IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO romanticize a building as ugly as the Oakland Coliseum. It’s aesthetically cold, a mountain of weathered concrete surrounded by oceans of asphalt. But when it was full, and when the game mattered, nothing compared. The raw noise, the reckless energy, a party always on the verge of getting out of hand. In those moments, it has always been the kind of place — lawless, reckless, all the volume cranked up inside every single body — that demands you pay attention.
There will be no more big games there, perhaps no more games, period. The owners of Major League Baseball and Commissioner Rob Manfred completed the mission of Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher on Thursday when, sources told Jeff Passan, team owners voted unanimously to allow the A’s to relocate to Las Vegas. They voted without all the required information, and they voted to reward someone whose trustworthiness is in dispute with a market they’ve long viewed as a gold mine for an expansion team.
Manfred has strewn rose petals along the A’s path to Vegas, maybe because he fears Fisher might lose his way without the help. He agreed to waive the relocation fee (at minimum $300 million to be spread across the other 29 teams) because the deal in Las Vegas wouldn’t be financially feasible for Fisher otherwise. Manfred scheduled the vote despite not knowing where the A’s will play for three seasons between 2025 and 2027 and despite not knowing the design of the ballpark and despite not knowing how Fisher plans to finance the $1 billion to $1.5 billion it will take to build it.
And that’s why, in Oakland, it feels personal. In Oakland, which is on the verge of losing all three of its major professional sports teams in a span of five years, it always feels personal. There’s something about the city and its people that guys like Fisher and Manfred will never understand. Fisher — Gap scion, shadow-dweller, principal owner of the A’s since 2015 — loves to tout his Bay Area roots, but he was born into a life of East Coast boarding schools, Princeton and squash courts. Oakland was never his thing.
When I spoke at length to Fisher and team president Dave Kaval in late August, their stated sympathy for the fans of Oakland felt perfunctory, rote, like the names of A’s prospects Fisher read off a paper on the desk in front of him at one point in our conversation. On Tuesday, he spoke with three A’s fans/protesters who made the trip to Arlington, Texas, for the owners meetings. When Jorge Leon told him how difficult it’s been to watch their team be taken away from them, Fisher, the billionaire, told him, “It’s been a lot worse for me than you.”
Fisher didn’t attend games in Oakland after the April decision to leave town, but Las Vegas will provide him with the proper remove. If all goes according to plan, there will be a sufficient number of luxury suites that generate a sufficient amount of revenue for him to go, if he chooses, without fear of encountering the unsavory aspects of the real world.
A’s fans, with a fair amount of bless-your-heart innocence, felt they could change the course of history with sheer outrage. They derided Fisher with billboards outside the stadium and bedsheet signs inside and airplane banners overhead. They stopped drumming in the right-field bleachers, turning a party into a funeral, and then they threw a reverse boycott party that did the exact opposite. They’ve lived with this prospect for what seems like forever, just as they did when the Raiders were boomeranging up and down the coast and the Warriors were casting their covetous eyes toward San Francisco.
But it’s never been about the fans, or loyalty, or 55 years of history. Fisher can reel off the names of Sal Bando and Catfish Hunter and Tyler Soderstrom and Denzel Clarke, but it’s always been about the search for the next mark, the next wheelbarrow of free money, the next lobbying tactic that produces the most corporate welfare. The team is a line on a spreadsheet, nothing more than an asset in a billionaire’s portfolio. The people left behind don’t matter. The cruel truth is, they never did.
THERE WAS NO suspense surrounding this vote. Despite all its holes, the plan to move the A’s to Las Vegas is seen by every other owner as a way to insure their own future grift. And to deny the A’s relocation would have served as a de facto vote of no confidence for Manfred. His cheerleading for this move, and subsequent belittlement of both Oakland and its mayor, Sheng Thao, exposed a brittle side to his personality.
