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Las Vegas Mayor To John Fisher: Maybe Try Staying In Oakland

10:01 AM EST on February 7, 2024

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, seen doing a kind of triumphant here-I-am gesture at the opening of The Sphere in September of 2023.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

John Fisher has been looking for a reason to be admired in the sports business community almost since the day he revenge-bought the Oakland Athletics nearly 19 years ago, and it finally seems to have happened in the most unconventional way. Fisher, whose reverse-engineering of his baseball team is reaching a new series of nadirs simultaneously, just became the first person in recorded history to be told by the city of Las Vegas, "Sorry, Scooter, but your money's no good. Not even here."

More amazingly, the message didn't come from casino security but from the city’s mayor herself, Carolyn Goodman. I mean, when the mayor of the town makes a point of telling you to fuck off back to where you came, the only thing left to press the point do is an official civic proclamation in Olde English script written with a giant quill pen on calligraphy parchment. Most folks get the brushoff after hours of tableside failures and too many free drinks, but not our lad. He never even had to bring any money at all to get the 86.

Fisher’s plans to move the A’s to Las Vegas “don’t make sense,” the mayor told Front Office Sports on Tuesday. “To come here and take down an old hotel and put it right at the heart of the Strip, and more congestion—we have enough congestion right now,” Goodman said. “And I just think there’s an appetite—I run into people from Oakland all the time, they want to keep the team.”

Goodman said all this where even Rob Manfred could hear it, and when she added as confirmation, "I know this town like the back of my hand," she knew that because she was using the back of her hand to deliver the news. She represents the city that is both the zenith of American civic rapaciousness and the world capital of money management failures, yet Fisher’s is the kind of company that she thinks will lower the tone of the town. By all reasonable assessments, this is a hint equivalent to the sheriffs barricading Highway 10 and directing the moving vans toward Albuquerque.

Of course, Fisher won't see it that way. He is famously obstinate, letting few ideas into his head and none to leave once they get there, and he has made it the last 30 percent of his life's work to pry the Athletics out of Oakland. Having failed in multiple venues half a dozen times has not deterred him from continuing to try. But until her honor rolled out the unwelcome wagon, Fisher clearly operated on the assumption that, despite the absence of any obvious public interest, Las Vegas wanted his baseball team. Maybe he believed this because Las Vegas even took the Raiders, thereby establishing its tolerance for bungling newcomers. He certainly believed it because, well, who doesn't want a baseball team?

And the desert wind hissed back, "Try Utah."

It should be said that Carolyn The Brusque did walk back her most strident comments later on Tuesday, almost surely at the urging of Nevada governor and undertaker doppelganger Joe Lombardo. The governor has been the most prominent public official to say that the Fisher Athletics would enhance the neighborhood, and according to Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, whose job it has been to watch this civic lesion develop from its conceptual stages, a chastened Goodman made it clear that Major League Baseball is quite welcome in Las Vegas in nearly any other guise—the Rays, the Jays, the Rockies, the Nationals, the post-Ohtani Angels, an expansion team, anyone.

In a light paraphrase of Oakland’s de facto team mascot Horton The Elephant, Goodman meant what she said and she said what she meant—John Fisher's A's aren't welcome, one hundred percent. Goodman said that the stadium plan stinks, Fisher’s presence stinks, and that he should keep his team in the town whose four bridges and one tunnel he has effectively demolished.

Now here's the kicker, and the reason nothing has actually been settled here even now. Mayor Goodman has been known to occasionally get a foot stuck in her yap, and the governor is painfully aware that his Democratic predecessor, Steve Sisolak, won considerable popularity by luring the Raiders from Oakland. Not that it did Sisolak any good in the last election; Lombardo beat him in an upset, but he learned from Sisolak's example. Now that gambling has annexed the various leagues and Vegas is keen to be the new Sports Capital of the World, Lombardo, a former sheriff, is determined to make the A's deal happen even in the face of metastasizing disinterest across the town and therefore the state. Lombardo made sure that Goodman softened her stance Tuesday, at least as far as her saying for the record (hah!) that the city would be happy to take any baseball team, even (cough, choke, asterisk) the A's. 

He certainly sees this downhill scolding as doing his job as a political feather-bedder and vote panderer—"Look what I just gave you, and stop saying you want more schools and better roads, you ingrates!" If that means editing Goodman after the fact, so be it. But there is only so much spin to put on this, and her modified stance is that as mayor, Goodman would love the A's in Las Vegas—just not John Fisher’s A's. If anything, that is even more damning, because the money isn't in Mark Kotsay, Brent Rooker, or Ross Stripling. It's in John Fisher.

Goodman yanking up the welcome mats and changing all the street signs is notable, but not nearly the final word on the Great Fisher Migration. She won't be mayor forever, after all, although between she and her husband, Oscar, someone with the last name Goodman has been mayor of Las Vegas since 1999—and might be again if their son Ross, a high-profile lawyer in town, decides to give up the big money and slum in electoral politics. That ought to purple up Lombardo's neck.

But Nevada state politics have their limits as entertainment, whether you live inside the state or not. The fun here has already been delivered, and Goodman's message is clear even after the governor’s revisions. Fisher now knows that moving his team to a town that had no pro sports six years ago won't change the fact that he will never be admired in the way he wants to be admired, or for the things he thinks merit admiration. The line hasn’t moved there, and remains more brightly visible than the Sphere. Fisher will still never be more popular than on the day he sells the team and retires to the Old Nepobabies' Home, and all he has done in the alternative is make it that much harder to get himself a parade permit either in welcome or victory—unless the route is aimed toward Salt Lake City. Mayor Erin Mendenhall, prepare your security people in a ring around the city and if the incoming call has a 510 area code, decline it, block the number and smash the phone. Carolyn Goodman is doing you a massive solid, if you're awake enough to realize it.

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