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Game 92: Twins at A’s

At least if the Twins stink to start the second half, barely anyone will be there to watch.

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Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics
Answer: because they can.
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Time: 8:40 Central

Weather: Coastal dry, fog if it goes late, 68° at first pitch

Opponent’s SB site: Athletics Nation

TV: BSN. Radio: You can hear it calling in the air tonight

MLB team record for strikeouts: 1596. Twins’ current pace: 1631

Rookie lefty Ken Waldichuk (fun name!) has been converted from a starter to an opener/long reliever lately. His longest outing since May came last Wednesday, 4.1 innings against the Tigers. He’ll have a chance to top that against a Twins team that simply stinks at hitting lefties. Waldichuk throws a 93-ish fastball, slider/sweeper, and change. He also walks a LOT of non-Twins. Digits:

After Oakland owner/human turd John Fisher announced his definite, for-sure, no-backsies commitment on moving the A’s to Vegas, bigger turd Rob Manfred decided to gift the world with some of his ever-boundless charm. He told a press conference that “I feel sorry for the fans in Oakland. I do not like this outcome. I understand why they feel the way they do. I think the real question is what is it that Oakland was prepared to do? There is no Oakland offer. They never got to the point where they had a plan to build a stadium at any site ... The community has to provide support, and at some point you come to the realization that it’s just not going to happen.

Because this is not true, the Oakland mayor’s office pushed back, reminding any interested readers how, in fact, “A’s ownership had insisted on a multibillion-dollar, 55-acre project that included a ballpark, residential, commercial and retail space. In Las Vegas, for whatever reason, they seem satisfied with a 9-acre leased ballpark on leased land. If they had proposed a similar project in Oakland, we feel confident a new ballpark would already be under construction.

(At this week’s All-Star festivities, Oakland mayor Sheng Thao and several staffers met Manfred, and gave him 31 copies of the city’s stadium offer – one copy for Manfred, and one for each MLB owner.)

Essentially, the mayor’s version of this story is correct, and Manfred is lying. (Don’t worry, it’s not his first time.) Had the A’s simply wanted a new stadium, they’d probably be playing in one this evening.

Because, unlike almost every other time that owners claim stadiums are decrepit, the built-in-1966 Oakland Coliseum really, truly is. As SI’s Stephanie Apstein reminds us, “in ’13, the A’s and the Twins had to wait three hours to play while crews pumped four inches of raw sewage out of the visitors’ dugout. In ’15, a section of the outfield wall collapsed. Last year a colony of feral cats took over the ballpark, and an opossum spent some nine months in the press box. And every couple of years, the stadium lights shut themselves off, presumably out of embarrassment.”

(Links provided by me, and it took me two minutes to find them... c’mon, Apstein, remember that links help SEO!)

But Fischer didn’t just want a stadium... he wanted all the surrounding development goodies which are the norm for new stadiums, these days. The Cubs got theirs with Wrigley’s renovation. Atlanta got theirs with a new stadium, and so did the Rangers, and the Cards.

(Were all these projects promised to be a boon for urban renewal and a net plus for tax revenue? Guess! Have these promises come true? HAHAHAHA)

Add to that the tricky little problem of real estate in the Bay Area being... not cheap... and so most of the sites Fischer wanted were on public property. It’s far easier to get access to land from a pliant local government than to buy it at going commercial rates.

So the sites included a community college, which Oaklanders weren’t crazy about, and later an unused portion of a very busy shipping terminal, which Oaklanders weren’t crazy about and is also at sea level. (If you haven’t heard, the seas are not going down. It’s going to be the thing that’s the opposite of that.)

Building on public land requires a major set of permissions from the state, and the pandemic put a real pause on working this out. (That, and California dealing with drought, tragic fires, etc... add the sea level problem, and you could say climate chaos doomed the Oakland A's. Good thing there's no climate chaos in Nevada!)

There’s lots of articles about how this whole scummy deal went down. But, for today, the best I’ve read is this one by Bleacher Report’s Daniel Waldman. It’s about the many ways the team alienated its once-devoted fans.

One story I didn’t know was how a 1995 renovation added more seats in the Coliseum, intended to lure back jerk Raiders owner Al Davis from LA (it worked, until his son moved that team to Vegas). These seats made the Coliseum a lousy place to watch baseball... and turned out to be a giant money sinkhole for local taxpayers. (The ultimate cost was about what the Giants spent on their new stadium, which everyone loves, and which was privately funded.)

Naturally, this soured the residents and political leaders on giveaways to sports owners. (Oakland will STILL be paying for those seats through 2025, with no team in the Coliseum to use them!)

Additionally, Waldman points out that Fischer’s main source of wealth is his inherited portion of the Gap clothing empire. Which has taken a huge hit in recent years, just like most retail, and especially shopping-mall retail. The Vegas move promises to pour money into Fischer’s pocket for a few years. (It might even improve his revenue sharing situation! ‘Cause it’s going to be a much smaller media market! And is not going to sell a whole lot of tickets!)

Anyways… there doesn’t seem to be anything that can stop the move now, despite a “reverse boycott” protest attendance staged by A’s fans on June 13 (the night Nevada’s legislature approved funding for the Vegas stadium). The A’s won the game… and then, in the pettiest form of charity you can imagine, the team announced that ticket sales proceeds would be donated to a local food bank.

Some Nevadans have proposed a referendum to override the state legislature’s stadium funding. It’s not likely to work. Meanwhile, Oakland’s US congressional representatives authored a bill requiring teams to pay the localities they leave for loss of tax revenue, and threatening MLB with loss of its antitrust exemption if the bill passes. (It won’t.)

Personally, I think threatening MLB with consequences for stadium blackmail is a losing idea, and too much like the threats that team owners always use. I’d happily support Congress just ending the antitrust exemption once and for all, no matter what MLB says, does, or doesn’t. (Besides this possibly benefiting cities which don’t want to be blackmailed, it could hugely improve the living situation for minor-league players… read this to learn how.)

Well, if this is the last time I get to embed this Oakland rah-rah song by weird sci-fi band The Phenomenauts, I'm still happy to do so:

Yes, it's only a chorus, and they don't use it at games anymore. So what? It still rocks. Pair that with Rickey Henderson-era stadium favorite "Celebration" (what they've gone back to using, now), and you've got some serious fun. (Hey, I could have also gone with MC Hammer, who used to be an A’s batboy, and looked a little like "Hammerin' Hank" Aaron... hence the nickname!)

Today's Lineups

Carlos Correa - SS Ryan Noda - 1B
Donovan Solano - 2B JJ Bleday - CF
Byron Buxton - DH Brent Rooker - LF
Kyle Farmer - 3B Seth Brown - RF
Willi Castro - LF Tyler Soderstrom - DH
Alex Kirilloff - 1B Zack Gelof - 2B
Christian Vazquez - C Jace Peterson - 3B
Michael Taylor - CF Shea Langeliers - C
Max Kepler - RF Nick Allen - SS
Kenta Maeda - RHP Ken Waldichuk - LHP

Incidentally, Soderstrom and Gelof are prized A’s prospects both making their MLB debut.