It was a strange confluence of events Tuesday.
A “reverse boycott” by Oakland A’s fans protesting the actions of owner John Fisher brought the largest crowd of the season to the Coliseum. Just hours before first pitch, however, a near-fatal blow to those fans’ faint hopes was struck 214 miles away in Carson City, Nevada, as that state’s Senate passed a $380 million package to finance a new stadium for the A’s in Las Vegas.
The Nevada Assembly is scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon and could give its stamp of approval, sending it to the governor for his signature. In New York City, MLB owners are meeting Tuesday through Thursday. The A’s would need the approval of the 29 other owners to move from Oakland to Las Vegas, something that could happen before the All-Star break.
People kept asking me what was going on in Nevada. And I kept telling them that I stopped checking. To enjoy the night and worry about the fallout later. Wednesday may suck. But this night was cathartic for so many people that deserve better. And they did it all on their own. https://t.co/Tu29gvwT3b
— Casey Pratt (@CaseyPrattABC7) June 14, 2023
Even with those other things happening, the focus was on the loyal A’s fans showing up and making sure their voices were heard loud and strong. Thanks to a grassroots effort that started in April and saw $30,000 raised to print 7,000 “SELL” T-shirts, a crowd of 27,759—their largest of the season, surpassing the Opening Day crowd of 26,805—brought tons of energy to an otherwise moribund Coliseum.
Right from the first pitch, the fans erupted in chants of “Sell the team!” and “Stay in Oakland!” Many were wearing those green T-shirts with “SELL” across the chest, a wistful wish directed at Fisher, the billionaire owner who has taken the roster and salary down to the bare bones, to give up his interest in the team so it would stay in Oakland. Entering Tuesday, the A’s ranked last in MLB with an average attendance of 8,555, more than 3,000 less than the 29th-place Miami Marlins. They drew 4,848 for Monday’s game against the Rays.
Many fans have stayed away in recent years as Fisher increased ticket prices and took away benefits for those who bought season-ticket packages, all while dismantling a roster that won a playoff series as recently as 2020.
Up until a week ago, the A’s were historically bad, on a pace to set the MLB record for losses in a season. But for some reason, a team that had 12 victories and 50 losses, won for the seventh straight time Tuesday, beating the team with the best record in MLB, the Tampa Bay Rays, for the second time in as many days, this time 2-1. The A’s no longer have the worst record in MLB, at least for a day. Their 19-50 mark is .006 percentage points better than the Kansas City Royals‘ 20-49.
Fans came from as far as New York to show their support for the team they grew up supporting. They had support around the country, too.
I am 3,000 miles away and I have chills watching the 2023 Oakland Athletics and hearing the crowd at the Coliseum. What an unforgettable night for Oakland baseball.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) June 14, 2023
— Christine (@ItsChristineEM) June 14, 2023
But Oakland is about to lose their third major sports franchise since 2019. The NBA’s Warriors returned to San Francisco for the 2019-20, with the NFL’s Raiders moving to Las Vegas to begin the 2020 season. Now, the A’s will be the latest attraction on the Las Vegas Strip, with a $1.5 billion stadium planned for the site of the Tropicana casino. Unlike the other two moves, the A’s heading to Vegas has not been well-received by the locals.
Still, the politicians, ignoring the need to put more money into a school system that ranks 39th out of the 50 states and 47th in school spending, are bending over to bring a third major sports franchise to Sin City in recent years. The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights were an expansion team six seasons ago and Tuesday won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship.
— #OaklandForever – Save The Oakland A's (@Oakland_Forever) June 14, 2023
There was a mix of anger and sadness throughout the Coliseum, making it feel like fans were visiting a friend who was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given just months to live. Many of those in attendance will give up their fandom once the A’s leave Oakland, which could be as soon as the end of this season. The team could play in the stadium of their Triple-A affiliate in Vegas until the MLB stadium is built.
For 55 years, the A’s have called Oakland home (yes, after the team moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City before Oakland). But almost all of those years have been with ownership that didn’t care about the fans. Fisher is just the latest. Now it appears that he has greased the palms of the Nevada politicians to further whatever agenda he has.
Fisher is a Bay Area guy, so all he is doing is ripping the hearts out of the people he grew up with. He is not a man of the people. The only good thing to come from A’s management Tuesday was the donation of all ticket proceeds to two local charities.
We are proud to donate all ticket revenue from tonight’s game to the Alameda County Community Food Bank and the Oakland Public Education Fund to support their impactful work in the East Bay! pic.twitter.com/99YlI6lvAc
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) June 14, 2023
Fisher might reap some sort of benefit from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who has waved the $2 million relocation fee for the A’s, in some sort of backroom deal. Why else would Manfred allow the regional rival of the San Francisco Giants to bolt for Nevada, leaving all of the Northern California market to that team while three teams within 2 hours of each other split Southern California?
There could be repercussions for MLB as U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat who represents Oakland in Congress, introduced legislation that seeks compensation for MLB teams leaving a city.
But the A’s move to Vegas solves one stadium situation for MLB, with the Rays being the other one. Manfred has said those two must be resolved before MLB expands to 32 teams. Will Manfred move ahead with expansion plans even without a Rays resolution?
None of that mattered Tuesday. When rookie Brent Rooker doubled down the left-field line and Jace Peterson scored from first base well ahead of the throw to tie the game 1-1, the Coliseum crowd erupted. Many said it felt like when the A’s were in a playoff game. It got even louder in the eighth inning when Ramón Laureano scored from third base on Carlos Pérez’s hard grounder that deflected off the third baseman for the go-ahead run.
It's 2-1 y'all ? pic.twitter.com/kfiAdqSNbL
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) June 14, 2023
Fans were on their feet in the ninth inning as Trevor May came on to close out the game. They chanted “Sell the team!” as May worked around two walks to notch his third save of the season. Left-hander Hogan Harris, with seven stellar innings of relief as the A’s used an opener, was the unsung hero.
While their point was made, their mission appears to be fait accompli. The special session of the Nevada legislature was called by Gov. Joe Lombardo, a Republican who will have to swallow hard as he signs Senate Bill 1. Democrats added amendments to the bill resurrecting two pieces of legislation he vetoed this month.
Tuesday was a day of many emotions. Fans stayed after the last out was made, many attending their final A’s game in their lifetime. A miracle appears unlikely. But then who figured this team would win seven straight games?