Charitably, it could be called a strategy. For the Athletics to convince the owners they needed to move, they had to sell the case that Oakland was not a worthy home for Major League Baseball. Not just that ballpark, which nobody can reasonably defend, but an entire region. They did this systematically and cynically, by stripping the team like a stolen car and leaving the husk to rot in the sun. They discarded young stars and left the stadium to decay on its own terms while dismissing the efforts of city officials in raising nearly $1 billion for infrastructure to build Fisher’s Oz-like $12 billion waterfront mini-city at Howard Terminal.
They didn’t try to hide it. Kaval admitted — flat-out admitted — to me that the team abandoned any effort to make the Coliseum a better place to watch a game at the beginning of the 2021 season, when he and Fisher decided to embark on “parallel paths” of pitting Oakland against Las Vegas. In the end, “parallel paths” appears to have been another strategic maneuver to ease the franchise out of Oakland.
It ushered in three years of a gutted team, an intentionally grim stadium and — get this — higher ticket prices, including many season-ticket plans that doubled between 2022’s 102-loss season and this year’s 112-loss season. The team drew an MLB-worst 832,342 fans in 2023 and presto — blame the city and move to Vegas.
The same week I spoke to Kaval, I spoke to Fisher, who was ending a string of three interviews, the only three he’s given in 18 years as an owner. “We start off the season like everybody, every other ball team does, tied for first,” Fisher said. “You start out with very high hopes for what your team is going to be able to achieve. And then you play the games.”
I didn’t report those words at the time, mainly because I couldn’t decide whether they were the product of ignorance, duplicity or some combination of the two. Because those pesky games, the ones that didn’t go the A’s way 112 times last season, contained precisely zero surprises, and nobody had high hopes for the A’s last season, not even the guys in the clubhouse.
But what now? What about the immediate now? They’ve got permission to move to a city that, to this point, has managed to keep its excitement for MLB’s worst team entirely hidden. Beyond that, who knows? The A’s have no idea where they’re going to play after the Coliseum lease expires after next season. That means three years … somewhere, and that’s providing all the construction moves along at pace and the Tropicana hotel/casino is razed and the new ballpark is built in time to open in 2028.
The most logical place for them to play after the Coliseum lease expires after the 2024 season is the Coliseum. The A’s haven’t approached the city about extending the lease, and the people who run the city are in no mood to make the first call, but imagine for a moment the scene in the Coliseum late in the ’27 season, with the A’s 30 games back in the AL West, months away from their first Opening Day in Las Vegas, a couple hundred people watching, one concession stand open, the pall after the pall.
IT WOULD BE easier for the people of the East Bay to understand the decision if someone, anyone, involved in making it could come close to making a coherent argument for why it’s happening. The arguments the team made to procure $380 million in public funding would have failed a middle-school debate class.
They infamously sold the Nevada legislature on a 30,000-seat stadium that would require annual attendance of 2.5 million to reach the financial projections to keep the state from touching the state’s general fund. When it was pointed out that 81 sellouts — a prognostication we can all agree makes fairy tales sound like “Reservoir Dogs” — would mean just 2.43 million fans, Kaval announced new plans: the stadium, magically, would be 32,000 seats.
This is a stadium that exists only in the imagination; no official renderings have been released, and no architect has been publicly announced. The team’s director of design told everyone to “wad up” the original stadium renderings — which appeared to show a ballpark far larger than the land it will occupy, with a field that looked suspiciously like the Coliseum’s — after Nevada’s public money was secured. It will need to be either be a fixed dome or have a retractable roof; the former is a relic of a grim era (Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the Astrodome, the soon-to-be-placed Trop) while the latter might be an engineering impossibility on the nine-acre Vegas parcel. (Nine acres bordering an off-Strip condo complex and a Catholic church, hardly San Francisco Bay waterfront vibes.)
Fisher can say he spent six years trying to make something happen in Oakland, but that conveniently sidesteps the three years focused on one site (Laney Community College) that Fisher was told was a dead end from the beginning. Then there was the shift to Howard Terminal (“Howard Terminal or bust,” Kaval said) that lasted until the beginning of 2021 (a pandemic got in the way, too) before the team announced its “parallel paths” with Oakland and Las Vegas.
