An Athletics Relocation Adventure

If you have been paying attention to the minutiae of baseball television rights alongside the proliferation of new modern baseball stadiums, and i’m sure you have, then you are very aware of the situation of the Oakland Athletics. The A’s, formerly of Philadelphia and Kansas City, debuted in Oakland in the Oakland Coliseum in April of 1968. Since then, the Athletics have played all of their home games in the stadium, which doubled for many decades as the home stadium of the Oakland Raiders.

The stadium, known almost exclusively as a dump, was the last in sports that was used by both baseball and football teams. When the city of Oakland wouldn’t build the Raiders a new multi-billion dollar stadium, they bolted town for Las Vegas last year. The Athletics have similarly been trying to escape from the cavernous pit that they call home, but have been met with resistance on multiple fronts. Here is where things get interesting…for me. Literally, the next couple paragraphs will only entertain me. If you don’t want to learn about the inner workings of MLB blackout rules or stadium architecture, then just skip ahead until I tell you it’s okay to rejoin the article.

First, the Athletics have struggled to get a new stadium built within the city limits of Oakland. For a couple decades, it was because the city literally could not afford to do anything except make cosmetic improvements of their current stadium. They decided to focus on more archaic things, like fighting poverty and core city improvement.

Over the past decade, Oakland has become a technology hub for companies looking to get outside of San Francisco and much of the Silicon Valley. That, of course, has not fixed the housing crisis and need for places for low income families to stay, but it has pushed that issue to the margins of the city. The city has made several recent efforts to build a new stadium with tax payer help, with additional help to build out their transit system to accommodate the stadium and fans. So far though, these ideas have fallen on deaf ears. This is partially because Oakland ownership doesn’t particularly want to stay in Oakland.

If you want a primer on what a colossal flapping anus that the Oakland Athletics owners are, give this https://fancyboysclub.com/2020/06/04/yes-major-league-baseball-is-trying-to-shoot-itself-in-the-dick/ a read. If you don’t feel like it, here is the cliff notes version: The owner of the Athletics is the son of a billionaire who kept failing his way into money. In spite of being worth as much as he is, he refused to pay his team’s minor leaguers last year during a pandemic. He spent nine million dollars trying to get Mitt Romney elected in 2012. He refuses to spend money on his baseball team because they don’t bring enough fans into the stadium. Fans don’t come to the stadium because the stadium is a toilet. The owner refuses to spend any of his own money on a new stadium. He wants whatever town his team ends up in to pay for it.

Which leads to the second issue: Major League Baseball has spent decades making it impossible for the Athletics to move anywhere near their current stadium.

MLB exists as a legal anti-trust monopoly in the eyes of the government. Therefore, they can have their own set of draconian rules that prevent teams from moving if it makes other teams feel bad. In this case, the Athletics haven’t been able to move to nearby cities like San Jose because the San Francisco Giants won’t let them.

In the early days of televised baseball, a territory system was setup so that teams could not interfere with other team’s TV areas without their permission. This was in the time of there only being three or four stations and no cable tv. Television and radio were the lifeblood of teams to help encourage people to want to come to their games.

The Giants moved from New York to carve out their piece of the prize in Northern California. They followed the Los Angeles, nee Brooklyn Dodgers, out west. In the mid 60’s, baseball wanted to further work their way into California. Because the Dodger’s tv area was so large, it was nothing for MLB to okay the television area rights to the San Diego Padres. A year before, the Athletics were not as lucky.

They were allowed to operate in Oakland, but had to operate with the knowledge that San Francisco was the number one team in the area. In the ensuing decades, the value of Major League Baseball teams exploded because of television rights. Teams went from being worth millions of dollars to being worth billions. This increased the need for baseball teams to keep strangleholds on their television rights. If they could have their own regional sports network, they wouldn’t have to share the money with any other teams. This lead to the Athletics being a sort of unwanted step child in the California area.

