Bob Padecky of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat gives us a good idea why he's stuck in Sonoma county with this column.
"In Greek mythology Sisyphus is the sinner condemned to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill, only to have the boulder roll back down every time he reaches the top.
Funny, but I don't see Lewis Wolff, the front man for the new Oakland A's ownership group, lasting that long with his boulder.
His boulder was Charlie Finley's, and Walter Haas', and Steve Schott's and Ken Hofmann's. His boulder, in general, is selling baseball in a non-baseball town, elevating it to an essential item of existence even though no one has done that. In the specific, it's believing a brand-new $300 million stadium is all that the Oakland Athletics need to get off food stamps and live in the high-rise like so many others, even though no one has placed their money alongside that vision.
Is Wolff willing to gamble he's the guy who can make all that happen? Well, Wolff didn't get to be a mega real estate magnate by gambling. He doesn't make it up as he goes along. He doesn't get trapped the way his old fraternity brother, Bud Selig, did a couple of years ago when the teams ran out of players at the All-Star Game and he threw up his hands, confused at what to do next.
Wolff knows, right now, exactly what he wants to do with the Oakland A's. It's to move the team to Las Vegas unless the Bay Area trips over itself to keep the team. It's not to play the fool. It's not to be Schott and Hofmann, whining they are tired of squeezing water out of a rock. Whatever joy the A's achieved by making the playoffs was crushed by Schott and Hofmann claiming they couldn't keep this up much longer.
It's not to be the Haas family, saying they poured millions into the franchise only for good money to turn into a bad investment."
I see three out-and-out erroneous assumptions in that excerpt. The first and most obvious is that the A's are unprofitable. Not even worth discussing, so let's move on. The second is that this columnist is a clever writer. Also not worth discussing. The final is that Las Vegas is an attractive place to move a baseball team.
Las Vegas is not going to have a major-league baseball team in the near future. Very few teams are so bad off that a move there would improve their situation.
The only benefits to Vegas are relatively low land costs, available money and low taxes. While businesses would certainly like that, it comes with heavy prices.
First and foremost, gambling. Baseball is currently trying to get the stigma of the drug vice off of itself. You think it wants to dive back into Pete Roseville? Vegas' climate would essentially require a domed stadium. The area money that would be available to finance a major-league dome would almost certainly come from gaming interests. You think MLB wants a team playing in Harrah's Park with folks beyond the bleachers shoving nickels into slots?
Besides the gambling issue, the Las Vegas area is relatively small, with about 1.5 million people in it's metropolitan area. The smallest market in baseball currently has a quarter million more (Milwaukee). To an extent, all teams pull in fans from outside just their metro area. The Bay Area metro area, consisting of the nine counties around the bay, is just shy of 7 million, but that ignores Santa Cruz county, the Sacramento area and the Central Valley. There's almost no population in the extended area around Las Vegas. The nearest reasonably large city is Bakersfield.
Vegas boosters point to a very fast growth rate, noting that the metropolitan population almost doubled from 1990 to 2000, without realizing that's not an unqualified benefit. Arrivals from other areas often have loyalty to teams from where they moved, and many will not switch loyalties just because a new team has moved into town.
Also, the median income of the Las Vegas area is rather low. Certainly not in the league of the Bay Area. Gaming is profitable, but that profit goes to a very few individuals and corporations.
Las Vegas might be a good destination for the Devil Rays, a team so deep in the recesses of it's own mismanagement that hitting on 16 seems like a good play, but not for the A's.