Editor's note: The video below is from January 2016.
John Fisher, the spectre who owns the biggest piece of the Oakland Athletics, will take on visible human form Thursday to tour Howard Terminal as a potential site for the team he owns in absentia.
This marks three departures from standard operating procedure for the A’s, in that (a) Fisher’s profile has still not been accurately captured by the Hubble telescope; (b) Howard Terminal used to be a no-fly zone for the A’s; and (c) the A’s have finally tired of thinking they have leverage over, well, anybody.
Of course, this super-secret tour will just be a fact-finding excursion, which is to say that it’s mostly a waste of everyone’s time that comes at a convenient time in the schedule.
In other words, nobody has anything better to do while they’re waiting for the Raiders to get whatever it is they’re after.
Most people seem to think that is Las Vegas, at a massive public capital outlay that has aroused the suspicions of citizens’ groups both in Vegas and Reno/Carson City. Weirdly (as in appropriately), they think something is about to start smelling bad in the desert that’s going to cost them vast trainloads of money.
But that is Nevada’s problem now, and Oakland’s solution later. If the Raiders get greenlighted to move the 548 miles east-by-southeast to a new world, the A’s become the team the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda have to deal with – for the first time since Charlie Finley started hiking up his gingham skirt back in the mid-60s.
The Warriors? They’re a separate item, in that they aren’t staying in Oakland unless their San Francisco deal collapses, and won’t have leverage either way.
But the A’s have been waiting patiently for their moment for decades now, and the Raiders – who also have a shot at Los Angeles if Vegas doesn’t work and San Diego approves a stadium deal it seems reluctant to accept – have one foot off their chests.
Because of their emotional ties and squatters rights, the Raiders had always been the alpha to the Warriors’ and Athletics’ omega when it came to political clout. They got a stadium built in the mid-60s, and remodeled in the mid-90s, both at Al Davis’ behest, and the A’s had to work twice as hard to get half of City Hall’s attention.
And half of Oakland’s attention is almost invisible to the naked eye.
Times, however, they are a’changin,’ and if the good people of Las Vegas hurl massive wads of money they could use elsewhere on luring the Raiders, the A’s will finally get to be the alpha.
This would presumably mean that they could get whatever they want from a city and county reeling from the likely loss of their NFL and NBA teams, which leaves us to think that that they were objecting to the Howard Terminal/Jack London Square/bayfront site all those times was just them being petulant to gauge Oakland’s willingness to take a knee.
But Mayor Libby Schaaf, who has been flogging the terminal as though it was the Louvre, has achieved something just by getting Fisher rather than Lew Wolff to be the one doing the tour.
Fisher has always been the driving force behind all things Elephantine, and his eagerness not to be seen has always been considered a desire not to be called mean names by frustrated fans. He does, after all, have the most skin in this game, and even by doing nothing, he has determined the direction of the franchise.
If you can call it a direction.
But enough snide for one day. Fisher is now outed as interested in learning about his franchise’s long-term future, and his reaction to the Howard terminal site and Schaaf’s powers of persuasion (read: political schmoozery) will determine much about how much hardball the A’s still want to play with a city that has never been keen to engage.
Oakland sat while Wolff investigated the north-of-Coliseum site. Oakland sat while Wolff flirted with the hilariously dim Fremont plan. And Oakland sat while Wolff tried to chat up San Jose in such a clumsy and half-hearted way that everyone called their bluff in unison.
But now, with the obstacle of the Raiders seemingly removed, or at least relocated, now the two sides can try to find a place to put a stadium that Schaaf has already said the city cannot pay for and that the team therefore will have to (it helps that commissioner Rob Manfred has essentially said on a number of occasions that the A’s belong in Oakland, which means that they will not be permitted to leave for the very foreseeable future).
And the fact that it is Fisher means that for the first time ever, both sides are serious about wanting to look serious. And as we all know, shameless posturing is the first step toward negotiation.