The Oakland Athletics are going to look into relocating.
Sports fans can confirm that this is something that's probably been coming for a while.
Oakland itself is relatively poor compared to the surrounding cities and towns. It's a city, but not a massive city—it's only the 45th largest in the US, trailing cities with no major pro sports teams like El Paso, TX (22nd), Louisville, KY (29th), and Albuquerque, NM (32nd), among a handful of others. Meanwhile, a baseball team in Oakland has to compete with the Giants, just on the other side of the bay, a perennial World Series contender just a few hours south in the Dodgers, and whatever the hell the Angels are now. That brings us to the second reason this has been coming for a while.
The Athletics are the definition of mediocrity. The last time they made it to a World Series was 1990. The last time they won one? That would be 1989, when George H.W. Bush was still president.
Ouch. Their seasons since then? They've had 15 winning seasons, 13 losing seasons, and 1 magical year that they went 81-81. That 15-13-1 record is, however, deceiving. Their winning seasons go in spurts or 3-4 years, followed by periods of abysmal failure. They haven't made it to a league championship series since 1992, back when team made it by default: the LCS was the first and only round of playoffs before the World Series. Being immediately eliminated isn't all that different from not making the playoffs at all, as Cincinnati Bengals fans can drearily attest. And selling off assets after a winning season or two doesn't build a fanbase, as all 3 Miami Marlins fans can attest.
The two paragraphs you've just read matter, because the Athletics are looking to move for the same reason most teams threaten to move: they want a new stadium deal. In a vacuum, you can see some of where they're coming from. Their stadium is a pit, and for years they had to share space with the Oakland Raiders of the NFL, complicating any stadium deals. Oakland isn't a market that is set up for franchise financial success—it's relatively poor, it faces stiff competition from several nearby places, and it doesn't have the other draws that some other cities in Oakland's position have. If anything, looking to stay would be financially imprudent.
The Devil is, as they say, in the details.
The Athletics actually proposed funding about a billion dollars worth of the project by themselves, contingent on a promise from the city for improvements in the infrastructure surrounding the park. We talk about reaching across the aisle and finding common ground all the time in our political rhetoric, but the Athletics actually did it. They proposed privately funding the stadium and its amenities, in exchange for the city basically doing what city governments are already supposed to be entrusted to do. For Lockeans like your dear columnist, this is basically a dream scenario playing out in real time.
So why title this “MLB Attempts to Match NFL in Tone Deaf Championships” if, at first glance, the unreasonable ones seem to be Oakland's leaders?
Because MLB seems to forget their place in the pro sports hierarchy.
First off, MLB already suffers from a glut of teams - which has lead to a watering down of the product on the field. Heck, that's basically proven by the lack of sizable cities who don't already have a baseball team (or a defacto team). Charlotte, Albuquerque, and Omaha could make sense, but 3 cities without any real dire need for pro sports does not make a bidding war, or even a seller's market.
Second, what the hell is their sales pitch? “Let us build a massive stadium complex on valuable real-estate in your city, then not let anyone show up or enjoy it because the league is still mandating social distancing and mask wearing at games” isn't the winning message cretins like Toni Fauci would like you to believe.
That's not just a bad pitch, it's a stupid pitch. MLB attendance has dropped every year since 2012. In 2019—there were not fans in 2020—the average attendance was 28,317. The average MLB stadium capacity is 42,657. It gets worse when you realize that the smallest stadium is in Cleveland—35,041—and that attendance is being skewed by teams with large stadiums (Dodgers, Yankees, and Cardinals) regularly getting 80-100 percent of tickets sold.
Great time to catch your first HR Ball.
“Hey guys, we gave up valuable city real-estate to a sports team from somewhere else that none of you have investment in. Also, few if any people can go to the games because we're still being histrionic over COVID. Not that it matters, since you're all out of work from the never-ending curve-flattening we've been doing. Vote Tammany!”
Jim Jones could make a better pitch.
One supposes this shouldn't be surprising. MLB did choose to honor Hank Aaron by...taking the All-Star game away from the city he's most associated with and moving it to a city he never played in, while punishing primarily black business owners, all in an effort to show how much they care about black people. Adam Silver is a weird, evil Earthworm Jim, but Rob Manfred is just the inception level of dumb.
God speed, Oakland Athletics. May you move to Vancouver.