As Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher deals with criticism from fans for tearing down the roster amid demands for a new stadium, he is now facing criticism from his fellow owners.
Oakland tore it down this offseason, tearing apart its roster after being a playoff contender for several years. As part of a complete rebuild, the Athletics traded away stars Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea.
While many of the trades strengthened the A’s farm system, there was another motivation behind the moves. Oakland cleared tens of millions of dollars off its payroll both in 2022 and long term. As a result, the A’s now have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.
- Oakland Athletics payroll: $47.99 million
All of this is happening at a time when MLB revenue is rising after the COVID-19 pandemic. The league signed multiple new TV rights contracts, including with Apple, creating billions of dollars in revenue over the next few years. It’s part of the reason why Fisher is seemingly causing frustration among fellow owners.
According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, multiple MLB owners are bothered by the Athletics using a fire sale to increase their profits while taking advantage of the league’s revenue-sharing system.
The Athletics weren’t always benefitting from revenue sharing. MLB phased them out as part of the 2016 CBA, but that changed when the league and MLB Players Association agreed on a new CBA this spring.
While the Athletics are no longer receiving the $30 million per year they once earned from MLB revenue sharing, they are slowly being phased back in as Susan Slusser and Matt Kawahara of The San Francisco Chronicle detailed.
- Oakland Athletics revenue sharing: 25% of full share in 2022, 50% in 2023, 75% in 2024, full share in 2025
MLB did include a stipulation, noting that Fisher’s club would only receive the additional share of the revenue if significant progress is made on building a new stadium. While there is some movement on that front, possible relocation to Las Vegas is still on the table.
There’s another factor in play here. After tearing down the roster and with a stadium that is falling apart, fans aren’t showing up. Fisher didn’t make things any easier on supporters of the team, increasing ticket prices this year.
- Oakland Athletics attendance: 8,283 average per game
MLB instituted higher shares of revenue, with the money provided by teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, to incentives smaller clubs to spend more money. Sold to fans as a move to improve balance in the sport, we’ve instead seen multiple owners use it to increase profits.
Ultimately, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to owners. Fisher isn’t the only one doing this, but the Athletics are seemingly taking it to a new level. With the MLB trade deadline approaching, the A’s will keep selling off high-paid talent and that will only help improve their bottom line in 2022.