The A’s sold 20,000 tickets to FanFest this year, double the number of last year’s total. Not wanting to put too much strain on the concourses, the team announced a cutoff at 20k and considered it a sellout. Yes, the event was to be held in both the stadium and arena, but as the even larger lines this year showed, the facilities strain when trying to accommodate people on the concourses instead of the seats.
While the player introductions continue to be held inside Oracle Arena, most of the rest of the festivities took place inside the Coliseum, particularly the Eastside Club. Lines for autographs and photos with the World Series trophies stretched through the length of the club and along the concourse outside the club. If you were there solo, chances were that you wouldn’t be able to get both a picture with the trophies and an autograph unless you waited in line the entire time. Yet the use of the club was important since it’s the only space in the entire stadium that has enough space to handle such lines. The old, rain-soaked part of the Coliseum has terribly narrow concourses, and there were leaks in the Westside Club and elsewhere in the bowels. While I was just walking around, I happened upon the batting cage and heard constant dripping on the Astroturf inside the netting. There was even a garbage can set up next to the netting to catch additional rainwater. The whole experience felt a bit like rain delay theater, which is something California baseball fans are generally not familiar with.
As a media member, I’m not allowed to get autographs, so I didn’t bother trying. A handful of bloggers, including me, hung out for the first couple hours before we were whisked to one of the centerfield plaza suites. The suite had a green A’s backdrop in front of the fixed seats and was ready to serve as our interview room. Our interview subjects were David Forst, Bob Melvin, Jim Johnson, and Sonny Gray, in that order. I asked questions of everyone, but I really wanted to have Forst field a question germane to the the $ side of running the A’s. So here’s our exchange.
NBP: How much did the influx of national TV money have an impact on Coco’s extension, the payroll for this year, and perhaps the next several years?
Forst: There’s no doubt that payroll this year will be higher than, well, probably ever. We’re significantly above where we were last year. That’s what allowed us to get Jim (Johnson), knowing that there’d be $10 million price tag on him. To sign Kaz (Scott Kazmir), even a move like signing Eric O’Flaherty, where you’re only adding a little for this year but we’ve already bumped up against our number. Lew Wolff and Mike Crowley were open to what we were trying to do with Eric for half a season and backload the money. So there’s no doubt that whether it’s TV money, the success of the team – all these things have gone into ownership being very willing to let us do some things this season that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
NBP: You guys were so clear in the past about not having long-term commitments – whether that’s happenstance or a philosophical belief.
Forst: It’s a little bit of both. We’ve benefited from a lot of flexibility over the past few years. There’s re-signing Coco, but other than Yoenis and Kaz there’s nobody signed past 2015. Look, we don’t necessarily want to recreate the team every year – because fans like the players that are here and we like the certainty of players that we know – that we’ve given ourself the ability to do it is a huge factor in our success. With Coco we know the guy, we know the player, we know that this is the right dollar amount to commit to him over the next few years.
Melvin continues to be a solid, honest interview, and Jim Johnson lived up to his reputation for dry humor. Sonny Gray still seems like a kid, as he was spinning in his chair while waiting to be interviewed. Youth is served, and the team certainly has gotten younger since October.