To any fans of the Oakland Athletics, I encourage you to share your thoughts for Rob Manfred in the comments (4,000 character limit) so that this post serves as a living document for our distaste for how the stadium situation has been handled.
Dear Rob Manfred,
You’re going about this all wrong. I imagine I need to clarify what it is that I’m referencing since your office does so little right. Your continued allowance for John Fisher and Dave Kaval to operate the Oakland Athletics in such an unfocused and unprofessional manner is not only hurting a charter franchise’s reputation but it is also damaging the game of baseball and the office of the Commissioner.
These are not serious men who are serious about baseball. They care not for the game’s growth. They have no interest in preserving the legacy of The Oakland Athletics. They are only motivated by money and while that in itself isn’t a bad thing in the business world, the means by which they meet their goals are a pox on baseball and will serve as a lesson for future team-owners on how to destroy a business while still making obscene profits.
It is no secret who these men are and you allow them to continue with no regard for how it damages the game you steward. John Fisher is either uninterested or unable to compete in this business. He has walked away from a nearly done deal in Oakland in pursuit of a new deal in Las Vegas but you know as well as every A’s fan that regardless of where the team makes their home, John Fisher is not going to increase payroll or field a competitive team. The fact that the A’s have had any success under his tenure as majority owner is a testament to the genius of Billy Beane, David Forst, and their team of analysts and scouts but their genius would be put to better use under an ownership group dedicated to winning at all costs. John Fisher is not that owner. He is dedicated to fielding the bare minimum and any success along the way is a happy accident.
Further, Dave Kaval is the embodiment of what so many Americans hate about “big business”. He tells lies and skirts the tough questions like a second term congressman and it has become increasingly clear that his work with the Athletics is focused more on padding his LinkedIn profile and serving himself over serving the community of fans who welcomed him warmly when he arrived in Oakland.
Fisher and Kaval have brought embarrassment to the game of baseball and the fans of the Athletics while you kept your distance. You know it’s wrong. You know it’s bad for baseball. But you lack the leadership ability or courage to put your foot down. At the direction of your office, a deal with Oakland could be done in short order but instead you spearhead a “parallel path” that uproots a long established franchise in a city you publicly claim is a “big league city” and denies the other teams of the rightful relocation or expansion fees they would otherwise be due. Your office is as much to blame for this fiasco as the office in Jack London Square.
We cannot be surprised when a child burns down the forest when the adult in charge hands that child a lit torch. You enabled this and you need to put an end to it.
It is widely understood your reluctance to force a sale. While it is within your power to force a sale, it does set a bad precedent and creates a lengthy series of headaches and potential litigation that no right-thinking person would consider taking on unless it was absolutely unavoidable. But I say to you, this is an unprecedented situation. You have an owner who is indicating through his actions — or inactions as the case may be — that he is no longer able to spearhead the stadium project or keep his own team afloat. Over the course of a month this group has abandoned a $12B real estate project in one of the wealthiest and most populated regions of the country in favor of a stadium and shopping district off the Las Vegas strip, to a stadium only project on the strip that foregoes all of the ancillary development that was previously deemed critical for the future success of this team.
The fact that this final deal includes free land, a multi-million dollar payment from a casino, and is contingent on an amount of money from Nevada that legislators are seemingly unwilling to grant, all points to a sudden shift in Fisher’s ability to acquire financing or his worry about over leveraging himself as the stocks of his family business continue to nose dive. Every aspect of this deal is bad for baseball, bad for the A’s, and probably bad for Las Vegas but your office has said nothing publicly about it because at the end of the day you work for the owners and you’re more scared of losing your job than doing what’s ultimately best for all the owners in the long run.
MLB should immediately investigate John Fisher’s finances, his ability to finance a stadium project, his ability to finance a competitive major league team, and whether or not the Athletics can survive the five years it will take to build a new ballpark in any market. If those findings bring to light any of the issues that John Fisher and Dave Kaval’s erratic behavior suggest they might, then MLB must force a sale of the team immediately and no longer allow Fisher to inflate the value of his team prior to finally bailing on the sport. If the investigation shows that the ownership group and by extension the team are in good financial standing to continue doing business while developing a new stadium, then MLB must step in and get a deal done in Oakland, even if it means bridging the remaining funding gaps between team and city.
What’s best for baseball is a thriving Oakland Athletics franchise, not a middling Las Vegas relocation operated in the same manner the team is operated under now. As the commissioner of baseball, it is on you to find a solution that benefits the game and not a billionaire’s wallet.