2007: The lost season

Judging from the lack of feedback, I take it that most of you haven’t read, let alone downloaded, the Fremont conceptual approach documents. That’s okay, it’s my (second) job to parse through that. If you had the wherewithal to go through the appendices, you would’ve found a hidden gem that explains a ton about where A’s fans come from and how they perform in terms of buying tickets on a per city basis. To help foster conversation on that, I’ve taken the six key pages from the appendices and made them available here.

Before we start the debate, let’s set the table. While we remember 2006 fondly – at least until the ALCS – 2007 rarely gets a mention anymore. That season is remembered for being the start of the current decline and rebuilding phase, but that wasn’t the intention going into Opening Day. Consider the following:

  • Opening Day payroll was $79 million
  • The only major free agent loss was Frank Thomas, who signed a severely overpriced 2 year, $18 million deal with Toronto only to underperform, get waived and subsequently re-signed by the A’s in 2008. Thomas was initially replaced by Eric Karros, who also failed to achieve a career rebirth. gojohn10 reminded me that the A’s lost Barry Zito. All of the KNBR bashing probably devalued him in my mind.
  • Beane/Forst signed Alan Embree and Shannon Stewart – all excellent, productive, low cost moves.
  • It was the first – and most promising – year of Jack Cust, who ended up being a left-handed hitting, poor-man’s version of the Big Hurt.
  • Milton Bradley wore out his welcome.
  • Once again, injuries sunk the team. This time it was the expected high risk players: Eric Chavez (snakebit), Rich Harden (fragile), Mark Kotsay (old), and Bradley.
  • The team hovered around the .500 mark for the first two months, then made a brief surge until the end of interleague play when injuries finally caught up to and ravaged the roster.
  • The selloff began with Bradley in June, followed by Jason Kendall in July.

Got that? 2007 began as a season in which the A’s were expected to contend for the division crown and perhaps make the WS if the roster stayed healthy. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, so the usual selloff-for-prospects began as it does in every season the A’s aren’t competitive. At that point, the A’s farm system was bereft of big prospects, causing the front office to unload Dan Haren and Nick Swisher the following offseason.

Now, you might expect that a team coming off an appearance in the LCS, with the highest payroll in its history, would have seen measurable gains at the gate. It didn’t. It was the second year of tarping, which drove total attendance lower while the experiment in scarcity failed to bear fruit. Just so we’re clear on how this manifested itself, take a look at attendance at the opening series against the White Sox:

  • 4/8 (Opening Night): 35,077
  • 4/9: 15,153
  • 4/10 (BART Double Play Wednesday): 19,130

That was followed by three straight sellouts with the Yankees, then 20k and 17k for a short two-game series with LAAoA. The most damning figure comes straight from the spreadsheet.

  • 2007 season attendance: 1,921,844
  • 2007 local credit card sales: 1,013,977

Keep in mind that credit card sales could mean advance tickets or gameday/walkup tickets paid for by credit card. Around the time the Wolff/Fisher group took control, they got rid of those kiosks on the BART plaza and outside the lower gates which sold preprinted cheap tickets for cash. A primary motivation must have been reduced staffing. Beyond that, I’m certain that ownership wanted to obtain further information on how tickets were being purchased, so driving walkup fans to the box office probably helped in that regard. We can infer from this figure that tickets purchased hours/days/weeks/months ahead of first pitch were some amount lower than 1 million.

That said, selling just over 1 million advance tickets (less than 53%) to your core audience is PISS POOR. Sure, the A’s raised ticket prices 8.1% that year, but that’s to be expected coming off a division crown, ALDS win, and an appearance in the ALCS. If you want to look for Exhibit A for the MLB panel, that’s it. The Giants have most certainly sold far more than 2 million local advance tickets every season since they moved to China Basin, and there are plenty of teams for whom 3 million advance tickets was more than a mere aspirational goal.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in the bleachers with no one in the eight immediately adjacent seats around me. Yes, it was April or May, and it was either Monday or Tuesday, with the marine layer dropping the temperature to the low 50’s. And yes, I’m partly responsible for that low number since I often bought walkup tickets with cash (not so this year, I got a fielder’s choice plan and will buy group tickets in advance). But really, given the on-field success the A’s showed in 2006, we as a fanbase should’ve responded much better the following season. The excuse makers will point to tarping, a lack of marketing, or even the loss of the Big Hurt. The problem goes far beyond that. If there are that many fans all over the Bay Area that would respond to a competitive team, to a higher payroll, 2007 was the time it should’ve happened. It didn’t for whatever reason. It bugs me to this day.

