It’s been an eventful week for the Oakland Athletics, with fans staging a “reverse boycott” at the Coliseum, turning out in huge numbers to voice their disgust at an ownership group that has all but given up on the Bay Area, actively pursuing a move to Las Vegas amid declining attendance and an aging stadium in desperate need of upgrades.
The Nevada State Legislature recently approved $380 million in public funding to build a new 30,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas, prompting the A’s to release the following statement.
A statement from the A’s: pic.twitter.com/bK3RTSdXcq
— Jessica Kleinschmidt (@KleinschmidtJD) June 15, 2023
While many see the A’s move to Vegas as a foregone conclusion, former MLB executive David Samson still has his doubts, wary that owners would approve a relocation without knowing all the facts.
“There is no ballpark that can fit on nine acres of land that has a retractable roof,” said Samson during his appearance Thursday on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. “There’s no approval by baseball to relocate. There’s no financial plan of what the A’s would be doing in Las Vegas for the owners to vote on. There’s no TV deal. There’s no set, private financing for [owner] John Fisher for his portion of a stadium in Las Vegas. All that happened is the framework of the public part of the public/private partnership for a stadium in Vegas. That’s all the special session was. It’s step one of 50.”
It’s hard to believe this is all posturing, though Samson, who hosts the daily podcast Nothing Personal on the Le Batard and Friends Network, still sees a return to Oakland as the most likely scenario.
“Owners want expansion money so they can pay off debt that they incurred during COVID and that they’ve incurred over time because salaries are too high. They’ve got to get Oakland and Tampa taken care of before expansion,” explained Samson, who served as president of the Miami Marlins from 2002 until his firing in 2017. “MLB needs Vegas as an expansion candidate and to waste them as a relocation is a real disservice to maximizing your expansion fee and that’s what owners are concerned about right now.”
Insider Ken Rosenthal shared a similar sentiment in his Friday column for The Athletic, warning that the three-quarters majority needed to approve a relocation is far from a sure thing, citing owners’ trepidation at moving the A’s from one of the country’s largest media markets (sixth) to one of its smallest (40th).
“The A’s financial plans, however, should be of keen interest to the owners, particularly those in larger markets who will continue to subsidize them in revenue sharing,” writes Rosenthal. “While the team almost certainly would generate higher revenues in Las Vegas, it would remain a revenue-sharing recipient because of the size of its new market.”
Rosenthal also shares in Samson’s concern that, even at a smaller seating capacity, the proposed stadium lot might not be large enough to accommodate a fully functional MLB park. “The 30,000-seat park would be located on nine acres, a tight footprint for a facility with a partially retractable roof,” said Rosenthal. “Target Field in Minneapolis has the smallest footprint in the majors at 8.5 acres.”
In spite of recent developments, Samson has a hard time believing owners would punt on one of its prime expansion cities, willingly leaving billions on the table.
“The A’s have a problem. They need a new ballpark,” Samson admitted. “Do I think the A’s eventually move to Vegas? I’m still a no on that. I’ll be the last holdout and I’ll come on the show and admit mea culpa that I was wrong. But there’s nothing that tells me that a deal to Vegas is anywhere near complete.”