Skip to Content

Look Who’s Come Crawling Back To Oakland

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 19: Owner John Fisher of the Oakland Athletics stands in the stands during the game against the Houston Astros at the Oakland Coliseum on July 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Astros 4-3. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** John Fisher
Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

John Fisher … OK, you know where this is leading already. But this is a slightly different frog-walk of public humiliation than all the others, so much so that he will honor his tradition of not being present for it.

Fisher, who owns the Oakland Athletics to that franchise's ongoing shame, is back in the news, and once again it is a reminder that his perpetual search for leverage goes unfulfilled with a laugh track. The nomad A's are meeting Thursday with officials from … wait for it … Oakland! The aim is to work on a lease extension that will cover them until their new ballpark is built in God knows where, God knows when, and most of all, God knows why.

And while the story is still the same repetitive drone—Fisher being perp-walked from missed deadline to missed deadline in search of unrealized leverage, all to a background of public disinterest—the fact that he is sending his peripatetic lawn decoration Dave Kaval to Oakland to negotiate with city officials for extra years on the ballpark lease that expires at the end of the 2024 season reminds us how hard it is for them to leave the place they've been trying to leave for nearly two decades. And the reason it's hard for them to leave is because it's hard for them to find somewhere else to go.

The most satisfying thing about watching Fisher on this hamster wheel to nowhere is in imagining what the hamster— the Oakland negotiating team—might tell him about wanting a few more spins on the wheel. The most momentarily gratifying thing would be to offer to collapse the lease instead and give them until Friday to have their junk out, but we know Oakland needs the money and Mayor Sheng Thao needs to act like the city still wants the gig. The second-most satisfying would be to offer only an unbreakable 30-year lease for thrice the usual rate and a breakup letter to Las Vegas. The third, which is the one the city has expressed interest in, is a binding promise from Major League Baseball for an expansion franchise in which the city keeps the Athletics’ history and grafts it on to its new team, Cleveland Browns–style.

But let's be sensible about Oakland's range of vengeful instincts by reminding you rabble that the city isn't laden with reasonable options either. One, they need the rent. Two, Vegas is still more likely to break up with the A's than the other way around, due to Fisher's lack of progress on the new ballpark, because Governor Joe Lombardo is publicly committed to a team his biggest city doesn't care for on a plot of land unsuited to the purpose. Maybe he's that popular that he can get away with it, or maybe he thinks he can escape the shame of this under-researched gag gift by Election Day 2026. And three, the owners if they were honest would be better served financially by letting the A's deal die and put a proper expansion team with a proper expansion fee in Las Vegas instead. The only reason they voted for the move to begin with is because they would prefer not to have their future options limited by a noxious precedent under the "Billionaires Don't Have To Hear The Word No" Law of 1981, and even a 10-thumbed shoe tree like Fisher is a member of their club, like it or not.

So in the end, all tomorrow's negotiations are going to do is make A's fans smile a bit with the schadenfreude that comes from knowing how difficult it is for Fisher to escape. Oakland is used to disappointment on the franchise front (Mark Davis and Joe Lacob), but Fisher is the one guy they want to make bleed. That's why tomorrow's meeting will be fun to eavesdrop upon, and also why Fisher won't be there, in keeping with his most consistent trait: not being there. It's a skill he has honed over 19 years of practiced neglect, so the moment he has to sign the lease extension will be another moment of personal defeat. Mistreated A's fans can only hope in this one moment of satisfaction that Thao has the instincts of a predatory landlord and negotiates a deal that removes the money straight through Fisher's eyes. The Oakland love-tap, if you must.

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter