MLB says Oakland A’s can explore new markets, but where would they go?

A general overview of the Oakland Athletics playing against the Houston Astros with a limited capacity at the RingCentral Coliseum on April 3, 2021 in Oakland, California.

Ezra Shaw | Getty Images

Major League Baseball may be bluffing while playing a game of baseball liar dice to help the Oakland Athletics secure a new baseball field.

Major League Baseball said Tuesday that the Oakland Athletics could explore other cities if a $ 12 billion waterfront development project that would include a new stadium isn’t approved.

The team wants to get out of the Oakland Coliseum, which opened in 1966. To get a feel for how old the Coliseum is, the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers have landed two new stadiums since the A’s started playing at the Coliseum in 1968.

The frustration with this craps game is well described in Marcus Thompson’s recent article in The Athletic. Farewell to the A’s was the topic.

It’s like the scene from the second movie, Pirates of the Caribbean, in which Davy Jones played pirate liar’s dice with Will Turner and his father. The game is based on deception and bluffing, but at some point a liar is revealed and loses the game.

“It’s just another pebble in a pond of confusion,” said Andy Dolich, sports manager and former vice president of A.

“It has been considered at some point every decade since the late 1980s,” added former MLB executive Marty Conway. “Should the A’s move? Are they going to move? What is the fact?”

Do you remember the Montreal Expos

Conway, who worked as a special assistant under former MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth, compared the A dilemma with the Montreal Expos. MLB’s first Canadian team moved in 2004 after a battle to replace the aging Olympic Stadium, which hosted the first baseball game in 1977.

“It just became impossible to go on,” said Conway, who played at the Olympic Stadium. The Expos are now the Washington Nationals, playing in a $ 600 million stadium that opened in 2008.

The A’s are looking at a new park at the Charles P. Howard Terminal in Oakland. The development would include a 35,000-seat stadium, shopping, hotel properties, and commercial and residential units. The team presented their plan and are hoping for approval this summer.

“For Oakland, it’s either Howard or bankrupt,” A President Dave Kaval told NBC Sports Bay Area earlier this week. “We will do everything we can to drive this forward.”

But if the city doesn’t agree, what will the A’s do? Other cities can be used as leverage, but where would the A play? And would MLB owners approve the move to an expansion area and miss a $ 2 billion fee?

“There are still a few things on the board to think about,” said Conway, adding that the league still needs to resolve work issues with the players before they have any serious stadium issues to worry about.

“And when you are the owner, moving a baseball team and staying the owner is a difficult situation,” added Conway. “What usually works is you end up selling to someone and they move it.”

John Fisher during the game against the Seattle Mariners at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on April 21, 2017 in Oakland, California.

Michael Zagaris | Getty Images

Where is the owner?

According to Forbes, the A’s are valued at around $ 1.12 billion. Thanks to Billy Beane, the team is historically known for mastering the use of baseball analysis. And right now, the A’s come first in the American League West Division.

Even so, A’s owner, John Fisher, remains out of the spotlight. The son of Doris and Donald Fisher, the founders of the retail empire Gap Inc., he relies on Kaval to provide him with a new park, just as Kaval did for the 2015 San Jose earthquake, a franchise Major League Soccer companies that Fisher also owns.

The $ 12 billion figure relates to the entire waterfront development project, but landing a new park at the terminal site would cost $ 2 billion. However, the A want public funds, and Oakland officials seem in no hurry to provide it.

Some sports bankers feel that Fisher wants to stay in the Bay Area, and if he can’t land a new park, he may sell the team or move.

Moving to Sacramento might work. There’s a boost in Nashville where former A legend Dave Stewart helps lure a team in. Portland’s interest has calmed down. Las Vegas, now home to the former Oakland Raiders of the National Football League, tweeted about his interest.

The speculation about the future of the A is omnipresent.

“One of the easiest things to do in sports is to say that you are going to buy a sports team,” said Dolich. “One of the hardest things is to own one. I think it’s just another level of confusion that must drive your fans crazy.”

Conway, now a professor of sports business at Georgetown University, said the decision could be pinpointed in 2024, when A’s lease expires.

“It’s easy to say that the lease has expired and then you can do anything,” he said. “But these are difficult times – these one and two year extensions.”

Matt Chapman # 26 of Oakland Athletics hits a single against the Tampa Bay Rays in the eighth inning at the RingCentral Coliseum on May 9, 2021 in Oakland, California.

Thearon W. Henderson | Getty Images

Three hits and Oakland is out

Eventually the city officials will also reveal their dice. Are they going to let MLBs like the NFL and the National Basketball Association escape whose Golden State Warriors moved across the bay to San Francisco? Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf used her media appearance on Wednesday to express optimism about the A’s stay.

Those executives with a history of MLB advised caution as the risk of losing a third professional sports team is greater than ever.

“There is a football team that used to be called the Oakland Raiders. Now they are no longer,” said Dolich. “There’s a basketball team that used to play in this Oakland arena. Not anymore. So you have to think hard about it.”

“And if they move, there is no going back,” added Conway. “It’s not that Oakland will get an expansion team if they lose that team. It’s not going to happen. Baseball isn’t going to go back to a market where they already have the Giants.”

The baseball liar’s craps game continues in Oakland. And once that is complete, a similar competition awaits MLB in Tampa Bay.

Correction: The Nationals ballpark cost more than $ 600 million. In an earlier version the price was incorrectly stated.

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