OAKLAND, Calif. — Tony Kemp sat in the Oakland Athletics dugout last week, watching protesters march through the stadium wearing a green T-shirt with the words “Sell The Team” emblazoned on the front. I couldn’t avoid the sound. He had signs of lamenting the likely fate of the team.
The rest of the fans, though in small numbers, joined the protesters in chants urging A’s owner John Fischer to relinquish ownership of the club. Defend,” they shouted in rhythmic unison, referring to friendly ushers and security guards who were sympathetic to their cause.
“It’s tough,” said Kemp, who is in his fourth season in Auckland. “You’re in the dugout and you just feel for them. Think about the generation you are in. It’s very difficult.”
Kemp, like most Athletics players, sympathizes with fans, but “hard” doesn’t adequately reflect their plight. The team purchased land in Nevada last month for a new stadium. It reached a deal and announced plans to move to the Las Vegas Strip by the 2027 season. It was a blow.
But even worse, should the move take place, the A’s will be leaving Oakland since 2019, following the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, who moved across the Bay to San Francisco, and the NFL’s Raiders, who fled Oakland. It will be the third and final major sports team. Las Vegas in 2020. All three teams worked at different times on the same asphalt lot in the city’s industrial area southeast of downtown. However, if A actually raises enough money to carry out the plan, there will be no major professional sports teams left.
For cities and regions with proud and resilient inhabitants, it would be a shocking triple rejection.
Jim Zelinski, co-founder of SOS (Save Oakland Sports) said: “It’s devastating.”
Zelinski, who attended his first home game for the Auckland A’s on 17 April 1968, aged 10, launched an advocacy group in 2012. Fearing that all three clubs wanted to move, he and his friends petitioned the team owners, local politicians and the league. Offices and other fan groups to prevent their departure. They may have held it back for a while, but now it looks like the worst has happened.
Sports teams frequently change cities for stranded fans. Auckland used to benefit from the hurt it received elsewhere. A. He was born in Philadelphia in 1901 and moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1955 and lived in East He Bay, where he thrived for 56 years.
“Auckland had a professional sports empire like no other,” said Zelensky. “But it was dismantled and now it just hangs from a single pillar.”
Zelinski, along with his friends, fellow protesters and many fans of A, disagree about the extent of the city’s responsibility for the situation. They agree that over the past few years he has deliberately defended poor teams and refused to improve stadiums to keep crowds down, and then with very few spectators, Auckland has run out. I believe they argued that there was no alternative stadium possible. Optional, but move the franchise.
“Absolutely, the whole community believes it,” said Anson Casanares, 36, one of the protesters and a lifelong Oakland resident. “We’re losing more than a team. We’re losing our civic pride.”
Oakland’s opponent on the night of the protest was the Cincinnati Reds, the team the A’s had won in the first World Series in Oakland in 1972. He was one of the most feared and popular teams in Major League Baseball. That year they had 2.9 million fans of his, averaging over 36,000 per game.
“The Coliseum was an Auckland town square with people of all types of backgrounds and generations of fans,” says Andy Dritch, who was the team’s vice president from 1980 to 1994. had separate ownership by the club. “You took and tore apart the city’s heart, mind and soul.”
Dolich, who was also Chief Operating Officer of the San Francisco 49ers, recently co-authored “Goodbye Oakland,” about the wins and losses of professional sports in Oakland, with Oakland Tribune sports columnist Dave Newhouse. Dolich believes city officials, including current and past mayors, deliberately scaled back their own offerings to force relocation by not bowing to the financial demands of the Raiders and his A. He said he protected the interests of citizens.
“I believe this situation is completely self-inflicted, on purpose,” he said.
A’s president Dave Caval denied that. He said the team tried harder to stay in Oakland than the Raiders or Warriors, spending $2 million a month to sell locally for most of two years. found a solution. Only after it became clear that it would take him at least seven or eight years to complete the as-yet-unfinalized plans to build a new Waterfront Stadium at Howard Terminal in the Port of Auckland did he become an A. committed to Las Vegas.
“That timeline can’t be maintained,” Kaval said in a phone interview.
But fans once flocked to see A. In 2019 he amassed 1.67 million fans, surpassing his seven teams in MLB, and in 2014 he amassed over 2 million. In both seasons the A’s entry into the playoffs shows that the fans show up when the club is doing well. The A-Team, which has been known for decades for its low player salaries, has managed to create a good undervalued player through an analytical approach favored by the team’s former general manager and still-advisor, Billy Beane. was able to find
But lately, team salaries have plummeted. About $56 million this year, the lowest of his 30 teams in the MLB. In 2022 he had $47.8 million, placing him 29th in the league.
These cuts coincided with a decision two years ago to pursue new stadiums in both Oakland and Las Vegas simultaneously. Kaval says the A’s were instructed by MLB to do so, but the announcement angered fans unwilling to pay to see a team they felt were destined to leave, and self-proclaimed. It looked like a satisfying result. Attendance numbers have more than halved from 1.66 million in 2019 (the year before pandemic-related restrictions at stadiums) to 787,902 in 2022.
To make matters worse, before the 2022 season, the A’s swapped out two of their best players, first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman, further infuriating disgruntled fans. In 2020, the A’s refused to re-sign free-agent infielder Marcus Semien, a hometown star who grew up in the East Bay and attended both high school and college. Sean Manair and Frankie Montas were also traded last year.
Then, after the team’s 102-loss season in 2022, the final blow was dealt when the team’s last notable veteran, catcher Sean Murphy, was traded to Atlanta to become Olson’s teammate once again. rice field.
Meanwhile, the stadium remained a crumbling ruin, a vestige of the multisport concrete brutalism of the late 1960s.
“It is 10 years past its expiration date,” said Kaval, noting that A paid for a recent stadium upgrade.
But the upgrade is modest at best. His Dolich, a former executive at Company A, also questions the true intentions of the Howard Terminal project, which centers on one of the world’s busiest ports. He called it “a figment of the imagination,” adding, “It doesn’t get any more complicated than that.”
There were concerns about car and public transport access, and proposals included a gondola system to transport fans to the park.
Construction manager Joe Odello has owned two sets of A’s season tickets since 1988 (he also owned two sets of Raiders season tickets). He attended a recent meeting with his A executive and asked about gondola capacity. He was told that in an hour he could carry 5,000 people.
“So it takes seven hours to fill the stadium?” he said Friday night from his seat behind home plate. “It was never real to me.”
Some fans and observers like Dolich still think the Las Vegas deal could fall through. Odello said his gut is telling him it’s over in Oakland. He’s another co-founder of Save Oakland Sports, and in the last four years he’s been let down twice.
“It’s very sad,” said wife Jennifer Odello. He is a lifelong A and Raiders fan who lives near Concord, CA. He looks like he’s in mourning. ”
Unsurprisingly, the team is the worst in this year’s turmoil. With 6 wins and 25 losses, they had the worst record in baseball by Wednesday. Still, last Friday, at the team’s first home game since its announcement in Las Vegas, there was more noise and energy than for the year from just 6,423 fans in the stands. was.
The clubhouse remained dead silent.
“I hate it for the fans,” said A’s outfielder Jace Peterson. I hope I can do my part.”