John Fisher’s “Sacramento A’s” Are Doomed for Disaster

Last week marked the end of an era for the Athletics that began with Catfish Hunter‘s perfect game in 1968 and will most likely end with his, Reggie Jackson‘s, and Vida Blue‘s retired numbers — among others — overlooking a gloomy Oakland Coliseum on Sept. 26.

After the 2024 season, the end of the team’s current lease with the city, the Oakland Athletics will move from the Coliseum to Sutter Health Park, 86 miles northeast away in Sacramento — West Sacramento, to be exact. It’s a temporary bridge to its next venture: Las Vegas, an eight-hour journey that Raiders fans have familiarized themselves with within the last four years. It’s a move that begins the jettisoning — if it hasn’t begun already — of a once-storied and joyful franchise.

There are a couple of questions that have to be asked with no clear answer: will the team be known as the Sacramento Athletics for the next three years (an answer to that question has been given as I write this)? In the rare chance of the greatest Cinderella run of all time, would Major League Baseball consider hosting World Series games here? Do two whole schedules that have likely been drafted since the end of last season need to be revised to accommodate the A’s and Sacramento River Cats?

Once the questions in jest are out of the way, a host of serious things need to be answered. Most will revolve around the question “How in the world are the A’s and Major League Baseball going to convince the MLBPA to use the minor league ballpark facilities as major leagues for three years or more? The answers to that are quite simple: a) they won’t, and b) it probably won’t matter. The people involved in this are the same people who have ignored every single fan and complaint revolving around the move.

Instead, I’d like to focus on one particular question:

What happens if/when the Las Vegas deal falls through?

If you take a look at public opinion, this reality is extremely possible. Looking at every logistic around, the actual possibility is much closer to 50/50 than zero right now.

No plan is safe, nor would it behoove the Athletics, as long as John Fisher, owner of the A’s since he and Lew Wolff purchased the team in 2005, is running the show. It’s the same ownership group that has overseen multiple failed new ballpark proposals — Fremont, 66th Avenue, Jack London Square, San Jose (albeit that’s less on them), Laney College, and the most recent Howard Terminal — and many Coliseum re-developments and renovation plans that haven’t sniffed past the planning table. Nearly all of those plans have one common denominator: Fisher. All have ultimately failed because Fisher has refused to spend more than pennies (relatively) on the ballpark, relying on taxpayer votes to eventually get the job done.

Even the grand ol’ migration isn’t complete, no matter how much Fisher and company want you to believe. A suspiciously scheduled state legislature vote for $380 million public dollars for a ballpark rendering that isn’t going to exist, followed by Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman stating that the A’s should “figure out a way to stay in Oakland to make their dream come true” this past February characterize the organization’s relocation attempt. Lest we don’t ignore the second LV ballpark rendering, which — “modern architecture masterpiece” or “AliExpress Sydney Opera House” public opinions aside — were created by the great architects of BIG Architects, HNTB Corp, and Artificial Intelligence.

“I certainly have not given up on Oakland” and “The Giants obviously still play there”: two oxymoron quotes from commissioner Rob Manfred (Photo via Arturo Pardavila III/Flickr)

All while Rob Manfred and the other 29 owners watch the circus run, all for the allure of Las Vegas. An allure created by an instantly successful NHL expansion team, and the NFL dollars that have created more intrigue in Allegiant Stadium than the team that plays there. MLB’s Vegas team would essentially be an expansion team, except with a history and stature that will never return anywhere (aside from Philadelphia, if that), but certainly not in Las Vegas.

The only silver lining is that any failure in securing the Las Vegas A’s would almost certainly spell the end of Fisher’s ownership of the team. Would it even matter by then? A team that has lost its soul already would lose its dignity with no permanent home. If the door wasn’t shut before, the first Major League pitch thrown in Sacramento would certainly eliminate any reconciliation with Oakland officials. MLB could be deep into extension talks that would remove most viable options. Then what? Everything is against Sacramento being a permanent home: the baseball world rooting and boycotting against it, a minor league ballpark full of visiting fans, if any non-locals, with a team with no identity other than the only one it’s held since its inception in 1901. There’s no way any amount of Vivek Ranadivé’s money that’s not in the multi-billions can sports wash it away.

That doesn’t even consider if the tax dollars would still be sought out in Sacramento, Las Vegas, or wherever the Athletics end up. Consider this: we’re in an era where, if given the choice, most citizens aren’t willing to pay their tax dollars for a stadium or arena for a billionaire that, in turn, will price them out to enter the building. If the Kansas City Chiefs can’t dynasty and threaten their way into citizen votes for new stadium money, there is no shot money will find its way into the hands of sports owners democratically, especially for a soulless franchise.

Even if Sacramento were to prove suitable for an MLB franchise against those odds, as long as the name on the home uniform reads “Athletics” outside of Oakland, the stench from the aftermath of Fisher’s last failure of a hurrah will remain. The alienation of a fanbase that long began before 2024. The scramble to search for new supporters in a market not even seriously considered before Thursday. For MLB, the absolute foulness of funding and supporting a clown show for a lost cause the moment it began.

Some will argue the Athletics’ declining attendance numbers over the last few years, in part, due to the infamous decay of the Coliseum. Others will note Vegas’ presumptive low standing among MLB media markets. Many things can be true at once, with many other solutions. For the A’s, a fanbase that has lost its love for a team run by a man that hasn’t shown an ounce of love back, and the dire need for a Coliseum renovation or replacement in Oakland. For Las Vegas, MLB’s desire for a ball club in a growing sports landscape easily could’ve been solved with an expansion team. Even if Oakland wasn’t a long-term option, temporarily staying in Oakland or moving into Las Vegas Ballpark — a minor league ballpark in the city it’s moving to — would’ve been much better options.

Instead, the worst possible route was chosen: the willing approval of a man with multiple failures on his resume to move his franchise with no real plan, while allowing him to put his team in a place with no optimistic Plan B if Plan A falls through, with whatever this convoluted path leading to a worse state for the franchise and MLB’s dignity.

John Fisher, the Athletics, Rob Manfred, and many more involved have been in bed with this nonsense for years. Thursday’s announcement was simply the wedding to an awful situation.

Follow Payton Ellison on Twitter/X (@realpmelli14). If Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai ever said “I can’t wait for stars like LeBron James to play at the Barclays Center” or anything close to what Fisher said Thursday, he would lose his s**t.

Payton Ellison

Payton Malloy Ellison is a recent graduate from SUNY New Paltz with a degree in journalism. He has been writing his entire life, and about sports in various genres and settings for five years, starting with monthly coverage for the NBA and Major League Baseball on Grrindtime. He has been the Managing Editor for Diamond Digest for two years, written and edited articles produced live content and assisted in growing the brand for four years. He has also served as the sports director for the New Paltz campus radio station, WFNP The Edge, and had provided play-by-play and color commentary for SUNY New Paltz basketball.

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