In the modern baseball era, the now-Oakland A’s are the most peripatetic team. They began their existence as the Philadelphia A’s owned and managed by Connie Mack for about 50 years; then they pulled up stakes and moved to Kansas City in the mid-50s and stayed there for about 15 years before moving to Oakland in the late 60s. According to recent reports, it is possible that the A’s might be on the move once again.
The A’s play their home games in whatever they are calling the Oakland Coliseum these days. That stadium changes names the way most people change socks, so it is hard to stay on top of it. The A’s – – and the NFL Raiders when that team used the stadium – – wanted a new place to play and no funding/cooperation was forthcoming from the city. To be fair, Oakland lavished taxpayer funds on the stadium for the Raiders in the past – – and it never quite paid for itself; once burned means twice shy. However, the facility is simply a mess, and something must be done.
The current owner has “a plan” where he will build a stadium as part of a massive development effort at a waterfront site in downtown Oakland. This plan includes housing and retail space and a hotel. So, if there is this plan in place, what is the problem?
Well, it takes a lot of infrastructure investment on the part of the city of Oakland to accommodate all that development. For the moment, this is a shipping terminal site that does not have nearly the road access necessary, nor the drainage required. Some folks have “guesstimated” that the necessary infrastructure investment could go north of $1B. With that number floating around in the air, the city fathers in Oakland are loath to go full throttle on this project.
Probably motivated to put some pressure on the city fathers, MLB has told the A’s to proceed with their plans for a new stadium because the clock is winding down on MLB’s tolerance of the Oakland Coliseum. Here is the kicker:
- MLB told the A’s to start looking for a place to move if they cannot get things moving in Oakland.
The A’s owner, John Fisher, had this to say earlier this week:
“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.”
Oakland used to have an NBA franchise; the Warriors have decamped to play across the Bay in San Francisco. Oakland used to have an NFL franchise; the Raiders now reside in Las Vegas. Oakland has shown in recent times that it knows how to lose professional sports teams; the question now is will they “go for the hat trick” so to speak.
I never like the idea of taxpayer money being used to build playpens for billionaires. I would not like to be part of the city government in Oakland about now. Instead of trying to figure a way out of the conundrum in Oakland, I prefer to think about where the A’s might move to in the event of a stalemate in Oakland.
Since MLB would have to approve any move by the A’s, I think one major issue is MLB’s willingness to allow the A’s to move out of the geographical western part of the US. If the A’s would be allowed to move anywhere such that there might need to be some realignment of divisions, these areas come to mind:
- Charlotte/Research Triangle in NC: Plenty of population with disposable income and potential rivalries with the Nats and Braves.
- Montreal, Quebec: Immediate rivalry situation with the Blue Jays.
I suspect that MLB will not want to go through the seismic changes that moving the A’s from the AL West would engender. Therefore, let me propose three landing spots that would keep the A’s in the AL West:
- Las Vegas: Two barriers here are the fact that the city just spent about $750M on a stadium and improvements for the Raiders and the climate in Las Vegas in the summer. For baseball, there may need to be a domed stadium there and domes do not come cheap.
- Portland: This is a growing area where there is lots more disposable income than there is in Oakland. One problem here is that Portland has been in the news over the past year or so in a not-so-positive way.
- San Antonio: If there is a stadium plan there, this is the city I would choose. It is prosperous and growing AND it would immediately set up a rivalry triangle with the Astros and Rangers in Texas.
Moving on … The NFL released its 2021 schedule and the sportsbooks immediately released betting lines for all the Week 1 games. I have not studied the schedule carefully, but a scanning of the schedule points out several games that are going to command storylines that go beyond what might happen on the field. Consider:
- Week 4 Bucs vs Pats: Brady vs Belichick. Will they shake hands before the game? After the game? Let me set the Over/Under for the number of times this will be called a “showdown” at 2,643,320…
- Week 7 Rams vs Lions: Matthew Stafford vs Jared Goff. This will show which team got the better of that trade, right?
- Week 8 Niners vs Bears: By then, these teams might be starting their first round QBs from this year’s draft so it could be Trey Lance vs Justin Fields.
- Week 9 Pats vs Panthers: Cam Newton returns to Charlotte…
- Week 11 WTFs vs Panthers: Ron Rivera returns to Charlotte…
- Week 16 Jets vs Jags: By then, both teams would be in the “relegation zone” if the NFL had one – – but this will match the Overall #1 pick (Trevor Lawrence) against the Overall #2 pick (Zach Wilson) in NYC on the day after Christmas. The wordsmiths’ hearts are already picking up the pace…
Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle went to an A’s home game in Oakland earlier this season. Here is part of his description of the evening:
“At the A’s ballpark, I interviewed one of those cardboard fans, the only one that was not smiling. Said the fan, ‘I wasn’t cut out for this.’”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………