The one time Fisher and Kaval were pressed to explain their decision, their reasoning lacked both substance and coherence. The best they could do was say that Oakland couldn’t guarantee a stadium deal before the team’s January deadline to continue receiving revenue-sharing from the big-market teams in the league. In other words, Oakland didn’t give them enough fast enough to make sure they could get more from somebody else.
Fifty-five years of history, history Fisher claims to honor, tossed aside for expediency. Any attempt to make sense of it — all of it, from Manfred’s rank boosterism to Fisher’s abrupt turn on Howard Terminal — comes back to one question: Will the man who spawned a cottage industry of green-and-white “SELL” T-shirts unload the team once it lands in Vegas? Is there some tacit quid pro quo between Fisher and MLB — you get Vegas for your trouble in Oakland, and we’ll find a new owner so you can cash out once Vegas becomes official and the franchise value skyrockets?
When I asked Fisher if he was planning on selling the team once it gets to Vegas, he gave one in a series of nonanswers. He talked about buying a team because he wanted to win. He talked about being a fan and the history of the A’s and Vida Blue and Reggie Jackson. Nowhere in his extended response was an answer to the question.
But Vegas invites reinvention. You can be anything you want in Vegas. It practically begs you to conjure something else. They built skyscrapers in the sand and convinced people from all over the world to travel there to hand over their money. Anything’s possible.
Maybe this is baseball’s hope. Fisher will go to Vegas and become someone or something else. He’ll raise his payroll and keep his good players and treat his customers as if they matter. He’ll wander The Strip and mingle with the people and wear a $5 tank top and try to open a beer bottle with his eye socket. The stands will be full, the team will romp to victory and everyone will wonder why Major League Baseball didn’t ditch Oakland sooner.
At this point, there’s no way to refute any of it. Anything and everything is possible. But there’s always been an undeniable truth about Vegas: Eventually, you have to go home to who you’ve always been.
Manager Jim Leyland selected to Hall of Fame
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jim Leyland, the longtime manager who guided the Florida Marlins to the 1997 World Series title, was selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Leyland was named on 15 of 16 ballots in the selection process during a meeting of the Hall’s contemporary baseball era committee, which examined the cases of managers, umpires and executives whose greatest contributions came after 1980.
Nominees needed to be named on at least 12 ballots for enshrinement. Falling just short was former manager Lou Piniella, who was named on 11 ballots. Executive Bill White was listed on 10 ballots. Also considered were managers Cito Gaston and Davey Johnson, umpires Ed Montague and Joe West, and executive Hank Peters.
Leyland will become the 23rd person to be inducted into the Hall as a manager and the first since 2014, when Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox were enshrined. Leyland, who got his start in the majors as a coach under LaRussa with the Chicago White Sox, was asked to sum up what he tried to impart to his players over the years.
“I tried to impress upon them what it was to be a professional and how tough this game is to play,” Leyland said. “And I told them almost every day how good there were.”
Leyland never advanced beyond Double-A as a minor league catcher during a playing career that ended in 1970. But he more than made up for that during a long managerial career that began in the minors in 1971. He landed his first big league job with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 and went on to win 1,769 games over a 22-year big league career that ended in 2013 with the Detroit Tigers. He ranks 18th on the all-time managerial win list.
Only Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy won more games among managers who never made the big leagues as a player. As he waited for the call from Hall of Fame chairperson Jane Forbes Clark on Sunday, Leyland initially thought the hour advanced late enough that the call — 60 years in the making — was not going to arrive. Then it did.
“I thought when I didn’t get [the call] by a quarter of seven, it wasn’t going to happen,” Leyland said. “So I went up just to rest a minute and get my thoughts together. When my son came up, the phone rang and it was the Hall of Fame. I couldn’t believe it. There was definitely a tear in my eye.”
Leyland managed numerous superstar players during his career, including all-time greats Barry Bonds and Miguel Cabrera. As much as he was respected by the superstar players, he was known as a skipper who treated everyone in his clubhouse as an equal.
“All the good managers realize it takes 24-25 guys,” Leyland said. “It takes one heartbeat to sustain. I try to communicate with everybody.”
