Pick and choose your spots
The problem with having a 10-game homespan, like the one the A’s are on now, is that the casual fan has too many choices of games to attend. A fan might go to tonight’s game for the fireworks, with Dan Straily’s debut thrown in as a bonus. The same fan might go to one of two Wednesday day games to get $2 tickets in the warm sunshine. Or maybe a weekend game’s better because weekdays create scheduling conflicts, or because of the kid-oriented promotions on Saturday and Sunday.
It’s that range of choice that probably accounts somewhat for the somewhat disappointing turnout so far this homestand.
- Monday: 12,564
- Tuesday: 15,836
- Wednesday: 18,161
- Thursday: 10,823
Tonight’s attendance could surpass 30,000 because of fireworks night. Quantities of 2 or more tickets are tough to find except in some of the less desirable locations of each seating tier. There have been three Fireworks Fridays this season, and as you would expect, the attendance for all three has been much better than average.
- Game 21 vs. Yankees: 33,559
- Game 28 vs. Padres: 24,528
- Game 38 vs. Red Sox (July 3): 35,067
Just from looking at crowds over the years, fireworks can bring out an extra 10,000 fans. It also helps that two of the games were scheduled against the beasts of the east, who can be counted upon to bring thousands of fans along with them. Funny that the A’s and Rays, teams with historically some of the worst turnout over the last decade, are the two teams most dependent on other team’s fans to bolster attendance. The Giants provide three guaranteed sellouts, with easily half the house dressed in orange and black. The Yankees are good for 10-12k per date, whereas the Red Sox are worth 7-8k. Add that up and it’s around 123,000 visiting fan attendees from just those three teams. That translates to 7% of overall home attendance during recent years.. The Giants get periodic invasions of Dodger fans, but those seats would sell regardless of the opponent.
Now Monte Poole’s Thursday column raises the “quandary” of fans who hate ownership so much as to not attend games against their better instinct of showing up to support the resurgent A’s. Everyone who goes or doesn’t go has every right to express their preference. But to eternally prosecute ownership, the front office, anyone involved with the team for every little decision (or non-decision) is seriously becoming tiresome. First it was that Lew Wolff, John Fisher, and Billy Beane have conspired to keep the fans away by intentionally fielding awful teams or by trading away talent. Now that the team has been hot, it’s either that ownership is seething that the wins work against their nefarious plan or the team’s success thoroughly discounts any arguments about the Oakland fanbase, or even more absurdly, the stadium. Look at the first four games of attendance and tell me that it’s working. Beane’s moves are being microexamined as well, with the lack of a deadline trade “proving” that the team is surrendering. Then there was this today, following the Kurt Suzuki trade:
Best of luck to Zuk, a tough guy who always gave 100%.But this salary dump is something of a white flag for the 2012 season.
— Rick Tittle (@RickTittle) August 3, 2012
Apparently the detractors are looking for any excuse to pile on. Can’t give credit, oh no. Poole himself can only rise to giving the backhanded compliment “making an effort”.
Right. It doesn’t matter that the team stacks one promotion on top of another to bring in fans. That it has a weekend dedicated to Moneyball and the Streak coming up. That inserting dynamic pricing deals on tickets for the last two homestands have done a bang-up job of bringing in fans (check the field and plaza levels for the on-sale sections for proof). I even got into a debate on Twitter with a fan who drove up to the Coli on Wednesday and was angry that the A’s ran out of $2 tickets – that were sold out days if not weeks in advance. Really? You can’t plan for that?
That points to the biggest problem that the A’s and the A’s fanbase face, and they face it together. Both ownership and the fans have taken the A’s – the team, the brand, the fact that it’s one of thirty MLB franchises – for granted. Even during the Moneyball era (1999-2006), the A’s had all of these same promotions and attendance was about 500k per year (6,000 per game) better. And no, the much larger Coli back then was nowhere close to selling out, except for those games where the visiting team’s fans took up the slack. The A’s can count on the 8-10k of season ticket holders to provide some revenue while at the same time showing Bud Selig that the hardcore fanbase is too small to be sustainable. For those on the fringe like me or casual fans, there’s always a plentiful supply of tickets so that during a six or ten-game homestand, we might be able to go once or twice and feel good about ourselves.
That’s not good enough. While ownership shrugs its shoulders, Oakland partisans and East Bay supporters thump their chests about how they’ll support the team “when it’s good, and ownership respects Oakland, the fanbase, and stadium” – and also keeps ticket prices low. You can’t have all of that and be taken seriously. This is Major League Baseball. It is the upper echelon of this great sport. Constantly, the whiners and whingers seems to be conveniently unaware of that fact. The average payroll is $100 million, a number the A’s would be hard-pressed to support at the current prices unless they hit 3 million fans. That’s how far behind we are compared to the rest of the league. And we, collectively, don’t care. It’s better to get a few shots in at the enemy.
I don’t know how the season’s gonna end. Maybe the A’s will make the postseason, maybe they won’t. Progress will be measured in part by the rise in season ticket sales. If subscriptions don’t grow it’ll tell me two things: that A’s ownership isn’t trying hard enough (hard to believe from the calls I’ve gotten from ticket services), and that the holdouts are hoisting themselves on their own petard. It would prove to me that both sides are fine with the status quo: low, non-major league prices, low season ticket rolls, and “disenfranchised” fans complaining yet again about being alienated. At some point, it comes down to how much you and I value this team as it’s currently formulated, the A’s legacy, and optimism about the future. It also matters how much we care about having a MLB franchise here. If that’s not enough, then well, the petard is waiting in the form of an empty Coliseum and no future ballpark. Though I’m sure there’ll be plenty of recriminations for that too.