Bryce Harper thinks his hometown of Las Vegas could support a Major League Baseball team, but believes that they would be better off acquiring one through expansion than having another city's franchise relocate to Sin City.
The two-time National League MVP said as much this past weekend, when he was the Grand Marshal at the Pennzoil 500, which was held in Las Vegas:
Las Vegas has had tremendous success as a host city for the NHL, getting the Golden Knights expansion franchise in 2017. The Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup in their first year of play.
At the same time, beggars can't be choosers in terms of acquiring a professional sports franchise. While it's a much cleaner process to be granted an expansion team -- and commissioner Rob Manfred has admitted to a desire to get to 32 teams one day -- the more common route is acquiring a team that's prepared to relocate from another city. Las Vegas did exactly that in the NFL when the Raiders moved from Oakland in 2020, and if they want an MLB team in the near future, they may have to poach a franchise from the same city.
There's long been speculation about the Athletics relocating from Oakland -- where RingCentral Coliseum is well past its expiration date -- if they can't secure a new stadium in the Bay Area. That talk moved back to the forefront this past weekend when the A's played two Spring Training games in Las Vegas.
The league as a whole seems past the point of hiding the possibility of the A's relocating from Oakland to Las Vegas, with Manfred commenting on the intentions of owner John Fisher back in February.
“I think Mr. Fisher wants to make the best deal to secure the future of the A’s, whether it’s in Oakland or Las Vegas," Manfred said.
“They need a new stadium,” Manfred added. “I think that’s kind of beyond debate. If he had to rank them one and two, you’d have to ask him that.”
If the A's were to relocate to Las Vegas, it would be the franchise's fourth home. They played in Philadelphia from 1901-1954, before spending the 1955-1967 seasons in Kansas City. Since 1968, the franchise has been based in Oakland. Presumably, if they moved cities again, the iconic A's brand would come with.
Whether Fisher and MLB ultimately get their desired amount of public funding from officials in Oakland or Las Vegas, the team will need to make major investments in the on-field product to help the A's return to relevance. In recent years, the franchise has slashed costs, with Spotrac estimating that the A's current payroll will be just below $41 million in 2023, nearly $10 million less than the next closest team.
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