The Las Vegas-born Phillies stars would choose the expansion team over the A’s

PHOENIX – You were born in Las Vegas, grew up in Las Vegas and still live in Las Vegas.

They’ve become ardent fans of the Vegas Golden Knights, the city’s first professional franchise, who frequent NHL games during the winter, and wished they were there to celebrate with the rest of town on Tuesday night when they hosted the Stanley Cup won.

Soon, their friends and family will be able to watch them play in person as the Philadelphia Phillies roll through their hometown.

Well, pardon Phillies MVP Bryce Harper and shortstop Bryson Stott for not sharing the excitement of Nevada residents at Wednesday night’s news that the Oakland A’s are all but officially moving to Vegas.

Harper and Stott don’t like it.

They are skeptical, even cynical, that the franchise will have any chance of succeeding in their hometown.

“I feel sorry for the Oakland fans,” Harper told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s just not right. You have so much history in Oakland. You lead a team from a city. I’m quite saddened by all the history and all the awesomeness they saw there.

“I see the A’s as Oakland.

“I don’t see them as Vegas.”

The A’s plan to move to Las Vegas became almost a formality when the Nevada State Assembly and State Senate approved legislation to spend up to $380 million in public funds to build a new ballpark on the Las Vegas Strip. The bill now awaits approval from Gov. Joe Lombardo, a strong supporter of the bill.

It will be official once MLB owners vote on the move plan, which is expected to be unanimously approved by the 30 owners.

“We’d rather see an expansion team than a relocated team,” Scott said. “That’s why the fans are so crazy about the Knights. It’s the first team from Vegas. It’s ours. It was pretty easy for people to be attracted to it. Vegas wasn’t a big hockey town. is that now

“But in baseball, there are people in town who like the Dodgers, the Angels, the Padres and the Diamondbacks. It will be a few generations before they have a true baseball fan base. “I’m sure they will sell tickets to guest fans and that’s probably the only thing that interests them.”

Stott points to the Raiders, who averaged 62,045 fans last season, which was only 30thth among the 32 NFL teams playing in the 40th-biggest market.

“I’ve been to a lot of their games,” Stott said. “Best case scenario, it’s 50-50 Raiders fans and whoever they’re playing. “They sell tickets but want to have their own fans in the stadium.”

Also, it’s not like Las Vegas inherits a winner. The A’s, along with the Kansas City Royals, have the worst record in baseball. They have the smallest payroll in MLB at $58 million. And they’re still years away from even remotely approaching a playoff team.

“That’s why it should have been an expansion franchise, not the A’s,” Harper said. “Look at the Knights, they won the cup but they were an expansion franchise. You were born in Vegas, as people would say. It’s the first team to come to Vegas. I don’t think you can really keep up with that.

“It’s just going to be tough for these guys. It was tough for the Raiders last year. People thought the Raiders would be successful. Maybe they will be, but you have to build a following. These 5 and 6 year olds will grow up as Raiders fans or A fans, and by the time they are 16 or 17 they will have fans.

“And they better spend money to win.

“Vegas loves a winner.”

The Phillies will experience the heartache of fans firsthand this weekend when they play a three-game series against the A’s at the Oakland Coliseum. The A’s have a lease at the Coliseum through 2024, but who knows where they’ll stay until a ballpark can be built by 2028?

Who knows, it could be the last time Harper and the Phillies play the A’s again at the Coliseum.

“These fans are so passionate, they bleed green,” Harper said. “I’m not sure what they’re going to be like or how they’re going to be in Vegas, but it won’t be the same. Pretty small market. “The 30,000 seat stadium helps a little but at the same time I will be quite sad that they are moving because of all the history and all the awesomeness they saw there.”

Former All-Star outfielder Dexter Fowler, a Las Vegas resident who won a World Series with the Chicago Cubs, shares the same sentiment, telling USA TODAY Sports that he wishes the A’s had just stayed in Oakland and would have had baseball field an expansion team in Las Vegas.

“I think Vegas should have had an expansion team,” Fowler said. “This is a small town with a big city feel. The people here love their home teams. If they want to do well here, they’d better put a better product on the field, spend a little more money, and show the fans that they’re committed to winning, not just being here.

“But I just feel so sorry for Oakland. They’ve already lost the Raiders to Vegas. Now this. These people are gonna hate Vegas.

“It’s like Vegas got us again!


Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale.

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