Tuesday, July 11, 2023 | 1:42 p.m.
SEATTLE — The Oakland Athletics have started the process of applying to Major League Baseball to move to Las Vegas.
MLB last month established a relocation committee to evaluate the move, a group headed by Milwaukee Brewers chairman Mark Attanasio. Philadelphia Phillies CEO John Middleton and Kansas City Royals CEO John Sherman also are on the committee.
“They have begun to submit information related to their relocation application,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday. “It’s not complete at this point.”
Nevada’s Legislature approved providing $380 million in public financing for a proposed $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat ballpark with a retractable roof on the Tropicana hotel site of the Las Vegas Strip. The new venue would be close to Allegiant Stadium, where the NFL’s Oakland Raiders moved to in 2020, and T-Mobile Arena, where the newly crowned Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights started play in 2017 as an expansion team.
A move would have to be approved by at least 75% of the 30 major league teams.
“My single biggest disappointment is because of the kind of political process in Oakland, we didn’t find a solution to keep the A’s in Oakland,” Manfred said. “That’s number one on the disappointment list.”
Las Vegas would become the fourth home for a franchise that started in Philadelphia in 1901 (through 1954), moved to Kansas City for 13 seasons and arrived in Oakland in 1968.
The team’s lease at the Coliseum expires after the 2024 season. It remains unclear where the team would play until a new ballpark opens in Las Vegas.
“Our relocation guidelines actually spell out pretty clearly what needs to be included in your application. One of the things that you have to include is what’s going to happen during the interim period,” Manfred said. “They have not made a submission on that topic yet.”
At 25-67, the A’s have the worst record in the major leagues and are on pace to finish 44-118, the worst record since the 2003 Detroit Tigers lost 119 games.
Oakland, with a major league-low $57.8 million opening-day payroll, is averaging a major league-low 10,089 attendance through 44 home games, up from 8,410 at a similar point last year. The A’s have had 26 home games drawing under 10,000, including a low of 2,064 against Arizona on May 15.
Since the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers for 1972, the only team to relocate has been the Montreal Expos, who became the Washington Nationals in 2005.
Manfred said MLB will consider expansion only after the A’s and Tampa Bay Rays obtain new ballparks.
“I hope pretty shortly thereafter we would put together an expansion committee and start talking internally first about this issues associated with expansion,” he said. “You’re talking about diminishing the central revenue available to each of the 30 (teams), making it 32. You got to figure out the impact of that and then you’ve got to talk about what you would be looking for in terms of an expansion fee in order to offset that.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch in January announced a plan for a ballpark that would be built near Tropicana Field, the Rays’ home since the team started play in 1998. The Rays have not committed to a site. Manfred said “I remain hopeful” of progress this year.
“They have stayed engaged with governmental entities throughout the Bay Area,” Manfred said. “I think that the conversations have moved into — throughout the region — have moved into a more concrete period, a concrete zone in terms of the conversations that are going on.”
As part of an expansion decision, Manfred envisions MLB examining the competition format.
“If you’re going to go to 32, are you going to make format divisional changes? What should it look like?” Manfred said. “So there’s some internal work that’s going to take some time to get done. And then I think ultimately you go to the markets.”
Speaking before Manfred, union head Tony Clark said players are willing to discuss reducing the schedule from 162 games.
“That conversation often stops with the conversation that we had during COVID, which is rolling back player salaries,” Clark said. “So if there’s a conversation to be had about creating extra flexibility in the schedule and what that might look like, whether that’s 154 games, 158 games, 160 games, we can continue that to have that dialogue.”