know what? Mayor Schaff isn’t going to be there forever, and I’m going to keep owning the team, so do I give up on this or just wait for the next mayor?’ It’s hard to argue that moving to Las Vegas is a better option.”

You know who agrees with that? Or did? Rob Manfred, who in 2018 said, “I believe that there is not another market in the United States that has the upside potential that Oakland has, and I think we would regret leaving Oakland if we did that.”

• John Fisher, please define “success.”

In the A’s statement, Fisher said, “The future success of the A’s depends on a new ballpark.”

There is ample evidence that to Fisher, success is measured not in W and L, but in $. The A’s most glaring weakness right now is at shortstop. They let East Bay native Marcus Semien, a Cal alum, walk rather than pay him $18 million for this season. They traded for Elvis Andrus while having to pay him only $8.75 million, with the Rangers paying the remaining $6.25 million of his salary. Financially, a successful move. On the field, a disaster.

If Fisher moved the A’s, the team’s value would drop, with no guarantee of increased revenue. And MLB would be trading down to a smaller market.

Scott Ostler is a columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: sostler@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @scottostler

Though he started in sports and is there now, Scott took a couple of side trips into the real world for The Chronicle. For three years he wrote a daily around-town column, and for one year, while still in sports, he wrote a weekly humorous commentary column.

He has authored several books and written for many national publications. Scott has been voted California Sportswriter of the Year 13 times, including six times while at The Chronicle. He moved to the Bay Area from Southern California, where he worked for the Los Angeles Times, the National Sports Daily and the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Oakland A's Once Again Threatening to Leave Oakland as New Stadium Subsidy Comes Up for Vote

SFist 11 May, 2021 - 05:55pm

We've heard this before, no? The A's have been threatening to move to Fremont or San Jose for many years, as various plans for new stadiums have been proposed, debated, and killed. The current stadium, now known as RingCentral Coliseum, is among the oldest still operating MLB venues in the country, and in their statement today, MLB says for the first time, "The Oakland Coliseum site is not a viable option for the future vision of baseball." And, they add, the A's should start looking at new cities to potentially move to, in case the Oakland City Council fails to approve their plans this summer.

In a reaction statement to ESPN, A's owner John Fisher says, "The future success of the A's depends on a new ballpark. Oakland is a great baseball town, and we will continue to pursue our waterfront ballpark project. We will also follow MLB's direction to explore other markets."

The Chronicle points out that Fisher is kind of deflecting with his statement, and saying, essentially, "Hey, we love Oakland, but MLB told us to start looking around, what can we do?"

But there are plenty of arguments for the A's staying put — at least in the Bay Area market. They're also Oakland's last major-league sports team after the recent departures of the Warriors to San Francisco, and the Raiders to Las Vegas. As the Chronicle explains, the Bay Area TV market is more lucrative for the A's than, say, Nashville's or Charlotte's — both cities rumored to want to court the team in the coming weeks. Vancouver, Montreal, Las Vegas, and Portland all want to throw money at the A's, but this all may turn out to be some silly theatrics.

The A's have been rooted in Oakland since 1968, and since 2013, they've been discussing a potential new stadium project closer to Jack London Square and downtown, along the waterfront at the Howard Terminal site.

That plan has been clearing various hurdles in the last two years, and a draft environmental impact report (EIR) was released in February. The plan includes 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, hotels with up to 400 rooms, and 540 units of housing, in addition to the stadium complex itself. The project comes with an affordable housing component, and $450 million in community benefits in total.

Two weeks ago, in a letter to the city council, the A's called on Oakland to take a vote on the proposed development, and this week we have this latest escalation in the negotiation.

Jay C. Barmann is a fiction writer and web editor who's lived in San Francisco for 19 years.

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