Oakland Athletics hanging in the balance
Critical vote this week on franchise’s future
Good morning, all. I hope your week is off to a great start.
The future of the Oakland Athletics’ franchise is hanging in the balance, and a decision on where the Major League Baseball club plays its games later this decade could be decided this week.
On Thursday, June 30, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission will vote on what is essentially a zoning change for Howard Terminal, the proposed location for a new Oakland A’s waterfront ballpark. Mind you, the commission is not voting on the ballpark plan, but a change necessary to build a ballpark on the site. There are 27 members on the commission and a two-thirds majority is needed to bring about the change.
If the BCDC approves the change, the ballpark plan must still go through votes by other boards and deal with lawsuits against the proposal in a convuluted process to make the stadium at Howard Terminal a reality. Meanwhile, Las Vegas waits in the wings, prepared to build the A’s a new ballpark.
Throw in the fact Commissioner Rob Manfred put the pressure on both Tampa Bay and Oakland two weeks ago to resolve their stadium issues pronto and it is not a stretch to write this is a critical week for Oakland and MLB.
Why is Manfred putting the squeeze on these two franchises? Simple! Money! The commissioner wants to add two more franchises, bringing the total of MLB clubs to 32. The NY Post is reporting each expansion franchise would have to pay a $2.2 billion entry free to the existing owners to join this exclusive fraternity. Cha-Ching! The Post is also reporting that MLB has waived the hefty fee a club must pay MLB to relocate to another city, relieving Oakland owner John J. Fisher of having to pay that money. Fisher, by the way, refuses to meet with the media to talk about his gutting of the franchise, which to me should disqualify him from being an owner, but heck this was a club once owned by Charles O. Finley. (Although Finley, at times did work to field a winner.)
It is my contention, once the stadium issues are settled and the two franchises are added, MLB will do away with the American and National Leagues as we know them. With 32 franchises, the sport can split into four, eight-team divisions (I believe eight, four-team divisions would be too unwieldy) and divise a plan for a 14-team post season playoff system. The owners are bent on having 14 clubs in the playoffs. This season there will be 12 teams. Of course, more teams in the playoffs means more money for the owners. Cha-ching!
As for the American and National Leagues, that concept is outdated. The leagues used to operate as separate entities with powerful league presidents, umpiring crews for each league and no interleague play. Those days are long gone, as everything now operates under the umbrella of MLB. Interleague play, which started in 1997, is expanding even more next season, as each club will play every club at least one series. I would go so far as to say the concept of an All-Star game is also outdated, but I’ll save that topic for another day.
With construction costs rising by the minute, MLB needs to resolve the Oakland and Tampa Bay stadium issues now and get going on those two new ball clubs. That is why Thursday’s vote is key. If the BCDC votes against the zoning change the proposed ballpark for Howard Terminal is sunk and the A’s are essentially toast in Oakland. Secretly, you get the idea that is what Manfred is hoping for (hence the waiving of the relocation fee), so he can move forward with his massive restructuring of baseball. A vote to approve the zoning change will keep the Oakland ballpark hopes alive but continue the time-consuming process of making the ballpark a reality. Remember, what Manfred said two weeks ago about Oakland after meeting with that city’s mayor:
“She (Mayor Libby Schaaf) has done a really good job at moving the process forward in Oakland, but as you all know, California political processes are their own sort of animal. There’s work to do on the Oakland side. I think the A’s prudently have continued to pursue the Las Vegas alternative. We like Las Vegas as a market.”
The day of reckoning could be at hand for the Athletics and the MLB landscape. By Thursday, we should know if the future of MLB in Oakland comes up snake eyes.
Can we show the National Anthem please?
The New York Yankees sent out a Tweet before last night’s game against the A’s with a picture of Tony Award Winner Myles Frost singing the National Anthem. Too bad they didn’t show Myles performing the National Anthem on television. Most clubs don’t do that anymore. Better to run a commercial than show the clubs standing at attention, as the National Anthem reverberates around the ballpark.
It used to be you could identify a ballclub by how it presented the National Anthem. Metropolitan Opera star and Yankees aficianado Robert Merrill and his rendition of the Anthem was a ritual at Yankee Stadium. John Kiley at Fenway Park and Jane Jarvis at Shea Stadium would pound out the Anthem on the organ. Helen Dell’s offering on the Dodgers Stadium organ was another well-received version. I’m sure your favorite club had its ritual too. But those days, it seems, are gone. Sadly.
And speaking of rituals
It used to be a given that on the Fourth of July, your favorite baseball club would play a doubleheader. Those days are gone too. Heck, the Yankees, Angels, Phillies (Philadelphia, home of The Liberty Bell) and Pirates have the day off on the 4th this season and only one twinbill is on the docket, a day-nighter between the Guardians and Tigers.
When you consider Lou Gehrig gave his famous speech in between games of a doubleheader on July 4, 1939; that Dave Righetti of the Yankees no-hit the Red Sox on July 4, 1983 or that the Red Sox swept a doubleheader against the Yankees on July 4, 1973 at the old Yankee Stadium (I was at that doubleheader) there is something empty about your club not playing on the 4th of July. Another tradition deep-sixed I guess.
And before you think I’m an old codger lamenting the good old days, remember I’m the one suggesting the All-Star game is outdated and predicting and advocating a radical realignment for MLB.
Sportscaster Dan podcast
I have returned my Sportscaster Dan Podcast to the Substack platform. You can subscribe to the podcast via the Apple Podcast App or the numerous other podcast apps on IOS and Android to listen or go to this newletter by way of sportscasterdan.com. With a some luck, I might be able to pump out an episode this week on New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer rehabbing against the Hartford Yard Goats tonight in Hartford.
Well that is it for this edition of the newsletter. As always, thank you for your support and have a terrific week.