Opinion: As the A’s inch closer to Vegas, remember who the ‘head of the snake’ is

Jun 14, 2023, 6:00 PM

Oakland Athletics fans fill RingCentral Coliseum during a reverse boycott game against the Tampa Ba...

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 13: Oakland Athletics fans fill RingCentral Coliseum during a reverse boycott game against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 13, 2023 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Brandon Vallance/Getty Images)

(Photo by Brandon Vallance/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, 27,759 Oakland A’s fans filled the Coliseum to send a very direct message: WE ARE NOT THE PROBLEM.

From a fan-funded giveaway of green t-shirts that simply said “SELL” across the chest, to the well-orchestrated chants of “sell the team” and “stay in Oakland,” A’s fans reminded us that the essence of sports is best captured in moments where the fans and the players on the field are working in concert. This year’s A’s roster has routinely played in front of crowds of 2,500 to 5,000 (paid attendance, not bodies in seats), hardly an atmosphere that creates any sort of bond with the community. But on a brisk June evening in the East Bay, A’s players felt that connection.  

“Sell the team” chants got so loud in the top of the 5th inning that Oakland A’s pitcher Hogan Harris thought his PitchCom earpiece had broken because he couldn’t hear anything coming out of it. Fans erupted in pandemonium when closer Trevor May recorded the third and final out as if they had just clinched a trip to the World Series. In reality, they clinched their 19th win in 69 attempts, albeit their seventh consecutive win in a streak that has been glossed over due to the off-field drama that has plagued this season.

Taking the A’s away from the Oakland community

Did Oakland A’s fans need to make it known they’re not the problem? No. Did they prove it anyways? Yes. Why would you want to take that from a community that has shown that if the team loves them, they’ll love them back tenfold? A community that is closer to a new stadium than ever before. While A’s brass continues to avoid this question as they inch closer to selling their half-baked stadium idea in Las Vegas to a fully-baked Nevada legislature, the man who truly avoided transparency on this issue is MLB’s stooge extraordinaire, Commissioner Rob Manfred. 

Since taking over for stooge emeritus Bud Selig in 2015, Manfred has had a history of saying and doing things that, well, leave any sane person to wonder if the Commish has even the slightest bit of self-awareness. In 2020, after an investigation into the sign stealing scandal that found proof the Astros cheated in the 2017 World Series, Manfred choose not to discipline any players as he sought their cooperation to find “the truth.” He also didn’t want to strip the Astros of the title because of the “long tradition in baseball of not trying to change what happened.” To further water down the cheating scandal, Manfred referred to the World Series trophy as a “huck of metal.”

Let’s recap: We won’t suspend players because they gave us the truth, and we will not use said truth to strip the Astros because I don’t want to set a precedent that could hamper cheating, and who cares about the trophy, it is as good as garbage. Cool!

Sadly, these aren’t the dumbest things that Manfred has said. In 2018, with baseball being criticized for not marketing its stars better, Manfred placed blame on the players themselves, specifically pointing at Angels all-star Mike Trout. Last February he said investing in an MLB team (you know, the place he works) is not as good as investing in the stock market. Just a few months later he rejected the notion that minor league players’ $12,000 a year salary was not a “living wage.” 

Manfred said what about Oakland?

But maybe the most ludicrous thing to come out of the Commissioner’s mouth was in 2019 when he said it was “important to stay in Oakland,” called Oakland “a major league market,” and that they “should have a club there.” Wait, what!?!? That’s not stupid, that’s actually one of the more competent things he’s ever said!

Four years later, with the A’s as close as ever to making the Howard Terminal project come to fruition, they suddenly do an about-face from their “parallel paths” with Las Vegas and focused solely on Sin City, crafting one of the sloppiest proposals for a stadium and relocation in MLB history. Surely the Commissioner of baseball would be mortified by this very public display of incompetency! Nope.

Instead, Manfred hasn’t just avoided criticizing the plan, he supports it. From very publicly shifting any blame from A’s ownership to the Oakland city government to sounding like a high school student giving a final report that was prepped five minutes before class when trying to explain the current situation in Vegas, Manfred has avoided all accountability in this mess.  

Why the sudden support for Las Vegas in the middle of negotiations with Oakland, the city you said, “should have a club there”? Why would the A’s have their expansion fee waived if the move to Las Vegas becomes a reality? How does leaving a Top 10 television market for the 40th (and what would be the smallest in MLB) television market in the country improve revenue? How do you plan to fill the proposed smallest stadium in MLB (30,000) in a market that has entertainment galore, the NHL, NFL, WNBA, and likely the NBA? Can the A’s even afford a league-average payroll with the likely drop in TV money and the task of having to sell out every game if they even want to sniff financial success? 

John Fisher and Dave Kavel will continue to get publicly bashed as they limp towards the finish line in Las Vegas, but remember, Rob Manfred is the head of this snake.

Snake. Now, that certainly feels like an apropos description of MLB’s #1 stooge, doesn’t it? 

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