A’s, Rays celebrate Wild Card game with dueling move threats by proxy

The Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays faced off in the American League Wild Card game last night, before a sold-out crowd at Oakland Coliseum who paid an average of $129 for tickets on the resale market. One might think this would make it harder for the teams’ owners to claim that they’re doomed to failure on and off the field without the new stadiums they’re seeking — which means it’s time to pull out everybody’s favorite entry in the stadium-grubbers’ playbook, the oblique move threat:

Now, you will notice that neither of these threats came explicitly from the teams’ owners: A’s president and de facto stadium campaign spokesperson Dave Kaval limited himself to saying he was “surprised” by the city lawsuit, while leaving the heavy threatmongering to Manfred. And Sternberg insisted that he wasn’t the one who revealed that he bought Wild Card game tickets for Bronfman (they wouldn’t be sitting together, he said), but rather a member of Bronfman’s executive team who tweeted about it.

Still, sports team owners have a long track record of levying move threats by proxy, since it allows them all the leverage benefits while avoiding the nasty bits about being burned in effigy by outraged fans. It’s particularly unlikely that Manfred would be dropping threats in interviews without the explicit permission of A’s ownership, since the 30 MLB owners pay his salary; as for Bronfman, it’s possible that Sternberg said, “Here’s some tickets, now keep it under your hat that I paid for them, it would look really bad if people thought I did this just to rattle sabers about moving to Montreal during my team’s first postseason appearance in six years” and someone in Bronfman’s crew got Twitter-happy and ignored this, but somehow that doesn’t seem the most likely scenario.

Anyway, the Rays drove the A’s out of the playoffs with a pile of home runs, which means now we’ll get to see how attendance at Tampa Bay’s much-maligned stadium looks for games that really matter. Tickets for the A.L. Division Series vs. the Houston Astros go on sale today at 4 pm, and I for one will be as glued to the SeatGeek resale prices as to the start of the N.L. Division Series that’s happening at the same time.

20 comments on “A’s, Rays celebrate Wild Card game with dueling move threats by proxy

  1. Should the Rays wind up being a bi-national team, they absolutely must be renamed the Tampontreal Ex-rays, allowing Neil to obtain millions on loonies in naming rights, (publicy funded, of course).

    • I don’t think I actually coined Tampontreal Ex-Rays — might have been someone at Deadspin? But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to register tampontrealexrays.com right now.

  2. The next 9 months Neil is going to be saying cockamamie a record number of times due to both of these teams ballpark situation

  3. I initially assumed the “we want two publicly financed stadiums when we currently can’t get one, and we’ll give each location half the inventory of a normal stadium” threat to be a ploy of some sort by Sternberg, which would’ve been really dumb, but not as dumb as actually thinking that the idea itself was even remotely plausible, much less good.

    I’m beginning to think I gave him too much credit, and this is an actual thing he wants to have happen.

    • I suspect it’s “I’ve tried everything else, I may as well try this.”

      Once people have set themselves on a goal, it can be really hard to recognize that the logical choice once you’ve eliminated all the sensible alternatives is to give up. There’s got to be a whole lot of sunk cost fallacy rattling around Sternberg’s brain after so many years of this stuff.

      • My theory is that the St. Pete Mayor and the council want to do something with the lucrative land the rays are on. Alot of things have to fall in place before they will reveal what they want to do.

  4. Just checked the Rays’ ticket page at 4:45 pm, 45 minutes after tickets went on sale, and looks like ALDS Game 3 is almost sold out, with <100 tickets still available. Game 4 has a lot more still for sale, but of course that's an "if necessary" game.

    • If it’s the usual assortment of web based scalpers hoping to cash in on “guaranteed playoff reselling profit”, they may have just met their match…

      I wish the Rays the best, but I won’t be surprised if there are still plenty of empty seats for G3/4.