I’m writing this post not to get an answer, because I don’t know if I’ll get one that’s satisfactory. Instead it’s mostly therapeutic. I’m tired of wondering about it, and hopefully posting this will allow me to let it go. We now know that attendance and sales for the past several years is a key piece of evidence for the panel, and it will contribute heavily to the panel’s recommendation. The thing is that we as fans could’ve done better. We should’ve done better. If the A’s leave Oakland, we need not look further than that lost season of 2007, what could’ve been. Until a new ballpark is built, we may be due for another 2006-07 cycle, possibly in 2-3 years. For the have-nots like the A’s, the window for contention is fleeting. It has to be planned diligently by Billy and David. The hardcore fans can do their part by recognizing this. If you only want to be a fan on your terms (only going when ownership respects Oakland and pays for a competitive team), in the end you will lose. It’s one thing to argue about X percentage of the team’s sales come from city Y, but what if those sales aren’t good enough? That, I think, is the real problem, and the future of the franchise is at stake.

91 thoughts on “2007: The lost season

  1. Most interesting stat to me : ” total income/city ” ( # households x avg household income )
    1) SF $17.8 billion
    2) SJ $13.7 ”

    3) FREMONT $ 5 ” ( 3 miles from SC County line / hop skip and a jump from #2, down 880 half a dozen exits from #4, directly across Dumbarton Bridge from #5 )

    4) Oakland $ 3.7 ”
    5)Palo Alto $ 2.7 “

  2. First of all, 2007 was the culmination of the Barry Bonds show. Despite losing six more games than the year before, The Giants sold almost 100K more tickets.

    As for the A’s, I think you are a bit more optimistic than most fans were going into 2007. In addition to the loss of Thomas, the A’s lost the last of the big three, Barry Zito. They also lost arguably their second best better hitter from 2006, Jay Payton. For icing on the cake, they fired their manager and let their beloved third base coach sign to manage for a division rival.

    Most of these moves made sense at the time and even today. Yet, for the casual fan, the A’s still lost three of their best players. Same old A’s. Tough to generate excitement with that kind of roster turnover. Especially when the A’s are fighting for media coverage with the Bonds show.

    • You forgot to include the proposed move out of Oakland as a reason for lack luster ticket sales. You have to remember that Oakland does an incredible job supporting the A’s with 181,000 credit card tickets sold in 2007, with another 5,900 coming from the City of Piedmont which is completely encircled by Oakland city limits.. That’s 186,900 tickets sold for a population of 410,000 residents. By comparison, San Jose bought just 69,000 tickets for a population of 1,000,000 residents. Fremont bought 51,488 tickets with a population of 200,000 residents. Hayward purchased 30,924 tickets with a population of 140,000 residents. Concord purchased 31,831 tickets with a population of about 120,000 residents. These four cities purchased 183,243 tickets with a combined population of 1,460,000 residents. So Oakland bought more tickets than San Jose, Fremont, Hayward and Concord, combined. These four cities have a combined population of 1,460,000 residents compared to the 410,000 residents in Oakland and Piedmont. These figures are astonishing especially considering that Oakland’s household medium average income is lower than all four of these other cities. Oakland does an exceptional job supporting the team, and threats of relocation out of the city have to be considered as one of the reasons for lackluster attendance. Another interesting fact is that Walnut Creek seems to be a hot bed of Oakland A’s fans with 46,912 tickets purchased for a city with only about 65,000 residents. Lafayette also did well with 13, 419 tickets purchase for a population of about 24,000 residents. These figures show that Oakland is a hotbed of A’s fanatics. Lew Wolff is alienating a large percentage of his fanbase by alienating Oakland and cities East, North and West.

      • Nav, I’m not sure if this argument bolsters your position. If what you say is accurate, then it says volumes about Oakland as a viable market. It’s tapped. Maximum market penetration and yet piss poor results. Sounds like the best reason of all to leave town if you’re the A’s. In other words, this is as good as it gets in Oakland, and it’s nowhere close to being good enough.

      • Wow, Oakland does a tremendous job supporting the A’s, much, much better than Fremont or San Jose, and you take that impressive fact and turn it into a negative? Amazing!

      • Believe it or not, that wasn’t intended as an insult. It’s really quite impressive for a little burg barely over 400K in population. But it says volumes about the viability of the market area.

      • Utter nonsense. San Jose residents must drive 1-2 hours to get to a weeknight game. Many, many Fremont residents work in the South Bay, meaning they must endure similar drive times to get to a weeknight game.

        By contrast, the Coli sits right in the city of Oakland, making attendance absolutely convenient for them. Of course, in absolute numbers, more Oakland residents will go to games than San Jose residents. That is to be expected.

