Monday, April 1, 2024

Red Sox and A's Fans Are No Fools

OAKLAND — Remember the good old days when a Red Sox-A’s game in Oakland used to mean something?

When the Red Sox completed a three-game sweep of the defending World Champion A’s here in 1975, the first time the Red Sox won a post-season series since 1918. Carl Yastrzemski made two great defensive plays in leftfield in front of a crowd of 49,358.

When Boston pitcher Roger Clemens took the mound wearing eye black under his eyes and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shoelaces on his spikes in a must-win playoff game in 1990 and still couldn’t beat Dave Stewart. Clemens got ejected in the second inning by issuing an expletive-laced double dog dare directed at home plate umpire Terry Cooney.

When Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe recorded the final out to cap a Boston comeback from a 2-0 games deficit in the best-of-five ALCS series in 2003 by looking at the A’s dugout and grabbing his crotch. It caused Miguel Tejada to practically cry in the clubhouse later angered by what he thought was a classless act.

When the A’s beat the Red Sox 20-2 in Oakland in 2012 during the Bobby Valentine Error. Valentine was late arriving at the ballpark for that game, but at least he showed up because the Red Sox pitchers apparently didn’t.

When Sean Manaea threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox on April 21, 2018 after Boston opened the season with a 15-1 record and wound up winning the World Series. A crowd of 25,746 was on hand that night. It sounded like 45,000.

“The playoff atmosphere here is better than any in baseball and I’ve experienced a number of different playoff atmospheres,” former A’s player and current Cleveland Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said last week. “The Oakland Coliseum packed at playoff time is tough to beat.”

The only thing that is packed at the Oakland Coliseum these days is the ice for the overpriced beer if you are lucky to find a concession stand open in the ballpark. On the upper concourses, the ballpark has the feel of a tomb. 

And it’s only going to get worse.

Whereas a Red Sox-A’s game in Oakland used to routinely attract crowds of 20,000 plus, only 18,166 fans showed up for the THREE game series this week, according to the A’s. The A’s announced that Wednesday’s paid crowd was 6,436 — which would make it smallest crowd ever for a Red Sox-A’s game in Oakland since the A’s moved here in 1968 —but it looked from my vantage point to be closer to 10,000, obviously not great, but a truer count. Perhaps the A’s are purposely giving false or lower attendance figures to support the case of villainous team owner John Fisher to cut ties with Oakland. He has said the Oakland Coliseum is not viable MLB location.

“That’s bullshit,” said one longtime A’s fan. “It was good enough for 60 years, four World Series titles and countless memories for me, some of them, the few, and the only ones of my dad, my coach, and my friend.”

In other words, John Fisher has ripped out the heart of all A’s fans. There will be no lease extension to keep the A’s in Oakland for a few more years and the owner has every intention not to sell the team and will move it to Las Vegas. Until then, the A's beginning next season will be playing their home games in a minor league ballpark in Sacramento which seems fitting since, under Fisher's watch, the A's have downsized to a minor league-looking roster en route to their third consecutive 100-loss season.

This is the saddest news in minor league sports since told Joe McGrath told Reg Dunlop the Charlestown Chiefs will be sold.

“We explored several location for a temporary home, including the Oakland Coliseum,” Fisher said Thursday morning in a press release by the team. “Even with the standing relationship and good intentions on all side of negotiations with Oakland, the conditions to achieve an agreement seemed out to reach. We understand the disappointment of this news brings to our fans, as this season marks our final one in Oakland. Throughout this season, we will honor and celebrate our time in Oakland, and we will share additional details soon.”


After negotiations between the A’s and the city officials broke down on Tuesday morning to extend the team’s lease at the Oakland Coliseum, an inner stadium memo surfaced before Tuesday night’s game that included this edict: “If you see anything that says `Rooted in Oakland’ it must be taken down immediately … Try not to highlight product that focuses on the name ‘Oakland’ ”

Excuse me, Mr. Fisher. Honor and celebrate our time in Oakland???!!! By not focusing on the name Oakland???!!!


When A's owner Charlie Finley tried to sell off his star players in 1976 (Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers were sold to the Red Sox for $1 million apiece) but MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn vetoed it by evoking the "in the best interests of baseball" clause.

Would Bowie Kuhn have allowed John Fisher to lease his team to a minor league stadium that has only 10,63 seats in the best interests of baseball? Where is Rob Manfield? Hello?

Why not call Derek Lowe and ask him to grab his crotch again in Oakland?

There is plenty of finger pointing. The City of Oakland and County of Alameda sold their souls to Al Davis in 1995 to bring the Raiders back to Oakland and the city and county has never gotten out from under the financial burden of that decision. That move led to the erection of Mt. Davis in the Oakland Coliseum and the erosion of it as a baseball ballpark.

The A’s, however, remained competitive. They developed players and a strategy to compete with the best of the higher payroll teams. That, of course, led to a romantic baseball movie in 2011 with Brad Pitt playing Billy Beane, the most lopsided trade in A’s history.

Since then John Fisher bought the A’s and the City of Oakland and County of Alameda couldn’t build him a new ballpark, the biggest mismatch in A's history.

Thus the A’s went from Moneyball to Out Of Moneyball. Now it’s official. They are on their way out of town.

This has been the worse week in Oakland A’s history. On Monday night -- April Fool's Day --  only 6,618 fans showed up for the first game of a three-game series against the Red Sox, normally a big attraction in the Oakland Coliseum. Maybe they stayed home to watch the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Elite Eight games on TV and who could blame them? Caitlin Clark vs. Angel Reese and Paige Bueckers vs. JuJu Watkins had more star power than Red Sox vs. A’s.

