MLB threatens A’s could move to Vegas unless Coliseum lawsuit dropped, city moves to drop Coliseum lawsuit

When I reported last week that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred had marked the happy occasion of Oakland hosting the A.L. Wild Card playoff game by threatening to move the A’s out of town if the city of Oakland didn’t drop its lawsuit against Alameda County over proposed development rights to be provided to the team owners, I assumed it was just one of those typical amorphous “Wouldn’t want to see anything happen to your precious team” threats that sports commissioners are required to level every now and again. But no, apparently Manfred got way more specific:

According to [Oakland city councilmember Larry] Reid, Manfred told Oakland officials that the A’s have options elsewhere if the city doesn’t change its stance.

“The commissioner pointed out that Bay Area fans will soon be going to Las Vegas to see the Raiders and that unless things changed, Bay Area fans may be going to Las Vegas or elsewhere to see the A’s as well,” Reid said.

Okay, “Las Vegas or elsewhere” isn’t that much more specific than “someplace,” but actually name-checking the Raiders’ move to Nevada is a step above what was reported last week.

Las Vegas, as I’ve discussed elsewhere previously, is a pretty lousy option for MLB, what with its small and largely low-income population and broiling summer temperatures. (These are less of a problem for the NFL, which has only a fraction of the number of tickets to sell, gets much more national TV money to share among all its clubs, and plays in the fall and winter.) But apparently Manfred’s threat was enough to scare Oakland officials into line:

On Thursday, [council president Rebecca] Kaplan issued a statement saying that “in the interest of reducing strife and litigation, the Oakland City Council has unanimously asked our administration to meet directly with county leaders on strategies to resolve issues regarding our shared public property.”

[Mayor Libby] Schaaf says she wants the city to get the land, but through negotiations and not a lawsuit. She said she has always supported a privately financed ballpark that is “responsible to taxpayers.”

“I’m confident we’ll get there,” the mayor said.

All of which is fine on the one hand — if Oakland and Alameda can work out the ownership of the Oakland Coliseum site without a lawsuit, that’s fewer legal fees to pay — but significantly less so if it’s MLB using heavy-handed tactics to force the two sides to the negotiating table under (likely idle) threat of having their team yanked away. This never-ending A’s stadium controversy may yet be resolved in a way that doesn’t screw over Oakland residents too hard, but if so, it won’t be because MLB is refraining from acting like an 800-pound gorilla to get its way.


7 comments on “MLB threatens A’s could move to Vegas unless Coliseum lawsuit dropped, city moves to drop Coliseum lawsuit

  1. The whole lawsuit thing is basically Kaplan, City Council President and person-who-failed-to-beat-the-current-mayor-in-the-last-election, hitting all the progressive talking points and attempting to get her name in the news as “oakland’s hero” and “the people’s choice”, thinking she had way more support than she did and badly misreading the room.

    Public sentiment definitely did not fall the way she imagined, and it may cost her the City Council presidency at the very least when elections roll around again. Now she has to backtrack and resume negotiations with the people she just pissed off, which is never a good bargaining position, especially when *she* was accusing the *county* of bargaining in bad faith (despite the city still not responding to the Term Sheet they were presented in January).

    • The overwhelming majority of Oakland residents have no idea any of this is going on and couldn’t even begin to summarize the A’s ongoing stadium hunt. “Public sentiment” around this saga draws from a very, very small and self-selected sample.

  2. It’s not appropriate for Manfred (or anyone else external to the matter) to impose themselves on the process. Nor is it surprising that he did (with a largely empty threat. What? They’re going to move the A’s back to Kansas City or Philadelphia? Or to a smaller city somewhere with no MLB history and limited market potential?).

    That said, I do understand the A’s concern over the lawsuit. If nothing else, it will add a significant amount of time to a process that has already taken a great deal of it. Nothing “could” be done at the present site while the Raiders (and maybe Warriors) were still tenants (although the parking lot was mainly open). That is no longer the case and design and construction could, theoretically, start any time the site is made available… if the two owners of the parcel weren’t fighting in court over who controls it.

    Typically parties do not file action against one another if there is a cordial agreement to be made, however. It will be interesting to see how the matter is resolved now that we’ve passed the “lawyers at dawn” moment.

  3. It seems an odd thing to essentially name-check the Raiders when threatening consequences if a lawsuit is dropped. Didn’t the Raiders tell Oakland “drop your lawsuit or we’ll move immediately”, break their lease and then crawl back when they realized they were homeless. That happened, what, six months ago?

    Of course, Oakland’s lawsuit went nowhere in the end and the same may happen here but it seems “don’t sue or we’ll play at a stadium that doesn’t exist” is a weak threat.

  4. ===

    Oakland City Councilman and Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority member Larry Reid said the county canceled the first post-lawsuit meeting between city and county staff that had been scheduled for Tuesday.

    “My understanding is that the county felt they were getting mixed signals from the city,” Reid said.

    […]

    Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, meanwhile, says she has concerns about the lack of community benefits in the county’s sale to the A’s. She also said the city’s lawsuit — news to her until it was filed — was not the best tactical move.

    She also said the city can’t afford to buy the property from the county.

    “It’s not financially prudent for us,” Schaaf said.

    ===

    https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/philmatier/article/Confusion-in-Oakland-over-who-gets-Coliseum-site-14502201.php

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