        However, as I understand the data, what it actually shows is that San Jose is FAR more supportive of the team than Oakland once you adjust for distance. Oakland drew 42,000 fans less than expected; San Jose only 4,000 less than expected. When you consider the relative size of the two cities, this difference is even more dramatic.

        Even more stunning is the performance of cities like Palo Alto and Los Altos, which are the real targets of a move to San Jose. Both drew significantly better than expected adjusted for distance.

        Next you’ll be saying that since more fans at A’s games come from Oakland than LA, this proves Oakland is a better baseball town. Enough with the specious comparisons!

        (If I am in fact misunderstanding the data, someone objective please explain where I am going astray).

      • OK, I see from ML’s explanation below that I have in fact misinterpreted the data. So before Navigator jumps all over me, I’ll admit my mistake.
        However, I will note, as do the study’s authors, that distance doesn’t correlate directly with drive time. As I’ve stated before, drive time from the South Bay to the Coli is horrendous. I have no doubt whatsover that this is a big factor inhibiting current South Bay attendance.

      • As far as a “proposed move out of Oakland” being a reason for the lackluster attendance, that was on the table since 1995. Sorry, that doesn’t explain 2007.

        You still haven’t explained why, if this is even a factor, Oakland fans abandoned Walter Haas far faster than they have abandoned Lew Wolff and why attendance actually grew every year under Steve Schott.

    • 2007 was not a very hopeful year. After coming off an embarrassing ALCS loss, we lost free agents, lost Ron Washington, and Cisco Field was announced. I know you would think most folks would be excited about a new ballpark, but it was honestly pretty depressing for a lot of die-hard Oakland fans.

  3. Yes, ticket sales stink across the board, but the new spreadsheet (thanks for plugging in the numbers ML) allows me to follow up on the numbers I posted a few weeks back with respect to North or Oakland/South of Oakland attendance figures. Nav jumped all over the South Alameda county numbers claiming they prove these cities don’t support the team. I warned that those numbers did not account for the distance those cities are from the ballpark. Now here we are, with the best formula yet accounting for how attendance is affected by the amount of travel needed to get to the game. The picture now is much different than before. I’m only looking at Alameda county cities, as was done in the last post. Also, keep in mind that the East of Oakland cities (Tri Valley), get some kind of Tri Valley correction because the far east bay supports the team so well.

    Location Diff from expected
    So. of Oakland 4.7%
    Oakland -35.5%
    N. of Oakland 10.8%
    East of Oakland 3.4%

    The South is redeemed! Oakland doesn’t fare well, but I wonder if that’s in part because it’s on the the tail end of the curve. I wonder if the formula overestimates the number of fans that should come from the host city?

    • Sorry Oakland. I didn’t realize they separated Piedmont. If you throw them into the Oakland numbers the diff from expected goes to -25.3%. Piedmont loves the A’s!

    • The sheet shows that Oakland outperformed its predicted sales by 36%, while southern Alameda County performed roughly as expected. However, this isn’t about one city against another. It’s about whether or not the region as a whole underperformed.

      And if anything, Piedmont inexplicably dislikes the A’s.

      • Oh man, you are right. I somehow mixed up my expected and observed column. Whoops. I know it’s not one city against another, but for me looking at the individual cities can sometimes give you insight into what is wrong with the region as a whole. Is there anything in common with the underperforming cities and in common with the ones overperforming? Frankly, I can give a rip about city pride. I care about the region and the ballclub.

      • Marine Layer,

        It’s astonishing to me how well Oakland performs. I believe the perception has always been that Oakland proper didn’t support the team well, but that the surrounding suburbs did. Well, that myth has been roundly debunked by these figures. Also, when you take into account medium incomes, it’s clear that Oakland loves the A’s like no other city in the Bay Area. We can’t say it’s only because of proximity since Oakland outperforms cities like Alameda and Hayward which are closer to the ballpark than parts of Oakland like the Montclair and Rockridge Districts.We can also see that some cities with higher medium incomes don’t support the A’s as well as Oakland. So a higher medium income doesn’t necessarily translate into higher ticket sales. These figures debunk the theory that moving away from your fanbase to an area with higher medium income will translate into higher revenue. What Lew Wolff needs to do is to start to respect where Oakland A’s fans come from, and where the Oakland A’s are loved and supported instead of always thinking that the grass is greener in the South Bay. These figures prove that the alienation of fans in Oakland and points north, east and west, is a huge reason why attendance didn’t spike after a successful year on the field. You can’t tell an area which does a tremendous job of supporting your team, to go to hell, and not expect the negative ramifications. For some reason this really gets downplayed as a reason for the decline in attendance.

