June 21, 2024
MLB: Oakland Athletics fans dispute owner's assertion that he'll invest to make the team a winner in Las Vegas

OAKLAND – Some Oakland A’s fans are not surprised that owner John Fisher has no intention of selling the MLB franchise but are highly skeptical of his claims he’ll make the necessary investments to help the team become championship-caliber after its proposed move to Las Vegas.

“I don’t believe anything (Fisher) says,” said Lynda Seaver, 65, of Danville, who has been coming to the Coliseum since the A’s arrived in 1968. “He’s been lying to us for I don’t know how many years now. Why should we trust him now?”

“Absolutely not,” said Ted Trautman, 39, of Oakland. “He’s a cheapskate.”

Several of the announced 5,075 fans in attendance for Wednesday’s A’s-Royals game at the Coliseum at times kept up the “Sell the team” chant that began earlier this season and has also permeated other MLB ballparks, notably in San Francisco and Los Angeles when Oakland was the visiting team.

Fisher, in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal published Wednesday, said he has not considered selling the A’s, which he has held an ownership stake in since 2005.

That’s not a shock to A’s fans who spoke to this news organization.

“I am not surprised that (Fisher) won’t sell,” said Trautman, who wore a green ‘sell’ T-shirt. “I think that most of us who wear the shirt don’t think that he will because he hasn’t acted reasonably so far. I think the city of Oakland and the fan base have given him plenty of opportunities to see that there is demand here, and that there are multiple locations for a good stadium, whether it is (at the Coliseum site) or at Howard Terminal or whatever.

“I think he has a very vague idea of what he wants in Las Vegas. I’m sure he thinks he’ll invest there. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Oakland Athletics fan Ted Trautman, of Oakland, gets ready yo watch the A’s play against the Kansas City Royals at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

The A’s, per Spotrac, presently have a team payroll of approximately $58.7 million – the lowest in MLB — with their rising stars still years away from being arbitration-eligible.

Although the A’s could have the smallest stadium in MLB’s smallest television market, Fisher said a new ballpark along the famed Strip would generate the type of revenue needed for the team to carry a higher payroll and potentially keep their talented young players around long term, unlike teams of the past 20 years.

“That’s a lie. My knee-jerk reaction? It’s BS,” said Ryan Alipate, 39, of East Palo Alto when asked about Fisher’s projections. “He may (increase payroll) and I may be wrong but show me proof. Show me something. He (didn’t) do it here. Why would I believe that you’re going to do it (in Las Vegas).”

The A’s hope to open their new $1.5 billion Las Vegas ballpark in 2028 and have said they expect a significant amount – roughly 30 percent — of their everyday crowds to be out-of-town visitors.

“I do think you’ll get some fans who may take in a game because they’ve traveled to Vegas,” Seaver said. “But football is much different than baseball. Raiders fans have no problem going to Vegas for a weekend. That’s just that’s not sustainable (in baseball), especially when you’re playing a team like the Royals or the Rockies. I just don’t think that holds any water.”

Fisher’s estimated net worth, according to Forbes, was $2.4 billion on Wednesday, as he is the youngest of Gap founders Doris and Donald Fisher’s three sons.

The A’s secured up to $380 million in public financing to help fund a new stadium from Nevada lawmakers in June and Fisher reiterated to the Review-Journal that he plans to personally invest over $1 billion into the construction of the stadium, saying, “we have a very good financial plan in place. We’ve been working closely with Goldman Sachs, and my family as well, as indicated, is planning to invest a substantial amount.”

Still, there appears to be some doubt in the fans’ minds that Fisher has the wherewithal to finance the stadium.

With a low fans attendance, Oakland Athletics’ Adrián Martínez (55) pitches against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning of their MLB game at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

“I don’t know his finances, but I don’t think he has the money to pull off what he needed to do,” said Robert Nickelson, 62, of Winters, “and what they need to do is to rebuild (a Stadium) right here.”

Fisher said he had nothing but positive feelings toward Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao but said that even after years of talks, the team and the city did not have a deal in place.

With the A’s needing a binding agreement on a new stadium by Jan. 15, 2024, to keep MLB’s revenue-sharing checks flowing, the organization honed in on a Las Vegas deal, and shocked Oakland officials in April by saying they had an arrangement in place to buy land and build a $1 billion, 35,000-seat ballpark a mile off the strip. The team later shifted its focus to the Tropicana site off Las Vegas Boulevard.

The A’s first said in May 2021 that they were on parallel paths with Oakland and Las Vegas.

“The fact that the A’s are the third of three sports teams to leave the Coliseum and Oakland is not lost on me,” Fisher said. “I think that that’s one of the great challenges that we face and something that I recognize and feel very directly myself.”

Does the City of Oakland bear any responsibility in this, some fans were asked

“I think there is always some compromise that needs to be made,” Alipate said. “But I think Fisher has had his mind made up for a long time.”

The A’s lease at the Coliseum expires after the 2024 season and it remains unclear where they will play from 2025 to 2027 before their new stadium is expected to be built. Fisher said he’ll work with MLB to determine where the A’s play their home games in the meantime.

The A’s are averaging an MLB-worst 10,468 fans per game this season and Fisher stated that he’s aware spectators have stayed away because of the team’s poor record and dalliances with Las Vegas. The A’s also significantly increased season ticket prices prior to the 2022 season.

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Still, A’s fans interviewed Wednesday said they’ll keep coming to the Coliseum if the team remains in Oakland past 2024.

“I have not enjoyed giving him (Fisher) money since they announced they’re leaving. But at the end of the day, I love baseball,” Trautman said. “I’m a Twins fan. I’m from Minnesota, but I’ve lived here for over a decade and I’ve become an A’s fan. I’m sad they’re leaving but I will keep coming until the day they’re gone.”

“I would love them to stay here for as long as they can even beyond,” Seaver said. “I don’t mind if Las Vegas gets in an expansion team, but this team belongs in Oakland.”

Oakland Athletics Darrin W., top right, of Oakland, who says he’s been an A’s for 25 years, and other fans wear “SELL” T-shirt as they watch their team play against the Kansas City Royals at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)