San Francisco Giants’ Sean Manaea pitches against the Kansas City Royals in the second inning, Saturday, April 8, 2023, at Oracle Park in San Francisco, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
SAN FRANCISCO – Left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea remembers starting for the Oakland A’s in the 2019 American League Wild Card game against the Tampa Bay Rays, looking around, and seeing the Coliseum filled to near-capacity with a rabid crowd of 54,005 on hand.
“That’s the crazy part,” Manaea said. “It’s usually never packed but when it is, it’s one of the coolest places in all of sports.”
That’s what made the A’s announcement earlier this week, that they had reached a land deal in Las Vegas as a precursor to a potential move to that city, so heartbreaking for Manaea, who spent six mostly successful years in Oakland before he was traded to the San Diego Padres last April.
The A’s could be out of the city by the end of next season when their lease at the Coliseum expires.
“It’s very unfortunate,” said Manaea, now in his first full season with the San Francisco Giants. “It makes me sad thinking that they’re moving to Vegas. I mean, I love Oakland.”
The Giants issued a brief statement to NBC Bay Area on Friday about the A’s land deal in Las Vegas, saying, “The A’s are such a big part of Bay Area baseball history, the East Bay and greater community. If this comes to be it will be a loss not only for A’s fans but for all baseball fans.”
NEW: #SFGiants response to #Athletics proposed move to #LasVegas. “The A’s are such a big part of Bay Area baseball history, the East Bay and greater community. If this comes to be it will be a loss not only for A’s fans but for all baseball fans.” @NBCSAthletics
— Raj Mathai (@rajmathai) April 22, 2023
The statement echoed what Giants CEO Larry Baer told KNBR on Thursday afternoon.
Baer said his first job in baseball was with the A’s during Charlie Finley’s tenure as owner, and noted that some Giants personnel also have ties to the franchise.
Play-by-play voice Jon Miller was an announcer for the A’s in 1974, when they won their third straight World Series, and President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi worked in Oakland’s front office from 2005 to 2014.
“The whole thing with the (A’s) franchise, if all this does come to pass, it is really, really too bad,” Baer said. “Because the franchise itself has been so strong and such a big part of the East Bay Community and the greater community for a long time.”
Of course, the A’s might already have a long-term home in the Bay Area if the Giants had allowed their cross-bay rival to move to San Jose last decade.
The A’s showed a serious interest in relocating to the South Bay roughly 10 years ago, securing a site for a new ballpark and passing an environmental impact report. But the move was rejected by then-MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, as the Giants did not want to relinquish their territorial rights to Santa Clara County.
In June 2013, San Jose sued MLB, challenging its longtime antitrust exemption. But the lawsuit failed, as did an appeal.
“I feel like I’m kind of desensitized to any and all news that comes out,” said New York Mets outfielder Mark Canha, a San Jose native who played for the A’s from 2015 to 2021.
“Probably just because I was with the A’s and was a Bay Area resident while with the A’s, and they’ve been talking about this for years. So I think I have the unique perspective of really being kind of flooded with this information.”
Canha said he never met A’s owner John Fisher, but had spent time with his family at a charity bowling event.
“I feel for the fans,” Canha said. “Those fans, those lifers, those people that come out every day, sitting in right field or behind the dugout. I know some of those people personally and they’re always so good to their own and so good to the players and they’re so devoted to the team. I feel for them.
“It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that Oakland — I don’t know if it’s a fact yet — but the idea that Oakland might not have a sports team in a few years, it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Manaea said he grew to appreciate the run-down Coliseum, where the A’s have played since 1968.
“It’s not the prettiest of ballparks. It’s not the cleanest or any of that stuff,” Manaea said. “But it’s got a lot of love, got a lot of character and it’s very much a homey kind of place. I loved every aspect of it. The cramped quarters and not-so-nice facilities, but to me, that’s what makes it cool and special.
“When you have cool people around, you don’t really need much of anything else.”
The A’s made the playoffs three times, from 2018 to 2020, when both Canha and Manaea were on the roster.
“It was fun to be part of those teams,” Manaea said. “A lot of downs out, a lot of ups, but that was incredible. It kind of felt like a high school-ish team but at the big-league level. No one ever expected us to do anything cool, the stuff that we did, and I think that speaks to (Bob Melvin), David (Forst) and Billy (Beane) on down. That’s kind of the culture that we built. It was awesome.”
“I just liked the atmosphere of the Coliseum,” Canha said, “even if there were only 5,000 people in the stands.”