Oakland mayor takes big swing to keep A's, meets with MLB commissioner in Seattle

Wednesday, July 12, 2023
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- With all of Major League Baseball's power brokers traveling to the West Coast for the All-Star Game, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao decided it was time to take a big swing.

On Sunday, Oakland's 51st mayor boarded a plane to Seattle and headed to the Four Seasons where MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem were taking up temporary residence.

Equipped with a small pulley cart loaded with 31 thick documents, Mayor Thao wheeled Oakland's plans to keep the A's into a private meeting room and proceeded to clear the air with MLB's top officials. Manfred and Halem each received a copy of the documents and the other 30 were left to be distributed to MLB's owners.

The meeting, which lasted an hour, went well by all accounts. Oakland city officials including Chief of Staff Leigh Hanson, Howard Terminal Project manager Molly Maybrun and the Mayor's Chief of Communications Pati Navalta were also there to assist in providing information.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao (second from left) poses for photo with group that met with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in Seattle.

Manfred and Halem were able to get up to speed on Oakland's side of exactly where things stood with the A's before the parties walked away from negotiations in April. Questions were asked and answered. Contacts were exchanged. The Mayor and her staff flew back to Oakland later that night. The Oakland contingent even left the pully cart there to ease MLB's distribution of the stack of documents.

The meeting was a pivotal and necessary step after months of uncertainty as to whether the commissioner or mayor would be the first to pick up the phone. Commissioner Manfred had initially said he'd call Mayor Thao after she was elected and then never did. The A's had asked the mayor not to reach out directly to the commissioner during negotiations. It was a disconnect that lingered and is now solved.

EXCLUSIVE: Mayor Sheng Thao says she's fighting for A's to stay in Oakland
EXCLUSIVE: Mayor Sheng Thao says she's fighting for A's to stay in Oakland

Will this gesture alone help keep the A's in Oakland? Will it bring A's owner John Fisher back to the table? Probably not. But Commissioner Manfred would likely rather see Oakland solved than have a franchise uprooted and floundering for an indeterminate amount of years in minor league parks all while giving up a prime expansion market in Las Vegas. For that to happen, he needs to see that there's a path to success here. But he can't force the A's owner back into negotiations. MLB's commissioner works for the owners, after all. But if enough owners are queasy about relocation, this newly created line of communication could prove to be valuable.

ABC7 News has obtained a copy of the letter Mayor Thao wrote to Commissioner Manfred which you can read in full below.

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