By now, most A’s fans have probably seen Bob Nightengale’s reporting that Rob Manfred (MLB Commissioner) all but guaranteed the team was moving to Las Vegas. The only problem with this reporting is that it totally misrepresents what Manfred actually said.
As Casey Pratt was quick to point out, what Manfred actually said was far less committal, a tone that baseball fans have come to expect from a man dogging for the title of most hated man in baseball.
Now, beyond the hasty and misleading Twitter reporting, it’s pretty clear that Manfred is purposely avoiding a definitive statement and for Nightengale to take anything from that quote as such is gross mischaracterization. Manfred is not good at his job and he doesn’t appear to be actively involved with Oakland’s negotiations with the Athletics in any relevant and public manner. I have written previously about the possibility that Las Vegas is a double sided coin with one side providing leverage for the A’s to negotiate with and the other side — the side of more interest to Manfred — assuming fact finding and due diligence for a potential expansion team.
Manfred always manages to make seemingly-bold, attention-grabbing, comments on the Oakland situation around the All Star game or the World Series but where are his public comments on a random Tuesday in June? All of this is calculated and if Manfred were better at his job, it’d actually provide real leverage for the A’s to finalize a deal at Howard Terminal. The facts, though, are that there is no real leverage behind the A’s thanks to their own ineptitude. What fans are left with is a league that can’t seal the deal, a team that can’t seal the deal, and a city who has all of the power in the situation.
At the end of the day, if Howard Terminal falls through, Oakland can immediately provide the current Coliseum’s site for a new stadium. So that’s two options in Oakland. Where does Vegas stand? Publicly there has been no announcement of land procurement, there has been no legislation passed, there have been no public negotiations that would suggest serious inroads have been made in Las Vegas. That leaves Oakland with two potential sites — one with substantially less red tape — and Las Vegas with years worth of pre-planning. But, sure, Nightengale. Tell us again how Vegas is as good as done.
The A’s had hoped for certain votes to happen in 2022 that are simply not happening and every single time something doesn’t go exactly as the team wants, Manfred whispers Las Vegas into the media’s ear. The team seems to think that the city of Oakland is going to work on their timeline and by their rules and it’s just not how these things work so, behaving like petulant children whenever given the opportunity, the team asks Big Daddy Manfred to grease the wheels but he’s just not equipped for such things.
One may disagree with how Oakland has proceeded with Howard Terminal negotiations and they are certainly not without fault in terms of delays and misinformation but the city absolutely controls the leverage in this situation. Regardless of how much progress has been made in Oakland, it is years ahead of any progress in any other city in the United States so this entire “we’re going to pack our bags and leave” argument doesn’t carry too much water.
On Twitter, New Ballpark — who himself has become a polarizing figure among A’s fans as his preference for a stadium at the current location far outweighs his belief that Howard Terminal will happen — asked “if we can’t trust Manfred, Fisher, Kaval, or Oakland, who can we trust?” to which I replied:
Despite all of the progress made thus far, there hasn’t been a single vote or negotiation that fans can turn to and say, “now it’s settled” but the media — both locally and nationally — report on every sneeze in City Council as if it’s the most important development in ages. #SneezeSzn. Fans and media alike need to keep a macro look at this. The news right now is that the team and the city are progressing through their negotiations and things are moving forward exactly as they’re moving forward and if Manfred or Dave Kaval want to come out of hiding and give a vague threat to the city, the media has an obligation to get followup answers instead of printing any of their words at face value.
At the end of the day, don’t trust the city, don’t trust the A’s, don’t trust the Commissioner, and don’t trust national baseball writers desperate for social engagement. Just sit and wait for actual news to hit because there will come a day — hopefully soon — when all of this other noise will become so obviously inconsequential, we’ll wonder why we gave it any weight to begin with.