Rob Manfred rips Mayor Thao as MLB-Oakland relationship turns sour

Rob Manfred rips Mayor Thao as MLB-Oakland relationship turns sour originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

As the Athletics await a vote by MLB owners that would allow the franchise to leave Oakland for Las Vegas, all sides in the saga continue to play the blame game.

And after an assumedly amicable meeting between MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and Oakland mayor Sheng Thao at the 2023 All-Star break, during which Thao offered proof the city and the A's had been close to a Howard Terminal ballpark deal before the team pivoted to planning for Vegas, things have turned ugly.

In a recent interview with John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, Manfred seemed to place blame for the A's potential departure on Thao.

“I know everyone wants to pile on the A’s and pile on MLB,” Manfred told Shea. “But I do think, in fairness, people have to look at what Mayor Thao has done and not done. She’s great on ‘MLB did this wrong’ and ‘John Fisher did that wrong.’ Did she really handle this well? Don’t think so.”

Manfred previously told Shea that Thao's contingencies for the A's extending their current Coliseum lease -- which could include keeping the team's name in Oakland or even receiving an MLB expansion team -- were not discussed during their All-Star break meeting, though Thao's office told the Chronicle they were.

The commissioner seemed agitated at points of the interview, Shea noted, questioning Thao's "conduct" and suggesting she should shoulder some of the blame for Oakland losing yet another storied sports franchise after the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders and the NBA's Golden State Warriors left before her election.

"I understand that this is a rough time for Mayor Thao," Manfred told Shea. "It looks like she’s going to lose yet another franchise from the Bay Area. That’s unfortunate. That’s a tough spot to be in. But I think we’ve kind of gotten to the point where we need to point out that she’s not telling people the truth."

In response, Thao's chief of staff Leigh Hanson told Shea: "The mayor has been consistent in her commitment to keep the A’s in Oakland — for the generations of fans who continue to support them and for future generations to carry on the legacy of A’s baseball in our city. We will leave it to the fans to decide who’s telling the truth, Mayor Thao or Manfred. At this point, their reputations speak for themselves."

The A's have purchased land and secured public funding from the state of Nevada for a brand new baseball stadium along The Strip in Las Vegas, currently projected to open in 2028. MLB owners reportedly will vote on the relocation in mid-November, and the team will need 75 percent of team owners to vote in favor of the move.

The A's lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires after the 2024 MLB season. It's not clear where the team would play in the interim while the Las Vegas ballpark is built, although team president Dave Kaval recently listed the Coliseum, the home park for the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators and Oracle Park in San Francisco as the three most likely options.

While the team's future lies in the hands of the owners, it's a bit more clear where the relationship between Mayor Thao and Manfred is headed.