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MLB commissioner defends owner’s stewardship of A’s

Updated July 19, 2022 - 4:16 pm

For the first time, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday publicly defended owner John Fisher and his stewardship of the Oakland Athletics.

After trading veterans and cutting payroll to a major league-low of $48 million on opening day, the A’s are an AL-worst 32-61 and have drawn a big league-worst 362,756 in home attendance, an average of 8,637. The team has been considering a relocation to Las Vegas.

“I think Oakland, the A’s, face an extraordinarily difficult situation,” Manfred said. “John Fisher has invested literally tens of millions of dollars over the entire period of my commissionership in an effort to get a stadium done in Oakland.

“I think that negativity always accompanies the situation where players are traded and a club for whatever set of reasons decides to start over. But I think bigger picture, John is committed and has invested really significant dollars in trying to get baseball in Oakland on an even footing, a sustainable footing over the long haul.”

Manfred also repeated that the Athletics need to quickly reach a binding agreement for a new ballpark and that relocation to Las Vegas could be considered if a deal isn’t struck for a facility in the Bay Area. The team, under Fisher, also has explored a possible new ballpark in Las Vegas.

“I was at the Coliseum myself recently,” he told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “The condition of the Coliseum is a really serious problem for us. I’ve said it, this is not news. It is not a major league-quality facility at this point.”

A’s President Dave Kaval Tuesday agreed with Manfred, as he has throughout the ballpark saga, texting the Review-Journal: “We are running out of time in Oakland.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak said last week that he recently spoke with Kaval, who has been leading the team’s ballpark and relocation efforts.

“I talked to Dave (Kaval) a couple of weeks back and there’s so many votes they’re having to go through in Oakland,” Sisolak said. “In the meantime I know the league anxiously wants them to move, to get them out of that stadium. The other owners aren’t happy with the revenue they’re producing in Oakland. So, it’s a good possibility (that the A’s end up in Las Vegas), but right now, if things fall in line for them, they’ll probably stay in Oakland.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is pushing for approval of a waterfront ballpark at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission voted last month to reclassify the 56-acre terminal as a mixed-use area where a new ballpark could be built.

An Oakland City Council vote on a ballpark is possible later this year.

“Mayor Schaaf continues to work hard to try to get an arrangement, an agreement to develop the Howard Terminal site,” Manfred said. “I’m hopeful that that can still happen. And I said this recently and I’ll repeat, it needs to happen now. It needs to be done.”

Schaaf echoed Manfred’s statement, noting she hopes to one day share a moment with the commissioner in a new Bay Area ballpark.

“I share the Commissioner’s urgency and can’t wait to greet him at an All-Star game played on Oakland’s beautiful waterfront,” Schaaf said in a statement to the Review-Journal. “The City will continue to work closely with the A’s to bring a responsible deal for this iconic ballpark district to the City Council for a vote this year.”

The A’s have played at the Coliseum since 1968 and their lease expires after the 2024 season.

After proposing and withdrawing plans for ballparks in Fremont and San Jose, the team announced in November 2018 it had found a waterfront location for a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, close to the Jack London Square neighborhood. The stadium would cost more than $1 billion, with views toward San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Port of Oakland.

Kaval told the Review-Journal last month he has made weekly trips to Las Vegas, investing time on design work and feasibility studies.

Those meetings have been tied to choosing between two final Resort Corridor sites, after narrowing down a list of potential Las Vegas sites that once sat at over a dozen.

Manfred declined to discuss whether MLB would waive charging the team a relocation fee — MLB has not charged relocation fees in the past.

“Mr. Fisher has to make a decision as to whether he wants to make an agreement or can make an agreement that is approved by the City Council that would keep the A’s in Oakland,” Manfred said. “If that’s not possible, we have a process that deals with an application for relocation, and I assume that’s where it goes if in fact no agreement can be made in Oakland.”

Baseball owners have put off possible expansion from 30 teams to 32 until Oakland and Tampa Bay get deals for new ballparks.

“I need to get Oakland and Tampa resolved before we could realistically have a conversation about expansion,” Manfred said.

If the A’s do end up staying in the Bay Area, Sisolak said that won’t be the end of Las Vegas’ MLB dreams.

“I do think there is a possibility of either a team moving here or an expansion sometime in the foreseeable future,” Sisolak said. “I’d put that in the five-year range, too. I talked to (MLB) Commissioner (Rob) Manfred as well… He’s definitely explained to me the advantages. I think he’s pushing them (A’s) to get going on a decision. You’ve got to stake a claim and move ahead on it. I think that he’s made that clear to the A’s and (John) Fisher and Kaval and we’ll see that they come up with.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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