MLB

2024 Could Get Weird For Oakland A’s Players

Feb 20, 2024, 4:52 PM

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A general view of RingCentral Coliseum during the game between the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros at RingCentral Coliseum on April 04, 2021 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Catcher Shea Langeliers made a little space to set down a cup of coffee in his locker, then gingerly turned around, careful not to disturb the belongings of teammates JJ Bleday and Max Schuemann that were all crammed into a corner of Oakland’s spring training clubhouse.

Playing for the Athletics over the past few decades rarely has been glamorous — at least by MLB standards.

In 2024, it could also be downright weird.

The Athletics — set to move to Las Vegas sometime around 2028 — are facing a lame-duck season at the Oakland Coliseum, which hosted some of the smallest crowds in recent MLB history in 2023. The A’s have met with Oakland city officials about extending the club’s lease beyond 2024, but nothing is certain at the moment.

“I think if you focus on that, it can affect you,” Langeliers said. “The main goal is just to focus on baseball and what you can control. That can get away from you sometimes. I think every player in here will tell you their focus is on the field.”

But the franchise’s uncertain future was enough of a topic that manager Mark Kotsay — along with team president Dave Kaval — were on hand at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa for a 45-minute team meeting on Monday, which was also the team’s first full-squad workout.

RELATED: Manfred Expects A’s To Open Vegas Stadium In 2028

“We talk a lot about distractions and this group has been through it to a certain extent last year,” Kotsay said. “We did address the uncertainty of the ’25 season, but ultimately, these guys are here to play baseball and have a long career, whether that’s in Oakland or Miami, for that matter, the game doesn’t change.

“The circumstances are what they are.”

Kotsay said he wants to make sure players know his office is open if there are questions, though to be honest, he doesn’t have many answers at the moment. It’s unclear whether the franchise will play its 2025 home games in Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco or a minor league stadium in Las Vegas.

The team reached an agreement with Bally’s and Gaming & Leisure Properties to build a stadium on the Tropicana hotel site along the Las Vegas Strip, and the Nevada Legislature approved $380 million in public financing last June for a $1.5 billion stadium that the team wants completed for the 2028 season. MLB owners unanimously approved the move in November.

But the next few years could be rocky.

“We’re very transparent,” Kotsay said. “When we get information, we pass it along to the players. You get more information than I do, probably.”

From a purely baseball perspective, the A’s hope they’re a franchise on the rise following a brutal 112-loss season. They’ve got a young nucleus of hitters that includes All-Star slugger Brent Rooker, speedster Esteury Ruiz and Langeliers, which improved over the final few months of the season after a rough start.

The A’s also added a few veterans to the pitching staff, hoping that Ross Stripling and Alex Wood can help stabilize a rotation that includes JP Sears and Paul Blackburn.

Oakland has had one of the league’s lowest payrolls over the past several seasons under much-maligned owner John Fisher, and this one will be no exception. But until the past few years, the A’s have found a way to have at least moderate success, making the playoffs in six of nine seasons from 2012-2020.

Rooker is a bit of a late bloomer by baseball standards, coming off a 30-homer season that helped the 29-year-old become a first-time All-Star and the latest in a long line of sluggers for the A’s. He has enjoyed his time launching dingers in front of Coliseum fans — regardless of whether it’s in the hundreds or thousands.

RELATED: A’s Exploring Options To Extend Oakland Coliseum Lease

The A’s averaged 10,276 fans per game last year, easily the lowest number in MLB.

“The fans that come are as loyal of fans of anything as you will find anywhere,” Rooker said. “They are incredible people. Just from a personal standpoint, you get to know a lot of them. There’s a group in right field that I talk to and hang out with when I’m out there. They’re really, really fun people.”

But there’s little doubt this is a difficult split. And the longer this long goodbye takes, the more awkward it could get.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged last week that the situation wasn’t ideal. The A’s have been in Oakland since 1968, and their generations of fans aren’t going quietly.

“The reality of the situation is that whenever you’re leaving a market where you’ve been for decades and you’re going to make a move to a different city where there’s not a stadium, that’s a really difficult undertaking, and it’s not going to be seamless, smooth,” Manfred said. “There’s going to be bumps along the road.”

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2024 Could Get Weird For Oakland A’s Players