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Graney: A’s penny-pinching a reason for Las Vegas to reassess

Can you smell it? All the soot and ash.

The Oakland A’s have begun their fire sale, a tradition every several years.

They tear things down, rebuild into a playoff team, fall short and tear things down again.

Which seems a peculiar strategy for an organization supposedly hoping to raise a new ballpark in the $1 billion range in Las Vegas.

How’s this for a marketing campaign when courting Southern Nevada baseball fans: We build. We win, but not the World Series. We tear down. We start over.

Those in the Bay Area are used to such a reality. It last occurred in 2014, when the A’s lost a play-in post-season game and responded by shipping off their top talent. They would eventually win 97 games in each of the 2018 and ’19 seasons, the American League West in a pandemic-shortened 2020 and 86 games last season.

Which is why — follow the above logic — they moved All-Stars Matt Chapman, a third baseman, to the Blue Jays; Chris Bassitt, a pitcher, to the Mets; and Matt Olson, a first baseman, to the Braves all in the last few weeks.

A president’s take

Dave Kaval sees an entirely different approach if the A’s get a new stadium. The team president believes an end to the penny-pinching days will arrive with all the additional revenue streams that come with a new ballpark.

That once there is more money flowing through those green and yellow coffers, the A’s would actually enjoy retaining high-priced players and even competing for top free agents.

“They are two sides of the same coin — constantly recycling the team and trading players because we don’t have the revenues associated with a new stadium,” Kaval said. “Period. That’s our problem. We certainly have the reputation to win with less more than most.

“But with more revenues, we want to turn a playoff team into a World Series team. That’s why we’re fighting so hard for a new stadium, whether it’s in Las Vegas or Oakland.”

For this to be embraced, fans — whether in Las Vegas or Oakland — would have to wholeheartedly trust that such a change would come.

It’s obviously counter-productive for the A’s to treat the baseball side of things the same when trying to convince Las Vegas to become its new home.

But this is the team’s DNA. This is how it operates. Heck, there was a best-selling book written and movie made about it.

John Fisher is an owner with deep, deep pockets who (incredibly) has always acted in a way that he can’t afford to hand out exorbitant contracts to his best players.

About him, an overwhelmingly popular opinion is that he simply doesn’t want to.

Maybe that would change with the raising of a new ballpark, but nothing Fisher has shown in the past suggests that. It would take a complete turnaround of the team’s organizational reputation.

“We could alter our entire business model once we get into a new building,” Kaval said. “Win and retain guys. We could have a top 5-6 payroll. Look what we have done with a small payroll.”

Again, is there real substance to that or something you say when you’re trying to strike a deal with one of two cities?

It would be on the A’s to prove the former.

Everyday fan

Kaval said studies procured on the Las Vegas market suggest the A’s relocating would elevate them to among the top in Major League ticket sales and sponsorships.

But that won’t happen if the team doesn’t alter its ways when it comes to its roster and payroll.

Not if Fisher didn’t begin opening that behemoth of a checkbook. Not if he didn’t stop worrying only about lining those deep pockets.

This was actor Brad Pitt in “MoneyBall,” playing the part of then A’s general manager and now executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane: “There are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then, there’s 50 feet of crap. And then there’s us.”

The A’s swear that will change with a new ballpark.

To succeed in Las Vegas, it would have to.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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