The Giants wouldn’t allow the Athletics to move to a more affluent suburb because A: they wanted to keep the team in a bad stadium in a town that couldn’t fill the stadium, and B: thanks to MLB’s anti-trust exemption, they didn’t have to. Until recently, the Giants blocked every attempt for the A’s to try to move to cities like San Jose. Santa Rosa, or Sacramento. After the damage was done for decades, MLB allowed the Athletics to try to get stadiums built in these towns, knowing that the ship had already sailed.

OKAY LET’S JUMP BACK INTO THE ARTICLE!

Which leads us to present day. While the city of Oakland has struggled with their ability to get a stadium concept together, MLB has grown impatient and wants to start conquering new cities. On Tuesday, they announced that they were going to allow the Athletics to start looking for a new city to play in. Major League Baseball has seen other leagues expand into new territories and realize that they need to jump on the bandwagon.

With that said, let’s look at the most likely cities to land the erstwhile franchise.

Las Vegas

Forever, professional sports leagues said that they could not put teams in Las Vegas because of the gambling influence that could bastardize the fairness of the sport. But it’s 2021, and every sporting event has Draft Kings and Fan Duel tattooed all over it. The influence of gambling on sports has actually been a boon for everyone. Millions of people have gambling apps on their phone. Betting is at everyone’s fingertips. I’m not sure if I can even watch a baseball game if I can’t bet on whether Javier Baez is going to hit a home run in his next at bat.

Las Vegas might lack in hardcore fans, but can exist as a tourist destination and has the ability to build a state of the art indoor stadium that people visiting Sin City can enjoy during the summer while it’s 315 degrees outside. The city of Las Vegas has shown a willingness in the past to bring in professional sports teams and probably will again.

The Case For: Television rights for the taking. Big tourist city.

The Case Against: I’m not bluffing when I say that Vegas is basically the face of the sun during the summer.

Nashville

While baseball doesn’t necessarily coincide with most of Nashville’s economy, Midwest bachelorette parties, it does offer some things that Major League Baseball is looking for, namely the fact that there are no nearby baseball teams to siphon off television rights. Tennessee touches Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, creating a giant hillbilly black hole for professional sports.

MLB would love to get a team out of the Western time zone and into the Central time zone. Nashville fits the bill as a touristy destination that would be able to create a secondary ticket market. To Major League Baseball, it’s less about fans than it is about creating the idea that going to baseball is an experience. It doesn’t matter to MLB if you have been a fan of a team for your entire life. They would rather have some drunk idiots making it a part of their day in between looking at Confederate monuments and getting shit housed at the Kid Rock American Bad Ass Bar and Grill.

The Case For: Open television rights, Drunken debutants.

The Case Against: Small potential fan base. Kid Rock might show up.

Charlotte

Queen City is due for a professional baseball team. It’s the only major sport not operating out of North Carolina. It has some of the same things going for it that Nashville does, being a professional sport in a college heavy fandom. It is a major metropolitan city. It’s not like they are dumping a team into Myrtle Beach. While not as big of a tourist destination, MLB would bank on the wide open tv rights and a larger city and suburban spread that could bring in season ticket holders.

With all that said, Michael Jordan owning a team can’t get them to sell tickets. It really probably doesn’t matter, because the bulk of team’s income is television money, but it seems pretty hypocritical that MLB would be trying to move a team out of Oakland and move it to a city that hasn’t really proven it can put asses in seats on a nightly basis. It seems like bad optics. Then again, Major League Baseball got rid of 40 minor league teams so their owners wouldn’t have to pay the extra million dollars per year. A million dollars. In a league where teams make hundreds of million per year, on average.

The Case For: Eastern Time Zone, wide open TV rights.

The Case Against: Little to no fan base after first season. Proximity to Myrtle Beach.

Des Moines

Now hear me out. Wait. Don’t exit off the page. Nooo!!!!!

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