The Temporarily Sacramento Athletics

Losing in baseball provides reactions running the proverbial gamut from outrage to sarcasm with gallows humor somewhere in the middle. When Sacremento-to-be Athletics owner John Fisher suggests tiny Sutter Health Park to be so intimate he can't wait to see the Show's top stars (he mentioned Yankee bombardier Aaron Judge specifically) hit home runs there, we wonder.

It's bad enough that Fisher tried and failed to strong-arm Oakland into handing him a big new real estate development with a ballpark thrown in by-the-way. Bad enough that he turned the A's into the Gang Green That Couldn't Pitch (Catch or Throw) Straight (Without Being Hustled Out of Town).

And bad enough his idea of playing nice with Oakland is to pick up and move to Las Vegas in due course, assuming Vegas or Nevada can't thwart him yet, while deciding to leave Oakland after this season to spend three seasons at least in the 14,000-seat Triple-A ballpark that hosts the Giants' farm team, the River Cats.

All because the A's and Oakland couldn't agree yet again, this time on extending their lease to the rambling wreckage of the Oakland Coliseum.

"It appears," posted ESPN's Buster Olney, "that the difference between what Oakland offered and what the A's wanted was about $35 million or so over three years. Or about the same that the Angels are paying reliever Robert Stephenson. Meanwhile, owners overseeing an industry worth many tens of billions of dollars stand by and watch their weakest franchise put on this cheap circus, and do nothing."

So not only does Oakland still lose, but Fisher sounds as though he might revel in the A's deeper downfall in front of ... well, the Sutter Health capacity is only slightly larger than the A's have been drawing while Fisher's mirthless Coliseum comedy has played out.

Longtime Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith once said, "The fans enjoy home runs, and we have assembled a pitching staff that's certainly pleasing them." Griffith made the remark sardonically — after his Old Nats pitcher(s) got hammered for distance yet again. Fisher has the sense of humor of a barracuda deprived of its three squares for one day.

"Come an' see my amazin' Mets," original expansion Mets manager Casey Stengel loved to tell fans who fell in love with their slapstick style. "I been in this game a hundred years but I see new ways to lose I never knew were invented yet." Shown Shea Stadium for the first time, the Ol' Perfesser cracked, "Lovely. Just lovely. The park is lovelier than my team."

Rarely at a loss, anchoring most of Stengel's Yankee winners full time, Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once observed, "The other teams could make trouble for us if they win." Should I be surprised if Fisher should observe of his A's in Sutter Health Park, "The other teams could make trouble for us if they lose."

The Orioles survived a ghastly 0-21 beginning to 1988 with gallows humor. "Join the hostages," Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. hailed a reporter new on the Orioles beat. Said a button manager Frank Robinson took to showing at the slightest provocation, "It's been lovely, but I have to scream now." A local DJ elected to stay on the air until the Orioles won. Before they did break the streak, Robinson mourned, "We're gonna kill the poor guy."

"We know we're better than this," said Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn during a time of Padres struggle. "We just can't prove it." Said Rocky Bridges after an arduous loss, during a two-decade life managing in the minors, "I managed good, but boy did they play bad." (This is the same Rocky Bridges whom Stengel once named to an American League All-Star team as an infielder, saying of it, "They were close to launching an investigation.")

It would figure if Fisher's Sacramento A's (ok, they're not going to call themselves that, officially) say, "We know we're worse than this, we just can't prove it." Manager Bob Melvin may find himself saying, "I managed bad, but boy did they play worse." All things considered, it might actually get him a raise.

Time was when the Yankees' most notorious owner, George Steinbrenner, was about as gracious a loser as a crocodile is a dinner guest. Let his Yankees incur a losing streak as long as two, and the speculation began on when, not whether he'd throw out the first manager of the season. (Not to mention when the once-notorious Columbus Shuttle of slumping Yankees going back and forth between the Bronx and Triple-A would commence.)

Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. But he did once fire Berra after promising him a full season on the bridge — until the Yankees lapsed into a season-opening 6-10 record that included a pair of ... three-game losing streaks. ("I didn't fire Yogi, the players did," the Boss purred.)

An owner who thinks nothing of either trading or letting walk any A's players who show even a few degrees above replacement-level player talent, Fisher wouldn't shock anyone if he thinks about firing his manager, coaches, and maybe two clubhouse stewards, before trading his entire pitching staff, after a season-opening winning streak.

(In case you wondered, the A's have opened their 2024 with a 3-7 record. They sandwiched one win between a pair of three-game losing streaks, then had the nerve to win two straight Saturday and Sunday night. Thus far, the players haven't fired Melvin yet.)

Sutter Health Park is said to hold 14,000 seats. Fisher's shenanigans may put the A's into the record book under a dubious distinction: the only major league baseball team that couldn't sell out a ballpark a third the size of Wrigley Field.

But A's president David Kaval talks of increasing Sutter Health's capacity. Seriously? They must be enthralled with acres of empty seats, which is what they're going to have unless Fisher either sells the A's (a consummation A's fans devoutly wish) or decides he'd like to have something better than the American League West's Washington Generals to offer.

Being saddled with a team run from Bizarro World and leaving a too-much-troubled Oakland further in the lurch might not make for Sutter Health becoming the friendliest of confines. Don't tell Vivek Ranadivé, who owns the NBA's Sacramento Kings and bought the River Cats two years ago. He may not believe it yet.

"Believe it or not," he tells The Athletic's Evan Drellich, "this is going to be the best ticket in [MLB]. Because it's a small, intimate stadium. It's like being in the lower bowl in a basketball game. And so imagine that, (Shohei) Ohtani is there and it's a small, intimate stadium. So it's going to be the most sought-after ticket in America."

Ranadivé has the slightly ulterior motive of using Fisher's duplicity as a lever to hoist Sacramento as a major league showcase for whenever the Show elects to add two more teams. But he, too, seems to suggest everyone who loves a good train-wreck might even be willing to pay to see one.

Comments and Conversation

April 9, 2024

Anthony Brancato:

But doesn’t Sacramento have an NBA franchise that isn’t going anywhere else for a while?

And Sacramento’s population is larger than that of Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Miami - all of which have MLB teams.

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