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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Manfred’s Patience Wearing Thin? Commish Makes Stance on A’s Clear

  • MLB commissioner says he would be “disappointed” if the club misses its 2028 target for Las Vegas ballpark.
  • League is seeing streaming progress on multiple fronts.
Rob Manfred
Journal Sentinel

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has made it abundantly clear the Oakland A’s are on the clock. 

Speaking at the end of the owners’ meetings this week in Florida, Manfred reiterated his strong hope that the Oakland A’s maintain their target of opening a new ballpark in Las Vegas to open the 2028 season.

“I would be disappointed, let me say it that way, if we didn’t open that stadium Opening Day 2028,” Manfred said. “Disappointed, just in the sense I think it’s best for the A’s and best for the game.”

Manfred’s comments arrive as the MLB club’s planned relocation is facing an increased set of problems. While the A’s are still grappling with how to build a stadium on a 9-acre site along the Las Vegas Strip, marking one of the smallest ballpark footprints in the league, a legal challenge has been filed against $380 million in public funding toward the project, planned stadium renderings are increasingly behind schedule, and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman earlier this week said the current ballpark plan “does not make sense.”

Asked about Goodman’s appearance on the Front Office Sports Today podcast, and her later attempted walk-back of her comments, Manfred said, “I only caught up to it after she said one thing and then said another, so it kind of canceled each other out in my mind.”

Also still at issue in the A’s situation: where the team will play for the 2025 to ’27 seasons, in between the expiration of the Oakland Coliseum lease after this year, and that ’28 target for the new ballpark. Manfred said a decision—involving several complex factors—must be made by this summer, when the ’25 schedule is due for public release. 

“It’s hard, even scheduling, although it’s clearly going to be someplace in the West,” Manfred said. “You know, there’s a difference between some places in the West and some other places in the West. So we need to get at it.”

Streaming Progress

MLB, meanwhile, continues to work on a direct-to-consumer, in-market streaming product that could hit the market in 2025 and involve about half of the league’s 30 teams. In addition to the long-troublesome issue of territorial rights and blackout rules, the effort also is complicated by the ongoing bankruptcy of Diamond Sports Group and what ultimately becomes of local rights currently held by that company.

Manfred also applauded the recent move by ESPN, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Fox Corp. to create a combined, multisport streaming package.

“I see that development as positive,” he said. “I think it’s another place that’s going to need to buy rights in order to make the platform go. I think it’s particularly good for us. If you think about it, it’s our three biggest [national media] partners, right? All positive.”

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