Over the past five years, the A’s have been in a state of regression as they struggle with just about everything from facilities, to players, to attendance. They can’t get players to sign with them even when they do put out the best offer on the table, because they have crappy facilities. Players like Beltre and Furcal just use them as leverage for other teams who are offering them smaller or nearly the same contracts. The A’s want a new stadium yet Lew Wolff refuses to negotiate with the Oakland officials anymore than he already has, and they have been pushed to the back-burners by the MLB committee looking into their situation of moving. Their lineup is scattered with quadruple-A players, and there’s probably only a dozen A’s fans left (judging by attendance). I figured I’d break down the key issues with the team, and help get the word out on how dire our situation is. I know I’ve ranted about these issues a few times, but I figured I should put them all together to let everyone know what is what and draw your own conclusion on who is to blame. It’ll be my last post about it for awhile, I swear!
It’s strange how you come to different conclusions as time passes. Personally I enjoy the coliseum, and feel it has a little charm left even after they built the funny looking Mt. Davis for the Raiders games. It’s not a problem that they share the stadium with a football team, the problem is that the coliseum is in the ghetto, and there’s not much around the stadium. Jack London Square is cool and all, but it’s not the city. Many residents would rather go to a Giants game and talk about garlic fries while sending out e-mails on their blackberries. Can I blame them? Not really since they don’t care about the game anyways. Seriously, would you rather sit at PacBell or O.co Coliseum if you don’t care about the game? Easy answer. A’s fans at the games are great fans. The problem is there’s barely any fans going, and there’s nothing to do in that area, except maybe unload a few freight containers. In a time where your stadium needs to be connected to a mall and be in a thriving downtown-like area, the A’s don’t stand a chance in increasing attendance. Will the A’s move to San Jose to get a stadium built? After reading this brilliant piece by Howard Bryant on ESPN, I doubt it will happen anytime soon, and may never happen with the Giants trying to force the A’s into contraction (that’s what it feels like at least).
Pre-Mount Davis Coliseum
Nowadays players want to be treated like Mark Cuban treats the Mavs (state of the art training equipment and state of the art electronics everywhere). The coliseum was built back when players were allowed to smoke during the game in the dugouts. That should say everything about how dated the facilities are. Maybe that’s a reason why we seem to set records yearly for DL usage. As I said, I don’t dislike the coliseum, but if we need a new stadium to get our guys healthy and help us attract offensive players in free agency, I’m 100% for it.
About three years ago we thought we were heading to Freemont in what seemed like a done deal. I wasn’t excited, but wasn’t totally against it since we didn’t seem to have any other options. The deal fell apart for a few reasons, and from what I heard it was because there wasn’t solid BART access which put the A’s back to square one. This was probably the only time I really felt bad for Wolff during the process, because he spent around $30M of his own money getting that proposal in the works.
The Giants and Media Marketing
With the World Series win last year the Bay Area is owned by the Giants at the moment. They’ve always had more fans than the A’s, but now it’s ridiculously lopsided as all the sort of fans have jumped on their bandwagon. It’s almost impossible to find info on the A’s in the papers or on TV. The Giants are dominating the market as much as you can in a two team market. Hell, at the beginning of the year I could barely find a radio station that even talks about the A’s. Is this Lew Wolff’s plan to slowly make everyone not care about this team by spending $1 on advertising for every $100,000 the Giants spend? Seems like the strategy is working as attendance keeps dipping. It’s not like Lew Wolff is poor, I hear him and Fishcer have a net worth over a billion, but they don’t seem to put a dime of that into marketing this team. I’m not sure what I hate more about this fact that the Giants are the Bay Area team or that Lew Wolff isn’t really putting up a fight.