Known for his lovably irascible manner and pregame news conferences conducted in undershirts amid a haze of cigarette smoke, Leyland reached his pinnacle with the 1997 Marlins, an expensively built team designed to win fast. With Leyland leading a team full of stars including Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou and Kevin Brown, the Marlins went on to beat Cleveland in a seven-game World Series.
After that Marlins club was dismantled, Leyland moved on to manage the Colorado Rockies for one season before spending his final eight managing the Tigers. Detroit won two pennants during his tenure (2006 and 2012) and earned four postseason appearances.
Leyland was named Manager of the Year three times, twice in the National League (1990 and 1992) and once in the American League (2006).
Leyland, 78, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 21 in Cooperstown, New York. He originally signed as a player with the Tigers organization in 1964, so when he is recognized among the game’s immortals next summer, it will be the crowning achievement of 60 years around the professional game.
“It’s the final stop, really, as far as your baseball career goes,” Leyland said. “To end up and land there at Cooperstown? It doesn’t get any better. I mean, that’s the ultimate.”
College Football Playoff first look: Previewing Michigan-Alabama and Washington-Texas
The final four-team College Football Playoff field is set, with the selection committee having to make the toughest decision it had ever faced.
We knew going in that history would be made and that at least one team and its fan base would be left with some serious gripes. Would an unbeaten Power 5 champion be left out for the first time? Would the SEC be shunned? Would the No. 1 team going into the conference championship games fall out?
In the end, Big Ten champion Michigan was awarded the No. 1 seed and will face No. 4 Alabama of the SEC. In the other semifinal, Pac-12 champ Washington, the No. 2 seed, will face No. 3 Texas of the Big 12.
Here’s our first look at the four-team field, including key players, X factors and what each team has to do to win it all.
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama
CFP Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Prudential
When: Monday, Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ET
Where: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California)
How to watch: ESPN and ESPN App
Key player: RB Blake Corum
Corum tied Michigan’s career rushing touchdown record in the Big Ten championship game with his 55th TD. He has carried the load for the Wolverines the past few seasons and the offense has gone through him. He led all FBS running backs with 24 touchdowns and had his third 1,000-yard season. When Corum is productive, it opens up the rest of Michigan’s offense and creates an easier path for the passing game. Corum is a team leader as well, and his two touchdowns against Ohio State put Michigan over the top and propelled the Wolverines toward the playoff.
X-factor: CB Mike Sainristil
Sainristil doesn’t get a lot of the attention, but he has been a leader on Michigan’s defense. He came up with two forced fumbles in the Big Ten championship game against Iowa and was integral in stopping the Hawkeyes offense. He had 30 total tackles on the season and four interceptions along with six pass breakups. He started his career at receiver before making the switch to corner, and over the past two seasons has built himself into a potential NFL draft pick on defense.
How Michigan wins: The offense performs at its peak
The offense hasn’t been at its best the past few weeks, but has done enough to stay undefeated. In the postgame press conference after the Big Ten title game, Jim Harbaugh said the team will have to clean up some things up in pass protection and the run game in order to have success in the playoff. The defense has been outstanding all season, but against the teams that Michigan will face in the playoff, the Wolverines will have to put up more points. That means Corum putting up big numbers and quarterback J.J. McCarthy complementing the run game with the passing attack we saw early in the season. — Tom VanHaaren
Key player: QB Jalen Milroe
Since his benching against South Florida in Week 3, Jalen Milroe has been one of the most dynamic players in college football. He has accounted for 28 touchdowns and turned the ball over just five times in leading the Crimson Tide to 11 straight wins. His ability to scramble for big gains and buy time in the pocket make him extremely difficult to defend for any defense, but he also has a big arm and has repeatedly connected with his receivers on deep throws. Georgia coach Kirby Smart compared the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Milroe to Lamar Jackson last week because of his acceleration in the open field and arm strength to push the ball down the field. Alabama coach Nick Saban said the Crimson Tide wouldn’t be in this position had Milroe not responded to his benching the way he did and continued to improve and “be our point guard.” Milroe’s decision-making has gotten significantly better as the season has progressed, and he said a lot of that is because he’s played with more freedom and confidence since Saban told him unequivocally that it was his job.
