In London for the Cardinals-Cubs series that begins on Saturday, commissioner Rob Manfred was asked again about the most pressing stateside matter facing Major League Baseball -- the possible relocation of the Oakland A's to Las Vegas. Specifically, Manfred was asked about his recent comments in which he appeared to cast blame at Oakland fans for the current state of affairs.
You'll remember that A's fans recently held a "reverse boycott" at a recent home game in which more than 25,000 fans showed their support for keeping the team in Oakland and called for owner John Fisher to sell the team. Asked about the fan protest, Manfred afterward said:
"I mean, it was great," he said, according to ESPN's Joon Lee. "It is great to see what is this year almost an average Major League Baseball crowd in the facility for one night. That's a great thing."
In that same series of remarks, Manfred noted he felt sorry for A's fans and also blamed the local officials for not doing more to provide Fisher with tax dollars for his proposed stadium and surrounding real estate development. Needless to say, Manfred's remarks about the reverse boycott were met with firm criticism. In advance of the London series, Manfred was given a chance to revisit those comments. Here's what he said, via Meghan Montemurro:
"My comment about Oakland was that I feel sorry for the fans, that it was my initial and preference that we find a solution in Oakland. The comment that I made about the fans on a particular night was taken out of context of those two larger remarks. I feel sorry for the fans. We hate to move. We did everything we could possibly do to keep the club in Oakland. And unfortunately one night doesn't change a decade worth of inaction."
Any criticism of A's attendance over the years ignores a great deal of context. Specifically, fans of the team have been confronted with inadequate payrolls, multiple roster tear-downs for years, and constant relocation rumors and threats. Fisher has neglected basic stadium maintenance for so long that the Oakland Coliseum has devolved into a thoroughly unaccommodating environment. As well, the Oakland Mayor's Office hasof their efforts to keep the A's in Oakland.
As for the proposed move to Las Vegas, it's looking more and more likely to take place. The A's were able to secure significant public funding for a stadium project on the Strip, and Fisher's fellow MLB owners will likely grant unanimous approval for relocation. The biggest hurdle left is for Fisher to privately finance the remainder of the tab. Given that the financial viability of the project is questionable -- as demonstrated by the no less questionable and heavily massaged data used by the club to persuade Nevada lawmakers -- nothing is to be assumed, even at this late juncture.