      • Again you are missing the point. This is about the region, not Oakland. All the spreadsheet does is redistribute existing ticket sales based on proximity and income. It doesn’t explain why the number as a whole is so low to begin with.

        The individual city numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, as is explained in the letter:

        The current method does not account for: 1) distance is not a perfect proxy for travel time to the stadium (influence of BART/transit); 2) mean household income is not a perfect proxy for disposable income (which could vary by household wealth); 3) demographic, cultural differences, and recreational preferences in areas; 4) limitations inherent in the ticket data, 5) household location is not a perfect proxy for the trip end locations (some people may be driving from work); and 6) effects of marketing efforts.

        Also, keep in mind that season tickets account for a sizable percentage of these totals. If 1,000 full season ticket packages come from within Oakland, that accounts for 1/2 of Oakland’s ticket buys (1,000 x 81 games = 81,000). That’s both good and bad, depending on your perspective.

      • This doesn’t say that Oakland does a hell of a job supporting the A’s compared to other cities?

      • It does, I have no quarrel with that. However, if you take away Oakland entirely from the total it’s 8% of sales. Based on current baseball economics, that’s not enough to make or break the A’s. That’s why it’s important to look at this problem regionally and not on a per city basis.

      • Higher incomes don’t necessarily translate into a greater number of ticket sales. However, they do tend to translate into sales of higher priced tickets.
        One $100 club seat = ten $10 bleacher seats.
        One $4000 suite = four hundred $10 bleacher seats.
        Sorry, in all probability this does translate to higher revenue, even if the rate of support were less (which it won’t be).
        The buyers of club seats and suites are largely big corporations. The big corporations are overwhelmingly in the South Bay. A privately financed ballpark does not pencil out without these premium seat sales.
        Now, if you want to advocate for public financing to make up the difference, I will respect your opinion. In fact, if I lived in the East Bay, I would vote for it. Short of this though, there is just no way a new yard is getting built right next to AT&T Park.

  4. Thank you for stating what I have been moaning about for the past several years. Nothing speaks louder than the sound of fans who actually purchase tickets in advance and fill the stadium. Of course, season tickets speak the loudest as this is recognized by all owners as the investment in the team. If Wolff picks up and leaves for greener pastures, it’s your own damn fault for not being the real fan to support them through thick and thin, New ball park or old, it’s still the same game and as enjoyable as you make it. Granted, there’s no enormous coke bottle in left field or a sweeping view of the bay or hills, but when you get right down to it, it’s watching the game you love so much and cheering on the green and gold that makes the reason why you show up. A new ball park should be icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

  5. Sometime a while back, someone posted a fairly complete list of things fans take into account before going to a game. I’ll attempt my list here and suggest that others add to it. Once we get a fairly complete list, then we can look at each criteria and how it affects the A’s. I’m guessing this will be the easiest way to figure out why the region as a whole doesn’t support the team. Here’s my list off the top of my head:
    1) How good is my team this year?
    2) Who is my team playing?
    3) What is the weather like?
    4) How long is it going to take me to get to the park?
    5) How much is this going to cost me?
    6) Who’s coming with me to the game?
    7) Did my team dump my favorite player (again)?
    8) Is there a promotion or special event at the game today?

    • I guess an eight with a parentheses is a shortcut for a happy face with sunglasses.

    • I have a few more.

      8) Is my team telling me I don’t count?

      9) Is my team threatening to leave town?

      10) Will the team I rooted for as a kid be here for my kids as the same organization?

      11) Does the team value my community?

      • Is there anything else to do around the park before or after?
        Is there anything special about the food at the park?
        Is the stadium aesthetically pleasing?
        Is it the hip, cool place to be?

        These may not be questions the hardcore fan thinks about, but it’s definitely what the casual fans think about, and the casual fans is what will bring you the attendance numbers you want.

      • I disagree. What brings you attendance numbers is a large core of season ticket holders that make the individual tickets harder to come by.

    • How many runs does my team score?

    • – How meaningful is the game (e.g. are we still in the hunt)?
      – Who’s pitching?

    • – What other things could I be doing instead?
      – Is the game televised?

    • -What time of day is the game
      -What day of the week is the game
      -do I enjoy going to live baseball games?

    • -Is the team trying to build a winning franchise, or just reducing payroll?

      I think this is a big one. Whether it is true or not, I think the perception for the A’s is the latter

    • Here are the motivation questions recategorized by team influence. I’ve included my comments
      Factors Not under team control
      – Who is my team playing?
      – What other things could I be doing?
      – Do I like watching live baseball games?