X factor: OLB Dallas Turner
Turner has been Alabama’s biggest disruptor on defense. The junior is the Tide’s best pass-rusher and can change the complexion of a game with a big sack or a tackle for loss that kills an opposing offense’s drive. Turner leads Alabama with 14.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. Championship teams need a big-play defender who can cause the opposing offense to get out of its rhythm. The 6-4, 252-pound Turner is that player for the Crimson Tide.
How Alabama wins: By hanging around and being there at the end
Alabama has been one of the more resilient teams in the country. The Tide trailed five times in the second half in SEC games this season and rallied to win. In other words, they know how to win close games, and the more they’ve played, the more confident they’ve become in being able to finish games. Alabama’s offense isn’t necessarily built to get into high-scoring showdowns and having to come back from big deficits. But if the Tide are in the game in the fourth quarter, that’s their comfort zone. They don’t get rattled, and Milroe has delivered in pressure-packed situations. — Chris Low
No. 2 Washington vs. No. 3 Texas
CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl
When: Monday, Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m. ET
Where: Caesars Superdome (New Orleans)
How to watch: ESPN and ESPN App
Key player: WR Rome Odunze
Even as quarterback Michael Penix Jr. generated Heisman Trophy consideration, Odunze has always been the Huskies’ best player. Whenever the team has needed a big play, Odunze has gotten the call. It happened, most notably, in the final minutes against Oregon in the regular season, when he hauled in the game-winning touchdown. And then, again, in the Apple Cup when he took an end around to pick up a monumental first down on fourth-and-1 from the Huskies’ 29-yard line. Odunze finished the regular season No. 4 in the country in receiving yards (1,326), No. 6 in receiving touchdowns (13) and is sure to be one of the first receivers off the board in the upcoming NFL draft.
X factor: RB Dillon Johnson
As teams devoted more effort to stopping the Huskies’ prolific passing offense as the season went along, Johnson became a more valuable asset. He rushed for 615 of his 961 regular-season yards over the last five games with seven touchdowns in that span. The Mississippi State transfer ran 28 times for 152 yards and two scores to help take down the Ducks on Friday night and should be a key factor in this game.
How Washington wins: Penix finds his early-season form
At the halfway point of the season, Michael Penix Jr. was the clear Heisman front-runner. He had the numbers. He passed the eye test. There wasn’t anything, it seemed, that could slow him down. But as the season went along, something felt off. He was still good enough to lead the Huskies to a 12-0 mark and ranked No. 2 in passing yards (3,899), but his accuracy regressed and the big plays weren’t as plentiful. When he’s at his best, though, Washington can beat anyone, as evidenced by the Huskies’ 34-31 win over the Ducks on Friday, when Penix threw for 319 yards and a score. — Kyle Bonagura
Key player: DL T’Vondre Sweat
Sweat came back for a super senior year to try to help Texas complete its turnaround. It’s fair to say that decision has been a massive success, as Sweat became a force in the interior as the Big 12 defensive player of the year and helped the Longhorns win the conference championship. At 6-4 and 362 pounds, Sweat is literally a massive piece of the Texas defense. But as big as he is, he’s so quick and agile that he wreaks havoc even on passing plays, despite having just two sacks on the season, because he draws so much attention that it frees up other players, including 6-1, 308-pound Byron Murphy II, who plays next to Sweat and was the league’s defensive lineman of the year. In the conference championship, Sweat even added a touchdown reception and a Heisman pose. The man contains multitudes.
