New Sign of the Times: “Build or Sell!”


Earlier this week, journalist Steven Tavares called right-field bleacher fans “the heartbeat of Oakland.”

A few days later, those same A’s fans in Sec. 149 showed why.

During Saturday’s A’s-Rays game, they unfurled two handmade signs directed at John Fisher and his A’s co-owners.

“Build or Sell Fisher” and “Sign Reddick” – said the signs, before A’s security took them down.

The signs reveal a growing frustration within the A’s fan base. It’s been 9 months since the Supreme Court ended San Jose’s lawsuit and Lew Wolff’s pipe dream of moving the A’s, once and for all. That court decision left no doubt about what Wolff’s and Fisher’s ballpark location options are: Oakland or bust. Commissioner Rob Manfred’s recent pro-Oakland comments made that crystal clear.

So, what’s the problem? A’s ownership’s total inaction on the new ballpark front — that’s the problem.

Other than the occasional vague, noncommittal quote from Wolff and a few unfounded rumors, it appears that Wolff and Fisher have made virtually no progress on a new ballpark in Oakland or elsewhere. It’s been two years since Wolff told East Bay politicians he would act “on all eight cylinders” in building a new Oakland ballpark once they approved the Coliseum lease extension. But since then, there’s been no ballpark progress from Wolff and Fisher, who’ve made it clear they value revenue sharing money over winning.

Hence, the frustration from Oakland’s loud and loyal baseball fans. And, hence, the return of bleacher signs intended as a written middle finger to Wolff, Fisher, and an ownership that many A’s fans believe is an embarrassment.

Manfred’s pro-Oakland comments refuted all of the usual Wolff excuses for not building in Oakland. The commissioner said he wants the A’s to build in Oakland, and that A’s owners should ignore what the Raiders are or aren’t doing at the Coliseum Complex, as that should have no bearing on what the A’s do.

Manfred also said that MLB would regret leaving Oakland because of the economic strength of the city and the surrounding Bay Area market. After years of hearing Bud Selig insult the great city of Oakland, Manfred’s comments were very refreshing. It’s great to see MLB’s commissioner totally agree with A’s fans dubbed “the heart of Oakland.”

And if you read between the lines of Manfred’s quotes, what he’s saying to Wolff and Fisher exactly mirrors the message sent from the A’s fans in Sec. 149:

“Build or Sell!”


Manfred’s pro-Oakland…now what?

Commissioner Rob Manfred last week pledged public support for keeping the A’s in Oakland, sending a message to Lew Wolff and John Fisher that essentially said: “Build in Oakland … now.” Manfred added:

“I am committed to Oakland as a major-league site. If we were to leave Oakland, I think 10 years from now we would be more likely than not looking backward saying we made a mistake.”

Manfred also said expansion would not be considered until the stadium situations in Oakland and Tampa Bay are resolved. And for those guessing the A’s have to wait on a new ballpark until the Raiders figure things out, Manfred refuted that by saying:

… the A’s can’t wait for the Raiders to determine their long-term home and must act independently of the NFL’s stadium pursuit. “I see the football issues as separate,” Manfred said. “Baseball should go ahead…Football will do what football’s going to do. We need to get a baseball facility in Oakland.”

So, there you have it. Manfred wants the A’s in Oakland and he sees no reason why A’s ownership isn’t acting fast to prep and build a new ballpark in Oakland right now. In January, Wolff said the A’s were “in the middle of a 6-to-8-month process” of investigating Oakland ballpark sites. Six months after that quote, Wolff and the A’s have made zero announcements about Oakland sites or if there’s been any progress on that.

Are Wolff and Fisher actually studying new sites in Oakland? If not, why aren’t they? If yes, why the secrecy? And who’s in charge, exactly? A few months ago it was reported that Fisher had replaced Wolff in leading the Oakland ballpark study. But Manfred contradicted that last week, saying that Wolff remains the A’s ownership contact person.

A’s fans, meanwhile, are frustrated. After 11 years of the Wolff-Fisher ownership providing little but murky dysfunction on the ballpark front, few optimists remain. Most A’s fans have grown completely cynical and believe that nothing will change until A’s ownership changes.

Lastly, what role does the Collective Bargaining Agreement play in all of this? When that CBA expires this December, will MLB owners remove the A’s from the revenue sharing dole and force Wolff and Fisher to actually work for their annual millions in profit?

As usual in the Wolff era (since 2003), we are left with more questions than answers.