      Factors helped by new stadium
      – Is my team threatening to leave town? (new stadium means commitment to the host city)
      – Does my team care about the community? (see above)
      – Did my team dump my favorite player? (new revenue stream means retaining players – we hope)
      – Is the team trying to build a winning franchise or just reducing payroll? (see above. The new stadium will be an opportunity to turn the page on an era and reinvent the team, regardless of it they leave Oakland or not)
      – How good is my team? (More money doesn’t mean a better team, but I ‘m optimistic)
      – How meaningful is the game? (a better team means more meaningful games)
      – Anything else to do around the park? (new stadium in downtown or associated with ancillary development)
      – Is the stadium aesthetically pleasing? (it’s new, so it better be)
      – Is the stadium the hip place to be? (see above)
      – What is the weather like? (Most games are at night and San Jose is relatively warm. A more modest improvement with a Fremont stadium. No change with JLS park from the Coliseum)
      – How many runs does my team score? (since the Coliseum is a classic pitchers park, chances are the new park will more hitter friendly)
      – Who’s pitching? (This is a toss up. I suppose a better team is more likely to have better pitchers, but maybe not. Especially if the new park is a band box)

      Factors hurt by new stadium
      – How much is it going to cost me? (there will be a rise in ticket prices to pay for ballpark)
      – What is the weather like? (Most games are at night and Oakland is cold)
      – How long is it going to take me to get to the park? (even assuming realignment of the fanbase if the team heads South, most fans would be farther from the stadium)

      Factors under team control that are unaffected by a new stadium
      – Promotion or special event at the game today? (can have promotions in a run-down stadium)
      – Anything special about the food at the park? (can have good food in a run-down stadium)

  6. have a few more.

    8) Is my team telling me I don’t count?

    9) Is my team threatening to leave town?

    10) Will the team I rooted for as a kid be here for my kids as the same organization?

    11) Does the team value my community?
    More of nav’s notorious parochialism and muddied thought process.
    By defining “town”, “community”, and “here” as the city of Oakland exclusively, he excludes about 92% of actual ticket sales (i.e., “the fanbase”), and about 95% of total market population. He really would like to see this team fail as long as it stays in an unfruitful location, wouldn’t he?
    Why doesn’t he ask the A’s to exclude all non-Oakland residents from games, since he clearly doesn’t think that they should have standing or influence in the question of where to build a new ballpark.

    • Navigator has previously stated he believes a team should go bankrupt and fold rather than leave it’s host city. (Of course, if teams followed this creed, Oakland would never have had a team in the first place).

    • Hear hear.

      Also, if you want to limit your community to inhabitants a city of ~400,000, go root for a minor league team. MLB is a global game. The A’s cannot rely exclusively on the city of Oakland for support in a league where Yankees and Red Sox play for hundreds of millions of fans all over the world.

      Oakland-only fans like are telling A’s fans outside of Oakland that we “don’t matter”, that they would rather their team languish in mediocrity (when even Marco Scutaro rejects more money and more years from the A’s to play for the Red Sox instead) and get cheap walk-up 3rd deck seats at their own convenience, than have to share their team with the greater world out there, like the most successful franchises do.

      • Do you folks actually think that only people living in Oakland want the Oakland A’s to remain in Oakland? People from all over the Bay Area and Northern California value having the A’s remain in Oakland. We’ve already established that Oakland does a remarkable job supporting the team. What better home base to build on and capture more of the under performing South Bay. You want to take the club from a stronghold and place it in a location, that until recently, when they sniffed an opportunity to grab the A’s, didn’t even know the team existed? It makes no sense. Oakland isn’t the problem. Fremont and San Jose don’t do their share. San Jose has 1,000,000 residents and only buys 69,000 tickets? How many tickets did San Jose by for the Giants? I’m sorry, that’s just not good enough to merit a 500 million dollar infusion of capital when Oakland has supported this team better than any city in the Bay Area.

      • San Jose outperformed its predicted ticket sales despite the Coliseum’s location being less than convenient to the South Bay. But please, keep misrepresenting the figures.

      • Oakland outperformed its predicted figures by 36% and faces the possibility of losing the team to San Jose? That’s wrong.

    • Connie, The team has to be based in some “town.” Why not Oakland, which supports them very well.

      • Because it has another, stronger team within a few miles and has no corporate base, a fundamental requirement for a privately financed ballpark.

      • Oakland is accessible to every part of the Bay Area while San Jose is not. Oakland has supported the team with 2.9 million fans in the past when the East Bay had 700,000 fewer residents. Also, what do you mean “Oakland has no corporate base?” Aren’t we a “region?” I guess by that logic, San Jose has no A’s fanbase.

