The following letter was placed in today’s Tribune (PDF).
An Open Letter to John Fisher, Majority Owner of the Oakland A’s
May 8, 2012
Dear Mr. Fisher:
After five years of failed efforts to move the A’s out of Oakland, the time has come for you to sit down with Oakland and Alameda County officials to negotiate to keep the team in a world-class ballpark in Oakland. If you won’t do this, then, as long-time Oakland A’s fans, we’d ask that you please sell this once proud franchise to someone who will own and operate it as both a successful team and as a civic asset for our community.
Since moving to Oakland in 1968, the A’s have achieved tremendous success on the field, winning four World Championships, six American League Pennants, and 13 AL West division titles. The Oakland A’s have produced five Cy Young, seven MVP and seven Rookies of the year winners in Oakland – a far better record of success than almost any Major League team and certainly better than the San Francisco Giants.
Prior to your decision to buy the team, the people of the East Bay supported their A’s, regularly drawing in excess of 2 million fans a year while also receiving strong support from the business community. But your very public campaign to leave Oakland has taken a serious toll on the team’s ability to draw fans. Annual attendance has dropped 25% (from 1.9 to 1.4 million) in the five years since your management team proclaimed, “it’s out of the question” that the A’s will remain in Oakland. The drop-off is even worse if you go back to 2004, the year before you bought the team, when the A’s drew 2.2 million fans. Overall, during your ownership, attendance per game has dropped 33% from 27,000 to 18,000.
This decline in attendance following your ownership of the A’s comes at the same time the East Bay, the A’s territory, has continued to grow rapidly. In fact, the East Bay is one of the fastest growing regions in the area and is home to hundreds of large and growing companies including The Clorox Company, Kaiser Permanente, Safeway, Chevron, Pixar, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Pandora, Dreyer’s Ice Cream, 24 Hour Fitness and Cost Plus to name just a few. And, the East Bay is also at the geographic center of one of the largest and most important television markets in the country.
And, while the market and the historic record of fan support make clear for all to see that the East Bay is a proven good baseball region, there is nothing that precludes the A’s from competing for corporate sponsorship and fans from Silicon Valley right now – other than, of course, the quality of the product on the field, commitment of the team to provide a good fan experience and the competence of management.
Above and beyond its demonstrated market capacity, the people of the East Bay reflect the mosaic that is California. It is one of the most diverse regions in the country and Oakland is perhaps the most diverse city in the country with large African-American, Latino and Asian-American populations. Baseball constantly talks about its commitment to diversity – and presumably such a commitment would apply to owners such as yourself embracing being in such a diverse market. Oakland and the East Bay’s diversity is a strength that the A’s management should be looking to benefit from and of which Major League Baseball should be proud.
We understand that you and your investors need to make a return on your investment. However, given what you paid for the team and its most recent Forbes magazine valuation, you will certainly achieve a very good return when you choose to sell the team. And, given that the East Bay has proven it is a good baseball market from a business perspective, you will be able to make even more money – and do the right thing as the steward of a civic asset that is so important to the region – by committing to three basic principles.
First, commit to actively work with the ongoing effort to build a new stadium in Oakland. This effort is well underway and making significant progress.
Second, commit to winning by investing in the team. To date, the enterprise value of the team has gone up; you make money through baseball’s revenue sharing model; and re-invest very little back into the product on the field.
And, third, commit to showing respect to the people of Oakland and the East Bay. Since you acquired the team, time and time again efforts have been made to disrespect the fan base and the broader community. Obvious corporate sponsors are never contacted. And, the fan experience at the ballpark is less than ideal as compared to other Major League venues.
Mr. Fisher, the time has come to do the right thing. Sit down. Talk. Agree to keep the team in Oakland where it belongs.
Oakland Jobs & Housing Coalition
President, Green Stampede
President & CEO
Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
A’s Season Ticket Holder Since 1988