MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao engaged in war of words over Athletics
With the Athletics’ proposed move to Las Vegas looming, the finger-pointing and animosity between Oakland officials and Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is only growing.
In a story published Friday by the San Francisco Chronicle, Manfred stated that Oakland mayor Sheng Thao’s version of events is “all about covering your ass at this point.”
Leigh Hanson, Thao’s chief of staff, responded, “We will leave it up to the fans to decide who is telling the truth, Mayor Thao or Manfred.” Their reputations speak for themselves at this point.”
The exchange occurred during a series of interviews conducted by John Shea, the Chronicle’s national baseball writer.
“I know everyone wants to pile on the A’s and MLB,” Manfred said to Shea. “But, in fairness, I believe people should consider what Mayor Thao has done and has not done.” She’s fantastic in ‘MLB ‘did this wrong’ and ‘John Fisher ‘did that wrong,’ among other things. Did she actually handle it well? “I don’t believe so.”
“I understand that this is a difficult time for Mayor Thao,” Manfred said again. “It appears that she will lose yet another franchise from the Bay Area.” That is regrettable. That’s a difficult situation to be in. But I think we’ve reached the point where we need to point out that she’s not telling the truth.”
One point of contention between the two sides is what was discussed when Thao and Manfred met in Seattle before the All-Star Game in July.
Thao said the meeting included a discussion of what Oakland would want in exchange for extending the A’s current lease, which expires at the end of next season. Oakland’s conditions included keeping the Athetics name and receiving an expansion team from MLB.
Those issues, according to Manfred, were never discussed.
“The entire meeting was about a proposal they wanted presented in order to keep the A’s in Oakland,” Manfred explained to Shea. “So why were they discussing an extension and making demands about what would happen if they went to Las Vegas?” The meeting’s sole purpose was to persuade us that they had a viable plan to stay in Oakland. It’s illogical. It is also false.
“We never talked about expansion,” Manfred explained. “We never discussed her keeping the A’s name. There was never any discussion about these alleged demands prior to signing a lease.”
Thao’s chief of staff, Hanson, stated that “the topic of an extension of the Coliseum lease definitely came up.” “I was present in the room.”
Manfred chastised Thao for her reaction to team president Dave Kaval’s shocking announcement in April that the A’s had agreed to buy land in Las Vegas, as Thao stated at the time that negotiations for a new waterfront ballpark and housing at Howard Terminal were dead, believing they were no longer being carried out in good faith. Thao believed he could use Oakland to get a better deal in Vegas.
“Do you think that was a productive step?” Manfred asked Shea about Thao’s initial reaction.
However, Thao soon stated that if the A’s called her back, she would answer.
“OK,” Manfred said when that was brought up, “my only point is, if she’s so committed to keeping Oakland, why do you tell the other side, ‘I’m cutting off negotiations?'”
“Just because we removed ourselves as a bargaining chip in Nevada doesn’t mean the mayor isn’t interested in keeping the team in Oakland,” Hanson told the Chronicle.
The squabbles don’t stop there.
Thao and Manfred also disagreed on whether the mayor should have contacted the commissioner after being elected in November 2022 to replace outgoing two-term mayor Libby Schaaf.
“I haven’t heard from (Thao).” “Never,” Manfred said. “She believes that everyone should speak, that all stakeholders should speak.” She wasn’t talking to anyone, and she wasn’t talking to me.”
Thao stated that the A’s, specifically Fisher, asked her not to contact Manfred while Howard Terminal negotiations were ongoing.
Hanson stated that Thao had asked “if it was appropriate to contact the commissioner, and John said it wouldn’t be appropriate until a deal was reached.” We acted in good faith.”
Manfred disputed that account, citing an unnamed source. “The fact of the matter is,” he continued, “if you’re trying to keep a baseball team in Oakland, why would you agree not to talk to the commissioner of baseball?”
Last month, the A’s submitted their relocation application to a three-member committee for review. The Athletics’ relocation plan will be voted on in November, and for it to be approved, 75% of MLB’s 30 owners must vote yes.
Manfred said he reviewed the 31 copies of a book Thao gave him in Seattle two months ago and that the relocation committee can request those materials. He did not say whether each owner had read or requested the book, which does not mention the possibility of keeping the A’s name in Oakland or receiving an expansion team in exchange for a lease extension at the Coliseum.
Thao stated that the books stated that before the talks ended, there was only a $90 million gap, a small fraction of the project’s overall cost.
“Honestly, if they were that close to a deal,” Manfred wondered, “why didn’t she throw the hundred million on the table?”
According to Hanson, “the city of Oakland was facing a historical deficit of $360 million and simply does not have $100 million sitting in couch cushions, like Mr. Fisher.”