The Oakland Athletics are relocating – but it may take awhile.
According to multiple media reports, owners of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball voted Thursday to approve the team’s bid to shift to Las Vegas even though a permanent stadium won’t be ready until 2028.
Another potential problem is opposition from a Nevada teachers union to the $380 million in public funding ticketed for the team’s proposed $1.5 billion ballpark on the famed Vegas Strip.
If the kinks can be ironed out, as expected, the Athletics would become the first team to have four different homes – Philadelphia and Kansas City before Oakland – and the first to relocate since the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals in 2005.
They would also become a lame duck, playing in a city and facility where they have worn out their welcome. Fans blame owner John Fisher, son of Gap
If Fisher sells now, he’ll face a special sales tax, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY.
The approval vote for the franchise shift contained a caveat that Fisher would be taxed “heavily” in the event he tries to sell the team now in order to make an immediate profit. Neither the amount of the tax nor its duration – the amount of time Fisher needs to retain ownership before selling – was stipulated by the owners.
Any tax Fisher is charged would be divided among the 29 remaining teams.
Although the Oakland A’s developed such players as Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Dennis Eckersley, and Rollie Fingers, the team has always been overshadowed in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Giants, which has a better, more fan-friendly facility in Oracle Park plus more recent success on the field.
For the A’s, the advent of free agency in 1976 and the impact of Covid-19 in 2020 have prompted endless rumors of relocation – dating back to the days when enigmatic owner Charlie Finley parlayed publicity stunts with roster building to win three straight world championships from 1972-74.
Only the New York Yankees have won three World Series in a row since (1998-99-2000).
The A’s have a lease to play in the Oakland Coliseum in 2024 but may also play games in such other sites as Oracle Park and Summerlin, NV, home of its Triple-A team, if permission is granted by Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred.
Oakland’s attendance in 2023 was 832,352, up from 787,902 the year before but still the worst in the major leagues. In addition to the dilapidated ballpark, an inferior product hurt the turnstile count. The A’s lost more games (112) than any other team and finished 40 games behind Houston in the American League West.
The team last reached the playoffs in 2020 but has not won a pennant since 1990.
According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Oakland’s 2023 payroll of $79,873,656 also ranked last in the majors.
In recent years, the team has traded Matt Olson, Sean Murphy, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, and other veterans to keep a lid on costs – even though the team is valued at $1.18 billion by Forbes. Only the Miami Marlins rank lower.
The A’s were based in Philadelphia, where Connie Mack was their long-term owner and manager, from 190l-54 and in Kansas City from 1955-67 before coming to Northern California in 1968.
Their pending departure would leave the city without a major sports team, as the Golden State Warriors of the NBA moved to San Francisco in 2019 and the NFL’s Oakland Raiders transferred to Las Vegas a year later.
The Athletics would be the third professional sports franchise to leave Oakland in the last five years.
The first major sports team in Las Vegas, the Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL, began play as an expansion franchise in 2017.