Tuesday, June 27, 2023

A's Are More Grooted In Oakland Than Rooted


It was once again “Bark In The Park Night” in the Oakland Coliseum on Tuesday night.


Given the current status of the home team, one wonders when the A’s are going to have Lame Duck Night.


As you know the Nevada state legislature and Nevada’s governor approved a bill to provide $380 million in public funding for a proposed $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof on the site of the Tropicana Las Vegas at the intersection of Dean Martin Drive and Tropicana Avenue.  The Tropicana, which will be demolished, opened in 1957 and its earliest performers included Eddie Fisher, the real father of Princess Leia. So you could say the Force is with them in addition to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.


The A’s and beleaguered owner John Fisher have applied for relocation, which makes sense. The Las Vegas Strip would be a perfect destination for the most stripped-down major league team since Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn and Jake Taylor were the starting battery for the Cleveland Indians.


The biggest protest of the move has come from the 27,759 A’s fans who showed up two weeks ago for a” Reverse Boycott.” In the fifth inning, they stood in unison to give the silent treatment to their cause then started yelling “Sell The Team! Sell The Team!”  It was a poetic message aimed at Fisher that supported their objection to the A’s moving except for the fact that some A’s fans littered the field with cans and bottles after the game. Who knew the Reverse Boycott would end with trash talk.


At least A’s fans are invested.  The only thing leadership from the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda is willing to pay the team is lip service. They have had 30 years to build a new baseball stadium. Enough said.


Pending a miracle, the A’s will leave after the team’s lease with Oakland and Alameda expires following the 2024 season. Insert sad emoji and poop emoji here.


 “It’s killing me,” said a ballpark usher and longtime A’s fan. “It’s a dagger in my heart.”


There is hope for Oakland and it comes from San Francisco. Lest we forget that in 1992 Giants owner Bob Lurie had reached an agreement with a bunch of investors in Florida to move the Giants, who were playing in Candlestick Park, to St. Petersburg where a new domed stadium had been built. However, MLB owners blocked that move and an investment group led by Peter Magowan swooped in and bought the team then went out and signed Barry Bonds. A brand-new ballpark, three World Series titles, and countless memorable moments followed.


Perhaps A’s Fischer, the Gap Inc. billionaire, is hoping for the same thing but, unlike San Francisco in 1992, the city of Oakland, the County of Alameda, and potential buyers of the team locally have not stepped up to the plate. They haven’t even grabbed a bat. Besides, Manfred owns the bat rack. This Las Vegas/Nevada/MLB/Fisher collaboration sure smells like collusion, which MLB in the past has treated like the anti-Christ.


Of course, no one has heard much of anything from Fisher outside of Las Vegas. Fisher isn’t talking -- at least publicly – and he is rarely seen. An owner of a professional sports team hasn’t been this invisible since Anita Cambridge was discovered by Reggie Dunlop when Reg was trying to get him, the Hanson Brothers, and Charlestown Chiefs to Florida and as far away as they could from Ogie Ogilthorpe.


Chances are Fisher was not among the crowd on Tuesday night on Jewish Heritage Night when, even with the mighty third-place New York Yankees in town, only 13,050 fans and their dogs showed up at the Oakland Coliseum where the A’s are last in MLB in home attendance entering the game with an average of 9,688. The Yankees, though playing most of the season without injured superstar Aaron Judge, still lead MLB in road attendance with an average of 33,269.  It was the smallest crowd to see a Yankees’ game since 10,876 saw the Pinstripers play the A’s in Oakland last Aug. 26. A year before that only 8,147 fans were on hand to see a Yankees-A’s game in Oakland and that’s when the A’s had Matt Olson and Matt Chapman in their lineup.


A’s fans – except for the “Reverse Boycott” on June 13 -- haven’t been motivated to come to the Oakland Coliseum to watch a team with a roster right out of the Benchwarmers. Honestly, these young A’s play hard and compete and deserve much more credit for their professionalism in the face of adversity and uncertainty. They’ve only won 21 games after beating the run-starved Bronx Embalmers Tuesday. The A’s ain’t that bad.


You can’t blame the A’s players for trying and you can’t blame the A’s fans for crying. Even Oakland sports fan Forrest Gump is upset. Actor Tom Hanks told city and county leaders to take a hike, too.


We've lost the Raiders. The Warriors moved to San Francisco. And now they're going to take the A's out of Oakland? Damn them all to hell,” tweeted Hanks, who was a hot dog vendor in his youth at the Oakland Coliseum.


Look around. There are no discernable signs of encouragement for the A’s in the Oakland Coliseum. The A’s team president Dave Kaval has been spotted flanked by security guards. The giant green tarps still cover 20,000 empty seats in the upper deck of so-called Mt. Davis, the stadium’s extended section built in 1995 to expand stadium capacity and add luxury suites to appease Raiders owner Al Davis when he brought his team back to Oakland from L.A. A lot of good that did, huh? And the A’s Community Corner in Section 218 looks like a fire sale, filled with leftover items from previous promotional giveaway days including a Marvel Groot bobblehead.


“If it’s not nailed to the fucking floor, they’re selling it,” the A’s usher/fan said.


Whatever is not sold, the A’s may need to put it in storage. The new ballpark in Las Vegas may not be ready until 2028 – according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal-- meaning the A’s might spend the 2025, 2026, and 2027 seasons as nomads, playing in minor league stadiums until their new major league home is finished in Vegas. Unless the A’s and the City of Oakland and County of Alameda extend the lease, which seems unlikely as Fisher and Manfred are burning bridges faster than Lord Voldemort.


Hence, the A’s, a charter member of the American League who have had homes in Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Oakland, could be renting from Sacramento, Reno, or Las Vegas. And, really, who goes to Vegas to watch anything other than the Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, and the Fountains of Bellagio? Mark Davis is already complaining about lack of fan support for his Raiders in a new stadium built for them. Another professional sports team in Las Vegas? Whoop-de-doo. The Vegas Golden Knights won their first ever Stanley Cup championship in front of their fans in Las Vegas in June and the world yawned. The television ratings for the Cup clinching game were the lowest in 30 years.


So be careful what you wish for before unrooting the A’s in Oakland.  They were a dynasty in the 70s in spite of owner Charlie Finley. They should have been a dynasty in the late 80s/early 90s because of owner Walter Haas, Sandy Alderson and Tony La Russa. And they continued to be a playoff team and competitive into this decade because of the brilliance and innovation of Billy Beane and the Moneyball days.


Now the “Money” is gone and all that remains is “ball.” The A’s just play ball in Oakland. Nothing else.


What a damn shame. Real lame.


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