It’s all starting to feel a little suspicious at this point.
Had you asked me a few months ago whether the owners would vote to approve relocation, I would have said yes. Probably unanimously. It’s not in the best interest of the game or their individual teams but they all want to be able to call in a favor at some point so they’d fall in line – plus, that vote still wasn’t going to be a guarantee that the A’s were leaving Oakland.
But now things look a little uncertain. Commissioner Manfred seems to be putting in extra hours making Oakland, in particular Mayor Sheng Thao, look as feckless, unresponsive, and moronic as possible which serves two purposes in my view. The first purpose is to establish a need to get the A’s out of Oakland and, therefore, a need to waive the relocation fee. The second purpose is to make a case that MLB and the A’s have always been working in good faith but Oakland just isn’t smart enough to do the deal – which is a lie. It’s all to provide cover for MLB, the Commissioner’s office, and any owners who vote to approve.
Then you throw in the bone Oakland will supposedly be first in line for an expansion team if the team leaves which flies in the face of Manfred’s most recent narrative. As I said on this forum’s A’s Chat, the league will have to expand to 40 teams before Oakland will realistically be considered.
Just yesterday, Manfred said he “hopes” the owners vote during the winter meetings in November. Hope is an interesting word. He didn’t say that the “plan” was for a vote or that the “goal” was for a vote but rather he “hopes”. Manfred does a great deal of things horribly but he is usually careful with his word choice. Every statement he makes is calculated to convey the illusion of substance while simultaneously covering his own butt in the event that he’s actually held to those words. You can’t hold hope accountable for failure.
I also mentioned on the A’s Chat that the Tigers broadcast actually went into the bleachers to talk about fan protests which seems odd to me since the A’s and MLB have gone out of their way to crop protests out of games and to flood the media with other things to talk about. If I was the owner of the Detroit Tigers and I was planning on approving relocation, I’d tell the broadcast team to keep the protests as far away from the game as possible, not allow them to go to the epicenter. And they weren’t the only team to discuss the protests on air. If this was a done deal, these teams would be using their platform to change the narrative and convince their fans how fun away games in Vegas were going to be.
There’s also the “news” that came as no surprise to anyone that the president of the Brewers was put in charge of the relocation committee because MLB was trying to shake down Milwaukee for money and it would be helpful for that relocation threat to be close to home.
The whole thing stinks from top to bottom but I’m starting to think that a unanimous yes vote from owners may not be as simple as Dave and John absolutely thought it would be. Maybe several years of horrible PR, revenue sharing, and roster tanking coupled with a lack of stadium renderings or financial plans has some owners on pause. Maybe enough owners have realized that leaving one of the nation’s largest media markets to one single team would have negative impacts on their own team. Maybe enough owners see that these moves may put the anti-trust exemption in jeopardy. Maybe they just hate John Fisher’s absenteeism and Dave Kaval’s smug condescension.
Whatever the reason may be, I think fans should stop with the “the owners stick together” and “the commissioner works for the owners” talking points for a few minutes and double down their efforts to make this a story that embarrasses the Commissioner’s office and potentially embarrasses the other owners. We don’t need to convince them all and it’s very possible to convince just enough.