Opinion: John Fisher couldn’t hide how he failed Oakland A’s

John Fisher came out from hiding and showed us why he never speaks in public

John Fisher is a well-known media recluse.

As a result, reading Fisher’s words for the first time since acquiring the Oakland A’s 18 years ago felt like a fever dream.

Fisher’s canned responses in a Q&A with the Las Vegas Journal Review and team-affiliated NBC Bay Area revealed why he remained hidden from the public eye. Even the most cordial media questioning reveals him to be the entitled and out-of-touch owner that many portrayed him to be.

One response to a question from NBC’s Raj Mathai — a TV interview in which Fisher oddly mandated that he not speak — was particularly revealing in light of Fisher’s attempts to relocate the A’s to Las Vegas after decades of operating an unnecessarily low-budget operation.

“Are you the right guy to be the owner of any franchise?” Mathai inquired.

“I don’t think being a franchise owner is the same as being a politician,” Fisher said.

Fisher didn’t even have to say anything on the record. He’s always seemed entitled to a gleaming new ballpark as part of a multibillion-dollar development, and he had no interest in playing the political game required to win over potential new neighbors and local officials. That entitlement almost certainly killed every new ballpark proposal the moment it arrived.

In 2005, Fisher and Lew Wolff bought a big market team led by a revolutionary baseball mind in Billy Beane, refused to invest in the team, put together haphazard ballpark proposals, and turned Oakland into a small market hellscape. And now he’s suing Vegas for a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Team president Dave Kaval cited the Raiders and Warriors leaving Oakland, as well as the 49ers leaving San Francisco, as evidence that local governments are to blame for teams leaving their homes. It’s fair to highlight the difficult obstacles that Bay Area cities face when trying to build anything. It’s also worth noting which ownership groups and presidents wielded enough clout to get the job done without a fuss.

The Warriors got a lucky break when team owner Joe Lacob received a call from a friend, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, to sell him an unwanted plot of land in San Francisco on which Chase Center now stands. President Rick Welts successfully sued and ultimately defeated a “Mission Bay Alliance” of organized opponents, similar to the A’s foe “East Bay Stadium Alliance,” which Kaval claims killed Howard Terminal.

Since Kaval took over as president in 2016, the A’s have only pointed fingers and blamed the city and their opponents for their inability to gain the support of their future neighbors and local officials. Fisher used the interview to make flimsy claims that Oakland isn’t ready for baseball because it’s losing money, is desperate for revenue sharing checks, and plays in a rundown Coliseum with low attendance. He wants sympathy for his self-inflicted wounds.

The A’s failed to persuade Peralta board members to support a proposed Laney College site, effectively killing it. They were defeated by lawsuits and public battles with local officials at Howard Terminal. According to minutes from the 1990 owners meetings obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants’ territorial rights in San Jose were contingent on the Giants building a ballpark there. Why didn’t Fisher, who has a Master’s degree from Stanford Business School, consider this if he was serious about building a ballpark?

Fisher emerged from his cave with a plan: to spruce up their pitch to MLB’s relocation committee and the public that Oakland is no longer worth his money or time, and he’ll open up the bountiful Fisher Family trust for a real baseball town like Las Vegas.

Then Fisher’s credibility was shattered by a few careless questions. In both lengthy interviews, the San Francisco native spoke more about the Giants than the A’s.

“I started going to baseball games before I can even remember because my grandparents were huge San Francisco Giants fans,” he explained to the Las Vegas Journal Review. “They would take my brothers and me to the games, but I have to admit I preferred the cotton candy and Red Vines licorice to the games.”

Not only does he admit to not liking baseball, but he is blissfully unaware that the Giants’ love fest does not go down well in A’s territory. Oaklanders feel the most “little brother’d” by San Franciscans.

Fisher has been the A’s little brother for the last 18 years, and he is so disconnected from the team he owns that he isn’t even aware of it. We now understand why he never speaks.

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