X factor: TE Ja’Tavion Sanders
With the addition of Adonai Mitchell as a receiving threat opposite Xavier Worthy, Sanders has seen a dip in his production, with a few nagging injuries also a factor. Last season, he caught 54 passes for 613 yards and 5 TDs; this year he settled for 31 catches, 502 yards and one score in the regular season. But at 6-4, 243, Sanders is a nightmare matchup for linebackers and a big target for quarterback Quinn Ewers. He can be a key outlet, particularly near the goal line, where Texas has struggled for most of the season, ranking 104th nationally in red zone offense. Sanders averaged 4.2 catches per game last year, down to 2.6 this year. Entering the Big 12 championship game, he’d caught five passes in a game only twice this year, and both times he went over 100 yards, including 114 yards against Alabama. But against Oklahoma State on Saturday, he had a season-high eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Sanders could be the cure for the Longhorns’ woes in the end zone if they keep him going, particularly with Worthy’s ankle injury suffered against OSU adding concern.
How Texas wins: The offensive line protects Quinn Ewers
The Longhorns have the heft along both lines to match up with pretty much anyone, but with Jonathon Brooks, who had 1,138 yards in 10 games, lost for the season, they’ll have to find a back to make the running game a factor. But it will take a strong performance from quarterback Quinn Ewers and the passing game to key the Texas attack. If the offensive line can protect Ewers and keep him upright, the Longhorns have the speed to make big plays on the outside and the offense has shown the potential to deliver when it’s needed most. — Dave Wilson
Michigan, Washington, Texas, Alabama reach CFP
The Wolverines and Huskies as undefeated conference champions were considered virtual shoo-ins to make the CFP. Michigan is in the playoff for the third straight year. Washington, on the other hand, has been in the CFP only once before, losing in the semifinals in the 2016 season.
The path to the playoff was a bit murkier for Texas and Alabama.
Texas is back in the running for the national championship after booking its first trip to the playoff. Led by quarterback Quinn Ewers, the Longhorns went 12-1 and won the Big 12 championship in their first appearance in the conference title game. Texas’ lone loss came at the hand of Oklahoma in the Red River rivalry game. Both schools will head to the SEC after this season, but the Longhorns already got an SEC boost this year. Texas notched perhaps the biggest win of the college football season by going on the road in September and beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama proved that one big win can sometimes make up for one early loss. The Crimson Tide are in the playoff a day after ending Georgia’s 29-game, 728-day winning streak with a 27-24 victory in the SEC championship game. Nick Saban’s squad faced challenges atypical for Alabama, losing at home to Texas in the second game of the season and otherwise scuffling through the early part of the schedule. Part of the issue was uncertainty at quarterback. Jalen Milroe started and finished the season as the team’s top QB, but both Ty Simpson and Tyler Buchner were given chances to take control of the position in Tommy Rees’ first year as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. Bama will now have a chance to win its fourth College Football Playoff national championship in the final year of the four-team format.
Alabama’s win Saturday ended Georgia’s pursuit of a third straight national championship. The Bulldogs had won 29 straight games, but Saturday’s ill-timed loss to Alabama in the SEC title game left Georgia on the outside looking in. As a result, the Bulldogs become the first No. 1 team in the penultimate CFP rankings to fall out of the top four after losing in Championship Week.
Florida State won its conference championship game after an undefeated regular season, but becomes the first unbeaten Power 5 champ to miss out on the CFP, a decision that rankled ACC commissioner Jim Phillips.
“It’s unfathomable that Florida State, an undefeated Power Five conference champion, was left out of the College Football Playoff,” Phillips said in a statement Sunday. “Their exclusion calls into question the selection process and whether the Committee’s own guidelines were followed, including the significant importance of being an undefeated Power Five conference champion. My heart breaks for the talented FSU student-athletes and coaches and their passionate and loyal fans. Florida State deserved better. College football deserved better.”
The committee seemed to focus on how competitive the Seminoles would be in the playoff without quarterback Jordan Travis, who suffered a season-ending leg injury in mid-November. FSU started backup Tate Rodemaker in its regular-season finale victory over Florida, but a concussion kept him out of the ACC title game. That forced coach Mike Norvell to go with freshman Brock Glenn on Saturday, a win over Louisville in which the Noles’ defense led the way.
Washington will play Texas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, while Michigan will face Alabama in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Prudential. Both semifinal games will be played on New Year’s Day and aired on ESPN.
The CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T will be played Monday, Jan. 8 on ESPN.
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