ARLINGTON, Texas — Considering the Red Sox have been playing in Boston since 1901, the relocation of the Athletics from Oakland to Las Vegas that was approved by all 30 MLB owners Thursday may seem like a distant and unrelated transaction to the Sox and their fans.
There are shared concerns, however.
“It’s relevant in all sorts of ways — revenue sharing, the health of the sport, the ability to attract national media revenue,” said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner at the Owners Meetings before the vote was taken.
Despite playing in the sixth-largest TV market, the A’s have lagged behind other teams in payroll and attendance at the worst venue in baseball, Oakland Coliseum. The team’s performance has plummeted the last two seasons after it was a contender for much of the last few decades.
The latest collective bargaining agreement helped to spur the vote outcome over the long-debated move to Las Vegas, the 44th-largest TV market, by allowing Oakland full revenue sharing status if a binding deal for a new stadium can be locked up by Jan. 15.
While there are still unanswered questions in Las Vegas about the design and funding for a new stadium, the John Fisher-owned team likely will be receiving revenue sharing cash from teams like the Red Sox while they play out the string somewhere in the Bay Area before the move in 2028.
The owners also waived the A’s from having to pay a relocation fee based on the expenses the team incurred trying to hammer out a deal for a new stadium in Oakland, commissioner Rob Manfred said.
“That just sends the message to owners that they can do anything, that they have the ability to just pick up and move if they think they can make a bigger buck down the street and moving your team somewhere else,” said Gabriel Cullen, one of the three members of the Oakland 68′s fan group that checked into the hotel where the owners were staying to continue lobbying owners to reject the move and for Fisher to sell to another owner more willing to invest in the team.
“The Red Sox would be shelling out millions of dollars a year to support the A’s, who would be taking from that welfare check,” said Jared Isham, another Oakland 68′s member.
Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said the team has “gotten a lot of e-mails and messages from Oakland fans. It’s always sad to see and it’s a hard thing, but you have to have a venue that people will support and you have to have a team that people will support. It’s unfortunate, but we’re one of 30 and we’re supportive of baseball and in trying to find the right place.”
Fisher spoke briefly Thursday, saying, “Today is an incredibly difficult day for Oakland A’s fans. It’s a great day for Las Vegas.”
Said Manfred: “I absolutely am convinced that there was not a viable path forward in Oakland.”
The Oakland 68′s called for an A’s fan boycott after the vote was announced.
Plugged into regional networks
Compared to roughly a third of the teams, the Red Sox are in an enviable position because they own 80 percent of their own regional sports network, NESN.
Bankruptcy proceedings of the Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group that owns several RSNs not only in MLB but also the NHL and NBA have placed several teams in the position of not knowing who will be broadcasting their games next season.
“Right now it’s a bit of a moving train,” said Werner. “The court is in settlement discussions with various distributors. I just don’t know if this is going to be settled quickly. In the end, people will watch the content, it’s just how is it going to be distributed. There’s a lot of conversation about consolidating, so that there’s not as much, you know, ‘one day it’s on Apple, the next day, it’s on Amazon, it’s on this, and the next day it’s on TNT.’ There’s value in knowing that there’s one stop for games.”
“We are on the air and we are confident that it will be a successful venture. NESN is helping to manage it.”
Fenway Sports Group, parent company of the Red Sox, now owns the Pittsburgh RSN that broadcasts the FSG-owned Penguins and Pirates. Werner noted conversations are ongoing as to if that RSN, SportsNet Pittsburgh, or one run by MLB will broadcast the Pirates next season.
“Whatever is in the best interest of the Pirates is what MLB will support,” he said.
Werner provided an update on the NESN 360 streaming app, intended primarily for cord cutters at $29.99/month. The app, introduced in June 2022, comes at no extra cost for current NESN subscribers.
“We invested in it very strongly in the beginning and we’re hoping to break even next year,” he said. “What I’m encouraged about is that when we look at the data, the people who are watching it on their mobile phones are really watching most of the game. Of course, that’s very helpful for advertisers. This is not where they check in for a couple of minutes.
“We have like 300,000 dedicated customers.”
Not so fast on robo-umps
Owners are still discussing an automated balls and strikes system that includes up to three challenges per team per game. Implementation by next season sounds unlikely.
“We’re probably gravitating towards another year of testing,” Werner said.
ABS uses the same Hawk-Eye technology from tennis. If a batter or team believes a pitch has nicked or missed a 3-D strike zone that’s created specifically for each batter’s stance and the situation calls for it, batters/teams can challenge and should be able to see the result quickly on the scoreboard.
“It could just be that it becomes another facet of the game that goes to automatic balls and strikes.” Werner said. “Interestingly, when Sam and I talked to our players and asked, ‘Well, wouldn’t you prefer to know what’s right?’ many of them talked about the human element of the game.”
Atlanta on for 2025 All-Star Game
Manfred announced Atlanta would be the site of the 2025 All-Star Game after MLB took away the 2021 Mid-Summer Classic because of enacted Georgia voting laws.
“We understand that people had and probably still had different views as to the merits of that decision but what’s most important is the Atlanta Braves are a great organization,” Manfred said.
The 2024 All-Star Game will be played in Arlington, Texas, the home of the World Series champion Rangers.
Also, The Associated Press reported being told by two people familiar with the decision that MLB canceled plans to play regular-season games in Paris in 2025 after failing to find a promoter.
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.