Opinion: John Fisher couldn’t hide how he failed Oakland A’s

Opinion: John Fisher couldn’t hide how he failed Oakland A’s

John Fisher is a notorious media recluse.

So reading Fisher’s words for the first time since he bought the Oakland A’s 18 years ago felt like a fever dream.

His canned comments in a Q&A with the Las Vegas Journal Review and team-affiliated NBC Bay Area made clear why Fisher hid from the public eye. Even the friendliest media questioning reveals him to be the entitled and out-of-touch owner many drew him up to be.

One answer to a question by NBC’s Raj Mathai — a TV interview that Fisher oddly mandated not air him actually speaking — was particularly illuminating in light of Fisher’s attempts to relocate the A’s to Las Vegas after decades of operating an unnecessarily low-budget operation.

“Are you the right guy to be an owner of any franchise?” Mathai asked.

“I don’t think being an owner of a franchise is like being a politician,” Fisher said.

Fisher didn’t even have to say it on record. It’s always been clear he felt entitled to a shiny new ballpark with a multi-billion dollar development, and had no interest in playing the political game necessary to win over potential new neighbors and local officials. That entitlement likely killed every new ballpark proposal on arrival.

In 2005, Fisher bought a big market team with Lew Wolff headed up by a revolutionary baseball mind in Billy Beane, refused to invest in the team, put together haphazard ballpark proposals and turned Oakland into a small market hellscape. And now he’s demanding a get-out-of-jail-free card to Vegas.

Team president Dave Kaval pointed to the Raiders and Warriors departures from Oakland and the 49ers departure from San Francisco as indications the local governments are to blame for teams abandoning their homes. It’s fair to bring to light the complex hurdles Bay Area cities have to get anything built. It’s also worth noting which ownership groups and presidents had the pull to get it done without a tantrum.

The Warriors navigated failed proposals to build at Piers 30 and 32 with a lucky break when team owner Joe Lacob got a call from a friend, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, to sell him an unwanted plot of land in San Francisco on which Chase Center now sits. President Rick Welts won a lawsuit against and eventually won over a “Mission Bay Alliance” of organized opponents — similar to the A’s foe “East Bay Stadium Alliance” that Kaval claims killed Howard Terminal.

Since Kaval took over as president in 2016, the A’s have only pointed fingers and deflected blame on the city and their opponents for their inability to get their future neighbors and local officials on their side. Fisher used the interview to make flimsy claims that Oakland is not fit for baseball because they’re hemorrhaging money, desperate for revenue sharing checks, playing in a rundown Coliseum with low attendance. Translation: He wants pity for his self-inflicted wounds.

The A’s failed to get Peralta board voters on their side for a proposed Laney College site, ultimately killing it. At Howard Terminal they succumbed to lawsuits and public battles with local officials. Minutes obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle from the 1990 owners meetings suggest the Giants’ territorial rights in San Jose were contingent on the Giants building a ballpark there. Why didn’t Fisher, who holds a Master’s degree from Stanford Business School, think to look into this if he was serious about getting a ballpark built?

Fisher came out from under his rock with an agenda: To spruce up their pitch to MLB’s relocation committee and the public that Oakland isn’t good enough for his money or time anymore, and he’ll open up the bountiful Fisher Family trust for a real baseball town like Las Vegas.

Then Fisher’s credibility all came crashing down during a few throwaway questions. The San Francisco native had more to say about the Giants than the A’s in both long-winded interviews.

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“I started going to baseball games before I can even remember because my grandparents were huge San Francisco Giants fans,” he told the Las Vegas Journal Review. “They would take my brothers and me to the games, but I have to admit I probably liked the cotton candy and Red Vines licorice more than necessarily liking the games.”

Not only does he concede to not liking baseball much, but he’s blithely unaware that the Giants love fest doesn’t go over well in Oakland A’s territory. No one feels more “little brother’d” by San Franciscans than Oaklanders.

Fisher little brother’d the A’s over the last 18 years and he’s so out of touch with the team he owns he didn’t even realize it. Now we know why he never speaks.