A’s owner later tells NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai he’s ‘sorry’ it hasn’t worked out in Oakland, ‘SELL’ shirts are ‘hurtful’
infamously private On Wednesday, A’s owner John Fisher broke his decades-long silence, telling a Bay Area television reporter that he’s “sorry” things haven’t worked out in Oakland, just hours after releasing a lengthy interview with a Las Vegas newspaper in which he stated that despite months of fan protests, he’s never considered selling the team.
Fisher had yet to speak with a Bay Area media outlet about the Oakland A’s since taking over as owner in 2016, or even since becoming a part-owner in 2005.
Fisher, on the other hand, spoke with NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published his recent question-and-answer interview, which revealed several key details about the A’s planned move to Las Vegas.
And, much to the chagrin of A’s fans who have chanted “Sell the team” almost every game since the All-Star break, Fisher says he has “not considered selling the team.”
“I’ve now owned the team with my partner Lew Wolff, it’s amazing how fast time flies,” Fisher said. “Our goal since then has been to find a new home for our team and to build a new home for our team.”
Wolff told Mathai, “It’s difficult to move a team out of an area where I grew up.” But, in the end, Las Vegas provides us with the best opportunity to build a new ballpark and win.”
Despite his matter-of-fact attitude toward the team’s possible relocation, Fisher admitted to Mathai that seeing fans wearing “SELL” shirts was upsetting.
“It demonstrates that fans are passionate about keeping a team, and they are upset with me for depriving them of that dream.” “In that sense, I accept responsibility,” Fisher explained.”Oakland fans are fantastic. There is a lot of passion.
“Seeing that passion directed toward me has an ironic twist in which I can appreciate the passion, even if it can be hurtful at times.”
Fisher told the Review-Journal that the A’s had recently submitted their relocation application to Major League Baseball and its three-person relocation committee, and that they hoped it would be approved soon. To continue receiving money from MLB’s revenue-sharing pool, the A’s must have a finalized ballpark plan in place by Jan. 15, 2024, according to baseball’s collective bargaining agreement.
Fisher claims that the A’s “have had the revenues to support” many key aspects of a Major League team, and that the team will “lose $40 million with a $60 million payroll” in 2023. It is worth noting that Fisher and the A’s have not made their financials public, and Forbes reported that the A’s will profit $29 million in 2022 despite being in the bottom two in both attendance and payroll last year.
Fisher’s presence was notable, if only because of his long-standing policy of remaining silent. He stated that this was done on purpose.
“The reason I haven’t been as outwardly involved in media to date is that I really wanted the people running the team, Dave Kaval on the business side and Billy Beane and David Forst and others on the baseball side, to be the voice of the team,” Fisher explained in an interview with the Review-Journal. “They’re the ones who do the majority of the work here, creating the teams and products that are out on the field and that we use to create a great experience for our fans.” It was more important to me that they be front and center with the A’s rather than me.”
The reason for the change, according to Fisher, is the upcoming relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas.
“I feel it’s important that the people hear from me, because at the end of the day, that decision is mine,” Fisher said. “That decision needs to be supported by the owners, but I chose to make it in the middle of an application for relocation.” As a result, I believe it is critical that people hear from me about why that decision was made and what it means.”
The A’s have repeatedly turned down requests from this news organization to interview Fisher, including this summer.
Since Fisher and Wolff took over ownership in 2005, the A’s have had a bottom-half payroll among MLB’s 30 teams and haven’t ranked higher than 23rd in the past 16 seasons (according to Baseball Prospectus’ Cot’s Contracts). However, Fisher now claims that the increased revenue from the new ballpark will allow him to increase the player payroll.
“We expect our revenues to be significantly higher in our new ballpark than they have been in the past,” Fisher said. “And that will enable us to have a higher payroll and keep our young talent around, as opposed to sadly seeing them go to other teams, and it will allow us to be out there signing free agents.”
Fisher’s other team, the San Jose Earthquakes, has not seen a significant increase in its Major League Soccer player payroll rankings since PayPal Park opened in 2015. The Quakes have remained in the bottom half of MLS payrolls in the nine seasons since, including ranking 21st out of 29 teams in 2023.
While player payroll is an important financial indicator, Fisher’s ability to raise additional funds to build the stadium may be more important. Nevada’s Senate Bill 1 grants the A’s up to $380 million in public funds from various Nevada entities, but that still leaves more than $1.1 billion to be obtained — and that’s assuming no cost overruns. Fisher responded affirmatively when asked if he is confident they will receive funding.
“We have a very good financial plan in place,” Fisher, the billionaire son of Doris and Don Fisher, said. “We’ve been working closely with Goldman Sachs, and my family, as previously stated, plans to invest significantly.”
In the Review-Journal question-and-answer session, Fisher was asked to address several other topics, including Raiders owner Mark Davis’ fiery remarks from April, in which Davis blamed the A’s for forcing the Raiders to leave the Coliseum. Fisher admitted that the A’s “didn’t make it the easiest” for Davis and the Raiders.
“That’s on me, that was my responsibility,” Fisher admitted. “I told Mark about it, and I called him when we were going to Las Vegas to get to know the people.” I contacted him to let him know that we were going to be there and that I wanted to meet with him when he was available so that we could talk about our respective experiences and learn something from him.”