      • San Jose is accessible to Silicon Valley; Oakland is not. That is the access that counts for purpose of this exercise.
        Sorry, you can keep trying to ignore how excruciating it is to get to games in Oakland from the Peninsula and South Bay, but that doesn’t make it any less real. I know you don’t personally have to endure it, so you don’t care, but the people making the premium seat buying decisions do care.
        Repeat: For a weeknight game, it takes 90 minutes to two hours to get to a game at the Coli from Palo Alto. Add fifteen to 20 minutes if you put the ballpark in downtown Oakland. By contrast, you can make AT&T Park in less than an hour by either car or train.
        Where do you think the Silicon Valley execs are going to go?

      • Bartleby, I don’t care about Silicon Valley execs. I care about Oakland Athletic fans and the history and tradition of the franchise. The Silicon execs can kiss my A’ss if they don’t want to come to Oakland. Also, many people who live far from Oakland still want the team in Oakland. It’s not just about convenience. If MLB continues to ignore average fans for the rich corporate crowd, they will be contributing to their eventual demise as a major sport.

      • OK, then you need to explain how you’re going to sell all the premium seats necessary to make a privately financed ballpark pencil out.
        I’m not advocating for Silicon Valley execs, but I am a realist. Premium seat sales account for a huge percentage of an MLB teams gate revenue, and an even bigger percentage of their operating margins. The fact is: corporations and their executives are the primary customers for premiums seats. A privately financed park is a difficult thing to pull off even with these sales; it is impossible with out them.
        If you want to advocate for public funding to make up the difference, I will respect your viewpoint. If you want to advocate for the City of Oakland purchasing the team and running it like the Green Bay Packers, fair enough. But if all you’re going to do is rant and rave that you want billionaires to subsidize your entertainment because they owe you something, sorry, that’s unseemly. There are more worthy charitable causes.

      • And while we’re on the subject of the ONE year the A’s drew as many as 2.9 million fans, why don’t we talk about the ELEVEN years they failed to draw even one million. I’d say those years were more representative of the market’s performance thus far.

      • Or how about the 34 years (out of forty) attendance was below league average (in many cases, WAY below)?

      • The Giants drew worse than the A’s during most of those years and yet Bud Selig saved them from moving out of San Francisco. Meanwhile, he and his frat buddy Lew Wolff have had it in for Oakland from day one. All this can be proven.

      • There you go misrepresenting the facts again. The Giants had comparable attendance, relative to wins, as the Athletics pre-AT&T Park. However, they were handicapped by a worse venue and worse location than the A’s. They had a far bigger fan base (measured by TV ratings), and better demographics, and therefore greater potential in SF than the A’s in Oakland. They also got their act together and built first. These are all logical business decisions; there is no animus toward the City of Oakland.

      • bartleby, You have an interesting view of the Bay Area. For the purpose of relocating the A’s to San Jose, we’re a “region” where fans from the East Bay, North Bay, and San Francisco will have access to a ballpark in San Jose. On the other hand, corporations can’t get to Oakland and are strictly restricted and limited to Silicon Valley with the exception of getting to the “glamor” in San Francisco. I don’t think we’re a “region” at all. I think we’re separate markets.

      • So it’s difficult for south bay residents to travel to Oakland for games … but SJ boosters say East Bay residents will be able to take BART to SJ … but for some reason south bay residents won’t be able to take BART to Oakland … and they couldn’t drive because of all the traffic headed to the East Bay … and Silicon Valley executives wouldn’t want to travel to Oakland … even though they are probably among those traveling back to where they live … in the East Bay … ???
        . I am getting so confused!

      • No corporate base? Just because Oakland and the surrounding areas don’t have massive amount of tech companies doesn’t mean they have “no corporate base”.
        Oakland Based:
        Kaiser ($34.4 billion revenue)
        Clorox ($4.58 billion)
        Dreyer’s ($1.58 billion)
        Cost Plus ($1.04 billion)
        Ask.com ($277 million)
        Oakland Metro Area:
        Chevron ($273 billion)
        Safeway ($42.3 billion)
        I would say that is a pretty solid corporate base.

      • Aside from Chevron, which of these corporations are visibly supporting the A’s?

      • Dreyer’s and I do believe Safeway. However, I didn’t say “corporate support” I said “corporate base.” After all, why would any of the local corporations want to buy luxury boxes in a stadium that is billed as inadequate, etc…

      • Ask.com? Seriously?

