Friday, June 3, 2022

Will Someone Please Save The Oakland A's?


Growing up in San Rafael as the son of major league baseball player Will Venable can’t remember ever attending an Oakland Athletics’ game at the Oakland Coliseum just 30 miles away.

However, as the Boston Red Sox bench coach stood by himself in centerfield during the team’s batting practice on Friday, he probably got a sense of what it would be like to be a fan at A’s game. You are pretty much alone with your thoughts.

Given Venable was considered a candidate last year to become the A’s new manager he probably is having second thoughts now. Why would a Princeton educated man like Venable ever want a job working for an organization that has gutted the team of its superstars and let its ballpark rot at the core, along with its loyal fan base? Barring a miracle, the A’s, who have a slightly higher inventory now than the Dollar Store, will eventually move to Las Vegas to a shining new ballpark that offers a spectacular view of The Strip from home plate as compared to their current view from home plate, Mt. Davis, the Berlin Wall of Baseball that separates fact from fiction.

The fact is Oakland and Alameda County have become baseball’s purgatory where the A’s have the worst home record and worst home attendance this season in the major leagues averaging 7,547 fans per game through their first 27 games, slightly more than the Las Vegas Aviators, their Triple A team, which is averaging about 6,800 per game. The A’s are just trying to remain formidable on the field with a rebuilt roster that hands out “Hello, My Name Is -------” tags at the clubhouse door.

“It’s a place that is tough to come and play because of who you face and who you are playing,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before his team opened a three-game weekend series in Oakland. “But as a team you have to block that stuff out and show up and play. Regardless, if it’s 50,000 people here or 4,000 people here, you have a job to do.”

Friday night’s crowd was a respectable 17,852, drawn in great part to the ballpark for the free post-game fireworks show. Of course, the patrons had to pay $30 to park in the half empty parking lot to see them on top of a 40 percent increase in ticket prices this season. It was the A’s largest crowd of the season, but the first time in the last 10 home games that attendance has been more than 10, 000. On Wednesday, the announced crowd at the A’s-Astros game was 5,189, but, to the naked eye, there must have been 4,000 fans hiding in the bathrooms when they counted.

In past years a Red Sox-A’s game in Oakland would draw upwards of 40,000 when both teams were loaded with talent and promise and competing for pennants. Were that still the case if would have created a utopia of excitement this Sunday with the Golden State Warriors hosting the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals across the plaza from the Oakland A’s-Boston Red Sox game. But the Warriors no longer play in Oracle Arena, having moved to San Francisco, and the A’s are bound for Las Vegas, which is willing and able to invest more in a ballpark and a team than Oakland is.

Instead, the A’s and their fans on Sunday will likely be subjected to another embarrassing event when the visiting team’s fans outnumber the home team’s fans. This adds to a dirty laundry list of complaints coming out of the Coliseum ranging from cat feces, moth infestation, cobwebs, broken seats, and plumbing and water leaks. A possum snuck into the press box this season through a ceiling panel. The Coliseum feels more like a wildlife refuge than a real major league ballpark these days. A proposed $12 billion waterfront ballpark project at the Howard Terminal is meeting public opposition.

What are the A’s to do? Their players are paid to show up and be professionals, but most of their fans are unwilling to pay to show up to see them and have become prognosticators and the future is bleak. Pyrotechnics are more of an attraction than their pitchers to come to the ballpark and A’s hitters have the lowest home batting average in the big leagues.

There is not a lot to like about the Oakland A’s. And that’s a shame.

As one A's employee told me, "It's way more than a fire sale. It's complete dismantling of a franchise."