MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred tries to appease angry Oakland A’s fans

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Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred on Friday tried to walk back comments that appeared to criticize Oakland A’s fans after their “reverse boycott” on June 13. 

“The comment that I made about the fans on a particular night was taken out of context of those two larger remarks. I feel sorry for the fans. We hate to move. We did everything we could possibly do to keep the club in Oakland. And unfortunately, one night doesn’t change a decade worth of inaction,” Mr. Manfred said Friday.

Oakland fans 27,759 strong showed up at the Oakland Coliseum on June 13 to call for owner John Fisher to sell the franchise and thereby keep the team in town instead of moving to Las Vegas. The A’s beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1, and the team donated ticket proceeds to local nonprofits.

“I mean, it was great. It is great to see what is this year almost an average Major League Baseball crowd in the facility for one night. That’s a great thing,” Mr. Manfred said two days later, after the quarterly MLB owners meeting.

Mr. Manfred said his initial comments were quoted without the larger context of the league’s initial preference being that the A’s stay in Oakland. 

The team is averaging 9,810 fans per game this year, the worst in the 30-team league.

The Oakland 68’s, a group of fans involved in the reverse boycott, called Mr. Manfred’s comments “dismissive” and “at best, petulant.”

The A’s announced in April their plans to move to Las Vegas, settling on a plan to build a stadium on the site of the Tropicana Hotel. Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo last week signed legislation securing $380 million in public funding for the project.

The A’s have been playing at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum under a lease signed in 2014. Since then, efforts to find a new site in the area have failed, despite advanced negotiations with city officials.

There is no timeline for the team’s departure, and Mr. Manfred said Friday that an official relocation application has not been filed with the league.

Once the A’s leave, Oakland will have lost all three of its major sports franchises, as the Golden State Warriors moved across the bay to San Francisco in 2019 and the Oakland Raiders left, also for Las Vegas, in 2020.

The Oakland 68’s has called on the team to donate ticket proceeds from a game with the Detroit Tigers scheduled for Sept. 23.

If the team agrees, the 68’s would “throw another tailgate party to celebrate our love for Oakland, and Rob Manfred can count on an ‘above average’ MLB attendance,’” the group said in a statement.

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