      • What is your point? Last time I checked $277 million was serious.

      • I think his point was that ask.com is a has been internet/technology company that is owned by a larger parent.

      • Seven companies. Are you serious?
        Go look at the AT&T Park seating map. Observe what percentage of the seats are club seats, charter seats or suites. There’s no way any seven companies, no matter how big they are, and even if they all bought in, are going to make a dent in that inventory.
        Now go look at the NASDAQ. Nearly every company on it has a presence, if not their actual headquarters, in the South Bay.
        There is a reason why the A’s want to be here and the Giants don’t want the A’s to be here.

      • See attached list of Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s 292 members. While not all of them are big companies with a presence in the South Bay, most of them are.


        Nor is this list exhaustive. Both San Jose and Palo Alto have many big law firms, accounting firms, and consulting firms that would be perfect target customers for premium seats at a new ballpark. Not to mention the VCs on Sand Hill Road.

      • I was never arguing the fact that the south bay has a huge amount of major companies. It’s just that many people make it seem as if Oakland and the Oakland area have zero corporations.

      • I don’t think anyone is arguing that the number is literally zero. But the point is that it is insufficient to pay the note on a privately financed ballpark.
        People forget how risky the Giants’ decision to build a privately financed ballpark was considered at the time. And they were the stronger team, with effectively no competition for corporate support.
        If the A’s had built first, maybe it could have worked in Oakland. But that’ s not the current reality.

  7. the A’s in 2007 were a lot like the Giants in 1988, they failed to draw 2,000,000 after going within 1 game of the WS. they had at that time a bad ball park, KNBR was not yet the sports leader it had cooking and political shows and things like that with one sports phone show in the evenings. The A’s on the other hand had a ballpark that Peter Gammons said was second only to Dodger Stadium in terms of daytime atmosphere, they had legitimate stars and they won and they drew over 2,000,000 fans in the exact same location as now with fewer people to draw from. Games broadcast on local radio powerhouse KSFO.

    Fast forward 20 years and thanks to a bunch of circumstances that we are all aware of, the roles have totally reversed.

    Why is anyone surprised or upset by this? All you can do is recognize the problems and fix it. I may not love Wolff’s methods and he knows this because he reads the blog. But at least he is trying to fix the radio station, build a better ball park and retain management capable of rebuilding a star studded roster.

    And this can happen in Oakland, Fremont, San Jose it doesnt really matter to me. Can the spreadsheets and the charts and the graphs, because we know what the A’s need, attractions. That 2006 team won, but it was a boring team. If they don’t go 18-1 against the Mariners, theres no post season for them. None.

  8. ML,

    all of us know that last week there was a meeting between the bud, the owners and all of the GMs excluding Beane and Colletti. Do you know if anything was materialized with the T-rights? or Fremont’s future ballpark?


    • Nothing happened. The report was not released, and the owners did not vote on anything T-rights related.

      • Gammons has an interesting article in MLB.com talking about how the revenue gap is widening–he did say “Attendees discussed the situations in Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa and Pittsburgh, and other issues…” and goes on to say this about the A’s—“Oakland, stranded in a facility that the Altamont Raiders have systematically trashed, is close to beyond hope if the team can’t move to San Jose. Beane offered more years and money to Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre, and they both signed with Boston. Holliday admitted that he was miserable playing in the dank mausoleum.” Beane is then quoted as saying “You start to wonder,” if anyone wants to play here.”

      • At this point, does anyone really think that MLB will allow the A’s to go down the financial toilet, and not allow them to move to San Jose, just because the Giants organization whines and bitches about “45 miles south/southeast of AT&T Park”-SJ being in “their” territory? I think not! Enjoy the rain all.

      • Yet some idiot attorney wants the City of SJ to study the possible “blight” that might follow at the Coliseum if the A’s move south? The “centerpiece” of some Oakland redevelopment district? Oh boy!

      • How do we explain ATT park not attracting free agents?

      • huh. That’s the second time the hasn’t closed the link. Could be me.

      • LMAO, good one.

      • Peter Gammons said, “is close to beyond hope if the team can’t move to San Jose.” It looks like Peter has been listening to Lew. Peter is using Lew’s talking points.
        You notice that Gammons doesn’t seem to be interested in any possibilities in Oakland.

      • Yes! Conspiracy! Of course! You don’t sound crazy at all!

      • Thanks for the compliment.

      • Nav, honestly… there are not too many folks in the national media who think Oakland is a viable site. I am not arguing on their behalf, or agreeing with them… but this is what they believe.