It’s no secret Lew Wolff desperately wants to move out of Oakland and preferably to San Jose, but the Giants own the territorial rights. A little over a decade ago when Pac Bell park was in the works, the A’s then owner gave them the rights to the south as a gentlemen’s agreement to give them some leverage to get their stadium built. Unfortunately the same situation has come up for the A’s, yet the Giants refuse to relinquish those rights back to the A’s. How does moving from 15 miles away from the Giants to 60 miles away from them hurt their market more? Tough for me to answer that as I’m no financial guru. I do know that the Giants want to be big spenders like the Yankees and Red Sox, which at this point seems like it could happen if Wolff keeps tightening his wallet and the Giants keep the A’s out of San Jose. Seems like the Giants could return the favor, and maybe that would even open Oakland back up to the point where they negotiate again. Right now with no real ability to threaten to leave, the city of Oakland doesn’t have to scramble and put together a good stadium deal…
I’ve found it comical how people are blaming Billy Beane for the A’s lack of success on the field. Maybe it’s because the movie Moneyball is coming out, and people want to knock him off the proverbial pedestal, but it’s got to be tough to build a team when you’re constantly in limbo. Sure we could’ve kept Ethier and Cargo, but almost all Beane’s moves at the time made sense to me, so he gets a pass for those two. In any kind of business you need a plan, and as of right now there are no long term plans with this team, so it makes his job nearly impossible to succeed at, which is why I’ll give Beane a pass until we know more than a year into the future. Hell our contract with the coliseum agreement is up after this season, so we might not even have a stadium next year! Hopefully they don’t play in the parking lot… When you’re a GM and have no idea what the future holds, it’s impossible to map a team strategy out. We’ve always done a lot of one year contracts, but we usually lock up a couple guys, and that hasn’t been happening. Personally, I blame the unstable future. Based on some of the contracts that Beane has offered to top free agents, he is serious about fielding a good team. Unfortunately, we end up with a lot of new guys or castoffs, because the “premium” free agents don’t come here because they can get paid the same elsewhere where they have better facilities. Even with all the Dodgers problems, at least they know they’re staying in LA. The A’s have relatively no idea when or where this team will be in three to five years. Hopefully it’s not still at square one where they are today or I might be forced to give up on baseball all together.
Side rant: The only thing I’m still pissed about with BB is the fact he let Ron Washington go. I said a couple years ago before Texas started being the class of the AL West, losing Washington might curse us. He was a players coach and instead we got a non-players coach in Geren. How could he let go of the coach that EVERYONE in the locker room loved? He made the players want to play, and kept the locker room relaxed and loose, you can’t put a price on that. If I could only ask Billy one question, it would be why we let Wash go instead of giving him the keys to the car.
I guess this is who I blame at the moment for our purgatory status. The MLB made a three man committee that Bud Selig appointed to sort out this whole mess over two years ago. According to Selig, it might take awhile longer to make sense of all the options in this dispute. I’ve already vented about it, so I won’t tell you how ridiculous it is that it’s taken over two years since he appointed the committee. Yes, there’s tons of issues, involved in crunching the numbers and projecting the effects on each community, but they’re building Farmer’s Field in LA without even having a team here! You’d think he could give everyone in the A’s front office an update or two on the progress at least. If you needed another reason to hate Selig here it is. 75 CEO’s in San Jose wrote up a letter telling him why he should approve the A’s move to San Jose, and how it would work financially. They are currently the 10th largest city in the US (surprising to me), and seem to want to help fund the building of the stadium. So what does Selig do when he recieves this letter from some of the richest men in the US? He ignores it, and doesn’t respond. Is it because they aren’t Jewish? Is it because he loves the Giants? Is it because he’s senile and doesn’t even remember reading the petition/letter showing where and how they would acquire land and funds to build the park? Only Selig could answer that, and based on how he’s treated us the past couple years, I doubt we’ll ever hear an answer to that petition.
It feels like there’s a lot of people to blame for this mess. Again, I wrote this more to inform everyone out there of our situation rather than blame a certain person or people, it’s been a group effort to ruin this proud franchise. The A’s have some great fans, but unfortunately I’ve heard more than a few recently say “it’s just easier to follow the Giants”. I don’t like bringing up the movie Major League when it’s referencing my team, but it feels like all the forces in the league are against us, and one or more of these crooks is trying to get rid of the A’s in Oakland at least. We can’t attract free agents because our facilities suck, our owner doesn’t want to stay in Oakland or negotiate with the city for a new stadium, Selig and his merry men don’t seem to give two craps about us, and the Giants would rather see the A’s die a slow death than give them the territorial rights that the A’s gave them for nothing less than two decades ago. Talk about the odds being stacked against you! It will be a Billy Beane led miracle if this team makes the playoffs anytime soon.