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Last call for baseball’s dive bar

Or “The hypocrisy of voting for an exhibition game in lieu of the mendacity occurring in Oakland and Milwaukee is a bit much.”

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MLB: JUN 15 Rays at Athletics Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Originally this essay was going to be a jeremiad about how All-Star voting is generally dumb. Or if I had a dollar every time the SportsNet LA broadcast lamented that Dodgers catcher Will Smith has never participated in an All-Star Game, I would have enough to go for a fine meal. Not a Michelin-starred meal, but nicer than In-n-Out or Apple Pan.

I wrote in early March my ideas to improve both the All-Star Game and the World Baseball Classic, which largely fell upon deaf ears in our community. Not every essay can be a smashing success or can be as controversial as some of my more recent ones.

Now All-Star season is upon us once again. If you feel that Smith’s exclusion from the All-Star Game these past two seasons is a great injustice, etc., this part of the essay is likely going to annoy you. I am sorry, but frankly, I am not sorry and I will not patronize you by pretending otherwise.

For starters, Smith is not clearly the best catcher in the National League. He’s really, really good and he’s having a really, really good year. But as of right now, the best catcher in the National League is probably Sean Murphy of Atlanta, especially when factoring in defense.

  • Smith: .293/.408/.500, 9 2B, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 150 wRC+, 2.5 bWAR, 2.7 fWAR
  • Murphy: .287/.385/.535, 14 2B, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 148 wRC+, 2.5 bWAR, 3.1 fWAR

In Smith’s defense, he spent some time injured with a concussion and has played in three fewer games than Murphy. Frankly, both catchers would merit a selection to the game at this point. So go vote — make your voices heard, but before you do, I do have a request.

Personally, it is hard for me to get worked up over an exhibition game. That sentence is not to say that I want a return to an All-Star Game with consequences, like a home-field advantage in the World Series. But I do recall what several Dodgers quite literally got up to during last year’s All-Star Break.

If you want a balanced schedule with more interleague play, then a diminished All-Star Break is one of the natural consequences. Having fewer inter-division games is the other natural consequence. Anyway, the original plan was to channel my inner Andy Rooney for a bit and then call it a day.

Then John Fisher achieved his aim of screwing over the citizens of Oakland, California, by being enabled by Rob Manfred and the Nevada legislature.

As to the Nevada legislature — you get who you vote for. If I lived in Nevada and this legislation rightfully annoyed me, maybe I would organize like there was no tomorrow to replace those in charge. Maybe I would attempt to get a repeal on the ballot through a state initiative.

The Reverse Boycott of June 13

Oakland Athletics Fans Reverse Boycott Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

On June 13, the Oakland faithful executed a plan that was actually quite beautiful in its simplicity and passion. The knock against the A’s fanbase for years is the attendance at the Oakland Coliseum and that reason is why John Fisher is justified in relocating the franchise elsewhere at the earliest possible opportunity.

Anyone who has spent any time reading my essays on this subject will know that this position is nonsense. So the A’s faithful raised about $30,000 for their own giveaway of 7,000 “Sell” T-shirts for the June 14 game against the Rays. There was a paid attendance of 27.759 that night and the A’s faithful gave ownership some cathartic hell.

Some truly great stuff happened that night. In response to the Reverse Boycott, the Athletics organization announced it would donate all of that night’s ticket revenue totaling over $800,000 to two local charities: the Alameda County Community Food Bank and the Oakland Public Education Fund.

Before moving on, it is worth noting that an allegedly poor franchise grossed over $800,000 in in-game revenue on a night for league-average attendance per the Commissioner. By that logic, if the Athletics were to field a competitive roster, over 82 games at home assuming a competitive roster and an average of $800,000/game, that would be about $65.6 million in gross revenue annually, even before any sponsorship revenue, etc. As I argued earlier this year, this team is likely making money, hand over fist.

And yet the A’s can not make a profit in the tenth-largest television market in the country and can only prosper by moving to the 40th-largest television market.

In any event, if these events played out in a movie (most likely directed by Ron Howard), there would be a dramatic swell in the musical score and then a cut to black with text saying that the team remains rooted in Oakland.

Sadly, life is not that straightforward. That very night, the Nevada Senate passed the legislation to pay $380 million in state funds to fund a potential stadium for the Athletics. The legislation became law on June 15, two literal days later. All that remains is a vote by the owners to approve the relocation, with 23 yesses required. As of this essay, no vote is currently scheduled.

As if all of the above was not bad enough, on June 15, Commissioner Rob Manfred was asked about the Reverse Boycott. He said the following:

Rob Manfred made these remarks at a press conference from MLB headquarters in New York, which Evan Drelich of The Athletic documented. Manfred also said the following when asked what he would expect current A’s fans would continue to be A’s fans if the team completes its expected move:

I hope so. I hope that they stay baseball fans, whatever team they decide to affiliate with. Again, I’ll say it again: the piece of this particular series of events that’s the most disturbing to me is the idea of fans that have supported the team losing a team. We hate that idea.

(emphasis added.)

Naturally, this callous, undeserved insult from the Commissioner requires a response. And then, my mind was made up after reading statements that the Commissioner could threaten the citizens of Milwaukee with relocation in order to extract ballpark updates.

Last call for baseball’s dive bar

Now, I was prepared to go “humbug” to the All-Star Game, but as you have seen recently, and start a mischief campaign for this year’s All-Star Game but I was stymied by the fact that I did not understand how the voting process worked. Nobody’s perfect.

But instead, I will do something that I normally do not do: encourage you all to visit a stadium next year. Barring a miracle, the Athletics will have their swan song season in Oakland next year. As the schedule lines up, that unscheduled series will be your last opportunity to go.

I knew that I needed art from the Coliseum so my first act of non-convalescence was to visit the Coliseum this past Sunday. What stood out to me when I visited was how proud these fans were. No one would blame them if they finally turned their noses up at John Fisher and stayed home through the end of 2024, assuming the relocation is approved as expected.

As an aside, it was odd to be a ballgame without the expectation to live-tweet it, but I needed art for the Guide and I wanted to spend time with a friend before I moved out of the area. I got to heckle Trea Turner and see Kyle Schwarber hit a no-doubt home run.

It would have been nice had the Athletics won, but I had no dog in this fight. Being at baseball’s last dive bar was unique and regardless of what they build in Las Vegas, there is no way some sterile, tiny ballpark is going to measure up.

In the interim, I will prepare a Guide entry. Once we know next year’s schedule in the next couple of months, we can plan to make some good trouble. Until then, I ask you, dear reader, to stand by before aiding me in some mischief next season.