Blips and trends

A popular refrain is emerging from the Oakland-only camp, in which the A’s should stay in Oakland because the team’s playoff run, thereby proving that the team can be competitive in Oakland. During the Wheelhouse today, Greg Papa and John Lund mentioned Chris Townsend’s argument that Wolff could go to Selig and the owners and claim, “This is as good as it gets, now let me move the team.” Both arguments are guilty of the most shallow, gut-reaction analysis and are as strong as a wet paper bag. In fact it was Papa who, when Lund asked him if the A’s resurgence changes the equation in any way, correctly pronounced that this season is meaningless in terms of the Oakland/San Jose debate because it doesn’t take into account the big picture.

The fatal flaw with the Oakland-only argument is that they’re arguing against something that wasn’t ownership’s argument to begin with. One season is an outlier, an anomaly. It may start a trend of great success, which would in turn engender greater fan support, which would be great if that happened. If the team can continue to be successful, if it can get season ticket subscriptions past 10,000 for next season, then there’s a very good argument that the fanbase can not only support the team by the loudness of their voices, but also by their sheer numbers. The success may also be a blip, in the way that success couldn’t be sustained over multiple or even consecutive years. No owner, no matter how much he spends on payroll, can guarantee playoff appearances let alone championships, every single year. To expect that of any owner is wholly unrealistic.

Ownership’s argument about moving to Silicon Valley’s better economic environment has always been about being able to sustain a competitive team. Any team can be successful for a year – Oakland and Baltimore this season are testaments to that kind of randomness. It takes incredible skill, luck, and just as important, money to sustain success. Anyone who has been a lifelong fan of A’s baseball has seen this play out several times. Over their 45 years in Oakland, the A’s have lost Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson (twice), Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, the Big Three, and most recently Gio Gonzalez because of ostensibly economic reasons. No ownership group was immune from this inevitability, including the great Walter Haas. If the A’s don’t have a ballpark deal in place the next couple of years, guess who’s going to join that illustrious list? Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, they of the nearly 8 fWAR combined this season. They’re both young, cost-controlled, and will net significant young assets in trade.

The A’s celebrate in front of an announced crowd of 21,162. The crowd appeared much larger – but why?

Now maybe there’s a legitimate economic argument to keep the A’s in Oakland. If there is, it needs to involve vastly improving season tickets and FTEs (full-season equivalents) past that 10k figure. The Giants are flirting with 30k season tickets thanks to their ballpark and World Series win. The A’s don’t need to match that number, but they need to get to something approaching 20k if anyone wants to take them seriously, whether they’re talking Oakland or San Jose. The thing that is killing the A’s right now is the major swings in attendance. Sure, we can pull in a full house for a Star Wars fireworks night, or what appeared to be 27k for last night’s wild card game clincher. The problem is that the baseline attendance is that season ticket/advance sales figure, which absent of promotions or giveaways hovers around the 10k level. Last night the paid attendance was 21k, including 5,000 walkups. The crowd looked fuller, which can be explained several ways:

  • $10 Plaza Level/Outfield seats from the night’s Dynamic Deal
  • Much of the Field Level outfield seats taken by season ticket holders who redeemed unused tickets for the last available, designated home date for exchanges. Those tickets count as comps, not as new paid admissions. (thanks to Lone Stranger for that observation)
  • Great weather inviting more people out to the yard on a warm, indian summer night
  • A meaningful game against a division rival

That said, the 27k I cite is just an estimate based on previous observations of crowds. The Coliseum’s capacity is 35,077. So why wasn’t it completely full? Well, you can’t count on 15k walkups for an A’s game at the Coliseum, no matter how good the team is. Where were all the empty seats, then? Take a look…

The Plaza Reserved level, practically empty for Monday night

No discounts were available for the Plaza Reserved tier, though the A’s will frequently fill the deck when discounts are made. Tonight a similar Dynamic Deal to last night’s was made available. Couple that with the ritual free parking on Tuesdays, and it’s easy to see the announced attendance tonight being 28-30k. These loud, and potentially sizable crowds don’t prove anything other than that people will come out to see a good A’s team when the conditions and price are right. To prove that the market is viable will take a much greater commitment among the fanbase. Don’t call a blip a trend, Start a trend. Without that measurable improvement, that greater commitment, there’s really no discussion to be had.


P.S. – Tomorrow I’ll discuss a way to make improve attendance and renew fan goodwill. Yes, it will involve removing tarps.

