Oakland A's logo

The Oakland A's logo. (Dreamstime/TNS)

It’s reassuring to know fans of the Oakland Athletics, who are showing up to games in laughably low numbers this season, aren’t the only ones disenchanted with the team’s ownership.

The New York Post reported this week owners of rival teams in Major League Baseball aren’t happy the A’s are back to collecting revenue-sharing checks after having another fire sale in the offseason where the team got rid of notable players to cut costs.

“The idea of revenue sharing is not to make money, it’s to field a competitive team,” an owner told the Post outside of league meetings in New York. “That money is supposed to go toward player salaries. (The A’s) took the money and put it in their pocket.”

The A’s were re-awarded revenue sharing over the offseason when the players association and Major League Baseball agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement. The team made some $34 million in revenue sharing back in 2016 before it was gradually phased out by 2020, spreading money from the high-revenue teams to the low.

The new revenue-sharing plan is contingent on the A’s finalizing a long-awaited new stadium. The team is expected to get $9 million in revenue sharing this year and $20 million in 2023. Their $35 million payroll is the lowest in the majors, ahead of only the Orioles, way down from the $86 million they spent on players in 2016 at the height of the old revenue sharing model.

Nothing A’s owner John Fisher is doing these days seems to be working for anyone. Except, well, John Fisher. And that’s been the team’s biggest problem — even more so than the club’s never-ending bid for a ballpark.

As difficult as it is to build anything in the Bay Area, the 49ers, Giants and Warriors have all constructed modern venues there in the last quarter century.

Even the Raiders have gotten a new stadium, albeit in Las Vegas that relied heavily on taxes from hotels. Raiders owner Mark Davis is far from one of the richest owners in the NFL, but he was able to get a stadium deal done. Fisher, who is reportedly worth $2.2 billion, is the only major sports owner in the area who hasn’t been able to build. Indeed, the A’s have a Fisher problem and would be better off putting someone else in charge of building a new stadium if the last 17 years of his time owning the team is any indication.

Fisher’s been trying to get a new stadium since buying the team for $180 million in 2005, and there are still nights where there are more seagulls flying around the downtrodden RingCentral Coliseum than fans in the seats. The A’s are averaging 8,562 fans per game, nearly 2,500 fewer than the Miami Marlins, who are attract the second-fewest fans at 11,127 a night.

To the anonymous owner’s point, Fisher ordered his overachieving front office to deal away star first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman, as well as starting pitchers Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt. Those moves go against the point of revenue sharing altogether.

Other owners should be upset the money they share with the A’s isn’t doing anything to help the on-field product. The A’s haven’t given a star player a contract since Eric Chavez signed a six-year, $66 million deal in 2004. Yet, thanks to star executive Billy Beane and GM Robert Forst, the A’s have made the playoffs 11 times since 2000.

The A’s entered Tuesday at 23-45, owners of the worst record in Major League Baseball. They’re embarrassing at home with a 7-23 record but are a more-respectable 15-20 on the road. They made the playoffs in 2020, beat the Chicago White Sox in a three-game wild-card series and lost to the Houston Astros in the Divisional Series in four games. That was with Chapman, Olson and 2019 MVP candidate and East Bay native Marcus Semien playing shortstop.

The A’s, so far, have little to show for their trades. Of the four players who came in the Chapman deal from the Toronto Blue Jays, none are currently on the big league roster. Reliever Kirby Snead compiled an 8.74 ERA in 14 appearances before getting sent down. Infielder Kevin Smith has a miserable .597 OPS with Triple-A Las Vegas after slashing .180/.216/.302 in 151 plate appearances with Oakland. Starter Zach Logue is in the minors after going 2-4 with a 5.47 ERA in five starts and a relief appearance.

The Olson deal with the Atlanta Braves yielded four players. Only center fielder Christian Pache is with the major league team, and he’s hitting .161 with a .437 OPS in 60 games.

Of course, these deals shouldn’t be judged less than three months into a season, particularly when so many minor league players are involved. But it’s worth pointing out the A’s haven’t typically been this bad during their lean rebuilding years. Their minor league system came into the season ranked No. 22 in baseball according to MLB.com. It doesn’t appear their are many potential stars on coming to Oakland anytime soon. The A’s don’t have any current stars to deal for more prospects, either.

The A’s will continue to argue their product will improve if they can get a new stadium. That, of course, remains to be seen. There’s no guarantee Fisher and the municipality of Oakland are capable of such a project, despite whatever optimism they exude surrounding Howard Terminal. The A’s know this, hence their interest in joining the Raiders in Las Vegas, where they are honing in on potential stadium sites, just in case.

The average major league team is worth north of $2 billion, and the Bay Area is has been a good market for decades. Fisher could sell and make a boatload of money on his initial $180 million investment.

If Fisher isn’t willing to spend on players despite an influx of revenue sharing money, and still can’t get a stadium, then what’s the point of all this? Why own a team? This isn’t fun for anyone involved.

At least the fans are making that clear by not showing up, leaving other owners throughout Major League Baseball to ponder why they should be sharing their revenues with Fisher at all.

©2022 The Sacramento Bee. Visit sacbee.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. 

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