If the Oakland Athletics do ultimately move, Las Vegas and Portland are the only options for the franchise.
Considering how long some version of a new ballpark for the A’s has been rumored, anticipated, scrapped, and proposed again, it’s a move that has been a long time coming by franchise and league alike. Understandably, the Oakland A’s are still saying all the right things, that their desire is to stay in the city of Oakland and build at the currently proposed site. Relocation is messy. Rebuilding with eager fans in place is far simpler.
However, as I’m neither a fan nor front office executive of the Athletics, I’m free and clear to tell the city to stick it, and that their days as an MLB city might easily be numbered if they don’t pony up some cash or do whatever else the franchise is asking for in this current round of stadium talks. The litigation of how insanely stupid it is that someone with a net worth of 3.6 billion according to five seconds of Google research needs the public’s help building a stadium can be left to another article. Because here’s the thing- some other city is going to do it.
And thanks to geography and the current state of MLB, the Oakland Athletics only have two options if they decide to take their ball and go play somewhere else: Las Vegas and Portland.
Geographically, they really are boxed into the Western US. While other reports, including the Jeff Passan piece linked above, mention multiple cities in eastern North America that want a team, those cities are going to have wait for MLB expansion to get their wish. The thing is, MLB seems pretty loath to expand anytime soon. Moving east, to Nashville, to Charlotte, to Montreal, would all likely require radical realignment to get a schedule made.
Now, even though regional realignment did work for the pandemic shortened 2020 season, that would also seem to be more trouble than it would be worth for MLB to pursue. I suppose a case could be made that it would spark interest in a sport that seems desperate to spark interest, but that feels more like reshuffling deck chairs on the Titanic than actually fixing some of the issues with the game of baseball in 2021.
While on the subject of geography, one further point to consider on Montreal, or notion of an MLB team going to Vancouver: the odyssey of the Toronto Blue Jays. Relegated to the United States for two seasons now, that has to be on the minds of MLB executives. Canada being commendably diligent when it comes to public safety, and the once in a lifetime nature of Covid (hopefully) aside, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Blue Jays situation costs Canada a chance at getting another professional sports franchise.
Las Vegas and Portland both allow the AL West to continue to make sense. A move to Vegas would at least give the Texas Rangers some shorter flights to play a division rival. A move to Portland keeps the team on the West Coast, with a plan that honestly seems pretty close to what the A’s are presently asking the City of Oakland for in a waterfront stadium by the port. Both have unique advantages and disadvantages , but they also don’t much matter, as it’s really the geography that matters given the current structure and alignment of the league.
At the end of day, my money is on Portland for one crucial advantage: stadium cost. A Las Vegas ballpark, thanks to those lovely summer temperatures, would absolutely require a roof. A Portland stadium would not- rain is more an issue there, sure, but the Mariners seem to do just fine without one.
For the sake of the fans, I hope they stay in Oakland. But for the sake of the team and the franchise, I hope the organization starts packing.