weather icon Mostly Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Column: A’s president talks a good game during Las Vegas visit

Updated May 28, 2021 - 12:50 pm

It is called “good faith,” and the dictionary uses all of six words to define it: “In an honest and proper way.”

The hope here is that good faith winds up being the expression that characterizes the Oakland A’s whirlwind tour of Southern Nevada this week.

A small contingent of A’s officials Thursday wrapped up an introductory visit to the land of milk and public money for major league sports facilities — starting a relationship that in theory they hope to pursue should a new waterfront ballpark not be built in Oakland.

As far as idioms go, “good faith” is always preferred to “dog and pony show.”

After concluding three days of shaking hands with local movers and shakers while learning about Las Vegas as a potential landing spot, A’s president Dave Kaval sat for an hour-long interview with RJ reporters in an cozy alcove at the Cosmopolitan late Thursday afternoon.

He almost talked a better game than Vida Blue or Catfish Hunter pitched for the A’s during their glory days.

Extra innings in Oakland

“For (Major League Baseball) to look at our situation and say you spent five years, $200 million, and you’re still a ways away — and really direct us here to Las Vegas, that’s a big deal. Hopefully, that will make everyone realize that this is a very serious effort,” said Kaval, who was acting as a proxy on this surveillance mission for reticent A’s owner John Fisher, who was also on the trip.

(Fisher, 59, has been the A’s majority owner since 2005. According to his brief online biography, he also has stakes in Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes and the renowned Scottish soccer club Celtic F.C., and his parents co-founded The Gap clothing retailer.)

If the Houston Astros banging on trash cans in the dugout during the World Series taught us anything, it’s that some things about baseball are not always what they appear to be. But if the A’s aren’t being up front about their intentions to relocate here (or elsewhere, should a better opportunity arise), MLB’s position seems more clear.

Most discussions of teams leaving cities are conducted behind close doors so as not to offend the folks back home. So the semipublic nature of this one has led skeptics to believe the A’s are using Las Vegas as leverage in their attempt to get financing for a new ballpark in Oakland to replace deteriorating RingCentral Coliseum, where their lease expires in 2024.

But did you notice that news of the interest in Las Vegas wasn’t leaked until the A’s received permission from MLB to seek relocation opportunities?

It’s like they used to say in Chicago when describing Michael Jordan: The last time I saw anybody jump that high was when Mayor Daley asked an alderman to bring him a cup of coffee.

In this case, when MLB said jump, the Athletics were ready to say how high.

MLB pulling strings

Kaval wasn’t quite so upfront when asked about the marching orders from MLB headquarters. But he acknowledged the A’s are not acting alone in these negotiations, even if that is much too strong a word to use in context with this week’s meet-and-greet.

“That was the impetus (for exploring relocation),” he said, “and it was based on the fact that it basically had been five years, and we’re still five or six years away,” from securing a new ballpark.

“It’s very clear from the direction of the league that we have to start looking at some other options for real, because we are running out of time.”

Kaval said the Coliseum is 10 years past being adequate, and it has literally gotten to the point the A’s are having trouble keeping the lights on.

“The light standards are breaking, and there’s some real challenges,” he said. “So we have to be open to having some parallel paths out there, because the Athletics need a ballpark. We can’t have one of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball with nowhere to play.”

If it turns out that Kaval was only bluffing about the A’s interest in Las Vegas, I’m glad he didn’t invite me down to the tables on the casino level.

With a poker face like that, I wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.