      • Many writers think SJ won’t happen because of the TR issue, and a lot of writers are still shaking their heads at a Fremont deal.
        A suburban stadium? Most all the newest parks are in the the central city areas.
        Fremont is opposite on what they are doing.

      • Who are these many writers? The fellows I have shared correspondence with on the situation have mostly pointed me to the Orioles/Expos situation as a framework for how a territorial rights deal would work. Add to that Peter Gammons mentioning San Jose specifically and Buster Olney mentioning Bud Selig negotiating a San Jose settlement and the circumstantial evidence points towards TR’s not being that big of a deal at this point.

        I understand your point about central city areas, I agree, I would build it in a locale that is either downtown or adjacent to downtown (generically speaking).

  9. ML,

    As you might expect, there isn’t just one thing which you can point to as being the problem. The more I think about this issue, the more frustrated I get. Right now there just seems to be so many things working against the A’s. Here’s a list of some of the things which I see as being major contributors to the attendance problem, along with some possible solutions.

    1) Bad faclility in a bad location. Get a new ballpark, preferably in San Jose. I won’t debate Oakland vs. SJ vs Fremont here, as that’s been debated ad nauseum elsewhere. Stating the obvious, a new ballpark will help spark interest and excitement, which in turn should translate into butts in the seats. Once the novelty of the new ballpark has worn off, the trick will be to keep the fan coming back. This can be achieved by increasing your season ticketholder base through corporate sponsorship, and community involvement. Make it easy for the community to embrace your organization.

    2) Lack of recognizable names. The casual fan probably will have no interest in purchasing tickets to a game, much less season tickets, if they don’t indentify with any of the players. Draft quality players, and build the organization from within. Forget about high priced free agents. Plow your money back into the minor league system. Hire quality scouts who can identify talent. A large part of the selling off of talent in the last couple of years was as a result of poor drafts. Veteran players had to be traded to restock an ailing farm system. The result, a great disconnect between fans and players.

    3) Image problem. Right now I would say the image of the A’s is at it’s lowest since I started following the team in 1988. Low attendance, player turnover, ballpark soap opera – The A’ need to bring in a marketing guru that can turn this image problem around. Someone who will have the ear of the local media. Wolff, Fischer, Crowley and Beane should not be the faces of the organization.

    The A’s play in the Bay Area, which is not really known for its hardcord baseball fans. They operate in a two team market in which they play a distant second fiddle. The top dog controls the rights to 5 out of the 7 immediate bay area counties, and is strongly supported by the local media, and their flagship radio station. In fact, doesn’t KNBR own part of the Giants? It’s a difficult market to be in, but a turnaround is possible. It will just take a lot of creativity and hard work.

    Other areas which affect attendance are, radio and TV coverage; radio and TV broadcasters; fan services;

    • exactly I totally agree.

    • You mention lack of hard core fans, I couldnt agree more. There was a break down of TV ratings for different markets on this site, and it showed that the Twins get more households than the A’s and Giants combined watching an avg game. Amazing.

      That would change if the A’s get a new park, preferably for me in close proximity to east bay and South Bay fans who would be awakened by the A’s being closer.

  10. So, just an observation… Why is it that the cities one might expect premium ticket holders to come from (like Pleasanton, Danville, Walnut Creek) under perform? Every time I look at this spreadsheet I find a new question that I can’t answer so easily.

    • Perhaps people who live in the leafier suburbs don’t want to drive their nice SUVs and well scrubbed kids into that industrial zone of the town the team currently plays in ?

      • I figured that could be one answer. Another is they are going to the Giants games instead. I guess those aren’t mutually exclusive.
        There are plenty of reasons to explain it. I just wonder what it says about any spot in particular. Though, there is no crystal ball.

    • You have it backwards. I fell into the same trap. Those cities are over performing. Not only that, but those cities in the far east bay performed so well that a fudge factor was added when predicting their ticket sales.
      Taking my home town for example, Pleasanton was expected to purchase 23K tickets. Adding the “TriValley” fudge factor that predicted number went up to 42K. More adjustment I don’t quite understand brings the predicted number to 47K. Actual Pleasanton ticket values was 50K.

    • Walnut Creek and Danville over perform. Look at the numbers of tickets bought by credit card. Walnut Creek bought 46,912 tickets for a city of about 65,000 residents By contrast, San Jose bought 69,000 tickets for a population of 1,000,000 residents. You guys are always looking for an angle to confirm you anti-Oakland biases.

      • You forget how much harder it is to get to the Coliseum from SJ than it is from Walnut Creek, and how much easier it is to get to SF from SJ.
        You are always looking for an angle to confirm your anti-SJ, anti-Fremont, anti-Lew Wolfe biases.

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