It was probably 60/40 Red Sox fans at the start of the game, but, by the fourth inning, it was treading toward 100 percent Sox supporters. The A’s committed five errors and the Red Sox scored eight runs in the first three innings and Oakland fans were stretching to leave before the seventh inning.

After the game, the A's postgame radio talk show was bombarded by calls from fans who were angered by the team's sudden demotion of centerfielder Esteury Ruiz, one of the A's most exciting player who led the team in stolen bases last year. He was 3-for-7 this season with a double and triple yet the A's sent him down to the minors. A's fans suspected it was because he was seen on social media wearing a "Sell The Team" bracelet.

On Tuesday, team ownership and/or their representatives met with city leaders for Oakland to negotiate a lease extension to allow the A's to play in the Oakland Coliseum before they moved to Sin City. They were about as far apart as the moon and the sun in non-eclipse year.

 Then on Wednesday afternoon, fans in right field sat behind a sign that read "Empty Seats By Design" and chanted "Sell The Team." They stayed for the whole game which ended with a shutout loss.

Still, while the A’s situation has slipped from depressing to despair, the Red Sox are on the verge of an Unsweetened Caroline season. Not good. Not good. Not good.

Like A’s fans, Red Sox fans have been become disenchanted with team ownership, which has become invisible and seemingly disinterested in the franchise. These are not the Larry Lucchino (God rest his soul) vs. The Evil Empire Days when the Red Sox tried to keep up with their rivals instead of keeping a budget. Like the A’s, the Red Sox don’t appear overly committed to improving the product on the field through Red Sox chairman Tom Werner proclaimed last November the team would be going “full throttle” to build a championship team.

He must have been driving a golf cart.

Lest we forget the Red Sox and A’s are two proud franchises that competed for championships for five decades. Now,  with the posturing at press conferences and the decisions they make and the pennies they spend in free agency, they appear content to finish in last place.

The Red Sox might climb out of the cellar. The A’s would need an elevator now. Remember when the A in A’s stood for amazing? Now it stands for Apathy. Other than the few loyal A’s fans who still show up in rightfield, there is no flag-waving or drum-beating in the outfield. No intensity in the ballpark. No reason to root for a team being uprooted.

They have a bank of memories, and nothing else.

“But going back to the past, they had good teams, rowdy fans, playoff atmosphere. For everything they talk about — Moneyball and all that stuff — they were really good in every aspect of the game. They pitch. They have good defense. They have good offense,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before Monday night’s game. “They transformed baseball. We’re talking about closers. We’re talking about sabermetrics. We’re talking about defense and all that. They were one step ahead of everybody else.

“It’s a shame they are going through this.”

Hence, it didn’t come as a shock when the A’s attracted only 13,522 fans to their Opening Day last Thursday followed by a crowd of 3,837 the next night even though the As have a Friday night ticket special of four tickets plus parking starting at $49.


At least the Red Sox will sellout their Opening Day in Fenway Park, but they are trending down in attendance. Though they have finished last in the AL East three times in the last four years, the team raised ticket prices again this season.

According to, the Red Sox now have the second highest cost in Major League Baseball for a family of four  —  four game tickets plus concessions (two beers, two sodas, four hotdogs) —  for the 2023 season with an average of $321.25. Only the L.A. Dodgers are more expensive. The A’s are 21st.

The biggest difference between the A’s and Red Sox is Boston has ballpark, Fenway Park, that will forever be a source of attraction for all baseball fans from New England and beyond. They have the famed Green Monster. The Oakland Coliseum has monster truck shows as a big draw.

But the Fenway effect is waning. After the Red Sox last won a World Series in 2018, the team drew an average crowd of 36,107 to Fenway Park during the 2019 season. Last season, that average dropped to 32,989 and if the team stumbles to another last place finish in the division this year the average attendance for a home game in Boston may drop under 30,000 for the first time since 1998 when they finished 22 games behind the Yankees.

Back in 2014, the Red Sox-A’s four-game series drew almost 120,000 fans, the last time more than 100,000 fans attended a Boston/Oakland series in the Coliseum. Neither team made the playoffs that year. In fact the Red Sox and A’s haven’t met in the playoffs in almost 20 years and it might be another 20 before they do again.

The state of MLB baseball in Oakland and Boston have something in common. Both teams in recent years have succeeded in doing the same thing: Lowering expectations.

At what cost? The Red Sox have some expectations. The A’s now have none. Well, one: To honor and celebrate our time in Oakland.


Blogger Sharkthrower said...

Great column! It is truly what Fisher has done to this once proud franchise. I grew up listening to every game on the radio in the 70's. We put up with Charles O. Finley who had an eye for talent but was otherwise a horrible owner, but Fisher makes Finley look good. I attended World Series games in the 70's and in 89'. When my son was born, we went to a ton of games including #20 in a row, then went to Moneyball together to look for us seated in row 21. The ALDS Game 4 vs. Detroit was the craziest, loudest sports event from start to finish that I have ever witnessed. We were there again the next day, the A's could not close the deal, but I will never forget the A's sellout crowd drowning out the Tigers celebration on our field with thunderous cheering for the A's and "Let's Go Oakland" after a season-ending loss! Thanks for the memories...Sharkthrower

April 4, 2024 at 4:03 PM  

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