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.