In the past two days, two different national baseball writers have published columns about the Athletics and their attempted move to Las Vegas.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic ($) penned an article titled "Why I remain skeptical about the A’s grandiose Vegas plans". If you can't tell by the headline, he spends about 750 words bashing John Fisher and the A's while mocking their lackadaisical efforts to pull the team out of Oakland.
Additionally, Jeff Passan of ESPN wrote about the Athletics' relocation efforts. His piece has a bit less vitriol but is still critical of the process and the position the team currently finds itself in.
It's certainly encouraging to see national reporters calling this situation out for what it is -- John Fisher and Dave Kaval trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes.
The Rosenthal article mentions the report that, though unconfirmed by the team, suggested that the Athletics would look to raise payroll to the $130m - $150 million range in the seasons leading up to the 2028 Las Vegas ballpark opening and stabilizing in the $170 million range once they settle into their new park.
This is an incredibly bold prediction, for a number of reasons. For one, the Athletics have never had an opening day payroll over $100 million. Their CBT figure has peaked at $109 million, but the team has never spent anywhere close to that reported number in a season, not even when the team was drawing 2 million fans per year to the Coliseum.
To think that the team will triple its current payroll figure while playing in a Triple-A ballpark in an unknown city is incredibly naive. Rosenthal and Passan both come to the same conclusion in their columns.
There's more than just the historical perspective
GM David Forst has explicitly stated that the A's are having trouble signing players to multi-year contracts due to the nature of not knowing where they'll be playing for the three seasons between when they leave Oakland and when they expect to arrive in Las Vegas.
Player extensions will only get them so far and if free agents aren't willing to sign with the team, which given the state of the franchise isn't hard to see, the A's will find it awfully hard to reach those reported figures.
One other piece of this that is important to note is how John Fisher has run his MLS club after getting a new stadium in San Jose.
The Earthquakes had their new stadium built in 2015. Since then, the team has never had a payroll figure higher than 17th in the league, and has been 22nd or lower the past three seasons. This is despite promises made by Fisher when the park was being built about the team consistently carrying an upper-tier payroll figure.
In addition, Fisher is on record about their 9 year old park being outdated and how it "lacks the capacity and premium seating that drives the kind of revenue needed to compete for championships". This is a stadium that Fisher and his executive team designed less than a decade ago, and they're already angling for more public money to fix the problems that they've invented.
So with all of that in consideration, when we think about the Athletics building the smallest ballpark in the league, in what will be MLB's smallest television market, and giving up $70 million in annual local television revenues for the three years they'll be without a home, it doesn't lead to a lot of positive thinking.
Fisher has thus far been unwilling to partake in any deficit spending, claiming the Athletics are tens of millions of dollars in the red every year. We're now supposed to believe that they'll substantially ramp up payroll while losing a large chunk of their revenue stream? How long until Fisher starts claiming that the Vegas stadium doesn't drive enough revenue to support payroll expenses? How stupid do these people think we are?
it's extremely difficult to think that this will end in anything resembling a positive outcome for any of the Athletics, the city of Oakland, or the city of Las Vegas.