  5. Re-upping my evaluation that there’s near-as-makes-no-difference zero chance that the A’s move. It’s not even a remotely credible threat. They have the entitlements necessary to build a new ballpark in Oakland already. Both options are largely privately funded (accounting for infrastructure costs and questions around the value of the land for purchase), so they can’t lean on the argument that they aren’t getting enough public funding.

    They could (almost) start building tomorrow if they wanted. That’s not even close to the case in Tampa. The circumstances for the A’s and Rays are very different,

    • You make it sound SOOO easy for Oakland! If such were the case, why are we even having this conversation? Some 25 years (and two less sports teams) after the first retro ballparks were constructed?
      Words of wisdom: a project is “privately financed”…until it isn’t privately financed.

      • Manfred, who up until now, has never used relocation threatening language on either TB or Oak. I don’t think he is mad at the Oakland Mayor or the City Council but himself for having that stupid rule MLB won’t expand until those areas get new ballparks. By doing it makes it seem expansion is something that will happen in the long term (10 years). Nobody is interested in that.

        As for Oakland, I can’t get my head around why they wasted a year on HT. It was the POLS not the A’s ownership that boosted that location. Just renovate the coliseaum already and call it a day. The A’s ownership is pretty lazy when its comes to getting a new ballpark. (there are articles about the A’s getting a new park in 1994). Now they finally have an answer for the stadium issues. Where they are now

        • “Manfred, who up until now, has never used relocation threatening language on either TB or Oak.”

          I mean, he’s tried to:


      • It is easy. Again, they have the damn entitlements already and have for years. The problem is that the Coliseum site has never been their first choice (despite having by far the best access of any site they’ve looked at). The team has also been consistent for many years in never requesting public funding for the construction of the actual ballpark.

  6. When you consider that successive owners have basically blown off appealing to a generation of baseball fans by poormouthing their own gameday experience, one really wonders how awesome of businessmen they really are (or how much they care about baseball).

    At this point, the Coliseum has to be in the five or six oldest stadiums in baseball, and it’s seen more World Series than most. Play it up!

    • All of the improvements that have been made to the Coliseum in recent years have been paid for by the A’s. New video boards, the Treehouse, seating upgrades and reconfigurations, etc. The Raiders have paid for f***all. I don’t think the A’s can be credibly accused of not attempting to improve the gameday experience, especially given the terrible foundation/canvas they have to work with.

      I also don’t think the stadium’s history comes anywhere close to outweighing the facility’s shortcomings. Being old and having history doesn’t make it good or worth saving. It’s tied for the 4th oldest stadium in the league (tied with the Big A), but it’s the only one of the five — as old or older — whose condition and layout has gotten significantly worse.

      • I get the shortcomings, and the decades-long poor attendance, but it’s a great place to watch a game if you have seats from foul pole to foul pole. For one, you can actually see the game.

        The stadium formula is traditionally out of downtown, on transit, but not too far out. Oakland has the perfect spot. Build or renovate, and stop complaining.

        As paying for stadium upgrades sounds about right.

          • I wonder how well the Coliseum could be reworked with a phased reconstruction: Do one section each winter over several winters. If F.C. Barcelona can do it with Camp Nou, which is even older and has even more rusty pipe railings, you’d think it would be doable in Oakland.

            Or build a new stadium in the parking lot and then redevelop the Coliseum site. Lots of options if your only goal is to have a stadium where the fans down the foul lines are closer to the action and the plumbing works, though I do wonder how much more revenue the A’s would bring in even with the shiniest of new stadiums.

          • Coliseum renovation is a non-starter. One of the biggest issues (other than 60-year-old concrete, having a playing field that is 23′ BELOW sea level and resting on a dirt berm foundation that is subsiding) is that the main concourse is too narrow and cramped for crowds over 25K.

            They looked at what it’d take to expand the concourse to something less congested. The answer was that doing so would require removing enough structural support that the *entire third deck* would need to go. It wasn’t built to be renovated.

            Before someone chimes in with “but Mount Davis”, it doesn’t share the same foundation and is connected to the main coliseum structure with expansion joints.