Major League Baseball wants you to believe in its fairy tale. He wants you to see the talented players at Tuesday’s All-Star game — Shuhei Ohtani, Bo Pechet, Ronald Akuna Jr. — and be enchanted to oblivion.
Among the many talents on show will be a first-time pick: Oakland Athletics player Brent Rucker, the team’s sole representative. Perhaps, during a short period or lull in play, some announcer will mention the athletics’ future move to Las Vegas, and then return to the wishful marketing and competitive pyrotechnics of the game.
None of it will obscure the pain inflicted on baseball by the franchise’s highly anticipated move, a pox in sports that should not be ignored for the convenience of a midseason celebration of its best players.
How fitting that the All-Star festivities are in Seattle this week. Many citizens of this tech-fueled coastal city still feel the sting of betrayal after a tough fight for a new arena was used as a pretext to move the SuperSonics from the NBA in 2008 to Oklahoma City.
The A’s have followed a similar scheme. The team’s owner, John Fisher, heir to the Gap apparel empire, whose net worth is estimated at more than $2 billion, has claimed he’s serious about building a new stadium that will replace the Monolith where the A’s have played since 1968.
In 2018 Fisher set his sights on a sprawling stretch of waterfront next to a busy harbour. He added plans to build a cluster of condominiums and entertainment venues next to the football stadium – making the project one of the largest in California history.
Negotiations with the city of Oakland were as difficult as one would expect for such a complex project, but they continued while Fisher pressured the financially struggling city to obtain at least $320 million in public subsidies. The deal seemed close, then suddenly it wasn’t. In April, the A’s broke off the dialogue and announced an agreement to build a new stadium in Las Vegas that could be ready by 2027.
No wonder there are some A fans who have closed it To a soliloquy delivered by Rebecca Wilton, owner of AFC Richmond, the fictional British football team gritty at the center of the Apple TV+ series “Ted Lasso.”
“Just stop! I mean, how much money do you really need?” Wilton barked at her fellow team owners as they considered leaving their tradition-laden league for a fancy new NFL.
She continued, “Just because we own these teams doesn’t mean they belong to us.”
In the ethereal, mystical way that connects sports teams and their communities, fans can claim their beloved franchises on equal terms with team owners.
In this way, the A’s are as much an Oakland team as Fisher’s.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred defamesD Roughly 30,000 A’s fans showed up at the Coliseum for a final game to protest the move and urge Fisher to sell.
“It’s great to see — this year — nearly the average Major League Baseball crowd at the facility for one night,” said Manfred.
In passive-aggressive fashion, the Commissioner has been bashing Oakland fans in recent years that they have responded to Fisher selling the Stars for parts by turning the bustling Coliseum into a mostly empty morgue.
Did the commissioner forget that for decades Oakland fans were considered among the best players in baseball? Doesn’t he somehow remember that fans of the team stood strong behind their franchise whenever the ownership, through all of its iterations, put a viable team on the field?
Success hasn’t come much in the 2000s – although the A’s have made the playoffs 11 times in this century. Taking a longer look, stretching back to 1970, Oakland has marched to the World Series six times and won it on four occasions. That’s more World Series titles in the same period than the Los Angeles Dodgers. More than the Chicago Cubs. more than atlanta. Like the Boston Red Sox.
If any of those teams announce their departure to Las Vegas in the weeks leading up to the All-Star game, the midsummer classic, as it’s known, will be played under the darkest clouds of Seattle.
Characters from the past float at the forefront of the game. Think 70’s bands. Reggie Jackson, Rolly Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Sal Bando, Vida Blue. Their white shorts, white shoes and mustachioed screams brought a new flavor to the sober game. The way they finished challenging their team’s owner, Charlie O. Finley, helped spark a drive toward player empowerment.
Think of the equal teams of the 80’s and early 90’s and how they perfectly captured baseball in that period. Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire helped usher in the era of the long home run – while also having to remember that, relying on the crutch of doping that inflated the game in that era.
Remember the early 2000s? Moneyball. Barry Zito. Tim Hudson. Jason Giambi. Motivation to determine each part of the game. Winning (for the A’s, on the cheap) with analytics is now embraced by teams in nearly every professional sport.
All of these teams left a lasting mark. They all played in front of crowds that turned the old amphitheater into a carnival of crazy fun.
Now the city and many of the team’s longtime fans feel betrayed. And rightly so. The billionaire owner announces in an instant that his team is leaving Oakland for casino life and Nevada dust. The Commissioner of Baseball so strongly supported the move that he denigrated A’s fans and said he would waive the league’s transfer fee.
Go ahead and watch the All-Star Game. Try to enjoy it. Just don’t get so caught up in the fairy tale that you forget about the scar baseball has inflicted on itself.