Viva Las VegA’s?

Ladies and gentlemen, your Las Vegas Athletics of Oakland. At least, they will be as of 2028, now that baseball's owners voted unanimously to allow John Fisher to hijack the A's from a city who loved them but whose leaders, for assorted reasons, refused to let Fisher strongarm them into a new development with a ballpark thrown in for good measure.

I write as a baseball analyst and as a lifelong fan. Would I love to see major league baseball in Las Vegas, where I've lived since 2007? You might as well ask if I'd love to discover a million tax-free dollars at my front door. But I'm hard pressed for now to know which about the A's situation is worse.

Is it Fisher discovering not every Oakland muckety-muck had turnips for brains and wouldn't just build him that development and hand it to him on a platinum serving tray? Is it that the A's now get to turture Oakland a few more years before they're actually ready and able make the move?

Is it Las Vegas's and Nevada's powers that be jumping eyes wide shut into handing Fisher $380 million worth of the funding for a projected billion dollar-plus ballpark adjacent to The Strip, funding that's liable to hike when the usual unanticipated cost overruns cost Nevada taxpayers more than the billion the A's are "expected to arrange?"

The only thing possibly standing in the way of finishing the Fisher hijack is a Nevada pollitical action committee whose interest is public education forcing Nevada's $380 million to a public November 2024 vote. "Were that to happen," write The Athletic's Evan Drellich and Melissa Lockard, "and were the public to subsequently vote against providing the money, the move could be, at the least, delayed."

Dare to dream. Well, the Oakland fan group the Last Dive Bar does. "So what's to say this Vegas [move] is going to be this glaring success?" asked Last Dive Bar member Bryan Johansen of Lockard — right before answering.

They have what they didn't have all those times (in previous attempts to move) in that they have the support of the commissioner to move and they have a city that just says, yeah, do whatever you want here. But it's still Fisher and he still has to do that work, and he still has to put a shovel in the ground. And to today, he hasn't been able to accomplish that, so there's still a glimmer of hope that he's not going to be successful and will be forced to either sell or work something out in Oakland.

The A's have been in Oakland three years longer than they spent in their native Philadelphia. RingCentral Coliseum, the home they've known since moving there from Kansas City in 1968, has been a living, neglected wreck for what now seems eons. And Oakland was willing to give a $375 million commitment to a new A's stadium if only Fisher and his trained parrot David Kaval left things at that.

But Fisher and Kaval insisted on pushing the $12 billion Howard Terminal development project with a ballpark thrown in for good measure. Oops. Now the A's, which have been allowed to devolve into the American League's first among known basket cases, stand likely to be turned into a game-wide hate object thanks to an owner about whom decriptions as ten-thumbed might be polite.

"But what could have worked better?" asks Deadspin's Sam Fels, who answers almost promptly:

The tiniest ballpark in the tiniest market in a climate inhospitable for getting to the park or sitting outside? Or a gleaming new [Oakland] park right downtown that included far more of a footprint for Fisher and revenue streams in the nation's 10th biggest market, in one of the wealthiest areas in the country? Isn't it just possible, with all of that, that the A's might have become the big market team that the Bay Area suggests they should be? Well, not under Fisher's ditch-focused guidance, but under someone with a few neurons that fire at the same time? Did anyone think the Giants were a big market team before they moved into their palace in downtown San Francisco?

The alleged Las Vegas plan is to build a retractable roof ballpark where the Tropicana now sits. That still counts on that which cannot always be counted upon, travelers silly enough to hit Vegas at the peak of summer's notoriously dry roasting heat, to see a team in which they normally have no rooting interest.

Las Vegas without such travelers has sports fans to burn. (No pun intended.) Baseball fans are more numerous than outsiders might suspect. They could in theory jam the future ballpark and still not do it enough — not with a ballpark said to be planned for 30,000-35,000 seats — to compel Fisher to do anything much more than entertain thoughts of selling the team.

But they might have done it for a new expansion team. Oops. Commissioner Pepperwinkle and his minions seem to believe Vegas needs an "established" team — whether or not it's the (ahem) white elephant into which Fisher turned the A's — instead of something splashy new. Never mind that Vegas has lived as much and maybe a little more on the splashy new as the tried and true.

Thoughts of Fisher selling the team have been prime on A's fans for about as long as Fisher's owned them. This past season merely amplified those thoughts with the prominent and rousing "Sell the Team!" chants among those A's fans who still refused to let RingCentral's wreckage deter them. The very thought of Fisher selling to one who cares about the team may have been what Disney legend Annette Funicello called the dream that's a wish the heart makes.

Whether the buyer will be someone who actually believes a baseball team should be built to compete and win as best as possible to win is impossible to predict for now. So is whether such a buyer will be willing to take the A's as far off the larger revenue sharing teat as possible, considering Fisher having to keep them on it isn't really going to make him true friends among the owners who approved his hijack.

This is not Walter O'Malley being squeezed out of Brooklyn by a capricious, tyrannical city and state building czar determined never again to allow privately owned sports facilities built on New York land. This is the latest in a long run of baseball owners with the wherewithal but not the will to build entirely out of their own pockets without one. thin. dime. of public money factoring in.

It's also the latest in a long run of municipalities who think there's nothing wrong with fleecing their constituencies on behalf of creating or luring major league sports teams that don't always prove to be saviors of local economies without the locals or the visitors paying through their noses, bellies, and any other passages possible.

Not to mention the latest in a too-long run of the A's looking to get out of their dilapidated digs but finding the wrong ways to do it, or the wrong opponents to cross. Wanting to escape that was one thing. Going deliberately into the tank after the pan-damn-ic season while still trying to fleece their home city was something else entirely.

As The Soul of Baseball author Joe Posnanski writes in Esquire, "They seemed on their way to San Jose at one point — the city wanted the team so badly that they actually sued Major League Baseball — but the Giants' said that San Jose belongs to them and blocked the move. After that, the city of Oakland and the State of California put almost $800 million on the table in infrastructure, tax kickbacks, and various other goodies.

"This hasn't proven to be enough ... Fisher believes he can get more, that he needs more, that he deserves more."

The Sphere, that big, $2.3 billion dollar Las Vegas ball of animated light on the outside and overpriced concert and other event seating on the inside, which may be liable to lure more people watching the outside than listening and watching on the inside, couldn't wait to blast the news on the outside.

A's fans in Oakland, who have suffered two lifetimes' betrayals and refuse to surrender without a fight, may not be the only ones hoping that'll end up equaling Dewey Defeats Truman.

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