(KRON) — The Oakland A’s potential move to Las Vegas has left many in the baseball community feeling for East Bay MLB fans.
In 56 years in Oakland, the A’s have won four World Series titles and employed legendary players such as Rickey Henderson and Mark McGwire. However, attendance has plummeted recently as the A’s have posted low payrolls and traded away many of their star players.
Now, the team itself may be snatched from Oakland fans. The saga has prompted two prominent MLB players born and raised in Las Vegas to say they’d rather see the A’s stay in Oakland than move to their hometown.
First, Phillies designated hitter Bryce Harper, one of the faces of MLB, made the case for the A’s to stay.
“I feel bad for the A’s and their fans,” Harper told the Athletic. “They’re so rooted in Oakland. Those fans bleed green. Now it’s, ‘Hey, we’re going to pick the A’s to come to Vegas.’ I don’t agree with that.”
Harper was rewarded with cheers when the Phillies came to Oakland that weekend. One fan held a sign that said “Bryce is right.”
On Sunday, another Las Vegas native echoed Harper’s thoughts. In an interview with Foul Territory, Seattle Mariners closer Paul Sewald said he was against the move.
“More than anything, we want the A’s to stay in Oakland,” he said. “It’s just really frustrating, and I feel terrible for Oakland fans.”
On June 13, A’s fans showed out en masse to send a message to the league that the fan base is alive and well. More than 27,000 fans showed up to the “reverse boycott,” promoting the message that they want owner John Fisher to sell the team.
That caught Sewald’s attention.
“I think those fans are strong,” he said. “You saw with the reverse boycott how much they love their team. If they could put a team out there that they’re willing to watch, the fans will be there.”
However, many Oakland fans are not willing to watch the 2023 A’s. The team’s attendance mark of 9,688 fans per game is last in MLB, as is Oakland’s 20-60 record.
Also last is the A’s payroll of $60.8 million. That number pales in comparison to the New York Mets’ gaudy $344 million payroll — New York starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander alone make far more than everyone on the A’s combined.
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The largest contract in A’s history was handed out in 2004 to third baseman Eric Chavez. Every other MLB franchise’s largest contract was signed in 2012 or later. Chavez’s deal was for six years, $66 million. The next year, Fisher bought the franchise.
Both Harper and Sewald mentioned that there is an alternative to moving the A’s to Las Vegas: expansion. That would add a new franchise to Sin City while keeping the A’s in Oakland.
Harper said that Las Vegas baseball fans may not give up their current MLB allegiances for the A’s, particularly if the team does not see more on-field success. On the other hand, the NHL’s Golden Knights showed that an expansion team can draw large crowds in Las Vegas.
“We just saw how well the Golden Knights did with expansion,” Sewald said. “If you were ever going to build a team in Vegas, I thought that was the best way to do it.”