Wednesday, March 25, 2009
A's owner shows he's far removed from fan base
ShysterBall points to a canny column from Ann Killion about A's owner Lew Wolff picking a bad time to trash his product:
Wolff interrupted the building anticipation of spring training with a dismissive snub to his team's hometown. In a news release, Wolff complained about having "no interest in covering old ground" with Oakland and included a withering description of the Coliseum as an "aging and shared facility." A few days later, Wolff backtracked and said his "real intent wasn't to insult Oakland."
But the real damage was done to his own team. And his action has sports people around the Bay Area scratching their heads.
The timing of the missive -- a few weeks before opening day -- was baffling. By Wolff's own admission, season-ticket sales are down for a team that finished in 27th place in average attendance last season. The economy is in tatters. Almost anyone considering buying tickets to a ballgame could be easily talked out of such an expenditure.
Wolff's release was followed by immediate reports of A's meetings in Las Vegas, which Wolff tried to quell. But he has tossed the Las Vegas location around in conversation in the past. Las Vegas leads the nation in home foreclosures and its citizens probably aren't too interested in being used as leverage in a stadium game.
As Killion goes on to note, the turnaround for the Giants began long before they got their shiny new ballpark, and had a lot to do with new ownership that actually tried to improve and promote the product they had rather than simply run it down in the hopes of getting something better.
The A's have improved their on-the-field product going into 2009, and should be doing everything they can to make the experience of attending a game in Oakland as good as it can be. The fans aren't idiots. Having a nice time in the old Coliseum and not feeling like a dope for enjoying themselves isn't going to blind them to the A's need for a better ballpark. In fact, it may just make them support a new ballpark even more.
I don't have much to add here. Except that when the A's won 93 games in 2006, they didn't draw 2 million fans and ranked 12th in the American League in attendance. Lousy ballpark? Sure. But the A's did draw more than 2 million in 2002 and in 2003, and they also won the West both years. In 1990, they drew nearly 3 million. Same city, same ballpark (and yes, I know about Mount Davis).
I'm not going to blame Lew Wolff's pronouncements for the Athletics' poor attendance, in either the past or the future (and the A's attendance this year will most assuredly be poor, again). I suspect that their poor attendance in recent seasons has more to do with the exodus of star players than anything else. But it's a vicious circle. The A's lose their stars, and the fans stay away, and the owner rips the city and the ballpark, and more fans stay away, and more stars are lost
At some point, the owner is supposed to step in and say, "You know what? Our situation might not be ideal, but we're going to be here for a while so let's make the best of it. After all, we're all in this together."
But I guess when you're a billionaire, it's not easy to think that way. Because deep in his heart, Lew Wolff knows we're not all in it together.