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Oakland A’s: Thousands Of Fans Across The Country Will Flock To Las Vegas To Watch Us Play Awful Baseball

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MAY 29: Fans sit behind signs referencing plans for the Oakland Athletics to move to Las Vegas during a game against the Atlanta Braves at RingCentral Coliseum on May 29, 2023 in Oakland, California.
Loren Elliott/Getty Images

The Oakland A's aren't so offended by hometown fans that don't attend their games that they are unwilling to consider it the trend of the future. In fact, they're rather banking on locals avoiding their planned new home in Las Vegas because—well, hometown fans are just a drag on the economy, so why bother with them?

This is the plan the A's are leaning into as they try to sell Nevada on the Green'n'Gold Ghost Ship—the notion that people who don't live in Las Vegas will be the lifeblood of the relocated Elephants. According to the team's chief lobbyist on The Strip, Jeremy Aguero, the A's will be a big hit in Vegas because out-of-towners will want to come and see them more than locals will. In fact, the planned stadium on whatever site the A's decide to populate will be an inconvenient schlep for the folks who live there, and it should be added, the people who will be throwing $350 million into the new stadium kitty.

In a story offered without comic sans by the Los Angeles Times' redoubtable baseball maven Bill Shaikin, Aguero said with no hint of irony that “if you build a stadium in most places around the United States, it is going to have a negative economic impact.” This is long-held common knowledge by every economist that has resisted the filth-stained hush money of stadium proponents.

But monitoring the tax dollars—that's the townies' problem. The idea Aguero is floating to Nevada legislators, presumably on behalf of the as-ethereal-as-his-fan-base A's owner Blackjack Johnny Fisher, is that 30 percent of their fans would be tourists, including 16 percent who would not have to come to Las Vegas if not for the opportunity to see a major-league game. Thirty percent of the planned capacity of 30,000 is 9,000 per game, or 250 more than they are currently averaging per game in the town they are drenching in spit and scorn.

In other words, part of the master plan here is that more people who could see the A's now but hate Fisher too much to attend will suddenly like him 560 miles away and go see these Cleveland Spiders impersonators, and pay for the accommodations required to stay there, apparently on the theory that the money spent is a wash only if parking and food at the Coliseum rises from $50 to $900 per night. It's a wonder they don't just have Aguero say, We want you to pay for something stupid your constituents don't want and never asked for because ... well, because John Fisher told me to say that. Aguero is maintaining, at least to Shaikin, that the A's will bring 5,400 new jobs to Las Vegas, despite the fact that the Los Angeles Angels, who draw four times what the A's do, only have 200 or so staff assigned per game. The other 5,200 will doubtless come from ... I don't know, Narnia?

In fact, the A's are so proud of the idea and its absurd suppositions that they don't even want their named attached to the 44-page bill required to fund this dogglest of boons. It's called “The Southern Nevada Tourism Innovation Act,” and the main innovation is that it is going to pretend that A's fans exist in Nevada and are just waiting to emerge from their mass cocoon near Lake Mead.

But we know that baseball alone doesn't pay for stadiums, and Aguero's suggestion that the ballpark could hold upward of 200 non-baseball events per year would make sense if Las Vegas weren't already the largest convention center factory on earth, and that most companies that go to Vegas would rather gather around gaming tables and small theatres than the visitors' bullpen and the third base coaches' box. Nothing this alleged stadium allegedly offers is a real thing Vegas doesn't already have in bulk except for the baseball team that won't pay for itself because the guy operating it is really only in it for the real estate.

Buit wait. There's even less here. Aguero's comps, re: Shaikin, have almost nothing to do with baseball as Vegas' fourth pro team (the NBA will arrive before MLB under most scenarios), so he uses other facilities in Las Vegas, like the Golden Knights and Raiders, to make a flimsy case seem slightly less amorphous. “We’re looking at other facilities that we have here in Las Vegas, to get a sense of what it might look like,” Shaikin quotes him as saying, and he offered legislators attendance estimates based on surveys of fans from other American League West teams and data from “comparable Major League Baseball teams” that included the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, and Boston Red Sox. “I don’t want to leave you with the impression that we somehow said the A’s are instantly going to be the Yankees or the Dodgers or the Red Sox,” Aguero told Shaikin. “I think it’s very much an apples to oranges comparison,” he said in defense of his methodology.

In response, let us cut-and-paste "damned near never" for accuracy's sake. The Yankees have outdrawn the A's in all but five years since the A's moved to Oakland, the last year being 1992. The Red Sox and Cubs last had fewer fans in 1991, and the A's have never outdrawn the Dodgers. These are not apples and oranges, these are beignets and scorpion venom.

To boil all this down, the A's case to Las Vegas is essentially, You have everything else the human entertainment industry can imagine, but you don't have baseball and we're the last turkey in the window. Unless the Tampa Bay Rays and their vastly superior operation tries to beat the A's time in Nevada, that part cannot be disputed. On the other hand, Aguero is trying to sell Las Vegas on something only a few politicians, including governor Joe Lombardo, seem to think is a benefit to the town's citizens. And even at that, the A's are only planning to entertain 21,000 of them because they have gotten used to a town whose own citizens would rather lay in the fast lane of the Nimitz Freeway at rush hour than watch the team Fisher has deliberately ruined.

Maybe Vegas succumbs to the deeply bogus logic here, but if so, all it means is that the team will draw what it is drawing now, and will do so until the day when Fisher gets what he has no business asking for and sells the team to a new sucker who will look for another place to move the team that is only succeeding in eating itself.

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