Thursday, July 19, 2012

Might Winning Be the Answer?

There was a curious stirring from baseball's commissioner Bud Selig the other day. He called A's owner Lew Wolff, according to beat writer Susan Slusser. A's fans all over leaned forward in their easy chairs, anticipating what the Wizard of Oz-esque sage might say. Would he finally say something about the team's desire to move south? Here is Slusser reporting yesterday:

Owner Lew Wolff said Commissioner Bud Selig called him Tuesday not to talk about the A's stadium situation "but to tell me how excited he is to see how well this team is playing."

Like a child who is perpetually overlooked, A's fans had hope that the commish actually cares and doesn't just consider the team the great mistake of baseball.

The team has said in the past that the lack of direction with respect to where the it will play has hampered its ability to effectively plan. Fans, have seen this in the accelerated rebuild cycles the past few years.

The consequences of these teardowns are low TV ratings and low attendance at the Coliseum. If you attend a game you will no doubt be amazed by the sheer number of traded players who fans still wear the promotional giveaway or shirt-jersey of. The other weekend, the A's had a "tent sale" where you could pick up names long ago traded off or who played their last games in town as a semi-retirement.

The A's recent stellar play may be a mirage, but it may also be just what is needed to make the team not only relevant, but also important to the commish. It sees abundantly clear that losing or being utterly middling did not pique his interest as witnessed by his -- and the "Blue Ribbon" panel's -- utter inaction.

If the A's were as bad as people thought they might be, would it be the nail in the coffin of any national interest in the team? In contrast, much like Sacramento River Cats and baseball strikeout king Dan Straily, the team is forcing its way into the conversation.

However, any constructive talk about finding the A's a much-deserved jewel of a stadium may never materialize -- even if the club truly becomes, as ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted, "the most improbable Cinderella story" and makes the playoffs. After all, the well-recieved movie chronicling the team's struggles and successes, Moneyball, really didn't do anything to either build mass sympathy for the club's plight or stir the still-as-stone committee members. (Do some people think the A's are a fictional team?)

The old adage is that winning fixes everything. If the A's continue to win, might this thing finally come to a head? Here's hopin'. It seems abundantly clear that winning is a better formula for generating buzz than being Bob Geren-steady -- meaning middling to poor. Fans win with a better club and ownership gets to say, "Hey we're a real baseball team!"

Aren't A's fans due for a scolding?

The A's are currently averaging 20,866 per game. This is good for 28th in baseball. They are drawing better than both the Rays (20,669) and the Indians (19,256). The Rays have a virtually identical record as the A's and play in a stadium that is also considered less-than-ideal by many. The A's drew a mere 15,115 on Tuesday against the division leading Rangers and failed to sell out against the Yankees tonight (only 23,382).

Consider Selig's comments on July 11 regarding the Rays' scant attendance as reported in the Tampa Bay Times:

They've run a great operation. They're a very competitive organization. They have very competitive teams. To see that they're No. 29, I think it is, in attendance, it's inexcusable. Nobody can defend that. It's disappointing. And I know that people down there, some people, will be offended; not the fans, not the people who go every day. And I know they have great intensity, the people there....I watch a lot of games every day — sometimes all 15 of them — and I pay great attention not only to what's happening on the field, but to the attendance. So to use my father's old line, nothing is ever good or bad except by comparison. I'll rest my case. It's disappointing. And I'm concerned.

Does Bud feel the same way about the A'a attendance situation?

A Couple of A's Join Lincecum as "Worst Ever"

In case you missed it, The Wall Street Journal reported last week that San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum is "the worst pitcher ever" based on this year's performance. His ERA+ -- ERA altered for a pitcher's home ballpark and the average of the league. Per the article:

If the season ended today, Lincecum (above)—a two-time Cy Young Award winner—would have the worst adjusted ERA, 55, of any pitcher who has thrown at least 95 innings in a season since at least 1901.

Joining him on this list as two former A's -- Todd Van Poppel (ERA+ of 57 in 1996) and Philadelphia Athletic Rube Bressler (ERA+ of 56 in 1915).

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