12 thoughts on “Blips and trends

  1. I still don’t follow Papa’s logic…

  2. I was trying to figure out why it was so empty up there last night…makes sense.

  3. Papa’s logic is brought to you by the SF Giants.

  4. Papa is prepping for a TV gig with the g’s . Ignore him

  5. yeah i heard papa today with his a’s aren’t going to go to sj rant and his reasoning made no sense saying that sj is so full of potential that why would any team vote for the a’s to move there when almost every team in the bigs essentially would want to move there themselves due to what he called the 7 richest miles of land in the entire country.

    papa is an ass. i actually thought he’d be pretty good on the radio on 95.7 since he was alright back in around a dozen years ago a the noon host on 1050 but his anti a’s sentiments are glaring which isn’t too surprising to see since not many on the a’s own flagship station seem to care much about the org or fans since the station went to an all sports formats back in the spring of 2011.

  6. I laughed this morning and afternoon listening to many hosts saying “this is Lew’s biggest nightmare”. I just kept saying this has no bearing on anything other than other owners being upset they are paying the A’s to beat them. I think that the “hosts” have such a microscopic view of what is going on that it drives me nuts. Everything is so reactionary. I think that anyone who says Lew is mad about this is just hates Lew no matter what. He can enjoy the team knowing that one winning event in an ongoing 10 year timeline does not change any narrative for the need of a new ballpark. Oh, and if he wanted to tank the season, why did he give Billy 36 mil to sign Cespedes.

  7. Obviously the pro-Oaklanders, myself included, can’t make a case to Bud Selig that based on this one fantastic season, Oakland is a viable major league market and the A’s shouldn’t move. That’s a little absurd. However, you couldn’t even tell Selig that this is the best it gets; the A’s payroll is about 30 million short of what it would be if the ownership was actually trying to win. If this is the $55 million A’s, what do the $85 million dollar A’s look like, and what type of crowds do they draw in the Coliseum? 20,000 per game isn’t pretty, but with a team full of unproven 20-(insert a number below 5)-somethings playing in baseball’s worst venue, I’m sure Selig can imagine at least 30K average in a beautiful waterfront park.

    I don’t think this season sways the argument in Oakland’s direction, but damn Selig if he hasn’t thought something similar to the above while watching the A’s tear it up this year.

  8. RM,
    respectfully: just keep in mind tomorrow that many A’s fans, this one included, harbor no ill will towards Lew Wolff. To many times the media has portrayed all A’s fans as abhorring Wolff simple based on what the Oakland-only say. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    One major component to this debate that folks constantly ignore (traditional SF media included) is this: private financing of a ballpark. Would a new ballpark in Oakland be packed with A’s fans, especially if they’re winning? Of course. Now, how do you get to that new ballpark in terms of financing and needed revenue ala corporate support, disposable. Income? The answer to those questions will once again show why a privately financed venue won’t work in Oakland.
    That all said, doesn’t matter if the A’s are hosting 35,000 consistently at the Coliseum; the underlying dynamics STILL wouldn’t cover the bill for a new yard…GO A’S!!!

  9. Your right Tony D….
    even though its not over.. i hope Quan can convince Safeway, Clorox, Chevorn or somebody that SPENDING MONEY on the A’s (along with the Raiders) in Oakland will be better today tommorow.

    ML… if the A’s move to San Jose… have there been any disscussion on changing or alternating the teams colors or will it be the same??

  10. Why does berry sound like another poster that got banned a few months ago?
    For me, the most frustrating thing we have heard from the pro-Oakland camp is, “If you put a winning team on the field, people will go.” This team has not just won this week, but has had an amazing season, really taking off with a record-setting July. And the crowds never really seemed to have showed up en masse.
    Is it a good thing that 12,000 people can walk up and buy a ticket for the best game in the majors on a free parking night? I don’t think so, but hey, 12k came out could have done something else I guess. It seems like, if anything, this season and the success of it has worked FOR Wolff’s argument, not against it.
    I can’t help but think that the Oakland movement has had numerous opportunities this year to create, at minimum, some anecdotal evidence as to the long-term viability of the A’s in Oakland. Monte Poole mentioned about an East Bay renaissance, and the horrors of that for the owners. I have to question if that renaissance ever actually happened.
    In any case, what a ride, all credit to those fans who made it out, great to see the electric energy at the park. To quote my favorite musical, “One more dawn, one more day, ONE DAY MORE!”

  11. Dave? Do u need ur bottle?

    And don’t count the Oakland movement out davey boy…all Oakland had to do is show some progress especially if Coliseum project could actually be kinda good. And my man Selig could be like HOLD UP SAN JOSE. Let’s not forget the Sf giants in the playoffs too just like us. So This and possible next season will determine if the A’s or Giants deserve san Jose. Checkmate

  12. Do Papa, Poole, etc have someone in mind willing to commit to spending $1 billion+ to buy the A’s and build in Oakland on their own dime? Didn’t think so…

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