With a rough vote for the A’s, a practical ‘leaving for Las Vegas’ leak

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The Oakland Athletics are the worst team in Major League Baseball. As of Tuesday morning, they had lost twice as many games as they had won, with a 25-50 record, and are a miserable 5-18 in the month of June.

But that doesn’t mean the A’s don’t provide plenty of thrilling drama. But not in the field.

This week, another episode of A’s ongoing soap opera dropped, “Leaving (maybe, maybe, maybe) for Las Vegas.”

A vote by the San Francisco Bay Area Conservation and Development Commission is scheduled for Thursday, which will determine whether the commission approves the A’s request to remove the 56-acre Howard Terminal parcel from port designation.

A “yes” would only be a step towards opening the site up for development.

A “no” vote? Long live Las Vegas! This would remove Howard Terminal as a viable site for the A’s bloated ballpark development proposal.

The Major League Baseball office, which likes nothing better than to meddle in civic affairs, is trying to take advantage of the polling commissioners with a not-so-subtle threat.

An unconfirmed story leaked this week says MLB won’t charge the A’s a moving fee if the team moves to Las Vegas, to “soften the blow” for billionaire owner John Fisher.

The timing and implication of such a story is that the BCDC commissioners had better pave the way for Howard Terminal or else. Say goodbye to the A’s of Oakland and all their history.

Take that MLB “leak” with a wheelbarrow full of salt. According to recent speculation, baseball’s moving costs could be as high as $1 billion. Yet Fisher could move to Las Vegas for free?

How would other MLB owners react to this? Fisher is the billionaire owner who other owners have supported for years with revenue sharing. He is the billionaire owner who has gutted his own roster this year, while dramatically increasing season ticket prices, in what seems an obvious ploy to alienate fans and make his team’s situation more desperate. He’s the billionaire owner whose self-immolation tactics worked perfectly and his team is 1) terrible and 2) has the lowest attendance in all of baseball.

But, hey, let’s give Fisher the Vegas market (a market that no less than five other teams, including the Giants, claim to be part of their “home” TV territory) for absolutely nothing!

That would be – in a club of the richest of the rich who, on principle, don’t give anything away for free – very unusual. Which makes it seem like Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office is just (again) trying to manipulate the conversation at this point.

Manfred thinks he should always get his way. At a press conference earlier this month, he disrespected the state which is currently home to five members of his league team, a sixth of his product.

“As you all know, California political processes are their own kind of animal,” Manfred said. “There is work to be done on the Oakland side.”

Oh, excuse us for not being armed by sports leagues and billionaire owners to comply with their demands and use our tax dollars to your advantage. Sorry.

At this point, Manfred’s bullying maneuvers on Fisher’s behalf are likely moot. Earlier this month, BCDC staff recommended that the commission vote to approve removing the Howard Terminal from port designation. The approval came despite objections from dozens of port workers, who spoke out against the plan in public comments, saying the site is essential for port functions.

The A’s need the approval of two-thirds of the board. Thursday’s vote is just the first step: after getting that approval, the A’s will then have to apply to the commission for a permit. The team would also need to get approvals from the State Lands Commission, the Department of Toxic Substances and Control, and the port for a real estate deal. The A’s would need a final development agreement and community benefits package approved by the city council and a vote from the Alameda County Supervisor to join the proposed tax district.

Additionally, next month, the Oakland City Council will consider putting an “advisory vote” on the Howard Terminal project in the November ballot. That would probably be really bad news for the A’s because – I don’t know if you noticed – the team doesn’t exactly engender public goodwill.

So fear not: your show’s favorite subplot, Parallel Paths, isn’t coming to an end. Even with a yes on Thursday, the A’s and MLB will continue to threaten, cajole and pout.

On-court entertainment might not be much. But the series of A continues.

Ann Killion is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @annkillion

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